Human Resources

Which CIPD Course Should I Take? CIPD Levels 3, 5 and 7 Explained

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No matter where you are in your HR or L&D career, there’s a CIPD qualification that will help take it to the next level.

When you first begin researching which CIPD qualification is right for you, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options. Do you want a CIPD Diploma or a Certificate? Is it better to start at Level 3 or 5? And is the Level 7 Diploma really equivalent to postgraduate-level study? (It is!)

We’re here to explain everything you need to know about choosing your CIPD course, so you can start your CIPD journey with confidence.

(Don’t worry if you’re still not sure. Our expert CIPD Advisors will chat through your experience and ambitions before you enrol so you can be sure you’ve made the right choice.)


 

Contents

How to Choose Your CIPD Qualification in 3 Steps

CIPD Level 3 Foundation Qualifications Explained

CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Qualifications Explained

CIPD Level 7 Advanced Qualifications Explained


 

 

How to Choose Your CIPD Qualification in 3 Steps


When choosing your ideal CIPD course, you’ll need to consider three key questions:

  1. The subject: do you want to study human resources or learning and development?
  2. The level of advancement: do you want to study a CIPD Level 3, 5 or 7 qualification?
  3. The length of your qualification: do you want to study a CIPD Diploma, Certificate, or Award?

 

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Step 1. Choose your subject: HR or L&D?

CIPD provides qualifications in two subjects.

  • Human Resources qualifications cover a wide range of generalist and specialist HR skills such as recruitment, reward management, employment law, and managing the employer-employee relationship.
  • Learning & Development qualifications focus on the planning, design, delivery, and evaluation of employee training and organisational development.

 

Step 2. Choose your level of advancement: Level 3, Level 5, or Level 7?

All CIPD qualifications are organised into three levels representing how advanced the material is.

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation qualifications are ideal if you're an HR/L&D beginner seeking an entry-level or operational role like HR Assistant, L&D Practitioner, or Trainer. 
  • CIPD Level 5 Intermediate qualifications are ideal if you have some HR/L&D experience or a university degree and are seeking a mid-level role like HR/L&D Manager or Advisor.
  • CIPD Level 7 Advanced qualifications are ideal if you're an experienced HR/L&D professional or an HR graduate who wants to prepare for senior strategic roles like Business Partner, Consultant, Department Head or Director.

 

Step 3. Choose your length of qualification: Diploma, Certificate or Award?

At each CIPD level, there are three qualification lengths to choose from.

  • CIPD Diplomas are the most comprehensive and desirable CIPD qualifications, covering everything you need to know at your chosen level.
  • CIPD Certificates are slightly shorter qualifications, covering only essential modules from the Diploma at your chosen level.
  • CIPD Awards are bite-sized courses covering just one module from the Diploma. They’re useful if you’d like to focus on a specific topic like employment law.

 

Once you've answered all three questions, you should have a rough idea of which CIPD qualification might be right for you. 

Next, we'll cover each CIPD level in detail.


 

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A Guide to CIPD Level 3 Foundation Qualifications

CIPD Foundation qualifications are classed as Level 3 qualifications, meaning they're roughly equivalent in difficulty to A Levels. They're the lowest level of qualification offered by CIPD.

They're designed to give you the essential operational skills that you need to take on entry-level HR or L&D roles.

 

What Experience/Qualifications Do You Need to Study CIPD Level 3?

You don’t need any prior experience or qualifications to get started on a CIPD Level 3 course, making them well-suited to newcomers to the profession.

 

Typical CIPD Level 3 Job Roles

  • HR Assistant
  • HR Administrator
  • HR Officer
  • HR Coordinator
  • Training/L&D Coordinator
  • Training/L&D Officer
  • L&D Practitioner
  • Trainer

 

Typical CIPD Level 3 Salary

According to the Hays Salary Survey, the average annual salary for those in typical Level 3 job roles in the private sector is £25,000.

 

CIPD Level 3 Course Duration

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma has a total learning time of 370 hours, which generally equates to around 8 to 10 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate has a total learning time of 280 hours, which generally equates to around 7 to 9 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Award has a total learning time of 20 to 120 hours, which generally equates to around 2 to 3 months while working full time.

 

CIPD Level 3 Course Content Human Resources

If you study the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma in HR Practice, you'll complete all of the core and elective modules below.

If you study the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in HR Practice, you'll complete all four core modules plus your choice of two elective modules.

If you study a CIPD Level 3 Foundation Award in HR, you'll study one module as a standalone qualification.

 

Core Modules

  • Understanding Organisations and the Role of Human Resources
  • Recording, Analysing and Using HR Information
  • Resourcing Talent
  • Developing Yourself as an Effective HR/L&D Practitioner

 

Elective Modules

  • Delivering Learning and Development Activities
  • Supporting Good Practice in Performance and Reward Management
  • Supporting Good Practice in Managing Employment Relations

 

CIPD Level 3 Course Content — Learning & Development

If you study the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma in L&D, you'll complete all seven core modules plus your choice of one elective module.

If you study the Level 3 Foundation Certificate in L&D, you'll complete the first six core modules.

 

Core Modules

  • Becoming an Effective L&D Practitioner
  • L&D and the Organisation
  • Identifying L&D Needs
  • Designing L&D Activities
  • Delivering L&D Activities
  • Evaluating L&D Activities
  • Supporting Coaching and Mentoring

 

Elective Modules

  • Supporting Collective and Social Learning
  • Enhancing Learner Engagement
  • Using Technology to Facilitate Learning

 

Different providers may offer a different selection of elective modules – you can find the full list on the CIPD website.

 

CIPD Membership at Level 3

On completion of a CIPD Level 3 Certificate or Diploma, you can become an Associate Member of the CIPD and use Assoc. CIPD after your name.


 

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A Guide to CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Qualifications

CIPD Intermediate qualifications are classed as Level 5 qualifications, meaning they're roughly equivalent in difficulty to an HND or a foundation degree.

They're designed to give you the skills you need to take on managerial or advisory HR/L&D roles.

 

What Experience/Qualifications Do You Need to Study CIPD Level 5?

If you want to study a CIPD Level 5 qualification, then you should generally have at least one of the following:

  • Some experience in an entry-level HR or L&D role
  • Managerial/other work experience that has involved elements of HR or L&D
  • A university degree and a desire to begin your studies at a more advanced level than Level 3
  • A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma or Certificate

 

Typical CIPD Level 5 Job Roles

  • HR Manager
  • HR Advisor
  • Training/L&D Officer
  • Training/L&D Manager
  • Training/L&D Advisor

 

Typical CIPD Level 5 Salary

If you secure a typical Level 5 job, then your average annual salary would be in the region of £42,000.

 

CIPD Level 5 Course Duration

A CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Diploma has a total learning time of 440 hours, which generally equates to around 9 to 12 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Certificate has a total learning time of 320 hours, which generally equates to around 8 to 10 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Award has a total learning time of 30 to 120 hours, which generally equates to around 3 to 4 months while working full time.

 

CIPD Level 5 Course Content  Human Resources

If you study the CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Diploma in HR Management, you'll complete all of the core and elective modules below.

If you study the CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Certificate in HR Management, you'll complete all four core modules plus your choice of two elective modules.

If you study a CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Award in HR, you'll complete one module as a standalone course.

 

Core Modules

  • Developing Professional Practice
  • Using Information in HR
  • Business Issues and the Contexts of HR
  • Managing and Coordinating the HR Function

 

Elective Modules

  • Resourcing and Talent Planning
  • Reward Management
  • Employment Law
  • Contemporary Developments in Employment Relations

 

CIPD Level 5 Course Content — Learning & Development

If you study the CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Diploma in L&D, you'll complete all seven modules listed below.

If you study the CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Certificate in L&D, you'll complete the first five modules. 

 

  • Developing Professional Practice
  • Understanding the Context of L&D
  • Using Information Metrics and Developing Business Cases for L&D
  • Implementing Coaching and Mentoring
  • Facilitating Collective and Social Learning
  • Developing Leadership and Management Skills
  • Managing the L&D Business Function

 

Different providers may offer a different selection of modules – you can find the full list on the CIPD website.

 

CIPD Membership at Level 5

On completion of a Level 5 Certificate or Diploma, you can become an Associate Member of the CIPD and use Assoc. CIPD after your name.

 

 

7

 

A Guide to CIPD Level 7 Advanced Qualifications

CIPD Advanced qualifications are classed at Level 7, meaning they're equivalent in difficulty to postgraduate qualifications.

CIPD Level 7 qualifications give you the high-level strategic knowledge you need for senior HR or L&D roles.

 

What Experience/Qualifications Do You Need to Study CIPD Level 7?

To enrol on a course of this calibre, you should generally have one of the following:

  • Significant experience in HR or L&D
  • An HR degree
  • A CIPD Level 5 Diploma or Certificate

You should also be prepared to take on postgraduate-level study.

 

Typical CIPD Level 7 Job Roles

  • HR Director
  • Head of HR
  • HR Business Partner
  • HR Consultant
  • Training/L&D Director
  • Head of Training/L&D
  • L&D Consultant
  • OD&D Specialist/Consultant

 

Typical CIPD Level 7 Salary

The average annual salary for one of these senior roles is approximately £65,000, but can vary dramatically depending on the seniority of your role.

 

CIPD Level 7 Course Duration

A CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma has a total learning time of 1200 hours, which generally equates to around 18 to 24 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 7 Advanced Certificate has a total learning time of 600 hours, which generally equates to around 9 to 12 months while working full time.

A CIPD Level 7 Advanced Award has a total learning time of 150 hours, which generally equates to around 4 to 5 months while working full time.

 

CIPD Level 7 Course Content  Human Resources

If you study the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in HR Management, you'll complete four core modules plus your choice of four elective modules.

If you study the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Certificate in HR, you'll complete four modules of your choice. These can be core, elective, or a mix of both.

If you study a CIPD Level 7 Advanced Award in HR, you'll complete one module as a standalone course.

 

Core Modules

  • Human Resource Management in Context
  • Leading, Managing and Developing People
  • Developing Skills for Business Leadership
  • Investigating a Business Issue from an HR Perspective

 

Elective Modules

  • Resourcing and Talent Management
  • Managing Employment Relations
  • Reward Management
  • Employment Law
  • Learning and Talent Development
  • Leadership and Management Development
  • Organisational Design and Organisational Development

 

CIPD Level 7 Course Content — Learning & Development

CIPD's L&D qualification at Level 7 is known as the CIPD Level 7 Diploma in Human Resource Development. It consists of the same modules as the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in HR Management, but you'll study the three L&D-related modules as a core part of the curriculum. You'll also choose one elective module of your choice.

If you're an L&D specialist who wants to study a shorter qualification, you could study the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Certificate in HR which allows you to study any four modules, then choose only the L&D-related modules. 

 

Core Modules

  • Human Resource Management in Context
  • Leading, Managing and Developing People
  • Developing Skills for Business Leadership
  • Investigating a Business Issue from an HR Perspective
  • Learning and Talent Development
  • Leadership and Management Development
  • Organisational Design and Organisational Development

 

Elective Modules

  • Resourcing and Talent Management
  • Managing Employment Relations
  • Reward Management
  • Employment Law

 

Different providers may offer a different selection of elective modules – you can find the full list on the CIPD website.

 

CIPD Membership at Level 7

If you complete the CIPD Level 7 Diploma, then once you have the requisite professional experience, you could become a Chartered Member of the CIPD and use the designatory letters MCIPD after your name, or become a Chartered Fellow and use FCIPD after your name.

If you complete the Level 7 Certificate, then you can become an Associate Member of the CIPD and use Assoc. CIPD after your name.

 

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When it comes to choosing your CIPD qualification, it can seem like there are a lot of options to choose from. Our advice is to focus on the three key areas that differentiate the qualifications:

  1. The subject: do you want to study human resources or learning and development?
  2. The level of advancement: do you want to study a CIPD Level 3, 5 or 7 qualification?
  3. The length of your qualification: do you want to study a CIPD Diploma, Certificate, or Award?

Once you've answered those three questions, you'll be well on your way to choosing the right course for you.

And remember - you don't have to make your decision alone (nor should you!) Our experienced CIPD Advisors will be happy to chat through your experience, education, and ambitions to make sure you're choosing the perfect course for you. Just send us an email, chat to us online, or give us a call.

 


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