We’ve identified the main ways for you to build the understanding, knowledge and experience you need to secure your first role in the people profession.


Qualifications allow you to increase your knowledge and skills in your chosen area of study. You can usually choose to study in a range of different study modes, from full time or part time learning to block learning or digital learning. There are two types of qualifications which enable you to enter the people profession: accredited professional qualifications and specialist university degrees.

Accredited professional qualifications

Whether you plan to study full time, part time or through distance learning, CIPD qualifications allow you to develop the essential knowledge and skills employers are looking for.

CIPD qualifications come in three different levels and sizes, and a range of study modes offered by centres in the UK, Ireland and Internationally, meaning you can find a qualification which works best for you. To help you choose the right qualification read through our five-step guide.

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Specialist university degrees

You could, alternatively, study a specialist university degree in Human Resource Management. Note that not all degrees reach the CIPD’s standard of accreditation, so they don’t all provide automatic entry into CIPD membership. When researching degree options, make sure you check in with the university to see whether the course is CIPD-accredited.

Search ‘human resource management’ on the Central Applications Office (CAO) website for information on the courses available and the universities that run them.

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Considering studying a CIPD qualification? Take a look at our FAQs for prospective students.

Networking and communities

The people community is always happy to share their experiences with others. CIPD LinkedIn is a great place to connect with peers, while the CIPD Community and branches enable you to connect with fellow people professionals - online and in person.

By becoming a CIPD member, you get access to a community of like-minded people professionals, tools and support to kick-start your career journey, including our member-only LinkedIn group - an effective way to put you in touch with relevant people networks.

Ways the CIPD can help you network

Graduate development programmes

A number of large employers offer university graduate programmes in HR. Although you don’t always need an HR degree to apply, employers may sometimes help you gain a CIPD-approved postgraduate qualification if you successfully secure a place on their programme.

Work experience

If you’re hoping to gain practical skills relevant to the profession, why not look at job shadowing or placements, or even projects you can get involved in? You could, for example, take on additional responsibilities for a project in your organisation or seek out new volunteering opportunities.

A great way to make yourself stand out is to gain some work experience while you study. Many charities are always looking for support from volunteers.

Direct hire

In addition to formal development programmes, many organisations look for direct hires at more junior levels. It’s not always essential you possess specific work experience, though transferrable skills (like communication skills) and experiences (like team working) always come in handy.

Transitioning into the profession

Many people have successfully transitioned at higher levels into the people profession from completely different fields.

Examples of career transitions

People who transition into the profession usually possess the type of relevant experience which provides a stepping stone to move into a full people role. The key to successful transitions at more senior levels is to gain relevant work experience in fields adjacent to the people profession.

Examples may include:

  • working as an employment lawyer before transitioning into an in‐house legal role at a large organisation, eventually becoming Head of Employee Relations
  • taking the lead as an engineer on technical training in the organisation, before transitioning into a wider learning and development role
  • working as an executive coach with a background in Occupational Psychology, eventually becoming Director of Organisational Development.

It’s also helpful to self‐assess yourself against the core knowledge and behaviours expected of all people professionals (as evidenced in the new Profession Map). Doing so will highlight your areas of development to support a successful transition into the profession.

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Career guidance

Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break

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