Your HND… what next?

Find out how a HND can help you into your chosen career and explore options for further study.

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The HND (Higher National Diploma) is a vocationally-based course provided by further education and higher education colleges. The diploma takes two years full-time, and up to four part-time.

Employers value the occupational focus and skills that an HND provides.

Courses are offered across a range of career sectors including:

  • agriculture
  • business
  • computing
  • construction and civil engineering
  • engineering
  • health and social care
  • hospitality
  • sports science
  • performing arts
  • retail.

If you have an HND and would like to continue developing your knowledge and expertise, you might consider topping up your qualification to convert to an honours degree.

Job hunting with an HND

With your current employer

If you have been working while studying for your HND, you might consider asking your employer for more responsibility. Show how your course has developed the skills that you have to offer and ask about other career development opportunities and career options.

Finding a new job

The HND is designed with vocations in mind, developing skills that you can take straight into the workplace with you.

Your HND will be of most interest to employers in the relevant vocational area. Research both local companies and those further afield to establish which roles and related roles are currently in demand. In your applications, highlight skills, work experience and placements related to the industry to show what you can bring to your employer.

If you have decided you’d like a new challenge and your HND isn’t as directly relevant to the type of work you’d like to do, concentrate on your transferable skills and the workplace experience you’ve gained.

Where to find vacancies

There are many different ways to find out about suitable vacancies:

  • the careers service at your college
  • graduate recruitment websites and job fairs
  • local media advertising and social media, including LinkedIn
  • trade associations and professional bodies with student career networks
  • keeping in touch with employers where you’ve had placements for word of mouth recommendations.

On a number of recruitment websites you can set up job alerts to update you when a vacancy becomes available that meets the criteria you’ve set. Follow employers that interest you on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

It’s estimated that a large proportion of jobs are never advertised. Talk to friends and family and keep an eye on social media posts and network to find these ‘hidden’ vacancies.

Going on to further study

If you decide to continue studying, your HND is a stepping stone to a number of options:

  • topping up to an honours degree
  • taking a vocational or professional training course
  • transferring to an honours degree course in a different subject

Topping up your HND

If you decide to top up your HND to an honours degree, you’ll give your academic qualifications a boost as well as widening your career options. Most graduate schemes and many graduate employers specify an honours degree as an entry requirement. If your HND is at the right level and covers similar content to the degree, you should be able to start in the final year.

You may choose to do this at your current institution, or at the university that validates its degrees. You could also seek to top up your HND elsewhere, as an increasing number of universities will accept applications to convert an HND into a bachelors degree.

Changing direction

If you’d like to complete a degree that isn’t directly related to your HND, you may be able to start in the second year of an honours degree. However, you might also find that you need to start your bachelors degree from the beginning. Course providers will make individual decisions about the point at which you would enter on to a degree programme, so it is essential to get in touch with those on your shortlist to talk to about your course, experience and study ambitions.

Postgraduate and professional qualifications

With a considerable amount of experience and your HND qualification, you could be eligible for entry on to a postgraduate course. The choice will be from a limited pool, but there are some vocationally focused courses where your relevant work experience is recognised as being as important as an honours degree.

Research your options using the postgraduate course entry requirements on university websites.

With a top-up degree, you’ll have a much broader set of options to choose from:

  • postgraduate conversion courses preparing you for a change of career
  • shorter postgraduate courses – a six month PgCert, or a nine month PgDip
  • taught or research masters courses (e.g. MA, MSc, MRes and MPhil)
  • an MBA
  • professional qualifications in careers like accountancy, law, teaching, social work, and engineering.

In some professions, a professional qualification is a requirement for entry. In others, a related qualification can enhance your career prospects and future earning potential.


Funding for a top-up degree

Student finance is usually only available for your first higher education qualification – your HND – so access to funding for a top-up degree is more limited.

Contact Student Finance England (or your applicable student funding body) for details on the funding that you will be eligible for.

Universities offer scholarships and bursaries at department and university level, as well as being able to give advice on other funding sources like grants and awards.

At postgraduate level

Postgraduate loans are available for masters students from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the EU (if certain conditions are met). The eligibility criteria and funding amounts vary across the individual student funding bodies, so check online for your eligibility.

Other sources of funding include:

  • employer sponsorship
  • commercial loans for students
  • a career and development loan
  • awards and grants from charities and foundations
  • working as you study.

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