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How to Choose the Right CIPD Course

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If you’re looking to build your career in human resources or learning and development, a CIPD course is one of the most effective ways to gain the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for.

But how do you work out which CIPD course is right for you? We decided to take a closer look at the question.

What is CIPD?

 

The CIPD is a professional membership association, serving human resources and learning & development roles. It has around 160,000 members, across the world, and it’s widely regarded as one of the leading professional bodies in its field.

It’s a body that’s formed of active HR and L&D professionals and it’s responsible for ensuring that high standards are maintained when it comes to the people-professions. One of the ways that the CIPD ensures that the profession’s quality is protected is by offering professional qualifications.

Thanks to the fact that they’re used as an international standard of training and knowledge, employers often look for CIPD qualifications when hiring, using them as an indicator of the skills and knowledge that job candidates have. The fact that they’re internationally recognised means that CIPD qualifications allow you to work in a range of HR and L&D roles in a huge range of countries across the globe – perfect for building a 21st century career.


CIPD courses explained


One of the inherent strengths of CIPD qualifications is that they follow a defined pathway from beginner qualifications through to advanced qualifications. They cover all stages of a career from those early days where you’re first starting out and trying to get your entry-level position, to mid-level careers, where you’re looking to advance to management and strategy-focused positions, through to senior stages, where you’re looking to hone your strategic focus.

CIPD courses are renowned for their versatility. The fact that there’s a clear progression to the qualifications they offer means it’s relatively easy to find the right CIPD course for your needs once you understand what they cover and who they’re aimed at.

Here’s a brief summary of all of the qualification levels, what they cover and who they’re suited to:


Level 3


Level 3 qualifications are designed for people at the very start of their career in the people profession. They are an entry-level qualification, designed to help you get your foot in the HR or L&D door if you have no educational or job experience of the people-profession.

There’s one Level 3 qualification currently offered by the CIPD, that covers both human resources and learning & development specialisms.


CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Management

This qualification blends practical HR, L&D and organisational development expertise to give you a basic grounding in the principles you’ll need to start a career in the people profession. It’s not designed to make you an expert in HR or L&D immediately – instead, it’s designed to equip you with all of the key knowledge, principles and skills that you’ll need in your first people profession role.

It’s an entry level qualification, equivalent to an A Level, so you won’t need any prior experience of HR or L&D to study it. Once you’ve passed this qualification, you’ll be able to apply for roles like a Junior HR Advisor, HR Administrator and Junior L&D Advisor, giving you the chance to build a lasting career in the field.

And you’ll also qualify for Foundation level membership of the CIPD itself.

The module list for the Level 3 certificate includes topics like:

● Business culture and change in context
● Principles of analytics
● Core behaviours for people professionals
● Essentials of people practice


Level 5

 

Level 5 qualifications are the next step up from a Level 3 qualification, they’re equivalent to a higher education diploma, a foundation degree and the first year of university study. They’re aimed at people who have some experience of working in HR or L&D already as they expand upon key concepts that were introduced in the previous Level 3 qualification.

Qualifications at Level 5 are perfect for building your skillset for management roles and more senior positions in companies, like a HR Manager or L&D team leader. Once you complete an Associate Diploma, you’ll qualify for Associate membership of the CIPD too, opening up a whole new range of opportunities.

The CIPD offers human resources and learning and development-focused Level 5 qualifications.
CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in People Management.

In this human resources-focused qualification, you’ll gain a deeper awareness of how to manage people and develop HR at an organisation. You’ll look at theory and practice and you’ll directly apply them to the organisation that you currently work at, helping you to gain practical expertise that you can put into use in your career from day one.

You’ll study three core modules, three specialist modules and choose one optional module. The module list looks like this:

● Core: Organisational performance and culture in practice
● Core: Evidence based practice
● Core: Professional behaviours and valuing people
● Specialist: Employment relationship management
● Specialist: Talent management and workforce planning
● Specialist: Reward for performance and contribution
● Optional: Specialist employment law
● Optional: People management in an international context
● Optional: Diversity and inclusion

 

CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in Organisational L&D


This Level 5 qualification is focused on learning and development. It’s designed to help professionals with some experience of L&D improve their skills and reach for those higher positions.

The qualification builds on the learning and development theory and practice you covered in the Level 3 qualification but covers more complex topics, in greater depth. It should help you take on more of a management and strategy role in your department.

Again, you’ll study three core modules, three specialist modules and choose one optional module. These are the modules:

● Core: Organisational performance & culture in practice
● Core: Evidence based practice
● Core: Professional behaviours and valuing people
● Specialist: Supporting self-directed and social learning
● Specialist: Learning and development design to create value
● Specialist: Facilitate personalised and performance focused learning
● Optional: Specialist employment law
● Optional: Diversity and inclusion
● Optional: People management in an international context

 

Level 7


Level 7 qualifications are the most advanced that the CIPD offer students. They’re equivalent to a postgraduate qualification. Designed for senior leaders in human resources and learning and development, the Level 7 is focused on strategy – and helping you make the right business and people management decisions at a strategic level.

When you complete the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma, you’ll be eligible to apply for Chartered Membership of the CIPD – the highest membership status you’ll be able to gain from the body and an incredibly prestigious professional accolade.


CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management

 

The highest human resource qualification that you’ll be able to study, the CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management will equip you with the essential strategic people management skills you’ll need to direct operations at an organisation in a senior role, like a HR director. You’ll study 4 core modules, 3 specialists modules and 1 optional level, making a total of 8 modules overall.

You’ll cover modules like:

● Core: Work and working lives in a changing business environment
● Core: People management and development strategies for performance
● Core: Personal effectiveness, ethics and business acumen
● Core: Business research in people practice
● Specialist: Strategic employment relations
● Specialist: Resourcing & talent management to success success
● Specialist: Strategic reward management
● Optional Advanced employment law in practice
● Optional: Organisational design and development
● Optional: Managing people in an international context
● Optional: Advanced diversity and inclusion

 

CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic L&D

 

The CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic L&D is the most advanced learning and development qualification that you’ll be able to study with the CIPD. It’s perfect for L&D professionals at the peak of their careers, who are wanting to develop specialist expertise in the subject, particularly around setting strategy and managing teams. There are 8 modules, just like the equivalent qualification for HR above. They are:

● Work and working lives in a changing business environment
● People management and development strategies for performance
● Personal effectiveness, ethics and business acumen
● Business research in people practice
● Strategic reward management
● Advanced employment law in practice
● Organisational design and development
● Managing people in an international context
● Advanced diversity and inclusion

 

How to choose the right course


So, now we’ve gone through all of the CIPD courses that you can choose, how do you actually go about picking the right one?

There are a number of issues to consider when it comes to finding out what the right CIPD course for you is. You can condense them down into 5 basic questions though:

1. What specialism are you interested in?
2. What level do you want to study at
3. How long do you want to study for?
4. What format do you want to study in?
5. How much money are you willing to spend?

 

1. What specialism are you interested in?

As you read above in our description of the various HR and L&D qualifications that the CIPD offer, the CIPD offer different qualifications for human resources and for learning & development, at Level 5 and Level 7.

To choose the right CIPD course, you’ll need to figure out what specialism you would like to study. Are you aiming for a long-term career in HR? Are you looking to develop your existing career in L&D? Maybe you’re switching from one specialism to another? Your own professional focus will end up dictating the qualification that you’ll need so it’s good to pinpoint what career area you’re focused on from the beginning.


2. What level do you want to study at?

Once you’ve got a clear idea of the specialism you want to focus on, you’ll need to examine where your skills currently are and where they need to be for you to reach your career goals. In other words, you need to decide what level of qualification is appropriate for your current skills and whether it will enable you to develop those further.

The level of a qualification broadly corresponds to the complexity of skills and knowledge that it equips students with, so you’ll usually be able to identify the rough qualification that’s right for your needs and plans by looking at its level, entry requirements and checking through the module and course content. Most learning providers will also provide additional information about what type of student a qualification is suited to.


3. How long do you want to study for?

The timescale you envision completing the qualification in can have a really big effect on which qualification you choose. After all, some qualifications will take longer to complete than others.

Usually, when you’re studying in a classroom-based environment, courses will run for a particular period of time. The exact course duration depends entirely on the qualification you’ve chosen and the provider you’re studying with. Generally speaking though, part time Level 3, 5 and 7 courses can run from anywhere between four months to two years.

Different qualifications will naturally be quicker to study than others. Usually, more complex courses, like the CIPD Level 7 qualifications, will take longer to complete than entry-level study like the CIPD Level 3.

 

4. What format do you want to study in?

You might find that the way you want to study your qualification will have a bearing on which particular CIPD course is right for you.

Before the pandemic, most professional qualifications were delivered in a face-to-face format, in a classroom with a tutor leading learning. The pandemic with its numerous lockdowns, prompted a rethink of that approach and remote learning became widely adopted by businesses for the first time.

Now, given that the world is beginning to adapt to living with the risk of COVID, and students have begun to return to the classroom, a lot of learning providers have resumed in-person teaching. Some have moved solely to remote learning. And others have combined the two forms.

Each format – in-person, remote and hybrid learning – has its own pros and cons, so you’ll need to have a good think about which type of format works best for the way that you learn.

At Acacia, we specialise in face-to-face learning for our CIPD qualifications. We believe that an element of face-to-face learning is essential when you’re training to work in the people professions. Not only does in-person study provide you with a chance to work through the course together with other students in a similar situation, it also allows you to ask your tutor questions immediately when you’re unsure about something – with no painful games of email tennis to delay getting an answer to your question.

We also offer a remote learning feature though called Live Online. In this format, you attend a remote lecture once a week which is perfect if you enjoy the extra flexibility that remote learning can give you.

A CIPD course is a significant investment. It costs time and money so it’s only logical to want to find the right course for your plans, interests and experience. Keep in mind the information and the tips we’ve shared above and you’ll be well on your way to choosing the right CIPD course for your needs.

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