Tag Archives: professional accreditation

3 Key Differences Between CIPS & ISM Certification – But Why It Doesn’t Matter!

When it comes to professional accreditation for procurement and supply chain, there are several options available. But, as it turns out, all are equally good for your professional development.


Unlike other professions, procurement and supply chain does not have one, single governing professional body. While this does make things slightly more complicated, it does provide professionals with a greater degree of choice when it comes to their professional accreditation journey.

Individual decisions may be based on geography, field of procurement, or even previous and current job roles. And while people will make different choices, it does not mean that any of these options are better than the other or will hinder career progression in the long-term.

Previous articles on Procurious on professional accreditation have focused largely on CIPS and the MCIPS/FCIPS qualifications. However, in order to provide a broader view on available accreditation, we need to look at other institutions like the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), and their widely-recognised Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) qualification.

To understand which qualification is better suited to you as an individual, we need to look at the key differences in the organisations and accreditation, and how your decision may impact your future career.

1. Geographical

The main difference between the two organisations is a geographical one.

CIPS is headquartered in the UK and has a very strong network in its home country. It has also developed strong network bases in EMEA and Australasia, with each region having its own management structure, as well as a strong presence in Africa and East Asia. It is a truly global Institute, with over 200,000 members worldwide.

ISM was founded in North America in 1915 and has consolidated its base in this region. It doesn’t have the same global branch network as CIPS, with its networking predominantly focused in the USA. But it is starting to spread its network worldwide, including an increasing membership throughout Latin America, with over 50,000 members from 100 countries.

2. Time & Study Format

When it comes to qualifications, it’s hard to split the two bodies. Both take procurement and supply professionals from student or entry-level members and provide learning, development and examination in order to progress to accreditation. The time taken to achieve the qualification and the method of study are slightly different, however.

CIPS’ key accreditation is MCIPS, with the opportunity to become a Fellow (FCIPS) of the Institute beyond this. Depending on the starting level, experience and nature of study, accreditation can take anywhere between 3 and 6 years to complete. Learning materials and exams are all available digitally, though study can be undertaken in person where available.

CIPS also provides the opportunity to gain MCIPS via an accredited degree, a Management Entry Route or Corporate Award, all of which reduce the requirement for CIPS exams themselves.

The ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) qualification generally takes between 6 and 12 months to complete, depending on the method of study, time and experience. The Institute offers both self-study and classroom-based learning, but the only way to gain the qualification is to go through the three CPSM exams and have the required level of experience in procurement.

Currently there is no option to use other qualifications (degree, post-graduate degree, etc.) to provide an exemption for exams.

3. ‘License to Practice’

Possibly the biggest difference in the accreditation offered between the CIPS and ISM is what is offered beyond the main qualifications.

For ISM, this is the ISM Mastery Model. The model is based around a set of 16 core competencies and more than 70 sub-competencies which are seen as critical for a successful career in procurement and supply. Further learning resources help take individuals and teams from the first level, ‘Fundamental’, right up to ‘Mastery’, helping to provide a level of standardisation in skills for the profession.

Where CIPS differentiates from ISM is in its chartership programme. CIPS’ ambition with this when it launched its chartership programme was to create a ‘license to practice’, similar to other professions. With procurement looking to achieve the same recognition as these other professions, chartership seems like something that many people may consider going forward.

So which is better?

In some areas the differences between the organisations and their respective qualifications are stark, in others they are slight. Despite these differences, it doesn’t mean that one qualification is better than the other, or that there is more positive benefit for long-term career prospects in being a member of one institution over the other.

This is because of the key thing that both have in common: international recognition as a gold standard accreditation for procurement and supply chain. CIPS and ISM have together raised the bar for procurement, providing standardisation in learning, development and qualifications, and applicable to all areas, industries, sectors and individuals involved in the profession.

Irrespective of which route you choose, by choosing to undertake professional development and further qualifications, you’re playing your part in advancing the procurement profession. The best thing you can do is look at the organisation and qualification that suits you best and go for that. If everyone takes this step, then procurement will be the ultimate winner!

What Is CIPS And How To Get Accredited

Procurement, like many other professions, has made huge strides in supporting and providing accreditation to the many professionals that make up its membership.

So, the big questions are what is CIPS? How do I get accredited? And how could becoming chartered help turn the tide on global ethics?

Let’s jump right into it…


What is CIPS?

Originally the Purchasing Officers’ Association, it wasn’t until 1992 that the Association was granted a Royal Charter to become the Chartered Institute of Procurement (Purchasing) and Supply (CIPS) that we know today.

With a membership of over 200,000 professionals globally, the Institute is putting the profession on the front foot when it comes to providing accreditation for its members.

What does CIPS mean to us?

CIPS is seen as the voice of the procurement profession, a champion of the profession globally, led by current CIPS CEO Malcolm Harrison, while still retaining local roots in its many national associations and member-led branches.

The benefits of being a CIPS member are considerable. From connections to a network of over 200,000 global professionals, in as many varied industries and sectors as you can think of, to a constantly updating knowledge hub, with everything from the basics of procurement, right up to specialist subject areas. And that’s not to mention the webinars, podcasts and YouTube channel.

The core of the CIPS offering for procurement and supply chain professionals is in the professional accreditation that the organisation offers and supports.

Who can become a CIPS member?

The designation of MCIPS represents the gold standard for procurement professionals and is an internationally recognised award that brings the individual holder a number of benefits.

The qualifications are open to anyone working in the procurement and supply chain profession, taking them from Studying Members all the way to MCIPS, and potentially even a fellowship (FCIPS) for the senior advocates of the profession.

Will having CIPS accreditation advance my career?

In recent years, CIPS has brought its qualifications in line with other professional bodies and offers its members a chance to become chartered through its programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Joining CIPS and taking a full part in its activities as a member is no small investment, and the qualifications should not be undertaken lightly.

But, as a fully paid up member of the procurement profession, why wouldn’t you want to invest in your career and your future in this way?

As with other qualifications, achieving MCIPS does provide benefits to individuals.

Many global businesses see CIPS qualifications as the minimum standard for their procurement teams.

Due to the regard in which they are held, and the trust of the standard that they produce, many employers choose to support their staff by funding their studies.

You may not need MCIPS to work in procurement and supply chain, but having the qualification allows current and prospective employers to see that you have applicable training in your arsenal.

The annual CIPS/Hays Salary Survey and Guide helps to highlight just how important these qualifications can be. In 2020, 64 per cent of survey respondents stated that they requested MCIPS or studying towards it as a requirement for people applying for jobs with them.

It’s not only going to help you get through the door either. Professionals with MCIPS earn, on average, 17 per cent more than peers without the qualifications.

And at a time where the expertise of procurement and supply chain professionals is becoming more widely sought, having these qualifications could be the key to unlocking the full potential of your future career.

CIPS Chartership & the ethics exam

One of the key elements that CIPS has brought in along with its accreditation and, now, chartership, is its Ethics exam for individual members.

Any member, from student all the way up to FCIPS, is required to take the exam annually in order to keep their qualifications and membership up to date. The eLearning test covers the three key pillars of the ethical procurement and supply:

  • Environmental Procurement
  • Human Rights
  • Fraud, Bribery and Corruptions

The test is free for all members and can be purchased by non-members too. This works alongside the CIPS Code of Ethics, which organisations can sign up to as a public commitment to proper work practices in the field of procurement.

Over the past few years there have been several high-profile global events linked to poor ethical procurement practices.

At a time where global supply chains, and by association procurement, are in the spotlight, having a widely agreed and signed Code of Ethics, backed up by an annual ethics exam for individuals is crucial.

Supporting the ethical agenda is something all procurement and supply chain professionals should be doing.

Accreditation and Chartership provide the foundation for developing a profession that operates within these bounds and is something that should be an expectation for all professionals in the coming years.

Play your part and take the first steps on your chartership journey by joining CIPS today.

Loud and Proud: Displaying Accreditations on Social Media

Displaying your accreditations on social media? It’s a tribal thing.

I’ve noticed recently that more people are displaying professional accreditation after their names on social media.

At first, I was confused by those jumbles of letters that mean so much to people in the procurement world, but so little to anyone else. On Procurious alone we have hundreds of MCIPS, FCIPS, CPSMs and CPPOs. But why do people put their credentials up in lights?

Pack as Much Information Into Your Name as Possible

There’s a lot of information available about optimising social media profiles to make them attractive to potential business partners, recruiters, corporate headhunters and so on.

LinkedIn has a pretty sophisticated profile builder that guides you through the steps to raise your profile to “superstar” status. This includes adding all sorts of detail, ranging from experience and education, to recommendations, skills and even influencers.

The reality is, however, that unless there’s a good reason to do so, people aren’t actually going to click on your profile very often. In fact, you can ‘connect’ with people on LinkedIn, and here on Procurious, without even visiting their profile. Simply clicking on their face does the trick.

This means there’s not much value in diligently adding your accreditations to your profile page if you don’t also display it next to your name.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

So, if people aren’t going to see your profile, what do they see?

Well, first (and arguably foremost), they’ll see your profile picture. It’s important to have one, and it needs to look professional.

Secondly, they’ll see your name. On Procurious that’s all, though LinkedIn shows a very brief job and company description. It’s not much – and you’d really be flattering yourself if you think people will want to view your profile just for your good looks or interesting-sounding name.

You need to pack more into the limited space available, and an accreditation does the trick.

Why? Because, for those who understand what accreditations actually entail, it says so much about you.

It signals that you’re backed and accredited by a respected professional organisation. It means that you’ve got industry experience, up-to-date qualifications, and are engaged with peers in your profession. It’s like a shorthand version of a CV, which you can expand into more detail in your profile itself.

Professional Accreditations Trump Academic Qualifications

As any frustrated job-seeker knows, experience is everything when it comes to getting hired.

You might be academically qualified up to the eyeballs, but your average recruiter is more likely to be interested in the practical skills you learned as Junior Shift Manager at McDonald’s. And this (sadly) is what the interview will focus upon.

This experience ‘Catch-22′ has led to the situation where unpaid internships have become almost mandatory in many professions, in order to get some experience under your belt and improve job prospects.

That’s where professional accreditations come in. As a general rule, they can’t be gained without having spent at least three years in the industry. They therefore flag to colleagues (and potential recruiters) that you do at least have a few years’ experience.

Some accreditations require both experience and tertiary qualifications. ISM’s CPSM, for example, requires three years “full-time, professional supply management experience, with a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree,” or 5 years’ experience without a degree.

This seems fair to me, as it gives some level of recognition to the bachelor degree (not a completely worthless piece of paper after all!), while still leaving the door open to those who choose not to attend tertiary education.

That being said, there’s a fair share of Bachelors, Diplomas and especially MBAs on display after people’s names on social media.

You’ve Earned It, So Why Not Flaunt It?

Why not? It’s good to be proud of your achievement and important to visibly support your professional association.

Jim Barnes, Managing Director for ISM Services, agrees that displaying your accreditation sends a signal to your peers. “ISM’s CPSM certification helps others identify that the person displaying the credential has deep knowledge, and can apply it.”

There’s also the tribal factor. People love to identify with different ‘tribes’ or groups. Having your professional membership or accreditation on display helps others identify you as “one of us” – a group of professionals who have all been through the same accreditation process, and therefore have the same knowledge and experience to draw upon when dealing with shared challenges.

Procurious itself is one such large ‘tribe’ of connected procurement professionals, further broken down by the members themselves into groups and sub-groups.

On a side note, accreditations have been proven to translate into real-world rewards. ISM produces a salary survey that consistently shows CPSM-accredited professionals earn salaries approximately 7 per cent higher than non-CPSM’s.

“The higher salary demonstrates that having an accreditation carries practical benefits, as well as credibility”, says Barnes.

Show Your Currency

Imagine you’re a recruiter. You’ve been trawling social media for the ideal candidate, and you hit on what looks like a perfect fit. They’re in the right industry, their experience looks good, and they have a postgraduate degree in supply chain management…completed in 1989.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who will agree that procurement is the same now as in 1989. And if you can’t find any evidence of more up-to-date education, you click on the next candidate.

Accreditations highlighted on social media profiles (and indeed on CVs) would have reassured the recruiter, because most credentials require recertification. This means that you’re forced to stay up-to-date and valid.

The CPSM, for example, has to be maintained. It automatically expires every three years unless holders complete 60 continuing education hours, which may include sitting exams, conference attendance, corporate training or contributions to the profession.

Do you think a comment posted on social media by a professional with their credentials on display has more “weight” than other comments? Share your thoughts below.