STEP - Qualifications and Membership Framework

The Qualifications & Membership Framework (QMF) is STEP’s system for assigning credit values to qualifications.

It 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).


The STEP qualifications are mapped into one of three levels: CertificateAdvanced Certificate and Diploma, and have been assigned credit values in line with the equivalent level of membership – STEP AffiliateSTEP Associate and Full Member (TEP).


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

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Joining STEP

Certificate courses (Entry Level)

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.

If you 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 (a STEP Affiliate) you will need to gain 60 Entry Level credits. 

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.

There are two types of APL:

  • 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 submit an application it will be reviewed and you will receive a response within two weeks.

Alternatively, you can gain the full 60 Entry Level credits by applying for both APEL and APCL. 

For more information on STEP Entry Level and advice on how to complete the APEL and APCL forms, refer to the Guidance Document. 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.

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

Some Advanced Certificate courses are part of Diploma routes. You can view the selection of Diploma routes offered by STEP in the PDF document here:

Diploma Routes 

Once you have successfully completed any two Advanced Certificates (either as two standalone courses or two Advanced Certificates that are part of a Diploma Level programme) and gained 60 Diploma Level credits, you can become a STEP Associate.

Once you complete four Advanced Certificates that form part of a specific Diploma programme, you will gain 120 Diploma Level credits towards STEP membership.

Practice Level (Full STEP Member (TEP))

To become a Full STEP Member (TEP) there are certain criteria that you will need to meet at Practice Level.  

In addition to having gained 120 Diploma Level credits, you will need to review a case study from the Professional Standards Awareness programme and 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.

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