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How to Become Company Secretary? | Passing criteria for the CS examinations | Salary of a beginner company Secretary

A company secretary, often abbreviated as "CS", is a senior-level executive in a company who plays a key role in ensuring that the company complies with legal and regulatory requirements and operates smoothly. The position of company secretary is important, especially in large corporations, and is considered a key component of corporate governance.

Becoming a Company Secretary (CS) in India involves a structured process governed by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI). ICSI is a professional body that regulates and promotes the profession of Company Secretaries in India. Here are the steps to become a Company Secretary in India:

How to Become Company Secretary?

Foundation Program: The first step is to enroll in the CS Foundation Program. To be eligible, you must have passed 10+2 (Senior Secondary) examination or its equivalent from a recognized board. There is no specific percentage criteria for this stage. 

CS Foundation Program Subjects: 

  • Business Environment and Entrepreneurship 

  • Business Management, Ethics, and Communication 

  • Business Economics 

  • Fundamentals of Accounting and Auditing 


Executive Program: After passing the CS Foundation Program, you can register for the CS Executive Program. This phase is divided into two modules. 


Module I: Covers topics like Company Law, Cost and Management Accounting, Tax Law etc. 

Module II: This includes topics like Company Accounts, Capital Markets, Securities Laws etc. 

CS Executive Program Subjects: 

Module I: 

  • Jurisprudence, Interpretation, and General Laws 

  • Company Law 

  • Setting up of Business Entities and Closure 

  • Tax Laws 

Module II: 

  • Corporate and Management Accounting 

  • Securities Laws and Capital Markets 

  • Economic, Business, and Commercial Laws 

  • Financial and Strategic Management 


Practical Training: Before or after passing the Executive Program, you must complete a mandatory practical training called Executive Development Program (EDP). This training can be completed in the office of a company, a practicing Company Secretary or a practicing Chartered Accountant. 

Professional Programme: After completing the Executive Program and compulsory training, you can register for the CS Professional Programme. This phase consists of three modules. 


Module I: Covers topics like Advanced Company Law, Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency etc. 

Module II: Covers topics like Drafting, Pleadings and Appearances, Secretarial Audit, Compliance Management and Due Diligence etc. 

Module III: It consists of optional subjects. You have to choose one subject from the list provided by ICSI. 

CS Professional Program Subjects: 

Module I: 

  • Governance, Risk Management, Compliances, and Ethics 

  • Advanced Tax Laws and Practice 

  • Drafting, Pleadings, and Appearances 

Module II: 

  • Secretarial Audit, Compliance Management, and Due Diligence 

  • Corporate Restructuring, Insolvency, Liquidation, and Winding-up 

  • Resolution of Corporate Disputes, Non-Compliances, and Remedies 

Module III: 

The third module of the CS Professional Program consists of Elective subjects. Candidates need to choose one subject from the list provided by ICSI. As of my last update, some of the elective subjects offered were: 

  • Banking Law and Practice 

  • Capital, Commodity, and Money Market 

  • Insurance Law and Practice 

  • Intellectual Property Rights - Law and Practice 

  • International Business-Laws and Practices 


Practical Experience: After passing the professional program you will have to undergo 15 months of practical training. This is called practical training. Additionally, you will need to meet certain other training requirements such as training at a particular agency and Management Skills Orientation Program (MSOP). 

Associate Membership: Once you have successfully completed all the above steps, you become an Associate Member of ICSI and officially designated as Company Secretary (ACS). 

Fellow Membership: After being an Associate Member for a few years and meeting additional criteria, you can become a Fellow Member of ICSI (FCS). 

Passing criteria for the CS examinations:

CS Foundation Programme: To pass the CS Foundation Programme, a candidate needs to obtain at least 40% marks in each subject and 50% in aggregate in all subjects. The Foundation Program consists of four papers. 

CS Executive Programme: To qualify the CS Executive Programme, a candidate needs to obtain at least 40% marks in each subject and 50% in aggregate of all subjects of the concerned module. The Executive Program consists of two modules. 

CS Professional Programme: To pass the CS Professional Programme, a candidate needs to obtain at least 40% marks in each subject and 50% in aggregate of all subjects of the concerned module. The Professional Program comprises three modules. 

Exemption: If a candidate secures 60% or more marks in any paper of CS exam, they are eligible for exemption in that subject for three consecutive exams. 

Salary of a beginner company Secretary:

The salary of a starting company secretary (CS) can vary based on a number of factors, including location, size and type of company, industry, and the individual's qualifications and skills. As per my last update in Sept 2021, here is a general idea of what a beginner CS can expect in terms of salary in India: 

CS Trainee/Assistant: 

For a CS Trainee or Assistant working in a small to medium sized company or with a practicing Company Secretary, the starting salary can range from ₹15,000 to ₹25,000 per month. 

CS Trainee in Big Corporations: 

In large corporations or MNCs, a CS trainee can get a high starting salary, which can range from ₹25,000 to ₹35,000 per month. 

After qualifying as CS (ACS): 

Once a candidate completes the CS course and becomes an Associate Member of ICSI (ACS), their salary is likely to increase. The starting salary for an ACS in a small to medium sized company can range from ₹30,000 to ₹50,000 per month.


Experienced CS (ACS) with 1-3 years of experience: 

With 1 to 3 years of experience, a CS (ACS) can earn between ₹50,000 to ₹80,000 per month depending on the company and their performance. 

It is important to note that these figures are estimates and can vary greatly depending on the factors mentioned earlier. Additionally, salary trends and market conditions have changed since my last update in 2021. Salary may also be affected by the candidate's negotiation skills and the demand for CS professionals in the specific industry. 

As one gains experience and expertise in the field of company secretarial work, there is a potential for salary to increase. Furthermore, company secretaries may have opportunities to take on additional responsibilities and rise to higher positions within the organization, which may lead to further increases in pay. 


Specialization of a CS:

Company Secretaries (CS) can specialize in different areas depending on their interests, expertise and career goals. Specialization allows CS professionals to develop in-depth knowledge and skills in specific domains, making them valuable assets in their chosen fields. Some common specializations for company secretaries include: 


1. Corporate Law and Compliance: This specialization focuses on the legal and regulatory aspects related to corporate governance, company law and compliance with various laws and regulations governing businesses. 


2. Securities and capital markets: CS professionals specializing in this area deal with matters related to compliance with securities laws, stock market regulations, initial public offerings (IPOs) and listing requirements. 


3. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): CS professionals specializing in M&A handle the legal and regulatory aspects of mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructuring, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and ensuring a smooth transition. 


4. Corporate governance and board support: CS professionals with this specialization work closely with the board of directors, assisting with matters related to corporate governance, board meetings, and board reporting. 


5. Compliance Management: This specialization involves overseeing and managing compliance functions within organizations, ensuring compliance with various laws, regulations, and internal policies. 


6. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): CS professionals specializing in IPR deal with the legal and regulatory aspects related to patents, trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property rights. 


7. International Trade and Foreign Trade: CS professionals specializing in international trade and foreign trade assist companies in dealing with legal and regulatory matters related to cross-border transactions, import-export rules and foreign collaborations. 


8. Insolvency and Bankruptcy: This specialization includes handling matters relating to corporate insolvency, bankruptcy and debt restructuring in compliance with the relevant insolvency laws. 


9. Secretarial Audits and Due Diligence: CS professionals with this specialization conduct secretarial audits and due diligence reviews to ensure legal compliance and identify potential risks to organizations. 


10. Legal advice and consultancy: Some company secretaries choose to provide legal advice and consultancy services to various clients, helping them with legal and regulatory matters. 


It is important to note that specialization is usually built on top of a strong foundation in general company secretarial work. CS professionals may seek additional certifications, courses, and practical experience in their chosen area of specialization to enhance their expertise and career prospects. The choice of specialization may vary depending on individual interests, market demand and specific requirements of the industry or organization. 

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