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.


CIPD qualifications allow you to increase your knowledge and skills in your chosen area of study. You can choose from a selection of online, face to face, and blended study modes, with the option to study part-time or full-time. This flexibility lets you fit your study around your working day.

There are two types of qualifications available: CIPD Qualifications and University Accredited Programmes

CIPD Qualifications

These are professional qualifications at Foundation Certificate to Advanced Diploma level, and are designed and awarded by the CIPD. You'll learn with one of our approved study centres and you'll receive your qualification certificate from the CIPD. Successful completion leads to CIPD Foundation or Associate Membership.

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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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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 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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