Pursuing a job is becoming tougher day by day in this competitive world. So, learning new skills has become incredibly important to stay relevant. Agile methodologies have acquired a quick basis in the world of project management in the past few years. Agile is considered a new strategy in both IT and non-IT sectors. The demand for the certification for Agile techniques, tools, and concepts has been growing accordingly. There are many different certifications available outside and choosing the one suitable for you can be tricky. Therefore, we have narrowed it down to two prominent certifications in Agile: PMI-ACP and SAFe.

This article helps you to understand the vital differences between both certifications so that it becomes easy for you to decide on the right one. Let’s begin first by understanding what Agile certification is.

Agile certification:

‘Agile’ alludes to the capacity to move easily. It is an ability to modify and evolve depending on changing circumstances. The certification has identical purposes in the project management world. Agile methodologies include an iterative approach enabling pragmatism, flexibility, and collaboration in product delivery.

The agile methodology provides priority to dynamism over fixed strategy, practicality over documentation, and interactions over processes. The purpose of the project is achieved in Agile by breaking it down into tinier deliverables and allocating teams to accomplish them. This enables the customers to monitor continually and keep the track of progress giving regular collaboration and feedback.

Five reasons to be certified in Agile:

1. Rising demand for practitioners who were certified: As every organization is adopting Agile methodology, becoming certified helps you to remain relevant. Some organizations shortlist candidates only if they have certification. Also, in some organizations employees get promoted to particular positions only if they pursue Agile certification. So, it is necessary to seek certification to utilize these opportunities.
2. Proof of credentials: If you pursue Agile certification, then you don’t have to prove your abilities to your peers and employer by wasting your time. It is done by your certification. It also highlights you as someone who is dedicated to learning and enhancing one’s skills.
3. Skill and knowledge expansion: The main reason to pursue this certification is to acquire a deep understanding of the evolving tools of Agile. It’s true for the people who are learning this technology recently. Even for those who have many years of experience in Agile, this certification allows staying updated.
4. Ticket to climb the professional ladder: Pursuing the Agile certification serves as an add-on if you are the kind of person who is inspired to bring about a great deal in your area of work. It helps you to be recognized among the crowd and you will be able to promote yourself better. It also allows you to connect with the other Agile certified professionals to build skills and explore opportunities.
5. Boost your salary: Certified Agile professionals will receive much better pay related to their peers. The salary of an Agile certified professional might range between $100,000 and $120,000. This is because many fortune 500 companies prefer this certification.


PMI-ACP (Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Practitioner) is a reputed certification globally. You need to learn various Agile technologies to be certified. These include Lean, XP, Scrum, and Kanban. It assures that the professionals are experts in supervising real-world projects in Agile. It is regarded as a catch-all certification in the landscape of project management.

Advantages of PMI-ACP:

● Extend your knowledge: It allows you to broaden your knowledge by making you learn various methodologies of Agile. By spanning various strategies to Agile, it will make you dynamic and versatile in any scenario.
● Methodologies of Agile: It concentrates mainly on the variations between many methodologies of Agile. Accordingly, it will encourage you to build a comprehensive outlook and better perspective on each process.
● Certification: The demand for this certification is increasing rapidly as it is regarded as the best one. It is the popular certification provided by the PMI.
● Experience in project management: The candidate must have an experience of 2000 hours in project management to be certified. Besides, the test itself needs a specific degree of hard work and dedication from the professionals. Hence, there is credibility held to this certification.
● Maintenance of the certification: A certification maintenance scheme is given by PMI to assure that the practitioner remains updated with the recent methodologies of Agile. It also enables the certification to remain relevant in the evolving landscape of project management.
● Reliable asset: This certification enables you to obtain nearly a 20% higher salary than other non-certified peers. The certification significantly adds to the income by making the certified professional a reliable, highly qualified asset to the organization.
● Professional growth: The certification has been recognized widely. Hence, you will acquire a large number of opportunities. You will also be empowered with vast professional growth and can climb up your professional ladder quickly.

SAFe Agilist:

SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework is a widely used framework of Agile. Scaling becomes unavoidable in many companies which start with small teams initially. A SAFe Agilist assures this Agile change in a large organization. Therefore, the SA (SAFe Agilist) certification program is suitable for managers, executives, and other change agents.

Advantages of SAFe Agilist:

● Demand for the certification: The SAFe Agilist’s reputation can be weighed by the proof that it is used by fortune 100 companies (nearly 70%). Hence, the demand for these professionals is increasing globally at a greater speed.
● Credibility: The certification verifies that you have a diploma to work in an environment of the lean-agile enterprise. This certification is mandatory in many organizations to apply for some roles.
● Career growth: SAFe certification provides you with many new opportunities if you are aspiring for career and professional development. This is true within or outside the organization.
● Natural progression: The certification gives you a role-based curriculum depending on the skill level and current position of the professional. Therefore, it assures an evolution from an entry-level practitioner to an expert.
● Earn more: SAFe Agilist earn more when compared to non-certified professionals. This is because the demand for professionals who are certified is rising in the market.
● Join the network: More than 150,000 professionals who are trained are working in 100+ countries. By pursuing this certification you can join this club. It also helps you to configure with others who are interested in the very field.

Differences between PMI-ACP and SAFe Agilist:

1. The pattern of the exam:

● Format: Both PMI-ACP and SAFe have multiple-choice questions.
● Number of questions: PMI-ACP has 120 questions while SAFe has 45 questions.
● Duration: The exam duration of PMI-ACP is 180 minutes (3 hours) and for SAFe is 90 minutes (1.5 hours).
● Passing score: Passing score is unknown in PMI-ACP but the safe score is 70%. In SAFe 76% is considered the passing score (34 questions out of 45 need to be answered correctly).

2. Certification or course fee:

For a PMI member, the fee for PMI-ACP is $435. For a non-member, the cost is $495.

To pursue SAFe Agilist certification, you must attend the training course. The cost varies depending on the location and date at which you take the course. The course fee will include the cost fee if you take the SAFe exam in thirty days. Every retake will cost $50 after that duration.

3. Validity and renewal of the certification:

The validation of the PMI-ACP certificate will be 3 years. To renew this certification, you have to earn 30 PDUs (Professional Development Units) in concepts of Agile before the date of expiry.

The validation of the SAFe Agilist certificate will be one year. You have to pay $195 every year to renew the certification.

4. Experience or eligibility:

Conditions required to be fulfilled by the people to apply for PMI-ACP

● Education: The applicants must possess one of the following degrees,
High School Diploma
Secondary Degree
Associate’s Degree

● Experience: Experience in general project management of 2000 hours. Also, it requires experience in Agile project management for 1500 hours. These experiences should be in the previous five years. It is considered from the date of application.

If you are a Program Management Professional (PgMP) or a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification holder, then your experience in general project management will not be checked by PMI as the verification is already done by it.

You have to be a part of the team which relies on Agile methodology in the projects to gain experience in Agile project management. However, the overlapping of two Agile projects is not considered by the PMI. It is applicable for the experience in general project management as well.

● Training: PMI expects you to take a training session of 21 hours in agile practices, agile methodologies, or agile philosophy. Completing this training session at the time of application is not mandatory. You can apply first and then complete the training session before the exam. It includes educational sessions, workshops, or some courses. PMI will not consider self-learning as training.

Below are given the seven modules which must be included in the training so that they can be assessed by the PMI,

Domain I: Agile principles and mindset
Domain II: Value-driven delivery
Domain III: Stakeholder engagement
Domain IV: Team performance
Domain V: Adaptive planning
Domain VI: Problem detection and resolution
Domain VII: Continuous improvement

The SAFe Agilist exam can be taken up by everyone. However, it requires the following skills in the interested candidates.

● 5+ years of experience in software development, testing, business analysis, and project or product management.
● Scrum experience.

Getting qualified for this certification is easier than PMI-ACP certification. If you don’t possess the qualifications needed by PMI-ACP, then choose SAFe.

5. Course content:

As mentioned earlier, to qualify for PMI-ACP you need to have a strong knowledge of seven domains. Preparatory courses must also focus on the same. Below I have mentioned the seven domains and the percentage of questions on the test.
Domain I: Agile principles and mindset – 16%
Domain II: Value-driven delivery – 20%
Domain III: Stakeholder engagement – 17%
Domain IV: Team performance – 16%
Domain V: Adaptive planning – 12%
Domain VI: Problem detection and resolution – 10%
Domain VII: Continuous improvement – 09%

SAFe Agilist certification covers the following topics of Agile methodology,

● Scaled Agile Framework – Introduction
● Values of Lean and Agile
● Core SAFe Principles
● PI Planning experiences
● High-performing teams, program development
● Lean-Agile enterprise growth
● Creating large solutions
● Agile portfolio empowerment

When you look at this aspect, you might find it difficult to decide between these two certifications. Both enclose the topics that are required to master Agile.

6. Market value:

Everyone knows the significance of the certification approved by PMI, also SAFe Agilist is fresh in the market. The value in the market relies on the area in which you are seeking a job. The companies which require in-depth knowledge prefer SAFe Agilist certification and those which require an authentic track record prefer PMI-ACP certification.

PMI-ACP is not easy to be cleared by everyone and hence proves the quality of this certification whereas it is easy to clear the SAFe Agilist exam and hence regarded as flimsy.


It’s very difficult to choose between SAFe Agilist and PMI-ACP certifications. If you work with large teams in a big organization, then choose SAFe Agilist certification. If you want general training in all the Agile methodologies that you can apply anywhere, then choose PMI-ACP certification. Further, factors like your years of experience, previous work experience, company size, finances, etc may also play a vital role. You need to make your conclusion by evaluating your work experience and your preferences.