How to Become a Company Secretary

A Company Secretary (CS) is one of the most sought-after professionals these days. Company Secretaries are present in many domains. The scope of CS Profession is not only restricted to corporate secretarial matters but has also expanded to advocacy (NCLT), corporate restructuring, insolvency resolution, liquidation, valuation, GST practice etc.

This article elaborates on the Company Secretary profession- enrolment, stages of examination, course details, syllabus and most importantly “what it takes” to be a Company Secretary.

Who is a Company Secretary?

A Company Secretary is a multi-disciplinary professional rendering service in:-

  • Corporate Governance and Secretarial Matters- advisory, arbitration, representation etc.
  • Financial Markets viz. public issue, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers
  • A Company Secretary in employment is:-
    • an in-house legal expert
    • compliance officer of the Company
    • An expert in corporate laws, securities laws, capital market and corporate governance
    • Chief advisor to the board of directors on best practices in corporate governance
    • Responsible for all regulatory compliances of the company
    • Corporate planner and strategic manager

Although the role of a Company Secretary as a Compliance Officer is predominant, the scope has expanded greatly in the recent past. A Company Secretary can represent before quasi-judicial (similar to courts) forums such as the Company Law Tribunal, Tax Tribunal etc. He/she can also act as an Insolvency Professional playing a key role in reviving debt-ridden companies.

Therefore, today a Company Secretary is a professional working in multifarious areas possessing extensive inter-disciplinary knowledge.

About the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI)

The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) regulates and develops the CS Profession in India. It is a statutory body (i.e., set up the Company Secretaries Act, 1980 enacted by the Parliament).  ICSI functions under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

ICSI is headquartered in New Delhi and has four Regional Offices in New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai. It also has 69 chapters across the country.

Stages to become a Company Secretary

Now, that you know about the role of a Company Secretary, let us see the stages you need to pass through to become one.

If you wish to pursue CS soon after your schooling (i.e. 12th Standard), you have to clear the following levels of examination.

  • Foundation Program– consisting of 4 papers (for the detailed syllabus, click here)
  • Executive Program– consisting of 7 papers split into two groups of 4 papers and 3 papers each
  • Professional Program– It can be pursued only after clearing the executive program. It consists of 9 papers divided into 3 groups containing 3 papers each

For detailed syllabus of Executive and Professional Program visit CS Executive and Professional Syllabus 2012

Note: The syllabus is proposed to change again in 2018

However, if you wish to pursue CS after graduation then you can directly appear for the Executive Program. It means you will have to pass the Executive Program and Professional Program. Anyone who has graduated in any stream except fine arts can pursue the Executive Program.

CS Exams are conducted two times a year in June and December. Information on registration for each level and enrollment for exams is given below.

Training Requirements

Passing the three levels of examinations is only a part of the course. Apart from clearing the exams, you should also complete a set of mandatory training requirements.

The ICSI mandates long-term practical training and few other short-term training to become eligible for membership. Accordingly, a student registered for the course can undergo long-term training with a Company/ Practicing Company Secretary/ Ministry of Corporate Affairs/ Banks/ law firms.

Read my post on How to Find Vacancies for CS Training to know more about finding trainee vacancies.

Long-term Training (w.e.f 1st April 2014)

Three- year Training- students who have registered for the executive program are eligible to undergo three- year training

Two-year Training- Students who have passed the executive program are eligible for two-year training

One-year Training- Students who have passed the professional program are eligible for one- year training

To know about the kind of entities eligible to impart long-term training, visit Entities eligible to Impart CS training

Note: The old training structure of 15 months still continues for those students who had registered on or before 31st March 2014. But, they have an option to switch-over to the new training structure by following this procedure Procedure for Switchover to New Training Structure

Short-term Training

  • Old Training Structure

For students undergoing 15 months training, compulsory 24 hours of Professional Development Program (PDP) credit hours is must. They must also complete an 8-day Executive Development Program (EDP).

  • New Training Structure

For students undergoing training in a new format, PDP and EDP are not applicable. Only MSOP will apply.

But, for those who cleared the Executive Program on or after 25th August 2015, a 15-day Academic Program is mandatory. For details visit 15 days Academic Program

Management Skills Orientation Program (MSOP)

After passing all exams and completing the long-term and short-term training you must undergo 15 (working) days MSOP. This training is organized in the Regional Councils of the ICSI. Few Chapters also conduct MSOP. Only on successfully completing MSOP, you become eligible for obtaining the ACS membership.

REGISTRATION PROCEDURE

Admission to the CS course is open throughout the year and can be done only online. The fee for registration can be paid through credit card/ debit card/ net banking. Registration for December/June session shall be done on or before 31st March/ 30th September respectively.

The following link contains detailed FAQs on registration:

https://www.icsi.edu/webmodules/student/faq_student_services.pdf  

 CS Course Fee Structure

CS Foundation Programme               Rs. 4500/-
CS Executive Programme Rs. 9000/- for Commerce Graduates
Rs. 12,500/- for CPT passed of ICAI / Foundation passed of ICAI-CMA
Rs 10,000/- for Non-Commerce Students
Rs 8,500/- for CS Foundation passed students
CS Professional Programme Rs. 12,000

 Exam Fees

 As mentioned above, exams are conducted twice a year in June and December. The exam fee for each stage is as follows:

Foundation Programme- Rs. 1200

Executive Programme- Rs. 1200 per module

Professional Programme- Rs. 1200 per module

The last date for enrolment in exams is 25th March (with late fee of Rs. 250/- till 9th April) for December session. For June session it is 25th September (with late fee of Rs. 250/- until 10th October). 

How much time does it take to complete CS?

If a student clears all stages of examination in the first attempt, then typically it takes about 3 to 4 years. It is important to note that in professional courses like these, the time taken purely depends on your preparation and hard work. Another factor is whether you plan to write group-by-group or all papers at one go.

Clearing exams on the first attempt have its own advantages. It boosts your confidence. You save precious time. It also helps you to take up parallel courses.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 Broadly, career prospects for CS involve two choices- whole-time employment or practice.  Just like any other professional, a CS can choose to be employed or take up whole-time practice. But, you cannot do both at the same time, i.e., you should either opt for employment or practice.

Company Secretary as KMP

The Companies Act, 2013 recognizes Company Secretary as a Key Managerial Personnel along with Managing Director (MD), CEO, CFO, Manager, and Whole-time director. This is important because such categorization also holds the CS responsible for defaults.

  • Every listed company; and
  • Every other public company having a paid-up share capital of Rs. 10 crores or more

has to appoint a whole time Key Managerial Personnel.

The appointment of whole time KMP is made by a Board Resolution. The appointment and removal/ resignation of a KMP must be notified to the Registrar of Companies. This implies the significant role of CS.

Company Secretary in Practice

You can also go for practice, after obtaining the ‘Certificate of Practice’ from the ICSI. A Practicing Company Secretary (PCS) renders services in the following areas:-

  1. Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Governance
  2. Corporate Restructuring like mergers, takeovers etc.
  3. Arbitration and Conciliation
  4. Financial Management
  5. Project Planning
  6. Capital Market and Investor Relations
  7. Due Diligence
  8. Corporate Advisory Services

REMUNERATION OF COMPANY SECRETARIES

CS is a highly responsible and remunerative profession. The salary for a CS fresher ranges between Rs. 2.5 lakhs to Rs. 6 lakhs. However, I will include a word of caution here. The pay package depends on the competence of the candidate and the kind of employer. Moreover, good companies look for the excellent academic record. It is useful to keep all this in mind when you set-off on this course.

With experience, the remuneration graph rises. Some of the experienced professionals in top companies earn anywhere between Rs. 50 lakhs to Rs. 3 crores.

Comparatively, the practice side may be more remunerative. But, this again depends on your knowledge, caliber, and networking.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A CS?

As you may have understood by now, a Company Secretary holds immense responsibility, power, and stature. It is also a very rewarding career. Before you take your first step towards this challenging journey, there are certain aspects you should consider.

  • A CS is an expert in corporate and allied laws. This requires sound knowledge. You must constantly update yourself with the latest developments. It essentially means your learning does not stop with getting the title ‘Company Secretary’. It is an everyday job!
  • CS is a professional course and needs a lot of perseverance, hard work, and mental strength. To become one you should possess all these qualities.
  • Be prepared for testing times. Exams are crucial and pass percentage is in single digits. Only the fittest survive. But with clear goals, commitment, and mental strength you can indeed emerge successfully.
  • Introspect yourself. You need the following minimum skills and traits:-
  • Communication skills
  • Positive attitude
  • Academically inclination i.e. you are not the kind of person who is bored by books. If you are then this is not your area.
  • Time management. Each stage of the course has about 9 months and involves vast areas of study. You should know to plan and manage your time.

See my post on Study Tips for CS Exams to get a clear idea.

  • Stress Management. It is everyone’s wish that they come out victorious. But, it is important to manage stress to ensure a smooth and rewarding journey.

Hope this post gave you an idea of becoming a Company Secretary. Do leave your comments and let me know what you think.

All the best for your CS journey!

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