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CIPD Levels: Explained | reed.co.uk

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Interested in advancing your career in HR or L&D? CIPD could be the perfect fit…

Not only will it improve your knowledge and skills in everything from employment law to talent management, it could also help you achieve a much higher salary than your peers in personnel.

We’ve already covered how CIPD could change your career, but to make sure you understand which qualification is right for you, here’s a rundown of the different CIPD levels:


What is the CIPD?

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) is an independent organisation that aims to improve working life for everyone in employment.

Founded over a century ago, it’s completely non-profit, and even incorporated under a Royal Charter.

They also offer a range of qualifications which are the industry standard for HR and aim to promote world-class people management practices.


How many CIPD levels are there?

CIPD provides three distinct qualification levels to suit people at different points in their career: Level 3, Level 5, and Level 7.

Completion of Level 7, which is equivalent to a postgraduate degree, can lead towards becoming a Chartered Member.


CIPD Level 3

What is it?

The CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Practice provides a solid grounding in HR and L&D for those with little or no HR experience. It’s roughly equivalent in difficulty to an A-level.

At Level 3, you can choose the pathway that applies to your chosen profession in HR or L&D. Core modules for both pathways include: 

  • Essentials of People Practice
  • Core Behaviours for People Professionals
  • Business, Culture and Change in Context
  • Principles of Analytics

If you qualify with a Level 3 Certificate, you’ll become a Foundation member of the CIPD. 


Who’s it for?

CIPD Level 3 is ideal for those who are just starting their HR or L&D careers, or who are brand new to the industry – making it the perfect choice for anyone looking for an entry-level role.


How long will it last?

Qualifications can be studied on a full or part-time basis, at dedicated CIPD training centres or online.

On average, a CIPD Level 3 qualification will take between seven and nine months to complete.


What jobs could you qualify for?

Once you’ve completed the CIPD Level 3 qualification, you’ll be certified to pursue the following positions:

  • HR Assistant
  • HR Administrator
  • HR Officer
  • HR Coordinator
  • Trainer
  • L&D Assistant
  • Training/L&D Coordinator
  • Training/L&D Officer
  • L&D Practitioner


What could you earn? 

The average annual salary for those qualified to the equivalent of the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in the private sector is £25,000.

CIPD Level 3 courses

CIPD Level 5

What is it?

CIPD Associate Diploma qualifications are classed as Level 5 qualifications, meaning they’re roughly equivalent in difficulty to a foundation degree.

There are two CIPD qualifications at this level, one in HR and one in L&D:

They’re designed to give you the skills you need to take on mid-level managerial or advisory HR/L&D roles.

If you qualify with a Level 5 Diploma, you’ll become an Associate Member of the CIPD and be able to add Assoc. CIPD after your name.


Who’s it for?

CIPD Level 5 is designed for those with some level of HR experience (and/or have completed the CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate) who are looking to progress in HR and L&D and apply for management roles.

It also suits people who have no prior HR experience, but who have previously studied at degree level.


How long will it last?

A CIPD Associate Diploma will take around 12 to 15 months to complete, with the same study options available as for Foundation Level training.


What jobs could you qualify for?

Once you’ve completed the CIPD Level 5 qualification, you’ll be certified to pursue the following positions:

  • HR Manager
  • HR Advisor
  • People & Culture Manager
  • People Advisor
  • Training/L&D Officer
  • Training/L&D Manager
  • Training/L&D Advisor


What could you earn? 

If you secure a typical job at this level, your average annual salary would be in the region of £42,000.

CIPD Level 5 courses


CIPD Level 7

What is it?

CIPD Advanced qualifications are classed at Level 7, meaning they’re equivalent in difficulty to postgraduate/Master’s degree qualifications.

CIPD Level 7 qualifications give you the high-level strategic knowledge you need for senior strategic HR or L&D roles. 

There are two CIPD qualifications at this level, one in HR and one in L&D:

Only the CIPD Level 7 Diploma will make you eligible to apply to become a Chartered Member of the CIPD.


Who’s it for?

Advanced Level qualifications are ideal if you have significant HR experience and want to progress to strategic senior managerial roles. 

It’s also a good next step for those with an HR degree and/or a CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma.

People who sign up for a Level 7 qualification will learn how to develop and deploy cutting-edge HR tactics – helping them hone their strategic skills and gain specialist knowledge.


How long will it last?

A Level 7 Diploma will typically last around 18-24 months, although this will vary according to how you choose to study and where you receive your training.


What jobs could you qualify for?

Once you’ve completed the CIPD Level 7 qualification, you’ll be certified to pursue the following positions:

  • HR Business Partner
  • HR Consultant
  • Head of HR
  • Head of People and Culture
  • HR Director
  • Training/L&D Director
  • Head of Training/L&D
  • L&D Consultant 


What could you earn? 

The average annual salary for one of these senior roles is approximately £65,000, but can vary dramatically depending on the seniority of your role.

CIPD Level 7 courses


Benefits of CIPD Qualifications

The CIPD is recognised globally and has over 160,000 members worldwide.

Once CIPD qualified, you’ll be able to instantly demonstrate your HR or L&D credentials to employers on your CV – helping you to validate your skills and stand out from other applicants.

You’ll also have the potential to earn more money. Entry-level salaries for CIPD Level 3 certified HR professionals, for example, start between £20,000 and £25,000 which is at least £5,000 to £10,000 more in earnings than those starting without a CIPD qualification. 

And with most fully-certified HR Managers and Directors earning a salary of £60,000 and above, getting CIPD qualified could be the key to a highly lucrative HR career.


Why study with ICS Learn?

ICS Learn is the UK’s most trusted provider of CIPD courses*.

They offer the full suite of CIPD qualifications through flexible, 100% online study, and have helped thousands of people in 100+ countries to advance their careers.

Benefits of studying with ICS Learn include:

  • They’re the world’s most experienced distance and online learning organisation, specialising in flexible learning for over 130 years
  • Study with the UK CIPD Centre most recommended by students
  • Easily shape your study around work and family with online & flexible learning options
  • Unlimited 1:1 tutor support & live online classrooms
  • Interest-free payment plans & price-match guarantee
  • 93% CIPD pass rate


Find out more



Want to learn more about CIPD? Get in touch with ICS Learn today.



* based on an Excellent Trustpilot rating of 4.7 from 9,800+ reviews



ICS Learn is the world’s most experienced distance learning organisation. Whether you’re looking for career advancement, a promotion, a higher salary or a new direction, ICS Learn’s flexible online courses are your first step towards success.



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