APICS vs ISM – What Should You Choose? [Revised & Updated]

10 Sep

With the ever-growing talent and competition in today’s fast-paced environment, everybody is looking for ways and opportunities to outperform their peers. If you want to enhance your supply chain competencies to further your knowledge and stay updated with the current concepts and technologies in the supply chain industry, you can consider getting a professional certification in APICS or ISM or CIPS. To make things easy to understand and choose the certification that suits you best, here are the differences between APICS vs ISM. This will serve as a guide in helping you get an overview and the types of certifications offered by the two associations.

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APICS vs ISM – What’s Right for You?





APICS (changed their brand name to the Association for supply chain management), was founded in 1957 , and now has over 117,000 qualified with their certifications and now operates in 82 countries around the world. You can read more information here Founded in 1915, ISM (Institute for Supply Management) is one of the oldest and largest supply chain associations in the world. It was formerly named National Association of Purchasing Agents (NAPA).


APICS is a supply chain management association leaders in research, business, systems and certification programs focused on enhancing supply chain excellence. They strive at transforming businesses by reaching global customers. ISM is a management association for professionals with keen interest in supply management and procurement. ISM has many features like acquiring various educational qualifications, certificates, training and publications.

Global Family

APICS currently has over 45000 members in 100 countries and 300 channel partners. ISM currently has 50000 members in 90 countries.

Popular Certifications 

The 3 popular certifications offered are:

  • CPIM – Certified in Production & Inventory Management
  • CSCP – Certified Supply Chain Professional
  • CLTD – Certified in Logistics Transportation & Distribution
The 2 popular certifications offered are:

  • CPSM – Certified Professional in Supply Management
  • CPSD – Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity

Exam Content

The CSCP exam is :

1 exam

4 hours

Can be paper-based or computer-based

Offered 3 times a years

The  CPIM exam:

Candidates must pass two CPIM exams within three years in order to become certified.

The CPIM program consists of five modules with two exams, one for Part 1 and one for Part 2. Each module reflects critical areas in production and inventory management.

Part 1:

Module 1 – Basics of Supply Chain Management

Part 2:

Module 1 – Strategic Management of Resources
Module 2 – Master Planning of Resources
Module 3 – Detailed Scheduling and Planning
Module 4 – Execution and Control of Operations

CPSM – This certification is divided into 3 exams and they can be taken in any order.

Exam 1 – Foundation of Supply Management

Exam 2 – Effective Supply Chain Management

Exam 3 – Leadership in Supply Management

CPSD – This certification consists of 2 exams of which Exam 1 can be waived off if candidates have a CPSM certification.

Exam 1 – Foundation of Supply Management

Exam 2 – Essentials in Supplier Diversity


Part 1

Number of exam questions – 150 (130 operational and 20 pretest*)
Length of exam – 3.5 hours

Part 2 

Number of exam questions – 150 (130 operational and 20 pretest*) each module weighing 25%
Length of exam – 3.5 hours

CSCP – Exam is 3.5 hours long and has 150 multiple choice questions; 130 scored. The CSCP score range is 200 to 350
Pass = 300-350
 = 200-299

CPSM – Exam 1 & 2 are both 165 minutes long and consists of 165 questions each, 150 of which are scored. Exam 3 is 180 minutes long and consists of 180 questions, 165 of which are scored.

The required score to pass is between 400- 600.

CPSD – Exam 2 is 2 hours long and consists of 120 questions all of which are scored. The required score to pass is 300


APICS CPIM is open to everyone and has no eligibility criteria. Educational background in SCM will come in handy. To be eligible for the APICS CSCP designation you must satisfy one of the following criteria:

* 3 years of related business experience

* Bachelor’s degree

* CPIM, CFPIM, CIRM, SCOR-P, C.P.M., CSM or CPSM designations

To be eligible for the ISM CPSM and CSPD designations you must satisfy the following criteria:

* 3 years of related work experience

* Bachelor’s degree in a field related to supply chain

Exam Fees

CPIM exam fees for:

Part 1- PLUS member price: $495 – Or purchase the CPIM Bundle.
CORE member/nonmember price: $690
Retake price: $250

Part 2- PLUS member price: $495
CORE member/nonmember price: $690
Retake price: $250


CPSP exam fees for – North America CSCP Exam Information

PLUS member price: $695
CORE Member price: $965
Nonmember Price: $965
Retake: $450

CSCP exam fees for – Outside North America CSCP Exam Information

PLUS member price: $1,050
CORE Member price: $1,300
Nonmember Price: $1,300
Retake: $450

CPSM and CPSD exam fees for:

  • Members – $199/exam
  • Nonmembers – $329/exam


CPIM – Ideal for careers in inventory management  & supply chain planning

CPSP – Ideal for general supply chain careers

Ideal for careers in procurement and developing a diverse supplier base.

There you have it an APICS vs ISM overview. Although there are differences between the associations, both of these provide certifications which can be very beneficial to your career. Some of the advantages of getting a certifications are:

  • Certifications will enhance your resume and make an impression on recruiters
  • Increase in salary with every certification achieved
  • Enables you to be more efficient and productive, opening multiple career paths

Now that you know the differences between APICS vs ISM, you need to decide what your focus is. Depending on your career goals you need to choose the certifications that works best for you and will lead you to a path of development, improvement and success.

For those of you have taken these exams, please share your experiences and add to my list of APICS vs ISM differences.

Recommended Reading:


This is the guest post from aspiring graduate Pranali Pawar:

Pranali Pawar is a class of 2016 graduate who holds a Master’s degree in Supply Chain & Logistics Technology from University of Houston. Her passion for supply chain management stems from her love for learning, analyzing and solving complex process optimization challenges. Coming from a business family, she has always been intrigued by the impact of people and processes in supply chain and retail management. With her newfound interest for writing, Pranali aims at sharing and gaining knowledge by interacting with industry peers. She is driven to expand her network and build connections with industry professionals, experts and gain insight into their experiences


  • Roberta Tiffany Mcphail

    Note: the CSCP program is one exam not three.

  • Matthew A. Bradshaw, C.P.M.

    Eligibility Requirements have changed.
    What are the criteria to obtain the CPSM®?

    3 years full-time, professional supply management experience (nonclerical, nonsupport) with a regionally accredited 1 bachelor’s degree OR 5 years of supply management experience (nonclerical, nonsupport) without a degree.
    Pass 3 CPSM® Exams.
    1 Regionally accredited means that your bachelor’s degree was earned from a college or university that is recognized by one of the six U.S. accrediting organizations listed with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Please email the Certification Department if you have questions regarding your degree.

    • muddassirism

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for correcting this for readers, appreciated.
      Muddassir Ahmed

  • Umair Qazi

    Your comparisons are really helpful especially for people like me who are just starting their career in SCM. Also, as a person looking for advice, myself and many others would benefit if you could mention which certification is valued more in which part of the world. For e.g. in U.S.A, APICS certifications are valued more that ISM and CIPS. It would really help if you could provide which certifications are valued more in Middle East markets, Europe etc.

    • muddassirism

      Hi Umair- I don’t know Middle East, however, in Europe CIPS is more valued and recognized. Muddassir

  • Zillal Hossain

    Your article really help me.
    Could you please compare between the SCM degree by international trade center and CIPS by UK.
    which degree more valuable in South Asia and Middle East Asia.

    • muddassirism

      SCM Degree and CIPS are not comparable. CIPS is Chartered Accreditation.

  • Ali Reza Khondker

    Hi Dr Muddassir,can you suggest me on how to appear the bridge exam of CPSM.It is not possible for me to join the continued education hour( CEH) of ISM.How do I get the suggested study material?Thanks.

  • Mark Babb

    One thing overlooked that would be great to know is what is necessary to maintain certification once it is obtained. Thanks, very helpful information.

  • Mirza Saadullah Baig

    CPIM has also changed their structure. Now they take 2 exams only.

  • Stuart Rosenberg

    Shouldn’t the comparison have been between – APICS, ISM and CSCMP (Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals)?

  • Ghous Saudagar

    What is difference between CIPS and CPSM and which is best.
    I understand CPSM is Procurement + Supply Chain Management whereas as CIPS is only focus on Procurement.
    CPSM has 3 exams whereas CIPS is a long route.
    What is means: CIPS is Chartered Accreditation?

  • Wendy Romero

    What about language? I’m located in a Latinamerican Country. Is there any other language as Spanish that you can choose? or Are both exams just provided in English?

    • Muddassir Ahmed

      It is in English as far as I know.

  • Hassaan

    SCM Degree and CIPS are not comparable. CIPS is Chartered Accreditation.

    is this same as chartered accountancy in finance?

    • Muddassir Ahmed

      Yes they are! CIPS consider University as courses of exemption and vice versa!

  • Roberta McPhail

    Your listing of the exams for the CPIM is incorrect please contact me directly for a update. CPIM is only two exams, CSCP one.

  • Bill Cure

    Your info is very out of date about the APICS CPIM program. For over a year now. The cpim cert has two tests: CPIM Part 1-and Part 2


    • Muddassir

      Hi Bill, You are right. Will update. Thanks.

  • Anil Kumar

    Hi-I am Anil Kumar who have enrolled in ISM,now I feel that APICS is the best than ISM as I see many organizations prefer APICS candidates in their job postings. I would like to have your suggestion. Will there be preference for ISM students. How CPSM & CPSCM differ with each other. Thank you.

    • Muddassir Ahmed

      Hi Anil,

      Please read https://www.scmdojo.com/apics-vs-ism/

      If you want to work in procurement function ISM is better. If want to work in supply chain I would say APICS is better.

  • Motun

    Thanks for the overview comparison

  • Jignesh Patel


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