While the practical skills gained from a Higher National Diploma (HND) can lead directly to the workplace, many students 'top up' this qualification to a full Bachelors degree
The academic equivalent of completing two-thirds of an undergraduate degree, these vocational courses take two years to complete if studied full time - or four years part time.
An HND can help you to secure employment in civil engineering, business and finance, graphic design and management roles, among other fields. As HND courses are structured around acquiring and developing the hands-on skills needed for particular careers, you'll likely be highly valued by employers.
For an explanation of undergraduate qualifications in the UK, see our guide to qualifications.
Should I 'top up' to a degree?
Depending on the course, the majority of HND graduates are eligible to enrol onto the final year of a Bachelors degree to 'top up' their qualification. This may be to become fully qualified for a specific role or to continue pursuing an area of interest.
Whether you choose to top up your HND qualification depends on the career path you'd like to take. While HND courses offer direct routes into many roles, 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 meets the required 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 at another university.
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 course from the beginning. Contact your chosen university to discuss your individual circumstances.
A full list of HND top-up courses offered at universities in the UK can be found at 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 full honours degree. As an HND graduate there may be opportunities for you, but you'll need to check the course 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 onto the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Similarly, you'll need to top up your HND to apply for the vast majority of graduate schemes - KPMG, BT and the Civil Service Fast Stream are among the organisations asking for complete degrees of varying standard (typically a 2:1 or 2:2 as a minimum requirement).
The UK's main air navigation service provider, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), is an exception to the rule, offering a structured development programme for HND-level engineering graduates.
See if your chosen course will accept HND graduates as you search postgraduate courses, or find out more about relevant Masters degrees. If you're looking to pursue a new career path, you may be interested in conversion courses.
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 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 range 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's on offer for funding postgraduate study.
What do other HND graduates do?
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 16% of recent HND graduates studied business studies, while 10% studied computer science and 8% electrical and electronic engineering. Sport and exercise science (5%) and hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism and transport (4%) were also popular choices.
Almost half of HND graduates - 47% - were in further study six months after graduation, with the majority (94%) studying towards a first degree.
In terms of the type of work HND graduates took on in the UK, 15% were employed in retail, 14% were working as engineering and building professionals and a further 11% in technical occupations in science and engineering.
What jobs can I get with an HND?
The top ten professional or managerial roles held by recent HND graduates working in the UK include:
- mechanical engineer
- engineering technician
- higher education teaching professionals
- ship and hovercraft officers
- welfare and housing associate professionals
- design and development engineer
- engineering professional
- electrical and electronics technicians
- programmers and software development professionals
- sports coaches, instructors and officials
Browse job profiles in specific sectors to see which fields have opportunities for HND graduates.
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 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. See 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 up opportunities for jobs and internships that would otherwise be unavailable to you.