We’ve outlined a variety of ways to build the understanding, knowledge and experience you need to secure your first role in the people profession. 

1. Study for a qualification

Studying for a professional qualification allows 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 possible study routes: CIPD qualifications and CIPD accredited university programmes.

CIPD qualifications 

CIPD qualifications 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.

CIPD accredited university programmes

Alternatively, you could 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. You can use our centre finder below to find accredited universities and other study centres. 

Choose where to study your qualification from our range of centres around the world

Find a study centre

What’s it like to study for a qualification in the people profession?

Read our qualification success stories

Case study

Louella Ibekwe's qualification story

Louella describes her experience of using qualifications to enter the people profession

Case study

Wuraola Obisesan's qualification story

Wuraola describes her experience of using qualifications to enter the people profession

Case study

Claire Kelly's qualification story

Claire describes her experience of using qualifications to enter the people profession

2. Apply for a graduate development programme

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.

What’s it like to take part in a graduate development programme in the people profession?

Read our graduate development programme success stories 

Case study

Aoibheann Scullion - HR Graduate

Aoibheann Scullion tells us what it's like being on an HR Graduate scheme

Case study

Sam West - HR Graduate

Sam West describes being a HR Graduate working in Milton Keynes at Network Rail

3. Get on the job experience

In addition to formal development programmes, many organisations look for direct hires at more junior levels. Specific work experience is not always essential, but transferrable skills (like communication skills) and experiences (like team working) always come in handy.

4. Transition from another career

If you’ve already developed experience in one career, you may be able to use your transferabble skills to transition into the people profession – without having to start again at the bottom of the ladder.

For example, if you’re currently working as an employment lawyer, you could be well suited to an in-house legal role at a large organisation, and could eventually become a Head of Employee Relations. Or if you’re taking the lead as an engineer on technical training in your organisation, you could transition into a wider learning and development role. Or if you’ve worked as an executive coach with a background in Occupational Psychology, you could eventually become a Director of Organisational Development. 

What’s it like to transition into the people profession?

Read our career transition success stories 

Case study

Lisa Farthing's career transition story

Lisa describes how she moved from a career in talent acquisition to becoming an HR Consultant

Case study

Sorcha Bangham's career transition story

Sorcha explains how she decided upon her career transition from secondary school teacher to L&D Manager

Case study

Lindsay Allen's career transition story

Lindsay describes the transition from senior management consultancy to working as an HRD

Case study

James Mowle's career transition story

James tells of his transition from his role in the Army to a career in HR

More career transition stories

Career options in the
people profession

Explore the twelve career areas within the people profession, and the typical activities you may find yourself doing

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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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