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The Difference Between CIPD Awards, Certificates and Diplomas

Have you previously worked in human resources or leadership and development and want to boost your industry knowledge to take your career to the next level?

Making the commitment to pursue professional development is one way for any HR professional to convey to their employer that they are ready to take on the challenge of a new promotion. A course with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is one of the best ways for you to progress in your career given that it opens a whole new wealth of roles and opportunities that you may not have been eligible for before.

CIPD qualifications will not only assist you in climbing the career ladder but also instill within you a sense of pride in your professionalism and dedication.

About CIPD Qualifications:

The CIPD is an expert organization dedicated to those involved in HR management and talent development. There are three different CIPD qualifications that have become the recognized standards for HR professionals, each providing you with a particular specialisation based on your individual professional interests.

Read more about each qualification below:

Brief coverage of specific subject areas.

This is the basic qualification which gives you the opportunity to study topics in a concise manner, granting you the ability to receive knowledge from a range of professional areas. This qualification will help you to build a practical qualification that suits your specific professional needs.

Rounded coverage of essential subject areas.

The Certificate qualification is a mid-level qualification which provides a solid foundation of HR or L&D in a wider business context.

Wide coverage of key generalist and selected specialist subject areas.

The Diploma qualification is the most comprehensive qualification and enables you to develop your skills in HR and L&D further by taking an in-depth look at specific subject areas and providing learners with the advanced skills needed to take on the most difficult professional challenges.

CIPD's three different qualifications are offered at a foundation, intermediate and advanced level.

  • Level 3 - Foundation level CIPD qualifications

If you have relatively little experience or you are a newcomer to the field, you will probably have to study at the Foundation Level.

Foundation qualifications offer an entry point if you are new to human resources or if you are support staff without qualifications to validate your experience. Foundation level qualifications provide an excellent introduction to HR and cover a wide range of practical HR topics.

Is Level 3 right for you? Search foundation CIPD qualifications.

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  • Level 5 - Intermediate level CIPD qualifications

The intermediate level is set at an undergraduate standard, building on your previous skills and experience. It is intended for those with experience and have completed the foundation level. Intermediate qualifications further build on your knowledge of HR or L&D. You will get an opportunity to evaluate different models and the effectiveness of organisational practice, as well as develop your contextual critical thinking, planning and problem solving. It is meant to be for those who are mid-level managers, for example, HR advisors.

Is Level 5 right for you? Search intermediate CIPD qualifications.

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  • Level 7- Advanced level CIPD qualifications

The advanced level qualification is on par with postgraduate study and is meant for developed or experienced practitioners and strategic HR decision makers. Typically, this qualification is reserved for those professionals who hold a management role.

These have been developed for HR and L&D professionals who are looking to develop their strategic understanding or specialise/consult in a particular area of practice. Advanced level study requires a considerable amount of professional experience and is ideally suited to practitioners with operational, tactical or strategic responsibility.

CIPD Level 7 advanced qualifications are set at QCF level 7, the equivalent of postgraduate level studies at university. Qualifying with the advanced diploma also demonstrates that you have the technical knowledge to progress from associate membership to chartered membership (Chartered Member or Chartered Fellow) if you have the required professional experience at a strategic level.

Is Level 7 right for you? Search intermediate CIPD qualifications.

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Keep in mind that it is best to choose the level that fits your knowledge, experience and skill set in order to get the most out of your CIPD qualification.

Mike Morrison FCIPD of RapidBI makes a great point about deciding where to start with your qualifications:

“If you truly want to be a rounded and balanced professional in any topic.. start at the bottom – not the middle – for there will be a lot you miss. The levels are a little like house building. There is no point having a roof, if you have not foundations (level 3) and walls (level 5).”

We've highlighted key information about each level and qualification to help you see at a glance what you would like to study. You can click on the hyperlinks below for a list of available courses that meet your needs.

Level 3 Award

  • Brief overviews on different HR topics.

  • Introductory level for anyone with relatively little experience

Level 3 Certificate

  • The most popular entry-level qualification. 

  • Introductory level for anyone with relatively little experience

Level 3 Diploma

  • The most in-depth and comprehensive of the qualifications.

  • Introductory level for anyone with relatively little experience

Level 5 Award

  • Brief overviews on different HR topics. 

  • Set at an undergraduate standard, building on your skills and experience

Level 5 Certificate

  • The most popular entry-level qualification. 

  • Set at an undergraduate standard, building on your skills and experience

Level 5 Diploma

  • The most in-depth and comprehensive of the qualifications.

  • Set at an undergraduate standard, building on your skills and experience

Level 7 Award

  • Brief overviews on different HR topics.

  • Developed for experienced practitioners and strategic HR decision makers

Level 7 Certificate

  • The most popular entry-level qualification. 

  • Developed for experienced practitioners and strategic HR decision makers

Level 7 Diploma

  • The most in-depth and comprehensive of the qualifications.

  • Developed for experienced practitioners and strategic HR decision makers


About the Author

Abby works as the Communications Team Lead for findcourses.co.uk with a mission of connecting learning leaders with the data and information they need to provide the best training possible for their people.

Originally from Indianapolis in the U.S., Abby studied her bachelor’s at Hanover College in Business and Literature and has worked for findcourses since 2015. She is passionate about corporate learning and works internally to help organise Learning at Work Week within findcourses.co.uk's company of 165 team members, and provide and source external training in content creation as an in-house expert.

Abby is also the creator and editor of the UK L&D Report which interviews and surveys L&D leaders from top UK companies to help uncover data-driven best practice and easy-to-implement advice.

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Last updated: 15 Jul 2019

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