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The CIPD qualification: what you think about it

28th May 2019

We’ve previously examined the merits of the CIPD qualification and whether it’s worth the effort, exertion and exhaustion of studying (usually) part-time while working, but we wanted to know what you – the HR professionals community – thought about it. Is the qualification relevant? Is it important to hiring managers? Is it even relevant to the industry today?

According to the CIPD website, over 20,000 professionals are currently studying an HR and L&D qualification. We’ve spoken to a range of HR professionals, from hiring managers to directors and consultants, to discover their expert opinions on this evidently quite a divisive subject – and here’s what we found out.

Is the CIPD relevant in HR today?

When searching for a job in human resources, an industry qualification is considered a must for most HR jobs – in fact, in 50 per cent of cases, it was specified as a necessity. Just a quarter of job adverts didn’t mention it at all.

Our research discovered that the majority (63 per cent) of respondents who had qualified since 2010 firmly believe that you need the CIPD qualification in order to progress in the industry. And while it was acknowledged that HR experience is more valuable, they did rate the qualification as 8/10, with 75 per cent generally deeming it relevant.

Among respondents who qualified pre-2010, the views were mixed. Almost half (48 per cent) said that it remained relevant, while just 21 per cent categorically said it wasn’t relevant to HR today.

Some respondents claimed that the CIPD had some modernising to do in order to still be considered relevant and useful for modern HR professionals.

“It should be the leading body for people culture and development,” one business consultant wrote. “It should be pioneering new research and thought and challenging the norms as well as providing solid practical support and interesting analysis..”

Other comments were that while the organisation remained important, the qualification itself requires updated training or mandatory refresher qualifications:

“There is no requirement for those who gained it 20+ years ago, when it was a very different qualification, to keep themselves up to date/fresh in order to maintain their level of membership,” commented one respondent.

However, many people firmly asserted that it is still an important qualification for professionals seeking a career in HR. This self-employed HR professional wanted the qualification originally because it was mandatory for their role – they said of the CIPD: “It’s one way to show your professionalism to non-HR people and can be considered an alternative to a degree.”

Despite almost half of the respondents overall stating that the CIPD remained relevant today, when it comes to the question of qualifications over experience, then experience won hands down in our survey. Ninety per cent of respondents felt that HR experience was more valuable than the CIPD qualifications.

The benefits of the CIPD qualification

The CIPD itself states that gaining a qualification through them can increase your career prospects and earning potential, helping you gain the skills, knowledge and tools to support your organisation and progress your career. In addition, it can enhance your credibility and help build your own confidence to help you to handle the most pertinent people management and development issues.

When asked, 34 per cent agreed that having a CIPD qualification helps improve career prospects and over a fifth of respondents felt that it helped them to develop a fully-rounded knowledge of HR practice (21 per cent). Another benefit is that it enabled them to meet and network with other HR professionals (17 per cent).

The overwhelming feel from our survey respondents and the professionals that we interviewed is that the CIPD qualification acts as a badge that confirms your professionalism.

But does it have an effect on hiring decisions?

Gill Williams is an HR manager with an AssocCIPD qualification. She doesn’t require the CIPD qualification as standard when hiring, but she does need candidates to have HR experience and to show that they keep up to date with the latest HR developments. She says: “Two of the strongest HR leaders I know didn’t have it and it didn’t stop them going far. Conversely, I know some people who got their FCIPD years ago but have not kept their skills/development up to date. Personally, I feel it is a good standard and a good theoretical grounding but not necessary.”

Iain Atkinson is regional HR director for Asia Pacific at De’Longhi Group. He asks for candidates to be CIPD-qualified if it is relevant for the role he is hiring for: “Generally speaking, for HR advisor level positions and upwards I would look for the candidate to be qualified, as many of the activities they are responsible for require a good degree of technical competence.”

The reason for this, Iain explains, is that “While the qualification on its own does not guarantee that the candidate has the required level of technical skills, it does act as a good indicator and also demonstrates that the person is committed to pursuing a professional career in HR.”

Another freelance HR consultant who wished to remain anonymous, told us: “When recruiting for HR positions I always look for some sort of CIPD qualification, coupled with relevant HR experience, depending on the level of the role.

“Whilst the CIPD qualifications provide a platform of best practice knowledge, I have found that in-role experience is more beneficial for your HR career. However, the CIPD qualifications do help with the broad strokes of HR and also demonstrate that you can apply yourself.”

Safeguarding the future of CIPD

With such mixed views on the CIPD qualification and its relevance in HR recruiting today, what is the future for the qualification? We asked respondents what they felt the CIPD could introduce into the course.

Encouragingly, 14 per cent felt that nothing needed to be added, though other respondents suggested that the course content could include more practical application as well as business and problem-solving expertise.

Further responses called for improved study options (10 per cent) while seven per cent wanted more budget-friendly choices for those who are self-funding.

Overwhelmingly, however, HR professionals felt that the qualification needed to include more up-to-date content – with two-fifths (41 per cent) opting for modernisation.

However, nothing can dispute the fact that almost all of HR professionals (97 per cent) rated experience as more valuable than the CIPD qualification – so what does this say about what the CIPD needs to do as an organisation to stay relevant?

“Companies are looking for HR professionals who can show experience in the business world and what is needed to hire a diverse set of individuals versus a standardised CIPD approach to hiring and managing them,” said one HR director. “CIPD need[s] to become more forward-thinking.”

So should you study for the CIPD qualification?

It appears that a solid combination of experience combined with qualifications is always a good route where possible.

Here’s what our survey respondents thought:

  • 7/10 HR Managers
  • 7/10 Business partners
  • 5/10 Directors and
  • 8/10 Consultants felt it was worth having.

There are financial factors that will play into your decision of course – if your workplace is funding the course then it may be a very easy choice – but if you are self-funding then the fees, which can come to around £5,000, could mean saving up for a while. It is worth noting that there is the option for existing HR professionals to opt for the Experience Assessment accreditation, which doesn’t require an exam.

Ultimately, what we’ve discovered in our research is that although an official certificate from a recognised body can’t replace hands-on experience, the outstanding benefit for many hiring managers is that the CIPD qualification acts as an indicator of your technical skills and – perhaps more importantly – your commitment to a career in HR.

To talk further about our findings or to discover whether there’s a requirement for the CIPD qualification for your next HR role, get in touch.