CMI or CIPD? A guide to choosing the best qualification for you


So, you’re looking for a qualification in people management and two qualifications keep popping up in your research, CMI and CIPD.

But what are they? How do they differ? And, ultimately, which one might be best for you?

We’ve gathered together the most relevant information about both qualifications, and included some of our own insider tips, so you have access to all the information you need to compare them and make the right choice for you.

1. The lowdown on CMI and CIPD

2. Who are they designed for?

3. Entry requirements

4. Can I be exempt?

5. How long does it take?

6. Which is more recognisable?

7. What are the courses like?

8. Making your decision

1. The lowdown on CMI and CIPD


First things first, CMI stands for The Chartered Management Institute. 

Being ‘Chartered’ means the institute has been given Royal power to award a member with ‘Chartered Status’. 

CMI offers qualifications for all levels of management, from junior managers with no or only a few years of experience, all the way up to strategic managers and CEOs. 

Whilst CMI offer a range of levels, the most commonly studied are CMI Level 3, Level 5 or Level 7.

CMI Level 3Equivalent to an A level

CMI Level 5Equivalent to a HND (higher national diploma) or foundation degree

CMI Level 7Equivalent to a master’s degree

Within every CMI level, there are 3 qualifications available:

  1. Award
  2. Certificate
  3. Diploma

You will only receive Chartered Manager status if you achieve the CMI Level 5 or Level 7 Diploma. 

All CMI qualifications are made up of units that correspond to learning topics. When you join a course, you need to select a certain number of units based on the ‘credits’ associated with them. 

The minimum number of units and credits for each qualification type can be seen below.


5-10 credits

1 units


13 to 20 credits

2 to 3 units


37+ credits

6 to 8 units

(Note: there is also an  extended diploma option that requires you to do a certain number of ‘core’ units, as well as a selection of units that you choose.)

Being able to choose your own units means that you can tailor your qualification to your own or your organisation’s needs. At the very least, it allows you to focus on the topics that you find most interesting.

Is CMI a respected qualification?

In short, yes! 

CMI has over 143,000 members worldwide and a further 30,000 people enrol on CMI qualifications annually, so you’ll be in good company!

Research conducted by CMI found that 81% of CMI accredited managers could share their new skills with their team, and a similar number agreed that their new skills had increased overall team performance. 

88% of CMI members said it increased their confidence as a leader, and once you reach the pinnacle of Chartered manager status, there is an average pay rise of £13,000.

As a CMI tuition provider, Astranti can vouch for CMI’s credibility as we have first-hand experience of the very high standards the institution sets for both tuition providers and its students. CMI’s high expectations means it is not an easy job to get qualified, making the qualifications, and those who hold them, incredibly valuable to employers!


CIPD stands for The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and, as you can tell by the name, it also has Royal Charter status so its  members can gain Chartered Manager status.

CIPD qualifications are aimed at those looking to develop their skills and knowledge of Human Resources (HR) or Learning and Development (L&D). So, CIPD qualifications are focused on people practice, people management and L&D. 

There are three different CIPD levels designed to suit people at each stage of their career:

Level 3

Equivalent to A level

4 units

All 4 units are compulsory

Level 5

Equivalent to an HND (higher national diploma) or foundation degree

Between 4 and 6 units

Between 3 to 4 compulsory units and 1 to 2 optional units

Level 7

Equivalent to a master’s degree

8 units

Between 4 to 7 compulsory units and 1 to 4 optional units

When it comes to picking your optional units, be aware that different CIPD course providers may offer different units. You should aim to study with a CIPD provider who provides units that will best serve your own or your organisation’s needs.

Identically to CMI, within every CIPD level, there are three qualifications available:

  1. Award 
  2. Certificate
  3. Diploma 

Is CIPD a respected qualification?

Absolutely it is! In fact, because employers recognise and respect the value that a CIPD qualification can add to an individual’s skill set, it is often a requirement included in HR-related job ads.

As a result, if you’re CIPD qualified, there is potential to earn more money, with an average pay rise of £10,000. Organisations’ desirability for employees to have CIPD qualifications means CIPD has over 160,000 members worldwide! This means that by undertaking a CIPD qualification, you’re guaranteed to gain an in-demand set of skills that employers recognise all over the globe.

Key benefits of CMI and CIPD at a glance

  • You can undertake either a CIPD or CMI qualification in a way that suits you; you can work towards both qualifications from home, in person or a blend of both!
  • Both CIPD and CMI courses offer you the opportunity to choose your own modules or units so you can focus your learning on what will most help you improve
  • Both CMI and CIPD qualifications are awarded by Chartered bodies, meaning they’re recognised and respected by employers
  • Gaining either a CIPD or CMI qualification is likely to lead to a pay rise or promotion at work

Key differences at a glance

  • CIPD qualifications are designed specifically for those looking to progress in the fields of HR and L&D, whilst CMI is aimed at people looking to progress in all managerial roles
  • CIPD qualifications are often critical to getting an HR-related role. Many HR job adverts advise that it is a ‘must-have’ requirement. Typically, CMI qualifications are an added bonus for employers, rather than an essential requirement
  • CIPD qualifications are internationally recognised, whilst CMI qualifications potentially have greater influence within the UK

2. Who are CIPD and CMI designed for?


CMI qualifications have a broader focus because, unlike CIPD courses, they are not specifically aimed at personnel professionals. CMI qualifications aim to introduce you to a broad range of topics, techniques and skills to improve your ability to manage individuals and teams who are working to meet your organisation’s needs.

CMI is most often pursued by:

Current or aspiring supervisors


Mid-level managers

Line managers

Team leaders

Shift supervisors

As mentioned earlier, there is a catalogue of courses to choose from within which  you often have the opportunity to choose from a range of optional units, including such things as Equality and Diversity, Coaching and Mentoring and Operational Planning. This all  means you are more able to design your CMI course to suit you!


CIPD qualifications are usually undertaken by those who are specifically looking to develop their skills and knowledge within HR or L&D

It is designed for people in positions such as:

HR generalist

HR adviser

L&D coordinator

HR director

HR manager

L&D manager

HR assistant

HR business partner

L&D director

3. What are the entry requirements for CMI or CIPD?


Different CMI Levels have different entry requirements: 

To enrol on CMI Level 3 and Level 5 you must:

  • Be over 18 years old 

To enrol on CMI Level 7 you must:

  • Be over 19 years old
  • Have over 3 years’  of management experience 

You can find course-specific entry requirements in the course’s syllabus on the CMI website.


Different CIPD levels have different entry requirements:

  • Level 3 – You must be over 16 years old 
  • Level 5 – You must be over 18 years old and either have some HR experience or a Level 3 CIPD qualification 
  • Level 7 – You must be over 21 years old and have substantial HR experience or a Level 5 CIPD qualification
CMI and CIPD entry requirements

4. Could I be exempt from any CMI or CIPD assignments?

Exemptions can save you time, effort and money, so it’s definitely in your best interest to apply for them if you can.


Yes – CMI offers exemptions on Certificates, Diplomas or Extended Diplomas but NOT Awards. 

CMI will only award exemptions to learners who have gained qualifications from recognised Professional Bodies or Awarding Bodies which appear on the list of regulated qualifications within the last five years

CMI does not accept requests for exemptions directly from learners. All exemptions applications are considered on a case by case basis and are agreed upon between the learner’s chosen centre and CMI.


Yes – if you have relevant existing qualifications, up to 50% of a CIPD qualification can be gained by an exemption. 

CIPD has produced a flowchart to help you understand whether you are eligible for an exemption.

If your qualifications were gained from an institution outside the UK, CIPD will still consider you for an exemption if you can provide a comparability statement and certificate from the UK National Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC).

5. How long does it take to get CMI or CIPD qualified?


CMI qualifications are made up of units. Units will show you roughly how long it will take to complete the qualification because one credit is about 10 hours of work. 

So, how long it will take you to complete a CMI qualification will vary depending on what level you choose to take and whether you decide to do an Award, Certificate or Diploma. 

Let’s have a look at the differences

CMI Level 3

Level 3 Awards

Minimum credits: 4

Minimum learning time: 4o hours (typically over 1 month)

Level 3 Certificates

Minimum credits: 13

Minimum learning time: 130 hours (typically over 3 months)

Level 3 Diploma

Minimum credits: 37

Minimum learning time: 370 hours (typically over 1 year)

CMI Level 7

Level 7 Award

Credits: 6-9 credits

Learning time: 60-90 hours (1-3 months)

Level 7 Certificate

Credits: 13-14 credits

130-140 hours (3-6 months)

Level 7 Diploma

Credits: 37-46 credits

Learning time: 370-460 hours (6-12 months)

Level 7 Extended Diploma (only available for certain qualifications)

Credits: 62-64 credits

Learning time: 620-640 hours (1-2 years)

This should provide you with a rough indication of how much time you will have to commit to your CMI qualification if you choose to do one. If you choose to take a Level 5 qualification, the time it would take you to complete is roughly in the middle of Level 3 and Level 7.  

For a more accurate indication of how long your qualification will take you to complete,  CMI provides the Total Unit Time (TUT) for each unit you take – which is the estimate of how long that particular unit should take.

Of course, we do see some exceptions to this where students take less or more time to complete their CMI qualification because of work or personal commitments. But, speaking from our experience as a CMI course provider, this is the average!



The amount of time it will take you to complete a CIPD qualification will depend on the type of qualification you choose (Award, Certificate or Diploma) and the level you are going to study at:

Level 3 Diploma

Average completion time is 6-9 months

Level 5 Diploma

Average completion time is 8-12 months

Level 7 Diploma

Average completion time is 18-24 months

Level 3 qualifications will take you the least amount of time and level 7 the most. Award and Certificate qualifications will take less time to complete than a Diploma at all levels. For example, a Level 3 Award will take less time than a Level 5 Award.

You must remember though that these are only rough estimates! Depending on things such as the course delivery method you choose, whether you study on a full or part-time basis, and how quickly you write your assignments, it may take you more or less time to complete your CMI or CIPD qualification.

Your CMI centre will be able to give you a more accurate indication once you have chosen a course and qualification to complete.

6. How are CMI and CIPD assessed?


You will have to complete one written assessment per unit. 

When you select a CMI course, you’ll be given an assessment booklet containing the full details of your tasks and what you are required to do. 

If the idea of writing an assessment is a bit overwhelming – don’t panic! We have LOTS of experience helping students to successfully complete their CMI assessment. To see all of our top tips, check out our complete guide to acing your CMI assessment. 


CIPD has recently changed their syllabus, meaning CIPD qualifications no longer have any compulsory unseen exams at any level.  All CIPD assessments are written assignments. 

CIPD also provides learners with the Experience Assessment option.


CIPD’s Experience Assessment 

CIPD’s Experience Assessment is an entry route designed for those people already working within HR, L&D or other personnel professions.

If you can demonstrate to CIPD that you have the knowledge, skills and experience required for the CIPD level you’d like to achieve, you can gain professional accreditation by drawing on your experience without undertaking assignments.

7. How much does CMI or CIPD cost?

The cost of your CMI or CIPD qualification will depend on various factors such as:

  • Your course provider
  • Your chosen teaching method – You could complete both CMI and CIPD courses in-person in a classroom which would be the most expensive option, or as self-study using online materials which would be the cheapest option, or some combination of self-study and live events (either in person or online) which would be somewhere in between! 
  • The level and qualification you choose to study – The lower levels and qualifications are the cheapest and prices rise as you climb up the levels and qualification type 


Given the earlier comments regarding the options available, the below represents the potential range of fees for Diploma qualification across all levels:

Level 3 (Diploma)

Between £1,500 and £2,400

Level 5 (Diploma)

Between £1,050 and £2,500

Level 7 (Diploma)

Between £1,050 and £2,500

Award and Certificate qualifications are cheaper than Diplomas. The fees follow the same pattern – Level 3 Awards and Certificates are the cheapest and Level 7 Awards and certificates are the most expensive.

Level 3 (Diploma)

Between £1,500 and £2,400

Level 5 (Diploma)

Between £1,050 and £2,500

Level 7 (Diploma)

Between £1,050 and £2,500

You will also have to pay registration and annual membership fees to CMI. The cost of your membership fees will depend on what course you are undertaking – here is the full list of fees.

Generally, your CMI registration and marking fees will be included in your tuition provider fee, as they will be the ones creating your registration and submitting assignments for marking. 

8. Making your decision

So, hopefully, now it’s that bit clearer to you which qualification is the right way for you to go! Let’s do a quick recap before you make your final choice. 

CIPD qualifications are more expensive than CMI qualifications and may also take you slightly longer to complete – most notably at the higher Levels. But, completing a CIPD qualification is very likely to widen your job prospects and enhance your Personnel career if you can afford to dedicate your time and money to  it. 

CMI is far more affordable than CIPD – even if you undertake multiple levels! However,  it is far more general in its focus so is less suitable if you want to progress in HR or L&D. 

So, in short, we recommend you do a CIPD qualification if you want to progress in a Personnel career and CMI if you want to improve your general managerial prospects

But, if you still have any other questions, post them in the comments box below and we’ll get back to you!

Whichever way you go – we wish you the best of luck!

Decide between CMI and CIPD

Try Our Free Sample Courses

If you’re worried about diving in too deep too early, why not check out our free CMI sample courses first?

You can explore our CMI level 3, 5 and 7 courses for free by creating your free Astranti account. Click below to learn more about our courses or create your free Astranti account.

Holly Dymmock

Customer Service and Mentoring Supervisor

I hope you’ve found this CMI guide useful – but if you’ve got any further questions, leave a message and I’d be happy to help!


Illustration by Storyset.