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CIPD vs. HR Degree: Which Qualification is Better?

Take your HR career to the next level with an online CIPD qualification.

There’s a lot of discussion around which type of human resources qualification is best for people attempting to get into the industry, or to develop their HR careers.

Many people swear by HR qualifications from the globally recognised professional body for HR, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Others argue that undergraduate and Master’s degrees in HR are just as effective at equipping you with the skills and knowledge you’ll need to thrive in the industry.

So which is actually better: a CIPD qualification or an HR degree? We decided to take a closer look.

CIPD Qualifications

These professional qualifications are offered by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the most prestigious professional body for the human resources and learning and development sectors.

CIPD qualifications are widely recognised and respected by employers in the UK and across the world, and are considered to accurately reflect the hands-on skills and knowledge HR professionals need at work. This makes them a popular choice with both young professionals starting a career in HR and established professionals looking to continue their career development.

CIPD qualifications are organised into three different levels which reflect their difficulty and level of advancement. They are:

  • Level 3 Foundation: Roughly equivalent to A Level standard
  • Level 5 Associate: Roughly equivalent to an undergraduate degree
  • Level 7 Advanced: Roughly equivalent to a postgraduate degree

Level 3 is designed for HR beginners, while Level 5 prepares you for HR management and Level 7 focuses on the skills needed for senior strategic HR roles.

Pros of a CIPD qualification

They can be completed 100% online

Most CIPD qualifications can be completed entirely online, whenever you have the chance to study in your day. You’ll be free to work through the qualification at your own pace, watching video lectures, taking part in interactive tasks and benefiting from online or phone support from your personal tutor.

This means that CIPD qualifications are a great choice if you’ve got existing commitments that you’ll need to fit your study around, like childcare or full-time work, for instance, because you’ll be able to fit your qualification completely around your schedule. 

They’re a globally recognised qualification

The CIPD is an internationally leading professional body for the human resources and learning and development sectors, with over 150,000 members worldwide. CIPD qualifications are recognised by employers in many different countries popular with expats such as the UAE and Australia.

They’re good value for money

With the average price of an undergraduate degree in England now costing £9,000 a year in tuition fees alone, entering further education is an eye-watering prospect for a lot of students who don’t have a tens of thousands of pounds to spare.

CIPD qualifications are generally a lot more affordable than traditional undergraduate degrees and provide you with the same knowledge for a fraction of the price.

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Cons of a CIPD qualification

You don’t get the university experience

If you’re studying a CIPD qualification online, you obviously won’t get the full ‘university’ experience that a lot of students crave. For example, you aren’t going to be attending physical lectures inside a lecture theatre and won’t be getting that social buzz that comes with physically attending a university to study a degree.

However, if you really need human contact, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can also study CIPD via a classroom course at a college.

You need to have self-discipline

By its very nature, an online course is going to require you to have enough motivation to actually complete it. Whether or not you learn a particular piece of information will be down completely to you and your level of commitment.

It’s not like college or university, where you’ll be gently herded into taking actions by lecturers or tutors – you’ll have to take responsibility for your own learning, rather than rely on someone else to do it for you.

HR Degrees

The last decade has seen an explosion in universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in human resources.

You’ll usually find that individual providers will often differ in what they teach – there isn’t a standardised curriculum that all providers of HR degrees provide.

Pros of an HR degree

They give you the option to learn full-time

If you're able and willing to devote all your time to studying, an HR degree may be better suited you to than studying a CIPD qualification part-time. We all learn in different ways, and some of us find it easier to take in knowledge if we’re completely focused on learning and surrounded by others in a social setting. 

Of course, if you have a job or family, full-time study might not be an option!

They can give you specialist understanding of a niche

Sometimes, HR degrees can cover niche subjects that you might find particularly interesting, for example, nitty-gritty elements of labour law. Whereas CIPD qualifications are designed to cover as much of a topic as possible, some HR degrees may allow you greater focus on your particular specialism – particularly at Master’s level.

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Cons of an HR degree

Not every degree is created equal

HR degrees aren’t all created equal – your choice of university and your degree classification will all impact how employers view your qualification.

Achieving a first-class honours degree in HR will be viewed very differently from achieving a third-class or ordinary degree, for example.

HR degrees from some establishments may also not have the same reputational clout as a CIPD qualification in the eyes of employers, which can make securing a role that little bit harder overall.

They can vary widely in content

The fact that content for HR degree courses isn’t standardised means that courses can vary quite dramatically between universities, with some degree courses covering particular topics and specialisms that other degree courses don’t.

This can mean that what you learn can vary a lot too. Choose the wrong course and you could find that you’re missing skills that some prospective employers expect job candidates to have.

That said, there is no right or wrong answer about which type of HR qualification is better: both CIPD and HR qualifications have huge benefits for your career. The type of qualification that you choose will reflect your study needs, your learning style and your circumstances.

We hope this article has helped you to consider which qualification might be best for you!

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