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How Long Does CIPD Take? Online & Classroom

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How long does an online CIPD qualification take compared to a classroom-based CIPD qualification? We compared the two approaches. What did we find? Read on.

When you’re investing in something as life-changing as a professional qualification, it’s likely that you’ll have some questions to ask.

The questions you have will obviously be unique to you, but, for most people, one of the key concerns that present itself is ‘how long will I be studying for?’

The sooner you finish a qualification, the sooner you’ll be able to start applying for that dream job that you have your eye on, after all.

We decided to take a closer look at the issue and come up with a clear response to the question – just how long does a CIPD qualification take?

How long will CIPD take?

The fact that you can study CIPD qualifications in several ways complicates finding a simple answer to this question. The simple response is that a CIPD qualification will take a varying amount of time depending on which type of format you choose in which to study, as well as the specific type of qualification that you want to study too.

Sometimes, the specific provider that you choose to study your qualification from can also have an impact on how long your CIPD will take to complete.

Factors that affect how long CIPD takes:

  1. The type of qualification that you’re studying and its difficulty: a Foundation Certificate will take less time to complete than a Strategic Diploma.
  2. The way that you study the qualification: Classroom study and online study take a different amount of time to complete.
  3. The provider that you choose to study from: Different learning providers will often have different study schedules for the same qualification because of their own internal processes.

How long does an online CIPD take?

The simple answer to this question is: however long you want!

With an online qualification, you’ll have the freedom to set your own study schedule and decide when you want to study.

The main thing that affects the length of time that you can study an online qualification for is a thing called the ‘support period’. This is basically the length of time that you can expect to receive help and support from a dedicated tutor. The support period also covers how long you’ll have access to essential services, whilst you’re studying the course.

Most learning providers will specify the exact period of time that you can receive support for in the information that accompanies the qualification. It varies depending on how generous each learning provider is really feeling. Average support periods range from 2 months through to 2 years, depending on the exact qualification. Qualifications that have a harder difficulty will usually have a longer support period. Those that are slightly easier will have a shorter support period.

The beauty of studying a CIPD qualification online is that you have control over your schedule and when you choose to study. This means that you essentially set your study schedule and decide the pace at which you want to learn. This gives you a level of flexibility over the length of time that you’re studying a qualification for that you don’t really have with a classroom study-based qualification.

Average completion times for an online CIPD

Rough guidelines for how long a CIPD qualification should take to complete online look something like this:

This is based on you studying the course part-time. If you were to study the course full time, online, you would probably be able to complete it significantly faster.

How long does a classroom CIPD take?

A classroom CIPD course will usually take slightly longer to complete than a fully-online CIPD qualification. This is because the pace of a classroom-taught CIPD is decided and set by the learning provider and the tutor – not by you.

For some, the lack of control over scheduling that comes with classroom study can be frustrating, but for others it can actually be liberating. 

A qualification that’s delivered in a classroom will have a start date and an end date, and a specific number of tutorials that will form the backbone of the course. In each tutorial, you will cover a particular aspect of the course, working towards the finish date, where it’s expected that you’ll have covered all of the topics needed in the qualification to the required standard.

This differs from online study, where you’ll work your own way through the course, deciding how long you spend on a particular subject before moving on. As a result, you can often end up spending more time on one item than another, which can give you a patchy understanding of the overall subject if you’re not careful.

Some students find that the fact that the schedule of classroom-based study is set ahead of time means that they have one less thing to worry about – namely, deciding how they’re going to structure their time.

Classroom-based study can also help you better pace your learning, and encourage you to become disciplined about your study too. If you know that you’re expected to be present in one place at a particular time each week for your course, you’re more likely to attend that session and learn something. The same can’t be said of online learning necessarily, where you set your own schedule and aren’t subject to the same expectations.

Average completion times for a classroom-based CIPD

The average time it will take you to complete a classroom-based CIPD qualification looks something like this for the following courses:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate: About 9 months
  • CIPD Level 5 Advanced Diploma: About 10 months
  • CIPD Level 7 Strategic Diploma: About 2 years to complete

Bonus: How long does a part online, part classroom-based CIPD take?

As well as online study and classroom-based study, there is a combination of the two that some learning providers offer – a form of study known as hybrid learning.

With this type of learning, you’ll generally study part of the course in a classroom, face-to-face with other students, and you’ll study part of the course online at your own pace. Hybrid learning essentially combines digital study with face-to-face study. 

To make it more complicated, hybrid learning can differ between different learning providers. For example, you might find that some providers weight their qualification more towards online study, whereas some weight it more towards classroom-based study. Some might split it equally.

For instance, we offer a hybrid learning approach that we call LiveOnline that is geared towards those who like the structure of classroom learning but want the flexibility of online learning.  It combines the social aspects of classroom-based study with the convenience of online learning. With LiveOnline, you attend online classes that are run once a month, on either a weekday, evening, or a weekend. All of these classes are led by a tutor, are fully interactive and follow the same format as traditional classroom-based study.

Hybrid courses usually take around the same time as traditional online study to complete.

Takeaway: study time is time well spent

All of the timings we’ve given for the completion of CIPD courses are obviously contingent on your own actions as a student too. If you’re studying online or through a hybrid model that combines online student with face-to-face classes, you will probably be able to complete the course a lot faster.

While it remains true that if you’re studying a CIPD that’s delivered purely through classroom-based study there isn’t much you can do to speed up the course, if you put more work in, you’re more likely to understand topics and not have to spend extra time going over topics.

Whilst a qualification might take a specific amount of time to complete, you never stop learning new information. Any time you spend studying is time well invested.

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