While the practical skills gained from a Higher National Diploma (HND) can lead directly to the workplace, many students use the qualification as a stepping stone to an honours degree

The academic equivalent of completing two-thirds of a Bachelors degree, this vocational qualification requires two years of full-time study - with part-time courses taking up to four to complete. HND courses can help you secure employment in civil engineering, business and finance, graphic design and management roles, among others.

As HND courses are structured around gaining and developing the hands-on skills needed in particular sectors, you'll be highly valued in the eyes of employers.

For an explanation of undergraduate qualifications in the UK, how they differ from one another and their entry requirements see our guide to qualifications.

Should I 'top up' to a degree?

HND graduates are, in most cases, qualified to enrol onto the final year of a Bachelors degree to 'top up' their qualification. This may be to become fully qualified for a role or to continue pursuing an area of interest.

Whether you choose to top up your HND depends on the career path you'd like to take. While HND courses offer direct routes into many hands-on jobs, you'll need a full Bachelors degree to apply for graduate schemes or graduate-level jobs. A significant number of HND graduates choose to top-up their qualification for this reason.

Before you commit to a top-up year, search job profiles to see if your HND is enough to pursue your chosen career.

How do I get on to a degree course?

If your HND is of a high enough standard - usually at least a Merit certification - and the contents of both courses have similarities, you should be able to enrol onto the final year of a Bachelors degree with your HND qualification. This can be either with the same institution that validated your HND, or elsewhere.

However, if you're looking to pursue a degree with little relevance to your HND, you may have to enter the second year or start a Bachelors from the beginning. Contact your chosen university to discuss your specific circumstances.

You can search and apply for full-time, 2018 entry top-up courses through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Find out more about how to apply for university.

Can I do a Masters with an HND?

The majority of Masters programmes will require a complete degree. As an HND graduate, there may be opportunities out there for you - but you'll need to check the course-specific entry requirements, as these offers are limited.

If you're looking to enter the world of teaching, for instance, a complete degree is essential to enrol on the compulsory Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Similarly, you'll need to top up your HND to apply for the vast majority of graduate schemes - John Lewis, KPMG, BT and the Civil Service Fast Stream are among the organisations asking for complete degrees of varying standard.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) provides an exception to the rule, offering a structured development programme for HND-level graduates.

See if your chosen course will accept HND graduates as you search postgraduate courses, or find out more about Masters degrees. If you're looking for postgraduate education in order to pursue a new career path, you may be interested in applying for a conversion course.

Can I get funding for further study?

HNDs are eligible for government funding from Student Finance. As borrowing is restricted to your first qualification, funding becomes limited if you're looking to top up your HND to a full Bachelors degree as this is widely considered as a second qualification. Find out more about student loans and finance.

Your institution may be able to help with additional bursaries, scholarships and grants, which cater to a number of circumstances. Whether you're an exceptional athlete worthy of a scholarship or from a disadvantaged background in need of financial aid, it's worth checking with your institution to see how they could help you.

You may also be able to secure funding to enrol on a postgraduate course. Discover what could be on offer to you at funding postgraduate study.

What do other HND graduates do?

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 17% of recent HND graduates studied business studies, while 9% studied computer science and 8% electrical and electronic engineering. Hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism and transport (5%) and general engineering (4%) were also popular choices.

Almost half of HND graduates - 49% - were in further study six months after graduation, with the majority (91%) studying towards a first degree.

In terms of the type of work HND graduates took on in the UK, 13% were employed in retail, 7% were working as engineering and building professionals and a further 6% in technical occupations in science and engineering.

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.

Take a look at the job sectors to see which fields have opportunities for HND graduates. Some of these opportunities can be found in marketing, advertising and PR, public services and administration, leisure, sport and tourism and transport and logistics.

If you're considering where to go next you could search graduate jobs, or visit what can I do with my degree? for guidance. Bear in mind that these resources are tailored to graduates of complete degrees, so be sure to check for specific entry requirements on any career that interests you.

How can I increase my chances of getting a job?

Due to the vocational nature of an HND, you may find opportunities will arise during your time in the workplace. If you're carrying out work experience alongside your studies, not only will you develop and hone the skills employers are looking for, but you'll build contacts that could be useful in your job hunt.

HND graduates have the advantage of gaining a wealth of practical, specialised experience prior to securing their first graduate position. You'll want to emphasise your assets in a skills-based CV and cover letter to impress your potential employers. Visit what skills do employers want? for an idea of what to include.

In the graduate climate, topping up your HND to a complete degree is an effective route into employment. Holding a Bachelors degree opens you up to jobs and internships that would otherwise be unavailable to you.