Thinking of studying a CIPD qualification? Find the one that’s right for you #ICSRealStories


When I started my study journey all those years ago, I had no idea how much choice there would be when it came to CIPD qualifications. If you are thinking of starting your journey, or not sure on the next steps, then this post may help clear up the confusion that often comes when trying to decide your next development move.

If you are looking for a long and successful career within HR, then a CIPD qualification is an essential part of your CV, as some organisations seek them as a requirement for some roles, and with competition for HR positions increasing, employers like to see a candidate who is ambitious and motivated, especially one who shows initiative to develop their skills independently.

But with so many options, how do you possibly choose the right option for you? Having almost finished my qualifications, I wanted to share my experience to help others decide what CIPD qualification is the right route for them.

When I started my HR career, I had only determination and motivation to do a good job and customer service experience. I learnt everything I could from my peers as a HR Administrator and used this knowledge before I decided to self fund my Level 3 Certificate and Personnel Practice. I decided on doing this via distance learning to ensure I could work full time and learn at the same time.

Starting from the Foundation Level 3 Certificate in HR Practice; the intermediate Level 5 or advanced Level 7 Post Graduate Diploma in HR or MSc/MA in HR, there are a range of CIPD courses that you can undertake irrespective of whether you are just starting your HR career, or have a number of years experience and seeking a promotion. All of these courses can be studied part-time, full-time, or via distance learning and can fit around your existing commitments.

Level 3, 5 or 7?

All levels of the CIPD qualifications give you a choice of a certificate or a diploma; a certificate will still give you a qualification, it just requires you to do less modules. The diploma on the other hand requires you to do more modules but it also provides you with the opportunity to upgrade your level of CIPD membership.

Level 3

CIPD Level 3 qualifications in HR and L&D courses are the equivalent to an A Level. Level 3 provides a great foundation for those who are new to HR or L&D as it helps to gain the essential knowledge required for a successful career within the profession.

Level 5

The Level 5 is an intermediate level CIPD qualification, which is the equivalent to an Undergraduate degree, and is designed to bridge the gap between Level 3 and Level 7. It  builds upon your existing HR or L&D skills and knowledge and is suitable for those who have completed their Level 3 and looking to progress within the profession by further developing their professional HR or L&D knowledge by understanding the role of HR or L&D in the wider organisational and environmental context.

Upon completion of the Diploma course, you will be able to upgrade your CIPD membership from Student to Associate level. 

Level 7

The Level 7 advanced CIPD qualification is for those who are aspiring to become a Chartered member of CIPD and is the equivalent to a Postgraduate degree. This course is perfect fr those who are seeking further progression and have completed the Level 5 qualification, I would highly recommend completing Level 5 before considering Level 7 as it is quite a jump from Level 3.

This is the level I am currently studying and it really supports the more strategic parts of the HR function by supporting the overall organisation performance.

University or Distance Learning?

There are pros and cons to studying your CIPD either at university or undertaking your qualification via distance learning.

One option to consider is studying at your local university or college to enable you to establish a routine and submit work to strict deadlines. This is a good option if you need to be within a classroom environment but the downside is it can be inflexible and have an impact on your private time, especially if you have existing commitments as classes tend to take place in the evenings or on a full time basis.

Distance learning is the option I chose because my career is on the up so I didn’t want to lose sight of my progression opportunities, and I wanted to continue my development whilst working full time. Conducting my studies through ICS has helped me adopt a flexible approach to my learning and whilst I have deadlines, I get to set them myself so that I can fit in my additional commitments with my local CIPD branch and supporting others via mentoring schemes. The other part which helps is the flexible payment plans, as I’m currently saving for a house, it’s easier to pay for the course in easy pay instalments.

Whatever route you choose, do make sure that you really do your research, make sure you can commit the time to the requirements of the course but also choose the provider that is right for you, you can do this by speaking to student groups, directly with the provider themselves or find out from your peers.

Good luck with whatever part of the journey you may be on, but if you have any specific questions, please do send me a message, I am happy to help you talk through your study dilemmas!




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