Qualifications and Membership Framework

The Qualifications and Membership 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. This comes in the form of:

  • Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)
  • Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

You can find out more about Accredited Prior Learning in the Guidance Notes below.

There are four levels of STEP membership:

Applicants begin the process by enrolling at Entry Level. Applicants need 60 credits at Entry Level to gain affiliate membership and progress to Diploma Level courses. Some will be able to earn the full 60 credits through Accredited Prior Learning (see Guidance Notes below) and others will need to complete a combination of STEP Certificates.

Existing members will be credited automatically and can enrol on Diploma Level courses immediately.

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.


Guidance notes

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

  1. Entry Level
  2. Diploma Level
  3. Practice Level

The first stage to pass is Entry 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.

In order to progress to Diploma Level you must be in possession of 60 Entry Level credits. These can be accumulated from any combination of:

  • 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

Once you have gained 60 Entry Level credits, you are eligible to apply to become a STEP Affiliate and to study Advanced Certificate courses.

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, 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.

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

Accreditation of Prior Learning

Accreditation of Prior Learning is the process used to award credits based on learning you have gained previously, either through qualifications or work.


There are two categories within Accreditation of Prior Learning:

  1. APCL – Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning: this considers learning that has been formally assessed and certified by an educational institution, e.g. a University, recognised training provider or professional body
  2. APEL – Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning: this assesses prior learning gained through work.

Credits may be given for prior learning where the level, standard and relevance of that learning are considered appropriate preparation for study at Diploma level.

The requirement of currency

The learning on which the claim for APCL or APEL is based must generally have taken place no more than five years prior to the date of application.

It may be possible to rely on prior certificated learning that took place more than five years previously, provided the applicant is able to demonstrate that their learning has since remained current by way of regular CPD.

For both APEL and APCL applications there may be exceptions to the currency rules where there are exceptional circumstances (decisions will be made with due regard to the UK Equality Act 2010).

CLTI are not required to accept a Diploma Level application where the relevant Accreditation of Prior Learning application was approved more than 12 months earlier. In this instance a fresh Accreditation of Prior Learning application may need to be made. However, a successful Accreditation of Prior Learning application will remain current for the duration of the applicant’s Entry Level Certificate studies (even if this exceeds 12 months).


The fee to have an APCL or APEL application considered is GBP50 + UK VAT (if applicable). If both APCL and APEL applications are made, then a total fee of GBP100 + UK VAT is payable. The fees are non-refundable, however, payment will not be taken until the forms have been approved by the CLTI Admissions Team, so there is no harm in submitting an application even if you are not sure whether it will meet the criteria.

Timescale for consideration of applications

Receipt of Accreditation of Prior Learning applications will be confirmed by email. A decision will be made by the CLTI Admissions Team within two weeks. If further information or supporting evidence is requested the two weeks will begin from the date this further information is received.

Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) at Entry Level

The APCL process considers learning which has been formally assessed and certified by an educational institution, education/training provider or professional body. The prior academic or professional qualification must be at a difficulty level similar to, or higher than, a STEP Entry Level Certificate and the subject matter should be relevant to that of the STEP qualifications (the focus may be domestic or international). This includes the following key areas of professional practice:

  • Law
  • Tax
  • Accounting
  • Wealth Management
  • Estates Practice
  • Financial Planning
  • Investment

By way of guidance, some of the qualifications or professional designations that are known to meet the APCL requirements are listed below.

  • AAT Accounting Qualification
  • ACA
  • ACCA (Foundation and Diploma)
  • ACIB
  • Advocate (in recognition of the professional qualifications required to achieve this status)
  • ATT
  • Bahamas Institute of Financial Services Trustee Diploma
  • Barrister (in recognition of the professional qualifications required to achieve this status)
  • Certificate in Offshore Administration
  • CII Financial Services Qualification (Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Certificate and Advanced
  • Diploma)
  • CFA
  • CMA
  • CISI Wealth/Retail (Qualifying/Advanced/professional)
  • CISI Compliance/Risk (Qualifying/Advanced/professional)
  • CISI Capital Markets (Qualifying/Advanced/professional)
  • CISI Operations (Qualifying/Advanced/professional)
  • CFP
  • CLT Specialist Paralegal Qualification in Wills, Probate and Administration
  • CTA
  • Degree in law, accounting, finance, economics, business studies (PhD, Master's degree, University
  • degree, College degree)
  • FINRA Series 7
  • ICA Diploma in Compliance
  • ICA Diploma in Governance, Risk and Compliance
  • ICSA International Finance and Administration qualifications (Chartered, Diploma, Advanced
  • Certificate, Certificate)
  • ILEX Probate and Succession papers, Level 6
  • Institute of Professional Will Writers Entry Examination
  • International Diploma in Financial Administration
  • Lawyer (in recognition of the professional qualifications required to achieve this status)
  • MBA
  • Notary (in recognition of the professional qualifications required to achieve this status)
  • RICS – Property, Finance and Investment pathway
  • SOLAS qualification for Accountants in Scotland
  • Solicitor (in recognition of the professional qualifications required to achieve this status)
  • SOLLA accreditation

Application procedure

A formal application must be made whether or not the qualification on which the application is based is listed in the table above. If listed, only the title of the qualification, date of the award and evidence that the qualification has been obtained are needed. If the qualification is not listed, the form asks for more detail about the academic content of the course and the volume and level of study.

Applicants can rely on more than one prior qualification to meet the APCL requirements.

Please note that an APCL application must be accompanied by a copy of the relevant certificate or other evidence that this qualification has been obtained, such as a membership certificate. It is not necessary to provide an original certificate; a scanned copy or attached image file will be sufficient.

How your APCL application will be assessed

Decisions regarding Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning are made by the Admissions Team and are a matter of academic judgement. The main considerations are:

  • Whether the prior learning is broadly equivalent to the learning that would otherwise have been assessed during the study of a STEP Entry Level Certificate; and
  • Whether any prior qualification being presented for APCL has been challenging and rigorous enough to allow students to undertake study at Diploma Level with a reasonable expectation of success

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) at Entry Level

The purpose of APEL is to accredit learning from prior work experience. The learning must have been achieved over a period of at least one year, working in a role related to the subject matter of the STEP qualifications. The role need not be senior in nature – learning that takes place while in a junior role working under supervision is admissible.

Entry Level experience will not be appropriate for an application to Full Membership and is therefore distinguished from Practice Level experience. Practice Level experience needs to be in a client-facing role or a role independent of direct supervision and mid to senior in level.

Application procedure

Applicants are required to detail on their APEL form the nature and level of their work and what they have learnt from their work experience. For each job held within the last 12 months, applicants should briefly list the key activities undertaken and what they learned from doing them. Each activity described should be relevant to work in the field of trusts and/or estates. The aim of this is to demonstrate that you have acquired, through your experience, the knowledge and skills that are broadly equivalent to having studied and passed an Entry Level Certificate.

In completing the form remember that the emphasis is a practical one. This is not about writing an essay on legal/technical principles. You need to demonstrate your experience.

How your APEL application will be assessed

The assessment of a claim for Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning is solely a matter of academic judgement. It will be based on the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the application demonstrates that learning has been acquired from your experience;
  • The extent to which the application demonstrates a match with the activities and knowledge expected of a professional at your level in your field;
  • The extent to which the application is sufficient to demonstrate learning, i.e. there must be enough detail to demonstrate that these skills/knowledge have been acquired;
  • The extent to which the application shows achievement of knowledge and skill to STEP’s Entry Level standard;
  • The extent to which the application is authentic, i.e. clearly related to your own efforts and achievements.

Full Members (TEPs)

Full Members who wish to complete a STEP Diploma will gain direct entry to the Diploma and can choose to claim exemption from two of the Advanced Certificates comprising the Diploma.

Exemption from Advanced Certificates

Exemption from up to a maximum of two Advanced Certificates is possible. For detailed information including criteria and application process please contact the CLTI Admissions Team.


Please contact the CLTI Admissions Team if you have any queries: [email protected] +44 121 362 7733