While the work-based skills gained from a Higher National Diploma (HND) can lead directly to a career, many students use it as a stepping stone to an honours degree

Equivalent to the second year of a Bachelors degree, these vocational qualifications are usually studied full time for two years (or three years part time), preparing you for a career in a specific industry, such as engineering, business, hospitality, computer science, design or health and social care.

As HND courses are designed with particular job sectors in mind, the practical, skills-focused programme will give you a level of expertise that is valued by employers and some professional bodies.

Should I 'top up' to a degree?

It all depends on the career path you wish to take. If you want to apply for a graduate scheme or graduate-level job, you'll usually need to complete a degree - which is why most HND graduates decide to 'top up'.

Because the HND is a high-level qualification, it does give exemption from certain professional examinations; but you'll need to check which ones. For example, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) makes HND holders exempt from some foundation exams.

Before you make a decision:

  • check to see if your HND can get you into your chosen career with our job profiles;
  • work out if you can afford to study for a degree;
  • discuss your options with a careers adviser.

What are my options for further study?

You can use your HND to transfer onto the first, second or third year of a Bachelors degree, depending on how relevant it is to your degree. Acceptance into the final year is more likely if you've studied a similar subject and have a good academic history. You'll probably have to start in the first year if your chosen degree subject differs drastically from your HND. Contact your chosen university in advance of your application to determine the exact year of entry.

To move on to a degree course, you must apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) a year before the programme begins.

As an HND graduate, there may also be opportunities for postgraduate study, but you'll need to check the course entry requirements. It is widely believed that you need a higher qualification, such as an honours degree, to join a Masters programme - but there are certain courses where relevant work experience is just as highly valued, such as social work and business.

Explore the range of postgraduate qualifications available and search for postgraduate courses that accept HND graduates.

Can I get funding for further study?

If you're looking to make the step from an HND to a degree, you should be eligible for a student loan - provided you've not studied for an undergraduate degree before. Get more information about student loans and finance.

Institutions also offer bursaries or scholarships to students. Payments - either through instalments or lump sums - can be made to students for a variety of reasons, such as a scholarship for sporting excellence or financial support to help students from a poor background fulfil their academic potential. Get in touch with your chosen institution to find out if you meet their eligibility criteria.

For those looking to eventually pursue a postgraduate degree, funding may be available for this too. There are many options when it comes to financial help for Masters students, so find out more at funding postgraduate study.

What do other HND graduates do?

Almost a fifth (19%) of recent HND graduates studied business studies, while 7% studied either computer science or electronic and electrical engineering. General engineering (5%) and hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism and transport (4%) were also popular choices.

Almost half of HND graduates were in further study six months after graduation, with the majority (91%) studying towards a first degree.

Further study48.8
Working and studying16.3
Destinations of HND graduates
Type of workPercentage
Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff20.1
Other professionals, associate professionals and technicians11
Engineering and building professionals10.4
Childcare, health and education occupations7.9
Types of work entered in the UK

Destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

What jobs can I get with an HND?

The top ten professional or managerial jobs held by recent HND graduates working in the UK include:

  • electrical engineers;
  • other engineering professionals;
  • mechanical engineers;
  • engineering technicians;
  • design and development engineers;
  • electrical and electronics technicians;
  • civil engineers;
  • production and process engineers;
  • sports coaches, instructors and officials;
  • ship and hovercraft officers.

Most graduate-level jobs and graduate schemes call for a 2:2 degree or higher. To apply for these, you'll need to 'top up' your HND to a Bachelors degree.

Take a look at job sectors to find out which industries employ HND graduates, such as engineering and manufacturing, property and construction and marketing.

How can I increase my chances of getting a job?

Given the vocational nature of an HND, job opportunities may present themselves while you carry out work experience. The contacts made on your course may also prove useful when considering how to find a job.

It is important to use your CV to highlight the many skills that you've gained through your HND. For guidance on what a skills-based CV should contain, see our example CVs. You can also learn how to write a winning CV by visiting CVs and cover letters.

Do your research and find out the person attributes and skillset that companies are searching for. More information can be found at what skills do employers want?

One way to open up graduate-level job opportunities while ensuring that you're better positioned for entry onto employer graduate schemes is to pursue a degree after finishing your HND. You'll then be able to apply for many jobs and internships that were previously unavailable to you.