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CMI vs. ILM: which one should you go for?

ILM or CMI - Compare the Qualifications

If you’ve ever considered doing a management qualification, you will certainly have come across the names ILM and CMI. As the UK’s principal management institutes, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) both offer a range of professional services and qualification programmes geared towards equipping managers at all levels with the skills needed to excel and progress in their careers.

With independent research commissioned by the Consultative Committee for Professional Management Organisations (CCPMO) showing that individuals with professional qualifications earn an average of £152,000 more over the course of their careers, managers should be only too happy to have two such prestigious institutions to choose from for their development. But while this is certainly a blessing, it also complicates the already tricky process of picking a course even further.

So how should you choose between them?

We outline some key differences between the institutes and their qualifications below to help you decide.

Origins & Reputation

The CMI is a Chartered Institute while the ILM is an organisation within the City & Guilds Group.

What this means

Royal Charters have always been prestigious and, now that they are no longer the only means of incorporating a body, are reserved for eminent bodies that are financially sound and have an outstanding record of achievement. As the UK’s only chartered professional body for management, the CMI has a long history that originates in the 1950s – much longer than the ILM’s, which dates back to 2001 when the NEBS (National Examining Board for Supervision and Management) programme merged with the Institute of Supervision and Management (ISM).

In practice, this means that the CMI is seen as the "blue chip" institute, with a more established reputation for reliable, high quality services. In addition, it is better known for its top-end qualifications at Levels 5 and 7 (equivalent to foundation degrees and Master degrees respectively) and its more traditional "academic" focus.

The ILM, on the other hand, is better known for its supervisory and first line management programmes at Level 3. These tend to have a more vocational focus than the CMI’s, which means they generally include more competence-based units rather than knowledge-based units.

Qualifications & Courses

Units & credits

In England, Wales & Northern Ireland, both bodies offer qualifications from Level 2 to Level 7* in the form of Awards, Certificates and Diplomas. The rules relating to the credits required at each level are governed by the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and are thus exactly the same. There are, however, some slight differences in terms of unit content and qualification structure.

One of the key distinctions is that ILM units are smaller (i.e. worth less credits), which means that learners need to combine more of them in order to achieve the final qualification. This translates into increased flexibility and the opportunity to study a broader range of different topics within the scope of a given qualification. The CMI units are instead bigger and, by virtue of requiring a greater number of study hours, allow for a topic to be studied in more depth. As mentioned above, the CMI units are also interpreted as being more "academic" while those developed by the ILM tend to have more of a practical focus.
When choosing a course, remember that training providers generally offer a selection of qualification units, but rarely all of them – so make sure they offer the modules you are interested in before registering with them.

*The CMI delivers qualifications at Level 8 and 9 in the Scottish Qualifications and Credit Framework (SCQF).

Sector-specific qualifications & other courses

The CMI offers a range of sector-specific qualifications for the healthcare industry, the armed forces and the police. The ILM has an extensive portfolio of specialist qualifications in areas including sales management, operational management, facilities management, waste management and more.

The CMI also delivers small range of short CPD courses and the opportunity for Business Schools to have their programmes accredited. Both institutes offer accreditation for in-house management & leadership training, and have recently begun to offer a range of team leading and management Apprenticeships, including Intermediate, Advanced and Higher Level Apprenticeships.

Training centres & support

When it comes to choosing a centre, it may be important to note that the CMI works with 600+ study centres, while the ILM works with 2,500 training providers worldwide. In both cases, learners have the possibility of completing the qualifications in different formats – via online or distance learning, as classroom courses or as in-house programmes for groups of employees.

In terms of learning materials and support, both bodies supply a range of resources to training centres that deliver their qualifications, as well as having quality assurance processes in place to maintain high levels of training across the board.


The CMI has approximately 70,000 members worldwide where the ILM has around 25,000. Both institutes offer free membership to current learners throughout the duration of their studies.

Membership levels for the two bodies are as follows:

Affiliate Member Affiliate Member
Associate Member Associate Member
Member Member
Fellow Chartered Member
Chartered Fellow
Chartered Manager


Note that none of the membership levels above specifically require you to have completed a CMI or ILM qualification, provided you meet other requirements in terms of job experience.

Membership of the two bodies provide a whole host of benefits, including access to research, learning materials, networking opportunities and countless other professional resources. Naturally, the higher the level of membership, the more of these you have access to.

Which institute and qualification will ultimately give you the most in terms of recognition, influence and possibilities for career development is impossible to say, but we hope the overview above will give you some important insights into which potentially suits you best.

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Last updated: 18 Jun 2018

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