Your HND… what next?

Find out how a HND can help you into your chosen career and explore options for further study.
HNDs are valued by employers because of their practical, skills-based content.

Your HND... what next? job hunting | further study | postgraduate and professional qualifications | funding

A HND (Higher National Diploma) is a vocational course offered by further and higher education colleges or universities. The diploma lasts two years on a full-time basis but can also be completed part-time, taking up to four years.

HNDs are offered in a wide range of subjects including:

  • engineering
  • graphic design
  • computing and IT
  • sport coaching
  • tourism management
  • business and management
  • hospitality management
  • health and social care
  • agriculture

HNDs are valued by employers because of their practical, skills-based content. They can lead you directly into your chosen career, so if you have a specific job in mind, ask relevant employers if your HND qualification and skills meet their expectations.

Often seen as a bridge to a degree, a HND course can lead onto the final year or final two years of a degree, meaning you can upgrade your qualification to an honours degree.

Generally, a HND does not qualify you to apply for graduate schemes or graduate-level jobs. However, because it is a higher education qualification, some HNDs are accepted by professional bodies and can be used to gain professional status.

Job hunting with a HND

Working while studying

If you have a job while studying for your HND and you want to stay with that employer, then it’s worth discussing with them what career options and development they can offer. Make the most of any chance to enhance your skills and impress your employer by taking on responsibilities. It’s also a great opportunity to make professional contacts and find out about professional openings that might not be advertised externally.

Looking for a new job

If you are looking for a new job, you should identify the job sector that interests you and research labour market information for careers within it. This can include, identifying shortage occupations, competition, and the number and location of job vacancies. You need to analyse how your HND will complement the career path you have chosen. When applying to employers, make sure you highlight the technical skills and industrial experience you have acquired.

Information sources for finding vacancies include:

  • your institution’s careers service
  • employer websites and literature
  • graduate recruitment websites such as TARGETjobs 
  • trade associations and professional bodies
  • Sector Skills Council Contact Directory
  • LinkedIn – for searching for jobs and networking

Web based resources can be very useful. Make sure you check the employer’s website and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Sign up for email alerts and trawl regularly through job databases. Research suggests that up to 60% of vacancies are unadvertised, meaning you'll need to network effectively to find out about them. Use social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with employees, attend careers fairs and conferences and talk to your own wider network of family, friends and colleagues. Help on networking and resources for help with careers planning and making applications is available online from TARGETjobs.

Further study with a HND

Options for further study

A HND is a stand-alone qualification, but many who have one choose to move on to further study, topping up to a degree, postgraduate course or professional course.

Completing an honours degree

There are various options for where to top up to a degree:

  • your current institution: many people like to continue their studies in a familiar learning environment
  • the institution where the HND was validated: if you studied at a further education (FE) college your qualification will be validated by a local Higher Education Institution. Ask if you’re eligible to progress onto a degree with them
  • a different institution: use UCAS to research HE institutions and courses
  • via distance learning: check if your chosen institution offers this, or consider the Open University (OU)
  • you could head to another country and study abroad

Topping up to degree level usually takes one or two years of further study if the degree subject is the same or very similar to your HND subject and you also have a good academic record. If the subject isn’t the same or similar you may have to start a degree from the first year. Each institution and each course will make their own decision as to the point of entry onto their degree courses, so it’s best to speak to individual institutions.

Postgraduate and professional qualifications

Postgraduate study could be an option once you have topped up your HND to degree level. They include:

  • postgraduate certificates (PG Cert), for example PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education)
  • postgraduate diplomas (PG Dip)
  • masters degrees, for example, MA or MSc
  • doctorates, like a PhD

You need to research your options thoroughly and find out the specific requirements of each HE institution you are thinking of applying to. Like degree courses, entry requirements can vary depending on subject, vocational experience, your course content and your technical and theoretical knowledge.

You'll find advice on our postgraduate study site TARGETpostgrad on how to kick-start your career with a postgraduate conversion course.

Professional qualifications allow you to develop the specific skills necessary to work in a particular industry or job. Most professional courses will follow on from a degree or postgraduate qualification. The entry requirements for each professional course will vary from one industry to the next. For some professions you must have a particular qualification to practice, like the LPC to practice as a solicitor, for example. Some professional qualifications might take a few months while others may take a few years, so it’s worth considering this.

Examples of professional follow-on courses include:

  • law (LPC and BPTC)
  • accountancy (ACCA)
  • journalism (NCTJ)
  • civil engineering


You are eligible to apply for government funding from Student Finance for undertaking your HND and if you are topping up your HND to degree level. It may also be possible to apply for a bursary or scholarship for postgraduate or undergraduate courses, but you’ll need to look at the individual HE institutions websites for information.

Fees for postgraduate courses vary greatly, so check with each institution. Most students fund themselves by working while studying, or by taking out a professional and career development loan.

Funding from your employer could be an option if you are working, so it’s worth speaking to your employer, especially if further study is part of the progression route of the job.

Written by Jill Freeman, Staffordshire University, 2017