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Annie Hayes



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CIPD qualification: Is it necessary?


Ben Elley, an HR Consultant at Frazer Jones, a specialist HR recruitment firm looks at the relative merits of the qualification and its role in helping HR professionals move up the career ladder.

Due to the strategic and commercial development of HR, employers are frequently requesting Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualified candidates. This is certainly not to say that without the qualification you will be surplus to requirements, but it is becoming a preference by which employers are becoming increasingly habituated to.

CIPD status can be achieved in a number of ways, giving maximum flexibility to potential applicants of all ages. The best route for you will depend on your individual circumstances and your reasons for joining.

It is important to note that the actual value of achieving CIPD status is largely subjective and is commonly divided into two camps of opinion.

Why consider a CIPD qualification?
It is perceived that once qualified, HR professionals will have a greater range of choices and options available to them, primarily because more and more employers are opting for the qualification as a prerequisite, irrespective of practical experience. CIPD-qualification allows you to use the theory learnt across all industries, but obviously personality traits are just as essential.

On completing CIPD accreditation, you will be provided with a sound theoretical understanding of all generalist HR issues. Within any profession, further learning and development shows that you have dedication to your chosen career, as well as displaying a good ability to manage your own time to better your long-term career prospects. All of these skills are clearly something that would benefit any team producing a flexible, knowledgeable attitude to work and excellent additions to any skillset.

The main choices you may be faced with will be more focused on applying what you have learnt but also more of the “bigger picture” elements, such as achieving the right experience, your own personal development and progression needs; company and client group size; and level of involvement in projects etc.

Why it might not be worthwhile?
The CIPD does not have the same value to all HR professionals and it can be perceived that practical experience is far more beneficial than what can be taught in a classroom. It can also be expensive to complete and it can be very time consuming. Having your CIPD qualification may provide you with more interviews to attend, but this alone is not enough to carry you through.

Your value in the marketplace will be determined by other factors, such as the experience you have, coupled with the industry that you have worked in. It is crucial that you are in a position where you can implement the theory learnt, into practice.

Although becoming qualified can make the job search so much easier, other factors (such as the size of the company, team, amount of work, level of involvement that you have had experience of) will determine how quickly you progress in your career. Not only is it company and industry specific, but dependent on the individual’s own aspirations as well.


30 Responses

  1. CIPD Qualification has become industry benchmark-unfortunately
    The issue of whether to get a qualification or not in HR is a matter of individual choice –

    I wish to take issue with the above comment by Christine. It has unfortunately become essential for HR professionals to have a CIPD quailfication beit from CIPD or some other body. Somehow industry has decided that in order to advance in HR you must have CIPD. Most job ads these days require the applicant to be CIPD part qualified or otherwise. I am part qualified, but feel that I have not learnt much in the way that it will help my career, spanning some 15 yeras or so.

    I work with so called qualified HR professionals and am constantly amazed by the things they don’t know-and it frustrates me to no end as I know that I can do their job, but because I am not qualified, I am not considered.

    CIPD should also review their material that they send out for correspondence courses/flexible learning. A lot of paper is wasted with endless waffle about nothing relevant to the subject matter. I have no interest in knowing the life history of the author of the study material. All I am interested in are the facts of the matter and what relevance they have to my studies.

    CIPD could better-must try harder to make course material more relevant and reduce the waffle. Perhaps a pass mark of 40% is appropriate in this instances and they will have to re-sit their exam!

  2. Not what the CIPD set out to do
    I must confess to being perplexed by Christine Willimas from the CIPD’s when she says “our primary role is to set a consistent level of professional standards for the profession”

    According to the CIPD’s own website their mission is….

    * to lead in the development and promotion of good practice in the field of the management and development of people, for application both by professional members and by their organisational colleagues.

    * to serve the professional interests of members.

    * to uphold the highest ideals in the management and development of people.

    In no way does it state or instruct the CIPD to be an examining body neither does it state how the CIPD should go about upholding their noble ideals. Indeed many of our European partners disagree with this exam based approach to membership and professionalism.

    Perhaps the CIPD should start looking at ‘the profession’ as a whole and not just focus inwardly on its UK members?

    This is an interesting and very active thread. 3000+ hits and of those that expressed a CIPD preference 6 were pro CIPD, 8 against and 6 were undefined.

  3. Patronising to Trainers
    I contacted the CIPD over six years ago – as a member – stating my view that the organisation produced very little of any practical use to Training professionals; too much of its output was heavily biased towards those in HR. In short, I wanted an explanation as to why I paid the same fees as those in HR but was not getting the same ‘bangs per buck’, to use the Americans’ unlovely phrase.

    The reply I received was so patronising and dismissive that I instantly resigned my membership.

    This decision had no effect whatsoever on the business I run (which just goes from strength to strength) or the personal networking I have since made in my working life.

    Oh, and I saved myself an awful lot of money.

  4. CIPD qualification – student perspective
    This has been a very interesting debate so far! Although being a student and nearing my graduate membership it is somewhat alarming to hear how many people do not value CIPD.

    Personally I think it is a necessary accreditation that ensures that practicing HR professionals meet the professional standards laid down and ensure they continually update their skills and knowledge. After all in many HR roles specialist advice is given with regards to employment law, disciplinary, dismissals etc and I agree with the comment below that hardly anyone queries why an accountant has to be chartered!

    I appreciate there are a lot of practising HR people out there who do not have CIPD and I feel that consistency is the key! You either need CIPD or you don’t and I personally think you do.

  5. Not convinced
    I am yet to be convinced of the real value of CIPD qualifications. I am overseas trained and have been working in the UK for 4 years. My qualifications (University degree & post grad study both of which are HRM & IR + assessments + 8 years experience) are recognised by a overseas associations / institutes. However, no reciprocal agreements appear to be in place between the CIPD and other associations. When queried the response was that the CIPD will only acknowlege it’s ‘own’ or CIPD recognised courses or a very expensive assessment route. Does this make me less of an HR professional? I don’t think so. Has it dropped me from shortlists? – Absolutely! The comparison to accountants is valid but; accounting qualifications carry international recognition.

    I support rigorous professional qualification standards and continued professional development. I just can’t bring myself to support an organisation that has managed to monopolise the HR sector and is still branded as Personnel & Development.

    Personally the CIPD qualification has been invaluable to me. However, I feel that the CIPD qualifacation has reduced in value over the years. The courses now work on either APL or are run by colleges who set internal exams. I know people who have done the qualification and very few fail through this course based internally assessed process. This to my mind is a soft option it was far harder to obtain the qualification when the CIPD marked its own exams!

    I have also read comments about people not getting jobs without the qualifacation – come on people! How many of us HR professionals have turned down applicants because they don’t have a recognised professional qualifacation – why should we be any different?

    In my view our value as an Institute would be valued far more if we insisted on the qualifacation, after all how many Solicitors or Town Planners get jobs without their respective professional qualification.

  7. It is valuable to me and should be to us all
    It’s been interesting to read what people have had to say on this front but regardless of whether the qualification closes or open doors, I can honestly say that I have found it to be valuable and inspiring. My business practice has changed and the study broader than I thought it would be – not just HR but organisational theory, psychology, communication, finance, partnering business areas, I could go on…

    Those businesses that use CIPD quals to close out applicants with valuable business practice have taken the easy route in my opinion, rather than spend time finding ways to evaluate and measure the experience that people bring with them. Equally there are those people with a background of experience that I do feel would benefit from undertaking the CIPD qualification (In a nod to David Faik’s message, I do recall a tutorial that discussed gender biased language and the use of phrases like ‘man-management’ which opened my mind up to understanding why we should think carefully about using phrases like this – yes the CIPD made me THINK!).

    As with anything we have, it’s what you do with it that counts. As Keith said the choice is not CIPD qualified OR experience but rather the need/desire to have both.

    I’d like people to stop bashing the CIPD and think about how they can improve and influence what it is and what it does. I’m proud of my membership and I encourage others to join and get involved. I’d like to see some kind of funding for people on low incomes and keep opening the door to learning and professionalism instead of closing it.

  8. A reply from the CIPD (Part 2 of 2)
    In common with some of the contributors to this thread, we do not believe that a qualification in itself marks you out as an effective HR professional. But we do believe the CIPD qualification offers an extremely solid grounding for any aspiring HR professional.

    We do not have a monopoly of provision of the qualification. There are over 350 accredited centres (universities, colleges and private sector providers) through which you can study for the qualification or be assessed against our professional standards. The CIPD is only one provider amongst many. While people studying for a CIPD qualification pay their annual membership to the CIPD, and receive access to all our membership services in return, the cost of their programme of study is paid directly to the provider. In the majority of cases this provider is not the CIPD, and therefore the CIPD does not derive any income from people for their studies. The course or assessment fees you pay cover the cost to the provider, not the CIPD.

    Studying for any professional qualification – be it CIPD, law, accountancy, marketing or a qualification in many other disciplines – is not cheap. It is up to the individual (or in many cases their employer) to determine whether the benefit to the individual meets the cost. There are tens of thousands of people out there who have concluded that it is. And the clear research evidence shows they are benefiting. Our continually growing membership pays testament to the popularity of the qualification. We now have over 124,000 members, and over 45,000 of these are Chartered members.

    We also believe the profession as a whole benefits from the high standards we have set, and the Chartered status that it has helped us to secure for the profession. We are proud of the high standards that the CIPD qualification sets, and are committed to continuing to update it and improve it so that it remains relevant and accessible to all.

    Christine Williams
    Membership Manager

  9. A reply from the CIPD (Part 1 of 2)
    It has been interesting to read this discussion. Clearly there are differing viewpoints – some very positive about the CIPD qualification, some critical.

    The issue of whether to get a qualification or not in HR is a matter of individual choice – in a way that it is not, for example, for accountants or lawyers. Research consistently shows that those that do achieve chartered membership of the CIPD have access to a wider range of jobs, and command higher salaries. But we do not compel anyone to obtain the qualification

    However, we do firmly believe HR is a profession. Our primary role is to set a consistent level of professional standards for the profession. We set these standards at postgraduate level, which we believe is the appropriate level for a professional qualification such as ours. Certificate qualifications and undergraduate study can feed into the postgraduate qualification, but they are not a substitute for it.

    Our professional standards, which form the framework for the qualification, are constantly reviewed and regularly updated to ensure that the qualification keeps pace with the changing world of human resource management and development.

    The qualification, and the more recent addition of Chartered status, has contributed to a growing sense of confidence and professionalism in our sector. There are many effective HR professionals who do not have the qualification. But equally there are many experienced professionals choosing to follow professional assessment of competence routes to securing Chartered membership, in order to secure the recognition that their experience deserves.

    Experience is a very important part of the mix necessary to secure Chartered status. You have to demonstrate three years of relevant experience to move from graduate status to Chartered membership.

  10. The CIPD are watching …
    Thank you all for your comments, thoughts and opinions. I’ve asked the CIPD to respond so please watch this space.

    Best Wishes and keep the posts coming.

    Annie Hayes, HR Zone Editor

  11. Who’s kidding who?
    Like many other large training organisations, it sounds awfully like the CIPD are laughing all the way to the bank, whilst holding the HR trade to ransom.

  12. Some other organisations
    >>>>Can anyone suggest any CIPD alternatives?>>>

    The Institute of Training and Occupational Learning
    is a viable alternative for trainers as is the American Society of Training and Development who have a great resource base and would appear to challenge CIPD on their thinking in places.

    Trainers are often up in arms on the sister site Trainingzone, concerning the fact that CIPD doesnt appear to represent their views (particularly freelancers and dedicated trainers/consultants).

    I now note that the CIPD has relaxed its membership criteria so that virually anyone unqualified can join as an affliate, which renders the whole thing contradictory and pointless.

  13. Speculate to accumulate
    I have just spent 10 minutes reading the responses to this subject. As an HR professional in the field for 17years who part qualified in 95 and then CMCIPD in 2005, I thought I was from a different planet until I reached Keith’s response. I think that is spot on.

    I agree that CIPD qualification is expensive but the old addage goes, “you have to speculate to accumulate” and if by investing in time and money in getting the qualifications opens the door to a better more highly paid job surely the return is worth it. You could work out the payback for £2-3K invetsment returning a job with a £4-5K increase on-going.

  14. CIPD
    I have almost 20 years experience which counts for virtually nothing as I am not CIPD qualified. Often you won’t even get your CV past the recruitment agency as their client will only consider someone with CIPD qualification. For the same reason its pointless getting an alternative HR-related qualification – it just won’t count!

    I also personally believe that many companies asking for this qualification have no understanding of it, or the different levels of CIPD membership/qualification. I have a CIPD NVQ Level 3 (which I did after being wrongly advised that it would count towards getting full qualification) and a lot of employers/agencies automatically think this means I am fully qualified – when, in fact, it doesn’t even count towards partial qualification. Perhaps I should be less honest in the future, use it to get a foot in the door, then let my experience speak for itself!

  15. Promises Broken
    I graduated in 2003, with a 1st class honours degree in Human Reosurce Management. When I enrolled for the degree I did so because I would gain a degree and partial IPD (as was then) exemption. Mid way through my degree the institute received chartered status and in the last year of my degree I was informed that i would no longer receive the exemptions I would have previously received.

    For two years I studied a variety of HR modules which went above and beyond the electives (let alone core modules)you are expected to study for CIPD accreditation.

    I gained an entry level HR job 1 month after graduating and i am now a Senior HR Officer. I work closely with a number of colleagues who are completing their CIPD studies at the same institution as I gained my degree. Regularly they are given identical assignments to those I completed at undergraduate level. I therefore believe that the CIPD qualification would be of little benefit to my organisation and only of badge value to myself. I certainly don’t believe it would be a devlopment opportunity for me, if anything it may represent a backwards step.

    I have contacted the CIPD regarding any exemptions and they will not provide any for my undergraduate studies (which included a dissertation on working time regulations). I have taken the decision not to undertake the CIPD qualification as I can’t afford to waste time & money revisting ground I have already covered to a high level. My employer also takes the same view that if it is not going to add value it is of doubtful benefit.

    As an alternative I am ensuring that i receive maximum exposure and involvement in a variety of HR issues with my current employer through secondments, training courses and HR updates. I also keep a log of my achievements and learning points so that I can demonstrate my practical skills to future employers.

    I know my account sounds somewhat bitter but when you spend three years and pay thousands of pounds in tuition fees, only to find out that exemptions previously offered won’t be honoured it is very disappointing.

  16. CIPD membership – for whom?
    I have a very high regard for the CIPD, but with some 80 colleagues and associates within the management consultancy practice I chair, which is very heavily HR-skewed, we only find CIPD membership a ‘nice to have’. Post-grad qualifications and similar in Occ Psych, OD, Business Admin and the rest are far more important to us, coupled with suitable and demonstrable practical experience of course as appropriate, than any professional membership. More, this view seems to be echoed 100% by our clients in all sectors.

    I think the CIPD might do itself some considerable favours by encouraging such people (including myself!) to join and contribute at an appropriate level that recognises other education routes and past experience, not with Chartered status necessarily (of course?), but a little more welcomingly than as ‘Junior Ignorant Oik, 3rd class’!

    More, we might then be rather more inclined to recommend our own clients in recruitment-mode to seek CIPD members as candidates as a core requirement… and indeed encourage our own staff to join too.



  17. Are we a profession or not?
    Surely this is not an either or question.

    So the choice is not CIPD qualified OR experience but rather the need/desire to have both.

    Part of this comes back to the issue of is HR a profession or not? Would you recruit an accountant who was not professionally qualified? I guess not but what you would look for is one who has the professional qualification and then a certain amount of experience.

    I would agree that there are people out there who are CIPD qualified who I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole – but thats the same in all areas. Also I disagree fundamentally with people getting CIPD qualified at University as part of their first degree before they have entered work – this is pretty useless to me.

    But lets not get carried out – as a profession we need to set high entry standards and the CIPD route is definitely on the way to this. If anything we should make them tougher (sits back and waits for the disagreement)


  18. What benefit to the employer?
    Are there any employers out there who would be willing to join the debate by explaining why they specify the qualification as ‘essential’ when recruiting. What would you be looking for this ‘qualified’ person to bring to the company over and above a ‘non-qualified’ person?? Slightly loaded question I know.

  19. CIDP qualification
    Some HR professionals are able to climb the career ladder without obtaining the CIPD qualification, but most roles call for this qualification. For me personally I have increased my salary potential by gaining the qualification by the exam route then continuing on with cpd to gain FCIPD qualification all within a relatively short space of time.

    The qualification gives you credibility but needs to be gained alongside relevant work experience.

    Sandra Beale

  20. Will the CIPD Comment?
    I have e-mailed the editor and asked if she will get a comment from the CIPD with regards to the MANY postings here that suggest the CIPD should change its tune with regards to certification, relevance and cost.

    Let’s see if they join in the debate 🙂

  21. Hurray it’s not just me..
    I am so glad to see my views reflected in the other comments on this page.

    I have not completed my CIPD but am part qualified. My reasons for not completing are financial and time, I have considered the ‘portfolio’ route but the cost is still prohibitive.

    Also, I am not sure what I really get other than a ‘badge’ by completing the qualification – I read books and journals anyway and if i don’t know something I look it up.


  22. Pretty worthless
    I’ve recently successfully upgraded to MCIPD, but only to ensure my employment prospects are kept as open as they can be. The qualification itself hasn’t added anything to what I’ve learned on the ground in 7 years. It’s very expensive, very time-consuming and not adding value – in a prevous role where I was responsible for buying and evaluating training I wouldn’t choose a course/qualification because of these factors. Also, many graduates now come out of university with their degree and their CIPD qualification – how does this benefit the businesses when they have no actual experience? And I’m hoping that someone from CIPD is reading these pages as they’ve definitley got a problem on their hands.

  23. No but, yeah but, no but!
    Having worked in HR for around 5 years, and worked my way up the ranks within a small consultancy firm, I am now finding it increasingly difficult to prove my expertise due to lack of CIPD certification. I am currently about to start distance learning, however more and more organisations require the CIPD qualification as an entry point to HR roles.

    Whilst I agree that HR professionals should have a standard by which they practice, and by which they are certified, I feel that so much emphasis by organisations on the qualification, is severely limiting candidate choice. Having completed the Core Management modules and therefore studying with a mixture of students, I was astounded at the different levels of actual capability in the true HR environment for some of the students who sailed through these modules. Certainly practical experience should not be beneath the qualification in terms of selection criteria.

  24. CIPD Maybe not!
    Having worked in HR for 15 years and spent some time resolving ‘issues’ created by the supposedly ‘qualified’ I have a jaundiced view. Experience and a large dose of common sense are probably of more practical benefit than a row of letters after your name. Prospective employers of HR staff take note!

  25. I agree with Suzanne’s comment
    The driving factors here are revenues for the CIPD and the fact that a 6 year could sort CVs by “has CIPD qualifications” or by “doesn’t”. I’d probably find it hard to train that 6 year old to read the career history and tell me what areas the person had experience in, to what level etc.

    It is extremely expensive for an individual to get CIPD qualification self-funded, and while some can be done on blended courses all require attendance in person at some point – not practical for many.

    The CIPD avoid 100% on-line learning for certification because that would cannibalise existing revenues. They also charge a fortune and make it very time consuming to get accreditation for prior experience.

    A side effect of all this is that most CIPD qualified personnel have been sponsored through their courses by large businesses, to be blunt they are usually spoon-fed. In a profession that I would argue needs to bring in people with commercial oomph and clout I don’ think this does HR any favours.

    For example, is a Sales Manager who has bags of man-management experience and who is thinking of moving into HR going to want to do those “necessary” course modules that are frankly all about people admin? Or would someone with an operations background (highly HR relevant) bother to be re-taught basic things that they already know about, say, performance reviews?

    The CIPD have done a very good job of cornering the market on HR training and making their certification a right of passage, in turn generating lots of revenue. It would be very interesting to see what if any correlations there are between CIPD accreditation and on-the-job performance, and if other training was more cost effective.

    I frankly think that this increasing monopoly the CIPD has is highly damaging. It would be a lot healthier for our profession if there were two or three organisations offering differing HR / Training certifications and competing with each other.

    Can anyone suggest any CIPD alternatives? I know that you can join the SHRM (Society of Human Resource Managers) in the USA, that they offer many online training modules and that overseas membership fees are peanuts. They also offer good on-line resources, though clearly clearly anything that involves UK legal aspects of HR won’t be valid.

  26. Yes to CIPD accreditation or similar
    After working in HR and recruitment for over seven years, it has become evident that there is no substitute for on the job experience. CIPD qulaification can be attained through study or by professional recognition of experience at a senior level. While study does offer a grounding and a basic understanding of HR principles, it also allows students to think reflectively about their own work and the work of others. Emphasis is also placed on the strategic aspect of HR and ensures practitioners think less like personnel officers and more like businees partners leading the organisation. While a CIPD qulaification should not be the only prerequiste of a senior role in HR, other business related post graduate qualifications should count such as an MA or MBA, which do not necessarily grant automatic CIPD accreditation. Let’s keep the profession professional!

  27. Is the CIPD qualificaiton relevant for the independent consultan
    I have always valued being a member of the CIPD. However now that I run my own consultancy I sometimes wonder why I pay a yearly subscription to the CIPD who, among other things, are another training provider.

  28. Experience over CIPD
    I have worked in HR for over 6 years progressing through from HR Administrator to HR Advisor and now Personnel Manager. I have a Diploma in Personnel Management but am not CIPD qualified. I am however, studying for my CIPD distance learning as like so many other people I work full time and my work will not release me for any Uni classes or pay for it. I feel it is a real hinderence not having the qualification as every single advert you read says must be CIPD qualified. I feel that with over 6 years exp I am just as qualified as someone in a classroom. I am giving it a go distance learning but its difficult at times. Good luck to everyone wishing to choose HR as their career, it can be so rewarding in many ways.

  29. Would like, but don’t have!
    I am currently working as an HR Manager for a small firm in London. They did not require the full CIPD qualification (I am part qualified) as they are so small. I have had over 9 years experience of working in an HR department, 5 of those in a managerial role. It has been difficult to apply for roles that I know I am capable of doing, but because I do not have the CIPD qualification, it excludes me. It is very expensive to do, and my firm just won’t pay out the money. I also work a four day week, essentially working five days in four and to find the time with two small children as well, is nigh on impossible. I know there is open learning, but apart from sitting down at 10pm at night or given up my precious weekends with my kids, I would not be able to give the course the just time it deserves. I think firms when employing should stipulate CIPD is desirable as surely experience does count for something, not everything that you learn in the classroom, can prepare you for what happens in real life, reality is what really counts. A lot of advertisements stop you applying in the first instance, purely because its asks for the CIPD qualification. Not even giving peolple like myself a chance.

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