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What is the Best CIPD Qualification to Have?

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In the world of HR, CIPD qualifications are considered the most prestigious accolade a people professional can gain.

Often considered the gold standard for the training of HR and L&D professionals, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), currently has over 150,000 members worldwide, making their qualifications the most sought after in the industry. 

It goes without saying that with a CIPD qualification under their belt, CIPD students are able to begin or develop their career with ease.

If you are not sure where to start, however, we explore the best CIPD qualification to study, depending on what point you are at in your career, and where you are looking to progress to.

CIPD Qualifications: Human Resources and Learning & Development 

CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Practice 

This qualification is the perfect blend of HR and L&D knowledge, designed to provide learners with the basic principles they will require to begin a successful career in the people's profession.

Equivalent to an A Level qualification, this entry-level qualification does not require any previous experience, only a passion and interest in HR or L&D, and is the perfect stepping stone for those who want to continue their studies at a higher level. 

Once students have successfully gained this qualification they can apply for roles such as:

  • HR Assistant, 
  • HR Administrator, 
  • Junior L&D Advisor 
  • L&D Coordinator, 
  • as well as qualifying for the CIPD Foundation level membership. 

CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in People Management 

The CIPD Level 5 Diploma is the next step up from the Level 3 CIPD qualification and is aimed towards individuals with some experience in HR or L&D looking to move into mid-level roles in their career, as it expands further on the key concepts and theories introduced through the Level 3 qualification.

This qualification is equivalent to a higher education diploma, foundation degree and first year of university, and is the perfect course for building managerial a skill set for more senior positions such as HR Adviser and HR Manager.

Along with that, upon successful completion of the Level 5 CIPD Diploma, learners will qualify for the Associate CIPD Membership, which in itself will open up a whole scope of new opportunities.

CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in Organisational Learning and Development 

Targeting L&D professionals specifically, this CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma is designed for individuals with limited working experience, looking into moving to more mid-level L&D roles. It explores concepts and themes presented through the CIPD Level 3 qualification, building onto that knowledge, while also covering more complex topics in greater depth. 

Equivalent to a higher education diploma and the first year of university studies, this is the ideal qualification to help you develop the necessary skills and knowledge to take on more strategic and managerial roles in your organisation. 

Once having successfully completed the Level 5 L&D diploma, you will then qualify for the Associate CIPD Membership, enabling you to apply a wider range of organisational L&D management skills in your role. 

CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management 

The CIPD Level 7 HR qualification is the most advanced diploma CIPD offers and is equivalent to a postgraduate university degree. This diploma is specifically designed for people professionals in more advanced roles, looking to progress to a senior position which involves expertise, strategic understanding and extensive HR experience. 

Upon successful completion of the Level 7 qualification, individuals will be eligible to apply for Chartered Membership with the CIPD - the highest recognition and most prestigious status in the HR profession. Also, they will be able to apply for roles such as HR Director and HR Business Partner, taking their career to the next level. 

CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic Learning & Development 

Similarly to the Level 7 HR diploma, the CIPD Level 7 L&D diploma is the most advanced learning and development qualification available and targets L&D professionals who are looking to develop the specialist knowledge and skills required to apply for senior L&D roles. 

This qualification will help learners enhance their specialist expertise and improve their L&D competencies, allowing them to set out an L&D strategy in their organisation and manage teams successfully.  

After accomplishing the Level 7 qualification, you will be eligible to apply for Chartered Membership with the CIPD, which is considered the highest accolade and most prestigious membership status available in the industry.  With that you will be able to apply for senior roles such as L&D Director and Head of L&D, helping you climb the career ladder and furthering your career.

What is the Best Type of CIPD Membership?

Gaining a CIPD membership gives you the power to advance your HR or L&D career, regardless what stage you are at. With CIPD membership grades mirroring each qualification level, and the level of knowledge and expertise you have, CIPD memberships are the perfect way to demonstrate to your colleagues, employer and clients your level of expertise in the field, and your dedication to the role. 

Whether you are just starting out your career, or are a seasoned HR or L&D professional, there’s a CIPD membership geared for you and your level of proficiency, which will undoubtedly present you with new opportunities and an abundance of benefits

Student Member: 

Upon enrolling on any CIPD qualification, students are granted a Student Member status of the CIPD, providing them with access to tools, resources and support required to be successful. 

Foundation Membership:

In order to gain this level of membership, you must first successfully complete the CIPD Level 3 qualification. Through this, you can display your good insight of key practices and concepts essential for HR and L&D, as well as a core understanding of culture and theories in the people profession. 

Associate Membership (Assoc. CIPD):

An Associate Membership is awarded to those you have completed and accomplished any Level 5 CIPD qualification. Once having gained this membership level, people professionals can demonstrate their proficiency on the essential skills, functions and concepts of HR or L&D roles, as well as allowing them to specialise in their chosen field between the two. 

Chartered Membership (MCIPD):

The next membership status of the CIPD is the Chartered Membership, for which you are only eligible once having successfully completed a CIPD Level 7 Advanced diploma in your chosen field. As already mentioned, the Chartered Membership status is the highest industry accolade for HR and L&D professionals, and while not critical for a successful career, can help catapult your career to new levels. 

However, in order to achieve this membership status, you must be able to demonstrate applied work experience in a strategic role for at least one year within the people profession. 

Regardless, by becoming a CIPD Chartered Member, you will be able to demonstrate your high level of knowledge, skills, and dedication to the role, while also allowing you to truly impact the workplace by enabling you to make strategic organisational decisions.

CIPD Chartered Fellow Membership (Chartered FCIPD):

The final and perhaps most sight-after membership status of the CIPD is the Chartered Fellow Membership, enabling those with over one year’s worth of experience in a senior HR or L&D role, who have successfully completed a CIPD Level 7 qualification, to use the prestigious CIPD designation ‘Chartered FCIPD’ after their name.

In turn, this allows them to demonstrate their proven strategic capabilities, impacting the people's profession at a senior level. Not only that, but it also proves their dedication and commitment to the role, helping inspire and shape the future of the industry. 

Is CIPD the Best Route into an HR Career?

Perhaps one of CIPD's biggest strengths is that it follows a defined path, which reflects the varied levels people professionals will be at during different times of their career. From those just starting out in their career, through to mid-level and senior professionals, the CIPD offers qualifications for all stages of your career. 

While CIPD qualifications are respected and recognised by employers around the world, they are quite different to typical HR university degrees. In contrast to university qualifications, which are typically studied full-time, CIPD qualifications can be undertaken by individuals in full-time employment, who are looking to further their career by studying a qualification simultaneously. 

Additionally, while university degrees can be very knowledge based, drawing on learners' academic knowledge and competencies, CIPD qualification primarily focuses on developing skills-based knowledge and experience HR and L&D professionals will need in their job. That is why CIPD qualifications are a popular option amongst career started and young professionals with limited work experience.

Also, keep in mind that not all university degrees are equal with the same prestige and distinction. Depending on the degree classification and university the degree was studied at, employers may view the qualification differently than they would other universities’ degrees, as they might not hold the same reputation and prominence as a CIPD qualification does.

What is the Best Way to Study CIPD?

One of the greatest benefits of CIPD qualifications is that you can study them in a number of different ways, depending on what method makes you feel comfortable and fits into your lifestyle the best. As mentioned, most learners study CIPD concurrently while being in full-time employment, so fitting their qualification around their personal obligations is a must.

Live Online:

By studying Live Online, CIPD students can enjoy all the benefits of face-to-face traditional classrooms with the added flexibility of online study, allowing them to attend highly immersive and interactive live classroom sessions online, from anywhere in the world.

Through this study method, learners have access to the same expert tutor support and peer-to-peer interaction as they would in a traditional classroom setting, without needing to physically attend a classroom. This allows them to gain the qualification and enhance their career in a way that suits their lifestyle. 

Face-to-Face Classrooms:

The most traditional way to study any qualification or course, face-to-face classrooms deliver a flexible and supportive in-person learning experience for those able to attend a physical, in-person classroom.

From great peer-to-peer interaction and with the benefit of asking your tutor any queries you may have in real time, this method of study may be ideal for those who have some extra time and prefer learning in the setting of a traditional classroom.

100% Online:

The final way to study for a CIPD qualification is through 100% online study, through which learners can benefit from the added convenience and flexibility of studying whenever and wherever they want to, while gaining the same level of knowledge and skills as they would through the other methods.

With the ability to access an abundance of materials and resources completely online, this is the ideal study method for those with busy work and life commitments, who cannot commit to attending a classroom, whether online or physically, at a certain time and day. 

However, even through this method, learners have access to unlimited expert tutor support and a vast resource of online materials to help them succeed in their studies and gain the qualification. 


Regardless of which CIPD qualification you choose to study, or the method in which you choose to study it, CIPD HR and L&D qualifications are considered the gold standard for the training of people professionals by employers around the world. With one of these respected qualifications under your belt you are guaranteed a long and successful career in HR or L&D. 


Become a fully qualified HR professional with a fully accredited CIPD HR qualification with Acacia Learning.