The Complete Guide to CIPM

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria [CIPM]. We have written it for graduates who want to pursue a career in Human Resources and are vaguely familiar with CIPM, but have no idea how it works or how to proceed. In this guide, you will learn what CIPM is and who it’s for, why you should become a member if you want to pursue a career as a Human Resource professional in Nigeria, how to know what stage you’ll be starting from, how to register with CIPM, how the examinations work, how to prepare for the examinations, the fees, and possible next steps in your career as a HR professional.

As you probably can tell, this is a lot of information (otherwise it wouldn’t be a ‘complete guide’), so we have organized this post into the following sections:

  • What is CIPM and Who is it For?
  • How to Become a Member
  • Membership by Examination: How it Works
  • Registration
  • The Exams
  • Preparing for the Examinations
  • Induction
  • Next Steps

If you’re completely new to CIPM; you should read this guide from top to bottom. If you’re already familiar with CIPM and just need details about specific aspects of it; you can click on any of the links to take you directly to the part you’re interested in. Let’s begin.

What is CIPM and Who is it For?

CIPM is the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria; it is the professional association that licenses human resource professionals in Nigeria. That needs some explaining, so let’s do that. Suppose you wanted to become a doctor. You would have to go to medical school, which typically lasts between six and seven years in Nigeria. If you successfully completed your medical programme, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) would then give you a license to practice medicine in Nigeria. Suppose again that you wanted to become a lawyer. First; you would need to study law at a university, and you would need to go to the Nigerian Law School for about another one year. If you successfully did those two things, you would then be licensed by the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] to practice law in Nigeria. You could neither become a doctor nor a lawyer without being licensed by the Nigerian Medical Association or the Nigerian Bar Association. That’s what it means to be licensed by a professional body. CIPM is a professional body in that sense, although it works a little differently. Presenting oneself as a medical doctor without a license from the Nigerian Medical Association is illegal and could land a person in jail, whereas one could practice as a human resources professional without necessarily having a license from CIPM.

Nevertheless; most employers in Nigeria have come to expect CIPM certification from people in human resources. As such; you could get an entry level HR position without CIPM certification and learn what you need to know on the job, but your employer would expect that at some point in your early career, you do get the license. If you fail to do so; your career as a HR professional would be limited, because there are many things you would be unable to do. In that respect; CIPM is more similar to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria [ICAN] than it is to the NMA or NBA. The NMA and NBA exercise direct control over entry into their professions in the first place, whereas with certifications like CIPM and ICAN, you can start working in those professions while you work towards getting your license. It’s like how KPMG hires bright young graduates fresh out of school and trains them to do auditing work, but those people are expected to have their ICAN certification in about three years. If you want to practice HR in Nigeria; your employer would expect you to get CIPM certification in the early years of your career. Having taught CIPM courses at a study centre for a number of years; we know that a significant number of the people who come to classes are sponsored by their employer. To summarise this section; CIPM is the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria. You should get your CIPM license if you want to practice HR in Nigeria.

How to Become a Member

There are three routes to becoming a member of CIPM and acquire your HR Practitioners License: (1) membership through the executive route; (2) membership through the HR practitioners’ route, and (3) membership by examination. Membership through the executive route requires a Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent, at least six years core HR/Administrative experience (five of which must be at senior management/executive level), plus “experience in a cross-functional management role.” Membership through the HR practitioners’ route requires a Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent, and a “minimum of seven years post-graduation experience in Human Resource/Administrative practice at an advisory/management level in a structured and recognized organization.” If you’re a fresh graduate trying to figure out how to build a career in HR, you almost certainly don’t qualify for either of those. That means your path to acquiring CIPM’s HR Practitioners License will likely be by examination. This guide is for you.

Membership by Examination: How it Works

When you pursue CIPM membership by examination; it is assumed that you are either a student or a (fresh) graduate, although lots of people who already work in other fields write the exams as well, because they want to transition to a career in HR. The examination is in six stages. The stage you start from will depend on your qualifications and/or what you studied in school, but we’ll get to that later. For now, just bear in mind that the CIPM examinations are in six stages:

  • Foundation I
  • Foundation II
  • Intermediate I
  • Intermediate II
  • Professional I, and
  • Professional II.

Very few people start from Foundation I. Those that do typically only have an SSCE qualification (i.e. they have only been to secondary school). As such, they’ll be taking lots of introductory courses. There are also those who have had higher education, but it was in a pure sciences discipline (for instance, someone who studied Botany at university). Such people typically start from Intermediate I, because although they have a degree, it was not in a social sciences discipline.

By far the most common entry point is Intermediate II. People who come in at this stage usually have a Bachelor’s Degree in the social sciences, management sciences, or humanities. Examples of social sciences are Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, and Economics. Examples of management sciences are Business Administration, Industrial Relations and Personnel Management (IRPM), Insurance, and Accounting. Examples of humanities are Philosophy, International Relations, and History. Bear in mind however that these are just examples, they are by no means exhaustive. Assuming you start from Intermediate II (the fourth stage), you will take three levels of the exam: Intermediate II, Professional I, and Professional II- in that order.

Finally; there are those who start from Professional I (the fifth stage), because they have a Master’s Degree in the management sciences. For instance, someone who has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Relations, or someone who has an MBA from a recognized business school. We don’t see lots of these people though; most people start from Intermediate II. If you’re not sure about what stage of the exams your degree qualifies you to start from, get in touch; we’re more than happy to help.

Table 1 presents the qualifications required for each stage of the examinations

Examination StageQualification
Foundation IWASSCE/NECO/GCE and OND in other disciplines
Foundation IIWASSCE/NECO/GCE (for applicants above 30 years), OND in Social Sciences, Humanities and Management disciplines, NCE or its equivalent
Intermediate IFirst Degree/HND in other disciplines
Intermediate IIFirst Degree/HND in Management/Social Science/Arts/Humanities. Master’s Degree in other disciplines
Professional IMaster’s Degree in Management/Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities. Associate certificate by examination of other relevant and recognized institutions, transcript will be required from the institute.
Professional IIFinal stage of CIPM professional examinations

These are the courses you will take at each stage of the examinations:

Foundation I

  • Introduction to Management                                       
  • Writing and Communication Skills              
  • Introduction to Economics            
  • Introduction to Accounting            
  • Fundamentals of Psychology and Sociology                   

Foundation II

  • Introduction to Human Resource Management        
  • Nigerian Business Environment                                                      
  • Business Law             
  • Computer Application and Management Information System                
  • Elements of Politics and the Nigeria Legal System

Intermediate I

  • Business Administration                
  • Advanced Economics         
  • Accounting and Finance for Managers      
  • Business Statistics and Social Research Methods

Intermediate II

  • Comparative Management & Administration
  • Learning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Workforce Planning and Strategies

Professional I

  • Advanced Human Resource Management I
  • Insurance and Pensions Management
  • Organizational Behaviour and Performance
  • Operations Research
  • Presentation Skills

Professional II

  • Advanced Employment Relations
  • Advanced Human Resources Management II
  • Labour Market Analysis
  • Nigerian Labour Law

Registration

The first thing you need to do- before you even start preparing for the exams, is to register with CIPM. By registering, you are letting the Institute know that you intend to pursue membership by examination. As part of the registration process, you will need to provide your bio-data to the institute, as well as your relevant qualifications (your degree for instance). This is how the Institute will decide what stage of the exams you are eligible to start from. If your registration is successful; the Institute will send you a notification to that effect, letting you know that you are enrolled to pursue membership by examination. You do not have to pay for the examinations immediately you register. In fact; most people complete their registration first and pay for the exams at a later date. You can complete your registration here (CIPM will charge you a registration fee of N3, 000; three thousand Naira).

The Exams

CIPM examinations are held twice a year, in February (called the February Diet) and August (called the August Diet). Exams typically last 3 hours. Each exam is divided into two sections. In the first section, there are 20 multiple choice questions with options lettered A to D, and each multiple choice question carries 1 mark. In the second section, there are 7 essay questions which carry 20 marks each. You are expected to answer all the multiple choice questions, and four of the seven essay questions. That makes a total of 100 marks for each exam (100%). At the time of this writing, you need at least 40% to pass an exam.

An individual who failed one course would need to take that course again in a future Diet. Although such person would be able to continue with the higher stage, they would have to re-write the course they failed. For instance, suppose a person in Intermediate II failed Workforce Planning and Strategies but passed the other courses. That person will proceed to Professional I, but will have to re-write Workforce Planning. An individual who failed two courses or more cannot proceed to the next stage, they would have to re-write the courses they failed and pass them before they proceed. So imagine for a minute that instead of just Workforce Planning and Strategies, this person also failed Comparative Management and Administration. They would be unable to proceed to the Professional I stage; they have to resit both Workforce Planning and Comparative Management, and they have to pass both courses before they can move to PE I. Got it?

Preparing for the Examinations

Once you have completed your registration, it makes sense to start preparing for the examinations. Most people follow one of two strategies. The first strategy is to study for the exams completely on your own. CIPM makes the study packs available for free on its website; so you have access to the materials you need. Past question booklets from previous exams are also available on the CIPM website, and you can download them to augment your study. This strategy can be successful if you are disciplined about creating a study plan and sticking to it. The second strategy is to attend a study centre to support your own independent study. Some study centres hold lectures on Saturdays and Sundays, others hold lectures on Saturdays alone, and some even hold evening lectures during the week. Choose one that meets your needs. You can see a list of CIPM-accredited study centres here.

One more thing about study centres. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, study centres will not be holding physical classes for the August 2020 Diet. CIPM has specifically directed all study centres to go virtual, so that means most study centres will transition to an online model. The details of this are still being worked out between the Institute and the study centres, but you should expect that you won’t be able to attend any study centre in-person as you prepare for the August Diet. We started Ace CIPM from the get-go using the online model, so we’re pretty far ahead of most study centres in that regard. Our goal is to help you prepare for the exams effectively by studying for only 60 minutes everyday, straight to the point and completely online. We have a track that suits your needs, based on your availability and time constraints. Contact us to learn more.

Examination results are released a few months after the exams. Usually; results for the February Diet are released sometime around May, and results for the August Diet are released sometime around October. Initially the results are released en masse, then they are released to each student’s profile on the CIPM website.

Fees

The fees and payment structure for CIPM vary by stage. As a new student, you will pay an application fee, acceptance fee, and exemption fee. You will pay the application fee when you register to pursue membership by examination, and you will pay the acceptance and exemption fees after you receive your admission letter from the Institute. You will only pay these fees as a new student, so they no longer apply to you when you advance to higher stages. You will however pay the examination fee, annual dues and for study packs each time you register for an exam. The fee for study pack is optional and only applies if you wish to purchase them in paperback. This information is presented more clearly in Table 2.

STAGEAPPLICATION FEEACCEPTANCE FEE (ONE-OFF PAYMENT)EXEMPTION FEE (ONE-OFF PAYMENT)EXAMINATION FEESTUDY PACK (PAPERBACK)ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES
FOUNDATION 13000.006,500.00———-21,800.00———-4,500.00
FOUNDATION 23000.006,500.0012,200.0024,800.00———-4,500.00
INTERMEDIATE 13000.006,500.0013,500.0027,800.006,000.004,500.00
INTERMEDIATE 23000.006,500.0014,900.0030,800.006,500.004,500.00
PROFESSIONAL 13000.006,500.0016,200.0033,700.007,000.004,500.00
PROFESSIONAL 2———-———-———-36,700.007,000.004,500.00

Induction

When you have successfully passed each stage of the examinations, you will participate in the induction ceremony held twice a year (in May and November), where CIPM will induct you as an Associate of the Institute (ACIPM). Assuming you start from Intermediate II and don’t have any resits that delay you, expect to spend about 2 years from your first examination to induction.

At the induction ceremony, you will be admitted as an Associate Member and automatically entitled to the following:

  1. Associate Membership Certificate
  2. Professional Diploma in Human Resources
  3. Human Resources Practitioners’ License (HRPL)
  4. ACIPM designation

Conclusion and Next Steps

Our goal with this guide was to teach you everything you need to know about the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria; the professional body that licenses human resources professionals in Nigeria. We hope we have achieved that goal. If you still have questions that we have not answered in this guide, do get in touch. We are always happy to help. If you would like to be a part of a community of future HR Professionals working towards CIPM certification, consider joining this WhatsApp group. It’s a great forum for asking and getting answers to common CIPM-related questions. You also get to meet lots of super helpful people, super friendly to beginners. Your career as a HR professional begins with CIPM. Don’t wait; start now!

Love; the Ace CIPM team.

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