STEP - Qualifications and Membership Framework 

STEP's Qualifications and Membership Framework (QMF) is a system for assigning credit values to qualifications. 

The framework harmonises entry requirements around the world and allows those applying for STEP membership to have their prior qualifications and experience formally recognised through Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) or accumulate credits through levels of study. 

The range of STEP qualifications available are mapped into Certificates, Advanced Certificates, and the STEP Diploma, and have been assigned credit values in line with the equivalent level of membership. STEP Diploma status can be achieved upon completion of four Advanced Certificates as detailed in The STEP Diploma guidance. 

To find out more about membership, visit  STEP Membership Categories.  


The Framework Levels 

Under the STEP Qualifications and Membership Framework, Full STEP Membership and TEP designation is awarded upon completion of three distinct stages:  

TEP Status – 240 Credits Required 

  • Entry Level (60 Entry Level credits) 
  • Diploma Level (120 Diploma Level credits) 
  • Practice Level (60 Practice Level credits)

Entry Level 

The first stage to pass is Entry Level and satisfy the 60 Entry Level credits required to move onto Diploma Level.  

The Entry Level stage can be completed in a variety of ways, but the academic threshold must be reached by all applicants according to the same standard. 

  • Completion of one or more STEP Entry Level Certificate(s) - 30 credits each 
  • Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) - 30 credits 
  • Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) - 30 credits 

Entry Level STEP Certificates are open entry and are suitable for those who would like to develop their knowledge of a particular area of the law. 

Once you successfully complete a Certificate course, you will gain 30 Entry Level credits towards STEP membership. To become a STEP Affiliate, you can gain the remaining 30 Entry Level credits by either completing another Entry Level Certificate course (which provides you with 30 Entry Level credits) or by applying for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL). This process involves credits being awarded for learning and/or experience that has been formally recognised. 

Alternatively, you can gain the full 60 Entry Level credits by applying for both APEL and APCL. There are two types of accredited prior learning: 

  • Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL – worth 30 Entry Level credits): this refers to formal recognition of prior learning gained through other experiences, such as learning gained within and through work. 
  • Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL – worth 30 Entry Level credits): this refers to learning that has been assessed and certified by an educational institution (for example, a university/college), which is recognised by an education/training provider or a professional body. 

Each application costs £50 (plus UK VAT) and once you apply your application will be reviewed by the Customer Services and Admissions team, and you will receive an outcome within two weeks. Both forms can be found below: 

Note that your APEL and/or APCL applications must be successful in order for you to gain the credits needed to enrol on a course. 

If you wish to or are studying an Entry Level Certificate course and do not have any other credits towards STEP membership, you will be given Student status. Note that the Student category is not part of STEP’s Qualifications and Membership Framework, and to become a member of STEP or achieve the first level of membership (a STEP Affiliate) you will need to gain 60 Entry Level credits.  

Once you have gained 60 Entry Level credits, you are eligible to apply to become a STEP Affiliate and to study Advanced Certificate courses. Please note existing STEP members (level dependent) will be credited automatically and can enrol on Diploma Level courses immediately.  

Advanced Certificates (Diploma Level) 

STEP Advanced Certificate programmes have been designed for practitioners with more experience and 60 Entry Level credits, who would like to expand their knowledge of a specific subject.  

All Advanced Certificates form part of the STEP Diploma and can be combined to shape your own Diploma pathway. The Advanced Certificates are grouped in three sets: 

  • Set 1: Private wealth administration and governance 
  • Set 2: Tax and compliance 
  • Set 3: Electives 

You must choose at least one from Set 1, at least one from Set 2, and two from any of the three sets.  

The STEP Diploma 

Once you successfully complete an Advanced Certificate course you will gain 30 Diploma Level credits towards STEP membership. 

Upon completion of two Advanced Certificates worth 30 Diploma Level credits each, you are eligible to apply to become a STEP Associate. 

Upon completion of four Advanced Certificates, and in line with The STEP Diploma guidance, worth a total of 120 Diploma Level credits, and 60 Practice Level credits you can apply to STEP for Full (TEP) Membership and receive the TEP designation. 

Practice Level 

To become a Full STEP Member (TEP) there are certain criteria that you will need to meet at Practice Level. Reaching full membership requires two years of experience, including significant involvement at a specialist level with one or more of the following: planning, creation, management of and accounting for trusts and estates, executorship administration and related taxes. 

In addition to having gained 120 Diploma Level credits, you will need to submit a CV that illustrates your experience (a minimum of two years’ mid- to senior-level experience) along with your application to upgrade your level of membership. 

To attain the 60 Practice Level Credits, you must evidence with your upgrade application that your occupation over the last two years has included specialist experience at mid to senior level.