APICS vs ISM – What Should You Choose?

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 skillset 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.

APICS vs ISM – What’s right for you?





Founded in 1957 in Chicago and was formerly known as American Production & Inventory Control Society. Today the organization goes by the name APICS, the Association for Operation Management. 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

CPIM – CPIM certification is divided into 5 process oriented modules, and candidates need to pass all 5 exams to be certified. The exam  consists on following modules:

Exam 1 – Basics of Supply Chain Management                                               Exam 2 – Master Planning of Resources         Exam 3 – Detailed Scheduling & Planning

Exam 4 – Execution of Controlled Operations                                                              Exam 5 – Strategic Management of Resources                                                          The exams need to be taken in the preceding order.

CSCP – This certification is divided into 3 modules and the candidates need to pass all exams to be certified.

Exam 1 – Supply Chain Design

Exam 2 –  Supply Chain Planning & Execution                                                                Exam 3 –  Supply Chain Improvements & Best Practices

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


CPIM – the exam is 3 hours long and has 105 multiple choice questions; 80 scored. Required score to pass 300/330

CSCP – Exam is 4 hours long and has 150 multiple choice questions; 130 scored. Required score to pass 300/350

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:

APICS PLUS members – $190/exam

APICS CORE members -$290/exam

Nonmembers  – $290/exam

CPSP exam fees for:

APICS PLUS members – $695                         APICS CORE members -$915                           Nonmembers  – $915

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.

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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

Muddassir Ahmed