ARM™ vs CPCU®, that is the question. The ARM™ (Associate in Risk Management) and CPCU® (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) are two of the premier certifications of the insurance industry. And in truth, you can’t go wrong with either. Both certifications will help you advance your career, improve your on job performance, bolster your resume, earn a promotion, and get a raise.

That being said, there are some pros and cons to each certification. In this blog, I will break down the ARM™ vs CPCU® to help you decide which certification is right for you.


In terms of which is the ‘better’ designation, the CPCU® is the most prestigious and most recognizable certification and insurance industry. It’s also the hardest certification to attain. That’s not a knock against the ARM™ certification. The ARM™ is a widely recognized certification, and it will look great on your resume and help you stand out. BUT, the CPCU® is the gold standard. It always has been and always will be.

Subject Matter

In terms of subject matter, the CPCU® is a broader designation that covers just about every topic of the P&C insurance industry. This designation covers just about every subject for every position and department in the property casualty industry including risk management, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, liability insurance, umbrella insurance, underwriting, loss exposure analysis, coverage options, endorsements, claims analysis, ratemaking, actuarial analysis, insurance law, managing insurance operations, and much much more.

The ARM™ has a more specialized focus. The ARM™, or Associate in Risk Management, focuses specifically and extremely in-depth on the topic of risk management (as you might have guessed from the name of the certification). This covers the topics of mitigating risk, assessing risk, and treating risk.

As you can see, when comparing the ARM™ vs CPCU®, a major deciding factor for you might be the subject matter. If you work in risk management or want to transition into a risk management-type role, the ARM™ is probably a better certification to pursue. If your focus is on P&C insurance such as an underwriter, claims analyst, actuary, or product analyst, the CPCU® is probably the best choice because it covers the topic of risk AND goes in-depth into various on-the-job insurance topics.


In terms of logistics, the CPCU® is the harder certification to attain. To earn your CPCU® certification you must pass eight exams whereas, to earn your ARM™ certification you only need to pass three exams.

To earn your CPCU® you must pass the following exams:

To earn your ARM™ you must pass the following exams:


In terms of how long it takes to earn each certification, the industry average is 2 to 3 years to earn the CPCU® certification. It can be done faster, I passed my CPCU® in just one year by passing two exams per testing window, and that is what most AssociatePI students do because our courses are designed to help you pass your exam in just two weeks of studying. That being said, just know that the industry average is around 3 years to earn the CPCU® certification.

In terms of the length of time to earn the ARM™ certification, the industry average is about 1 year. Again, depending on your schedule and studying habits, you can easily pass all three ARM™ exams and earn your ARM™ certification in 3 to 6 months. AssociatePI students typically pass all three exams within two testing windows (three or four months in total study time).

Typically, it is recommended to study 6 to 8 weeks per exam, whether it’s a CPCU® exam or ARM™ exam. That is why it takes up to 3 years for the CPCU® or one year for the ARM™.

Truthfully, you don’t need that much time. I passed each of my exams by studying for just two to three weeks, about 1 hour per day. And that’s how we designed our courses at AssociatPI, to cut out the fluff so you can study and pass your exams and less time with effort. On average our students start studying and pass their exam in just two weeks (studying about 1 hour per day on their lunch break).


In terms of difficulty, the CPCU® is more difficult only because there are more exams. Truthfully, both the CPCU® exams and the ARM™ exams are difficult. They are unlike any exams that you would have previously taken in high school or college where you simply need to regurgitate information and repeat definitions to pass. These exams are nothing like that. For these exams, you must understand and memorize the content, but most importantly you must be able to apply the content in a real-life scenario. The exam questions are tricky, they are scenario-based questions, you will be put in the shoes of an insurance professional or a risk management professional and be asked to solve a case question based on a subject from the state of material.

The average pass rate of a CPCU® exam is around 75% and the average pass rate of an ARM™ exam is similar, probably around 77%. These exams are VERY difficult.

ARM™ to CPCU® Path

Now that you understand the difference between the ARM™ vs CPCU®, let me tell you what you should do…

You should do what’s called the ARM™ to CPCU® Path.

The ARM™ to CPCU® path is a new way to earn both the ARM™ and CPCU® designations at the same time.

After completing the three ARM™ courses (ARM™ 400, ARM™ 401, and ARM™ 402), you can take the CPCU® 530 and CPCU® 540 to complete the “Core Courses” needed for the CPCU® designation. Then, you just need to pass the two Concentration Courses (CPCU® 555 and CPCU® 556 for personal insurance or CPCU® 551 and CPCU® 552, for commercial) along with an elective course and an ethics course.

To pursue this path you need to pass the following exams:

  • ARM™ 400
  • ARM™ 401
  • ARM™ 402
  • CPCU® 530
  • CPCU® 540
  • CPCU® 555 (or 551)
  • CPCU® 556 (or 552)
  • Elective exam

So, I highly recommend you start with the ARM™ and earn a quick certification by passing the first three exams. Use this to determine if you want to keep going, and then move on to the CPCU® exams. You only need to pass five more exams after the ARM™ and you will have earned both certifications in one!

Ready to get started? Check out our ARM™ to CPCU® study material bundle to save $900 on your study material (get 3 courses free).

Conclusion: ARM™ vs CPCU®

In conclusion, when comparing the ARM™ vs CPCU®, you can’t make a wrong choice. No matter what you choose, the certification will help you advance your career, improve your job performance, bolster your resume, earn a promotion, and get a raise.

The major deciding factor will be the subject matter (do you want a risk focus or broad insurance focus) and timing (do you want to commit to 3 exams or 8 exams).

My recommendation is to pursue the ARM™ to CPCU® path. That way, you don’t have to choose! You get both certifications in one.

Free Practice Exam

Ready to get started studying? We’re here to help (for free). Download our free CPCU® or ARM™ practice exams to get a feel for the type of questions you will see on the exam.

Download: Free Practice Exam (CPCU® | ARM™ | AINS™ | API™)


Download your free CPCU®, ARM™, or API™ practice exam.