CMI: The Definitive Guide


If you’ve been looking for ways to progress your management career, you’ve probably encountered CMI qualifications more than once in your searches. 

You might have heard of CMI and that it could open doors in your career. But understanding what CMI is, what qualifications it awards, how much CMI costs, and deciding whether it’s ultimately worth embarking on the journey to becoming a Chartered Manager can, at first glance, seem like a mammoth task. 

That’s why we’ve created this guide: to answer the questions you might be asking and help you discover if a CMI accreditation is the right step for you.

1. CMI meaning explained

2. CMI qualifications

3. What does CMI involve?

4. Which qualification should I do?

5. Is CMI respected?

6. What are the benefits?

7. What is the salary?

8. How do I get started?

1. CMI meaning explained 

First things first, what does CMI stand for?

If you’re looking for the CMI meaning, first you should consider what it stands for, which is the Chartered Management Institute. Being a ‘Chartered’ institute means that they have been given the power to award people the ‘Chartered’ status by Queen Elizabeth II – so, through CMI, you can become a Chartered Manager.

Is CMI a professional body?

Yes – CMI is a professional body. Not only that, it’s the only professional body with the power to award individuals with Chartered Manager status – one of the top management accolades. 

Chartered Management Institute

2. CMI qualifications

What is a CMI qualification?

A CMI qualification is an accredited qualification awarded by the Chartered Management Institute designed for individuals looking to develop and progress their management skills. 

Are CMI qualifications only for senior managers?

Not at all! CMI offers a range of qualifications for all levels of management, from junior managers with little to no experience all the way up to strategic managers and CEOs. 

Level 2/3

Aspiring, supervisory or line managers

Level 4/5

Middle managers (leading a large team or department)

Level 6/7

Senior managers (managers making strategic decisions)

Level 8

Chief level senior managers, e.g. CEOs or CFOs

What is the CMI meaning of a level?

CMI accreditations are organised by level. The levels range from Level 2 to Level 8, but most CMI students complete either CMI Level 3, CMI Level 5 or CMI Level 7  since these levels represent the most significant steps from entering into management up to directing the company, so we will focus on those throughout this page.

Each CMI level has a direct academic equivalent – but more on that later!

CMI Level 3

CMI meaning: CMI Level 3 aims to introduce learners to a broad range of topics, techniques and skills that will really improve their ability to manage individuals and teams working to meet an organisation’s needs. 

If you want to learn more about the CMI meaning of Level 3, be sure to read our ultimate guide to CMI Level 3.

CMI Level 5

CMI meaning: CMI Level 5 will introduce learners to the knowledge, tools and techniques they will need to lead larger teams and divisions successfully. 

The most popular CMI Level 5 qualification is Management and Leadership. This is because it covers the broadest range of topics and is suited to the needs of most middle managers and their organisations. 

CMI Level 5 is also the point at which you can apply for Chartered Manager status. This opportunity will become available to you once you’ve completed the CMI Diploma – Level 5.

However, you may decide that you want to take a qualification that covers a more specific management area. Good news – CMI has several options for you! Read more about the CMI meaning of Level 5 to find out more. 

CMI Level 7

CMI meaning: CMI Level 7 will prepare learners with knowledge and skills to handle the high expectations and level of responsibility that comes with a strategic management role. 

The most well-known and commonly taken (and often most useful) CMI Level 7 qualification is Management and Leadership Practice. To explore the full range of CMI Level 7 qualifications and to learn more about the CMI meaning of Level 7, check out our CMI Level 7 information page.


Is a CMI qualification equivalent to a degree?

Only some CMI qualifications are equivalent to a degree (or above) – CMI Levels 6, 7 and 8:

  • CMI Level 6 is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree
  • CMI Level 7 is equivalent to a master’s degree 
  • CMI Level 8 is equivalent to a doctorate 

The other popular CMI accreditations and their respective equivalent academic qualifications are:

CMI Diploma Level 3

Equivalent to an A-level

CMI Diploma Level 5

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

CMI Diploma Level 7

Equivalent to a master’s degree

What are CMI Awards, CMI Certificates and CMI Diplomas?

If you’ve encountered these terms and are wondering what the CMI meaning is of Award, Certificate and Diploma, here’s a quick rundown:

CMI Award

The CMI award is the shortest CMI qualification – it covers one topic in-depth.  It’s an ideal choice for those looking to improve their knowledge and skills in a specific aspect of their role, such as conflict management or equality, diversity and inclusion. 

CMI Certificate 

The CMI certificate is CMI’s ‘medium-size’ qualification – it tends to cover a few topics in-depth. This could be a good choice for anyone with a little more time to give to their studies and a slightly broader knowledge and skills requirement. 

CMI Diploma

The CMI diploma is the biggest qualification – covering a broad range of topics in depth. The CMI diploma would provide someone with a good range of knowledge and skills that may prove to be key to being an effective manager in their current role and in any future roles.

So, in short, you could undertake a Level 3/5/7 Award, a Level 3/5/7 Certificate or a Level 3/5/7 CMI Diploma. However, it’s worth noting that the qualification that you choose to undertake will impact whether or not you become eligible to apply for Chartered Manager status – this option is only available to you if you complete a CMI Diploma at Level 5 or above

3. What does a CMI qualification actually involve?

Like most good things, doing a CMI qualification will require your effort, time and money.

CMI Assessment 

To pass your CMI qualification, you’ll have to complete one written assessment per unit, often made up of smaller tasks. 

Typically, the word-count guidance for assessments at Level 3 is between 2,000-2,500 words, whilst those at Level 5 can be up to 5,000 words (although usually, they will be in the 3,000-3,500 word range). Level 7 assessments can be up to 6,000 words but are usually 4,000-5,000.

If the idea of completing a lengthy written assessment feels a bit worrying – don’t panic! Just check out our complete guide to acing your CMI assessment for some top tips. 



All 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 between the three different qualifications in CMI’s most popular levels: 

Level 3 CMI Awards

Minimum credits: 4

Minimum learning time: 40 hours (typically done over 1 month)

Level 3 CMI Certificates

Minimum credits: 13

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

Level 3 CMI Diploma

Minimum credits: 37

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

Level 5 CMI Awards

Minimum credits: 4-7

Minimum learning time: 40-70 hours (typically 1-3 months)

Level 5 CMI Certificates

Minimum credits: 13-31

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

Level 5 CMI Diploma

Minimum credits: 37-43

Minimum learning time: 370-430 hours (typically 6-12 months)

CMI level 7

Level 7 Awards

Credits: 6-9

Minimum learning time: 60-90 hours (1-3 months)

Level 7 Certificates

Credits: 13-14

Minimum learning time: 130-140 hours (3-6 months)

Level 7 CMI Diplomas

Credits: 37 – 46

Minimum learning time: 370-460 hours (6-12 months)

Level 7 Extended CMI Diploma (only available for certain qualifications)

Credits: 62-64

Minimum learning time: 620-640 hours (1-2 years)

Of course, we do see some exceptions 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 a fair average!

CMI fees 

As well as time and effort, the final thing you will need to consider when starting a course are the CMI costs. 

Below is the potential range of CMI costs for a CMI Diploma qualification across all levels:

CMI Level 3

Between £1,500 and £2,400

CMI Level 5

Between £1,050 and £2,500

CMI Level 7

Between £1,050 and £2,500

CMI Award and Certificate qualifications tend to have lower costs than CMI Diplomas. 

The lower the CMI level you complete, the lower the CMI fees will be. CMI Level 3 Awards and Certificates are, for example, cheaper than CMI Level 7 Award and Certificates.

Bear in mind that your total CMI costs paid to your provider will also often include the registration CMI fees. Though, make sure to confirm this, as well as your annual membership CMI fees. The cost of your CMI membership fees will depend on what course you are undertaking – you can find the full list of fees on CMI’s website

4. Which CMI qualification should I do?

So, as we said earlier, most people tend to take CMI Level 3, CMI Level 5 or CMI Level 7 since these levels represent the most significant steps from entering into management up to directing the company. 

You do not need to undertake all of the CMI accreditations. Remember, these different levels are designed to suit people in different roles, and we strongly recommend you do the CMI Level that is most closely matched to your current role or a role you are due to begin soon. 

CMI’s Level 3 qualification is perfect for current or aspiring supervisors, team leaders or line managers. 

CMI Level 5 is designed for middle managers within an organisation. Typically, middle managers are above the line manager or supervisor position, but below a senior manager. 

CMI Level 7 is designed for senior managers within an organisation. CMI state that this qualification is specifically suited for those in (or aspiring to be in) positions such as:

  • Senior Manager
  • Regional Manager
  • Specialist Manager
  • Director 
  • CEO

Should I do an Award, Certificate or Diploma?

This will depend on how much time and money you have available to you. 

If you have adequate funding for the CMI fees and enough time to dedicate to the course, we typically recommend completing the CMI diploma. It’s important to note that you will only be eligible to receive Chartered Manager status if you achieve the CMI Diploma at Level 5, 6, 7 or 8.

Does the Chartered Management Institute have any entry requirements?

Good news, CMI doesn’t have any official entry requirements other than being over 18 years old (for levels 2-5) or over 19 years old (for levels 6-7), meaning CMI qualifications are open to a wide range of people!

However, whilst the Chartered Management Institute doesn’t impose any particular entry requirements, CMI course providers have to ensure you are undertaking an appropriate level so that you’ll have enough management experience to complete the assignments. 

It might be that, in fact, you don’t think a CMI accreditation is suited to you or your needs! Why don’t you try comparing it to some of the alternatives out there – we’ve written the following comparisons:




5. Are CMI qualifications recognised and respected?

In a word, yes. Chartered Management Institute qualifications are recognised and respected by those who undertake them and, more importantly, by employers. 

88% of CMI members said gaining a CMI accreditation increased their confidence as a leader. Furthermore, once you reach the pinnacle of Chartered Manager status, there is an average pay rise of £13,000. With that in mind, you could consider the CMI costs as an investment into a future higher-paying career. 

As a CMI tuition provider, Astranti can vouch for CMI’s credibility as we have first-hand experience of the very high standards the Chartered Management Institute 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! 

If you’re still not sure, check out our page on how respectable and recognisable the Chartered Management Institute’s qualifications are

cmi diploma

6. What are the benefits of doing a CMI qualification?

There are a lot of benefits to getting a CMI accreditation, let’s go through some of the most notable ones! 

CMI accreditation
  • CMI qualifications are awarded by a Chartered body, meaning they’re recognised and respected by employers.
  • You can undertake a CMI accreditation in a way that suits you; you can work towards both qualifications from home, in-person or a blend of both!
  • Gaining a CMI qualification is likely to lead to a pay rise or promotion at work  – especially if you become a Chartered Manager!
  • The Chartered Management Institute offers you the opportunity to choose your own modules or units so you can focus your learning on what will most help you improve in your role.
  • CMI fees are often cheaper than other comparable qualifications; top-level CMI Diploma fees are around £2,000 for online courses and around £4,000 for classroom-based courses. MBA course fees are anywhere between £8,500 and £97,500 and top-level CIPD diplomas will cost anywhere between £6,600 and £7,000. 

7. What is a Chartered Manager salary?

There is no set salary you will be entitled to receive once you become a Chartered Manager. However, once you have received Chartered Manager status, you can expect an average pay rise of at least £13,000. This is alongside the additional career benefits you can expect, such as greater management and leadership skills leading to faster promotion and career progression.

Most people find that the benefits of qualifying outweigh the CMI costs.

Even without Chartered Manager status, having one of the lower awards can demonstrate to current or potential future employers that you now possess advanced skills in management and leadership, which could lead to a pay increase. 

chartered manager salary

8. How do I get started with a CMI qualification?

The first thing you need to do is pick which CMI course, level and qualification type is right for you. 

We recommend that you look through The Chartered Management Institute’s qualification library to find the option best suited to you. 

CMI Structure

However, before you can start learning, you’re going to need to find a CMI course provider since you can’t just take your qualification through the Chartered Management Institute themselves. You need to consider many factors when choosing a CMI course provider, such as flexibility, teaching styles, course format, and CMI fees – you’ll be pleased to know that we have a page dedicated to guiding you through these steps.

This page should have helped to answer any burning questions you may have about CMI accreditations! But, if you still have any other questions, make sure to check out our other CMI pages, or post your question in the comments box below and we’ll get back to you! 

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


Illustration by Storyset.