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How To Become CIPD Qualified

If you’re looking to start or develop your career in the human resources and learning and development sectors, you’ve probably heard about CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) qualifications.

CIPD qualifications are the gold standard in the industry – they can prove to an employer that you have the high standard of knowledge and skills that they expect in a top candidate.

But how do you become CIPD qualified in the first place? We had a closer look at the process.

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1) Find your subject

There are a lot of CIPD qualifications that you can choose from, reflecting the wide range of roles that are available in the HR and L&D sectors.

The exact course that is best suited to you will depend on a range of factors like:

  • The specialism (and career) that you’re interested in pursuing
  • Your existing skills and experience
  • Your professional interests and talent

There are a wide variety of CIPD courses available so you’ll be able to find one that matches your career development plans. Compare the qualifications that are available and think about how each one of these factors is relevant to it. This should help you gain a better idea of how suited you are to that qualification.

2) Choose your difficulty

Once you know what CIPD qualification you want to study, you’ll need to work out what difficulty you want to study it at. CIPD qualifications are organised into levels, which correspond to how difficult they are to complete.

The CIPD levels are:

Foundation Level (Level 3) – This is an entry-level qualification, equivalent to an A Level. It’s designed for people at the very start of their career who are looking to gain essential knowledge and experience in their field.

Intermediate Level (Level 5) – This is the middle qualification, between beginner level and expert. It’s designed for people who have some experience of human resources or learning and development and are looking to progress to more senior roles. It’s equivalent to the level of an undergraduate degree.

Advanced Level (Level 7) – This is the most advanced qualification that you can study with CIPD. It’s equivalent to study at a postgraduate level. It’s designed for HR and L&D professionals who have extensive experience and are looking to improve their strategic focus and deliver sustainable growth at their companies.

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3) Choose your qualification type

As well as being organised into levels, qualifications are also organised in types. In a single level, you have a range of qualifications, organised according to their type. There are usually three types of CIPD qualifications that are found in a single level:

  • Award
  • Certificate
  • Diploma

So, what’s the difference between the different qualification types?


The simplest type of qualification in a level. It usually covers one topic in a lot of detail. It’s perfect if you just want to improve your knowledge or skill in a very specific area. It usually takes between 1 to 3 months to complete.

Examples: CIPD Level 3 Award Understanding Organisations and the Role of HR


This qualification covers a broad range of topics related to a specific subject. A certificate is a great way to get a wide-ranging knowledge of a subject that can act as a springboard for career development and progressing to more senior roles. It will usually take between 6 to 8 months to complete.

Examples: CIPD Level 3 Certificate in Human Resource Practice


A diploma is the most advanced type of qualification that you’ll be able to take at a particular level. It covers a subject in comprehensive detail. It takes between one to two years to complete and it will leave you with an in-depth understanding of your subject.

Examples: CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management

4) Choose your study format

You can study CIPD qualifications in a range of formats, giving you a lot of flexibility when it comes to fitting your study around the demands of life.

First of all, you’ll have to decide about where you study. You’ve got two options:

Physical study

You attend a learning establishment like a school, college or university, once a week, and study the qualification in person, in a classroom. You’ll normally be expected to attend this session at a specific time each week.

Normally, physical study has a strict timetable and you’ll complete the course within a specific time-frame, like 6 months or a year.

It’s suited to people who enjoy learning face-to-face and who enjoy the social interaction you experience with in-person learning.

Online Study

With online learning, you study the course at your own pace using the internet. You’ll have digital access to all of the course materials and you’ll attend one online tutorial a week.

Online study is great when it comes to flexibility – it allows you to study a course whenever, and wherever you want. It’s particularly favoured by people who have existing commitments, like a young family or a full-time job. To complete an online qualification, all you need is an internet connection, a device that can connect to it and a few hours a week to study.

Online learning providers offer a range of types of remote learning.  At ICS Learn, for instance, we’re focused on providing completely flexible courses that let you take control of your schedule. Our online courses can completed anywhere there’s an internet connection and can be studied over any time period. You can study completely at your own pace.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to study, you’ll also have to decide how you’ll study. Again, you’ll normally have two options:


You study the course for a sustained period of time, during the weekday. 21 hours of study a week is classed as full-time study.


You study the course for a few hours a week. Any course that has less than 21 hours of study a week is considered part-time.

Full-time study allows you to complete a course pretty fast. It’s great if you don’t have any existing commitments during the week and have the time to devote to it. Part-time study is also really useful if you’d like to pace your study and learn at your own speed, rather than being rushed.

5) Pass your certification 

With your ideal qualification identified, it’s time to work towards achieving it.

Studying doesn’t have to be difficult. With a bit of careful preparation and some discipline, you can fit it around even the most demanding of schedules.

Being able to study without getting overwhelmed is all about balance. If you can balance your time effectively, you’ll usually find that studying whilst juggling other commitments isn’t as bad as you think.

Some CIPD qualified. Good luck with your study and remember to hit those books hard!

Become CIPD qualified from home. Get your free CIPD course guide here and find out more.

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