Why should I study for a CIPD qualification?
The CIPD's qualifications are the recognised professional standard for HR and training specialists working across the UK's public, private and charity sectors.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is the main professional body to accredit and award professional human resources (HR) qualifications. The CIPD's qualifications are the recognised professional standard for HR and training specialists working across the UK's public, private and charity sectors.
CIPD qualification types and levels
The CIPD offers three types of qualification – the award, the certificate and the diploma – at different levels:
- The foundation level is an introductory level for anyone with relatively little experience or newcomers to the profession.
- The intermediate level is set at an undergraduate standard, building on your skills and experience.
- The advanced level, on par with postgraduate study, is developed for experienced practitioners and strategic HR decision makers.
Most CIPD qualifications are available with either an HR or learning and development (L&D) focus – allowing you to tailor your options to your particular professional interests.
Foundation level CIPD qualifications
Foundation qualifications offer an entry point if you are new to HR or for support staff without L&D/HR qualifications to formalise their experience. Covering a wide range of practical HR and L&D topics, foundation qualifications are set at level 3 on the UK Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) – the same as an A level.
There are three different types of foundation level qualification available:
|Award||Bite size options on different HR topics. Offered as the:|
|20–120 hours of study
Choose between 2–12 credits
One month–six months
|CIPD level 3 foundation award in human resource essentials|
|Certificate||The most popular entry-level qualification. Offered as:|
|280 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 3 foundation certificate in human resources practice|
|260 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 3 foundation certificate in learning and development.|
|Diploma||The most in-depth and comprehensive of the qualifications available at foundation level. Offered as:|
|370 hours of study (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 3 foundation diploma in human resource practice|
|380 hours of study (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 3 foundation diploma in learning and development practice|
The human resource practice certificate and diploma share the same core units: developing yourself as an effective HR or L&D practitioner; understanding organisations and the role of HR; recording, analysing and using human resources information. There are five optional HR units and five optional L&D units to choose from for the remaining credits – covering topics such as developing mentoring skills in the workplace and resourcing talent.
The L&D specific qualification is based on six core units that make up the certificate with an additional two (chosen from six) optional units for the diploma.
Intermediate level CIPD qualifications
Set at undergraduate level, intermediate qualifications build on your knowledge of HR or L&D, evaluating different models and the effectiveness of organisational practice, as well as developing your contextual critical thinking, planning and problem solving.
CIPD level 5 qualifications are set at QCF level 5, the equivalent of undergraduate level at university. Completing the certificate or diploma at Intermediate level qualifies you to become a professional member of the CIPD (Assoc CIPD).
The following awards are available:
|Award||Short course options at CIPD level 5.|
|30–120 hours of study (15–60 guided learning hours)
Choose between 3–12 credits
|CIPD level 5 intermediate award in human resources|
|60–120 hours of study (30–60 guided learning hours)
Choose between 6–12 credits
|CIPD level 5 intermediate award in learning and development|
|Certificate||The certificate is available on either the HR or the L&D pathway. Offered as:|
|320 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 5 intermediate certificate in human resource management|
|300 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 5 intermediate certificate in learning and development|
|Diploma||The most involved of the level 5 qualifications with both core and optional units including employment law and employee engagement for HR specialists. Offered as:|
|440 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 5 intermediate diploma in human resource management|
|900 hours qualification time (450 as independent study)
|CIPD level 5 intermediate diploma in applied human resources.|
|420 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 5 intermediate diploma in learning and development.|
Not all study centres offer all of the options available at intermediate level, so check with the centre before you commit if you are interested in particular options.
Advanced level CIPD qualifications
These have been developed for HR and L&D professionals who are looking to develop their strategic understanding or specialise/consult in a particular area of practice. Advanced level study requires a considerable amount of professional experience and is ideally suited to practitioners with operational, tactical or strategic responsibility.
CIPD level 7 advanced qualifications are set at QCF level 7, the equivalent of postgraduate level studies at university. Completing either the certificate or diploma at advanced level qualifies you to become a professional member of the CIPD (Assoc CIPD).
Qualifying with the advanced diploma also demonstrates that you’ve the technical knowledge to progress from associate membership to chartered membership (Chartered Member or Chartered Fellow) if you’ve the required professional experience at a strategic level.
The following awards are available:
|Award||The advanced level award is made up of one unit worth 15 credits (with 16 different units to choose from). Offered as the:|
|150 hours of study (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 7 advanced award in human resources|
|Certificate||The certificate qualification is made up of 60 credits from four (15 credits each) of sixteen modules offered (varying subjects from employment law to reward management). Offered as the:|
|600 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 7 advanced certificate in human resources|
|Diploma||The highest qualification offered by the CIPD. Two diplomas are available at Level 7; both share core units worth 60 credits, with a choice of optional units in a variety of professional areas to make up the other 60 credits. Offered as:|
|1200 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD level 7 advanced diploma in human resource management|
|1200 study hours (half as independent study)
|CIPD Level 7 advanced diploma in human resource development|
Not all study centres offer all of the options available at advanced level, so check with the centre before you commit if you are interested in particular options.
CIPD membership requirements
Membership of the CIPD isn’t compulsory to study for a CIPD qualification. But if you’re studying for a CIPD certificate or diploma qualification (or approved equivalent), you’re eligible to join the CIPD as a student member and use the online student resource area (which includes access to research data and employment law support).
Becoming a professional member
The CIPD has three different levels of professional membership: associate member, chartered member and chartered fellow.
CIPD certificate and diploma qualifications cover areas of technical knowledge needed to become a CIPD professional member at associate level. The most in-depth qualification offered by the CIPD, the level 7 advanced diploma, covers topics and understanding required for chartered membership.
If you’ve joined as a student member, you’ll be automatically upgrade to professional membership of the CIPD as an associate member once you’ve successfully completed your certificate or diploma. If you complete the advanced diploma you can apply to upgrade to chartered membership (provided you meet the other membership criteria).
Registering to study with an approved course centre
To study a CIPD course, you’ll need to register with one of universities, colleges or private providers approved by the CIPD to deliver its courses. There are approved centres in the UK, Ireland, Europe and internationally.
You can study part time, full time, in block format, mixed mode or via digital learning – depending on what suits you best – but not all approved centres offer every study mode option.
Other ways of studying CIPD qualifications
A number of university undergraduate and postgraduate courses are approved by the CIPD. These courses, for example, include CIPD accreditation or approved equivalency as part of the undergraduate or postgraduate programme.
- London Metropolitan University's MA in human resource management qualifies students with the MA in HRM as well as the CIPD’s advanced level associate membership certificate. You can then apply to upgrade to achieve chartered status.
- The Alliance Manchester Business School's MSc in human resource management and industrial relations is approved at CIPD advanced level.
- Liverpool John Moores University's human resources management MA includes CIPD level 7 components.
- The BA in human resource management offered by Middlesex University is approved by the CIPD as the equivalent of the intermediate diploma.
Course fees vary slightly from provider to provider and from study mode to study mode, but as a rough guide, the advanced level certificate costs between £3,500 and £4,500 and the advanced diploma costs between £6,000 and £7,000.
When choosing an approved centre, check the length of time you’ll be supported for when comparing fees, and whether membership and exam fees are included. If you choose a study mode with a residential component, expect those costs to be added on top of the other fees you will need to pay.
Some accredited course providers offer monthly payment plans to split the cost of fees. If you’re working in HR already, consider asking your employer if they will sponsor you.
The benefits of studying for a CIPD qualification
The main benefit of studying for a CIPD qualification is that they are recognised across a number of different industries. HR and L&D departments are found in all sectors, so those with CIPD qualifications are not at all limited to one area.
Even at the foundation stages, those studying for a CIPD qualification will be taught about business principles. This means that they can contribute to initiatives and strategies that improve businesses from early on in their career.
Furthermore, courses can be very flexible – meaning that students can generally fit their work around their study. All candidates have access to a learning portal where they can ask practitioners and other CIPD members questions directly. This is also an excellent networking tool.