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Is CIPD Equivalent to a Degree?

If you’re looking to start, or develop, a qualification in the Human Resources or Learning and Development sectors, you’ve probably found yourself asking a question that countless others have asked before you – should I study a qualification from the CIPD or just a HR degree?

CIPD study is tempting for a lot of people, especially when a typical undergraduate degree in England will set you back £9,000 on average (and that’s just considering tuition fees)

After all, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is the UK’s leading accreditation body for the HR and L&D sector and is globally-recognised for the quality of its qualifications.

But is CIPD study equivalent to degree study? Could you get a qualification of the same quality as a degree, without the extortionate price-tag? We thought we’d have a closer look.

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Award, Certificate or Diploma

The short answer is, most probably. The long answer to this question is a bit more nuanced though.

In short, CIPD study can be equivalent to a degree. It obviously depends on the level of the qualification that you’re studying though. Here’s why.

There are three different types of CIPD qualifications, which all reflect different difficulties and length of study. These influence whether the specific qualification is considered equivalent to degree study, or if it isn’t.

The CIPD Award is the shortest type of study that is offered. It usually covers one particular topic in detail. It can often be completed within a couple of months to under a year.

The CIPD Certificate is a broader qualification, that will see you study a series of units, designed to give you an overarching view of the entire subject.

The CIPD Diploma is the most advanced type of qualification that you can study. It takes the same format as the CIPD Certificate, but covers more complex subjects, in greater detail, than the Certificate. It takes between one year and two years to complete.

So, that’s how do the individual qualifications compare to degree study? Let’s have a look.

CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in Human Resources

This is an entry-level qualification, aimed at people who approaching the world of Human Resources for the first time. It’s designed for people who have no prior knowledge of the sector and for people who have no experience working within it. The aim of the Level 3 qualification is to introduce you to all of the key concepts that underpin human resources and to give you the confidence to work in a junior role, like a HR Assistant or HR Administrator.

When you complete the CIPD Level at either Certificate or Diploma level, you’ll qualify for Associate Membership of the CIPD, allowing you to use Assoc. CIPD after your name.

Level 3 isn’t equivalent to undergraduate degree study – it’s generally regarded as being equivalent to A Level study. That makes it a good qualification to start with, if you’re new to HR – it’s called a Foundation for a reason, after all!

Equivalent to: A Level study

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CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Certificate or Diploma in Human Resources

As you can guess from the title, the Level 5 Intermediate qualification is designed for people who have some existing experience of the HR industry and who are looking to build on this skill and knowledge.

This type of qualification covers Human Resources in greater complexity and depth than the Level 3. In both the certificate and diploma qualifications, you’ll examine HR issues in critical detail and apply approaches directly to your own workplace and HR role.

This qualification is broadly accepted as being equivalent to the first two years of undergraduate study. (Out of interest, a Level 6 qualification is usually considered as equivalent to three years of undergraduate study). It will usually take around a year to complete.

If you pass this qualification, you’ll again be eligible for Associate Membership of the CIPD and to use the title Assoc. CIPD after your name.

Equivalent to: The first two years of undergraduate degree study

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CIPD Level 7 Certificate or Diploma in Human Resource

The Level 7 Certificate or Diploma is the most advanced human resources qualification that you can take with the CIPD. It’s equivalent to postgraduate study – typically the same level as a masters degree. 

As this is the highest type of CIPD qualification you can take, don’t expect it to be easy. This course is designed for professionals with extensive experience of working in HR, who are looking to develop the skills and knowledge for senior roles in the industry.

If you complete the Level 7 Diploma, you’ll again be eligible to become an Associate Member of the CIPD and you’ll also be able to apply for full membership of the body, as a Chartered Member.

Equivalent to: Postgraduate degree study

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We hope you now have a better idea of how particular CIPD qualifications match up to degrees, and that you feel more confident choosing a qualification for your particular needs.



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