ICSA qualifying programme

Why?

Chartered status is the benchmark for company secretaries and governance professionals. It shows that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to take on a job with significant and wide-ranging responsibilities. In larger organisations, this may be within the secretariat or governance team or as part of a professional services team. In medium and smaller organisations, this may be in the sole governance or company secretarial role.

Who is it for?

Anyone is eligible to apply, but the programme rises to Level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate degree level) in the final stages. Our students include experienced professionals on the fast track, company secretaries using their experience, and individuals from law or finance transferring to governance roles. 

The full programme can take up to five years to complete, although we offer alternative routes of entry for those with relevant education or professional experience. For example, a professional with 5+ years of relevant experience may achieve accreditation within one year via the Fast Track Professional entry.

Full programme overview

The programme is divided into two levels, Part One and Part Two.

Students with a law, finance or governance background may be able to start at Part One at
Level 6 (equivalent to final year undergraduate level). You complete your learning at Part Two at Level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate degree level), developing commercial understanding through the study of risk, strategy and board dynamics.

You can view the full syllabus here

Routes of entry

We offer alternative routes of entry for students based on their relevant qualifications or experience.

There are six main routes into the qualifying programme:

  • Foundation Programme entry – Students who are not eligible to start the programme at Part One will need to take the Foundation Programme to start their journey to GradICSA. This is set at Level 4 (equivalent to first year undergraduate level).
  • Part One entry –  Those with relevant education or experience will start at Part One of the qualifying programme.
  • Related Degree entry – Law or finance graduates start at Part One and may be eligible for exemption from the law or finance module. MBA graduates start at Part One and will be assessed for other exemptions.  
  • Professional entry –  Accountants or lawyers with up to five years’ professional experience start at Part One and may be eligible for exemption from two modules.
  • Fast Track Professional entry – Accountants or lawyers with more than five years’ experience may only need to complete two modules.
  • MOU entry – Members of ICSI and ICSAN may be eligible for module exemptions under our Memorandum of Understanding agreements with these organisations. 

ICSA carefully assesses applications for all exemptions and successful applicants can significantly streamline their studies. Find your best route and full exemption details on our Entry Routes page.

How the programme works

Once you know your route through the qualifying programme, you can register for the course, pay your initial fees and begin your studies. We recommend the use of an ICSA-registered tuition partner, though some students choose to self-study. 

Option 1: Study with an ICSA-registered tuition partner 

We work with a variety of tuition partners and we strongly recommend our students take tuition. They can be used on a module by module basis and offer options that include distance learning and face-to-face classes. In addition to higher student pass rates, the benefits include:

  • a structured programme of tuition;
  • the ability to submit practice papers for feedback and guidance;
  • fast, practical answers to any queries throughout the course; and
  • regular contact with an expert tutor.

The cost of tuition is typically £350 – £600 per module depending on the tuition provider you choose and the services they offer.

Option 2: Self-study

You prepare for each exam yourself, using the facilities provided as part of your ICSA student membership. These include:

  • access to past papers and suggested answers;
  • access to module-specific webinars and recordings, presented by the examiner;
  • a comprehensive study skills eBook; and
  • study support webinars in areas such as planning your study and exam techniques.

Costs and considerations

Undertaking the ICSA qualifying programme is a big decision. It’s important to consider how it will fit into your existing lifestyle and career.

The cost of qualifying

Costs can vary significantly from student to student. While everyone pays for registration, exam fees and ICSA membership, a student’s route and tuition choice can make a big difference to the investment required. 

The following table provides a summary of typical costs, but while the full fees apply for students in the UK, EU and Crown Dependencies, those in many other countries pay reduced rates.

UK and
overseas

Reduced
rate
Registration One-off fee £140 £77
Student membership Annual fee – full year (1 Aug – 31 July) £190 £135
Annual fee – half year (1 Feb – 31 July) £95 £67.50
Module fees Exam entry £230 £157
Exemption or re-sit £230 £157
ICSA text books Per exam module  £45
Optional tuition Per exam module, depending on provider £350 – £600

Find out more about our fees on our FAQ's page.

Other considerations

  • The time investment is significant.
  • Up to 200 hours of study are required for the Foundation Programme.
  • Up to 200 hours of study are required per module in Part One and Part Two.
  • The work is challenging, rising to Level 7 (equivalent to a postgraduate degree).
  • ICSA study material and examinations are all in English (6+ on IELTS scale).
  • ICSA exam sessions are held in June and November*.
  • You can take a maximum of 2 exams per session (4 per year).
  • You must abide by our student rules and regulations.

These are not small considerations, but you are not alone. Becoming a student member with ICSA gives you access to expert support and guidance a long with a range of other benefits.

*Health Service Governance exam in June only.

What happens after the course?

Achieving Chartered status requires both knowledge and experience. By passing the qualifying programme, you will become a Graduate member of ICSA, allowing the use of the post-nominal GradICSA to signify your expertise. 

The membership journey

Student membership

Is for all those studying for ICSA qualifications. 

Affiliated membership

Is for those who have either achieved all four Part One modules on the ICSA qualifying programme, or have passed one of ICSA’s Certificate or Diploma qualifications. Affiliated members use the post-nominals CIS (Affiliated).

Graduate membership

Is for those who have completed the qualifying programme or postgraduate equivalent and are working towards the experience required for Chartered membership. Graduates use the post-nominals GradICSA.

Associateship

Is the first level of Chartered membership, for those who have achieved GradICSA status and have six years’ relevant work experience (this can be reduced to three if you hold a degree). Associate members use the post-nominals ACIS and the professional designation of Chartered Secretary.

Fellowship

Is the highest level of Chartered member for those who have achieved GradICSA status and have eight years’ relevant work experience, three of which are in a senior position. Fellows use the post-nominals FCIS and the professional designation of Chartered Secretary or Chartered Governance Professional.

Getting started

  • If you are ready to start your career in governance, register today, find your entry route and begin the ICSA qualifying programme.
  • Not sure where to go from here? Find your best route on the Entry Routes page.

Contact us

For enquiries regarding student membership and studying with ICSA please contact the Membership team or read the FAQ's:

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