Professional qualifications and business management courses can help to develop your skills as well as improve your prospects. Find out what the sector has to offer

Undertaking further management or consultancy training in the form of postgraduate degrees, professional qualifications or short courses is not always necessary but can seriously increase your career potential.

Business management courses

A large number of employers in the business sector accept graduates of any degree discipline. While postgraduate study isn't essential for entry, it can improve your employability and boost your business knowledge. What's more, a Masters could help you secure your first job and provide a basis for later professional qualifications. You could consider courses such as management or international business, or a more specific subjects like IT, marketing or human resource management. Search for postgraduate courses in business and management and discover what you can do with a business and management degree.

Most postgraduate courses give you the option of studying part time to fit around work commitments and some employers may even support employees by granting time off to study or by paying course fees. This is called employer sponsorship.

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced qualification designed for those with business experience wishing to progress to a senior level. MBA courses are highly regarded by employers, but the cost and reputation of programmes can vary widely - so research your options carefully.

Professional qualifications can aid career progression and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and ILM offer qualifications and training in general management for those already in post in areas such as leadership and team management, and coaching and mentoring.

CMI courses span the length of your management career from Level 2 (first-time or junior managers) through to Level 8 (senior managers or directors). Their coaching and mentoring programmes cover Levels 3 to 7. Qualifications are available at award, certificate and diploma level and cover team leadership, first-line management, management and leadership, strategic management and leadership, and coaching and mentoring.

A similar qualification structure is available via the ILM and courses cover team leading, effective management, leadership and coaching and mentoring.

Awards are the shortest qualifications and usually take one to three months to complete, certificates take between three to six months and diplomas can last up to a year.

Management consulting

Many large consultancy firms have structured-training programmes, while in smaller consultancies you'll learn on the job. Professional qualifications and training can be carried out while working and awards are offered by the Institute of Consulting (IC) and the Management Consultancies Association (MCA).

The IC provides a Level 5 qualification in Professional Consulting for those at the start of their career. No experience is required and the qualification can be studied at award, certificate and diploma level. It aims to deliver an introduction to the field of management consultancy. The Level 7 award in Professional Consulting develops your skills and knowledge of management consultancy and requires you to have a degree or at least five years business experience.

Becoming a member of a professional body such as the IC demonstrates your commitment to the profession and enables you to study for the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification, the ultimate accolade within consulting. You'll need at least three years professional experience and can study for the award at your own pace to fit around work commitments. To maintain your CMC status you'll have to undergo a re-certification process every three years.

Short courses are also a possibility with both the IC and MCA. The MCA Academy provides seminars, courses and workshops for management consultants at all levels covering writing business proposals (for junior consultants) through to high-level presentation skills (for partners).

Discover more about the role of a management consultant.

Project management

If you would like to move into project management but don't have a related degree, you could consider taking a Masters in the subject. Search postgraduate courses in project management.

Alternatively professional courses and qualifications can provide you with the required knowledge, skills and experience.

The Association of Project Managers (APM) provides the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification, an introductory certificate for new starters with no prior knowledge or experience, through to the Practitioner Qualification for experienced professionals. They also offer higher apprenticeships in project management.

A variety of certificates for experienced project managers are available from the Project Management Institute (PMI). In most cases you will need a degree and at least three years of project management experience for entry onto programmes.

Training courses can also be taken in PRINCE2 - a structured project management methodology. Courses are available at foundation, practitioner and agile level. Foundation courses are suitable for new candidates with a basic knowledge of project management processes. On completion you can then progress to practitioner level, which is aimed at working project managers.

To maintain your Practitioner status you will need to re-register within three to five years of your original certification. The agile qualification is aimed at those already certified to practitioner level.

IT consulting

Known as IT management if working in-house and IT consulting if working for clients, graduates of any degree discipline can enter this profession. If your undergraduate qualification is in an unrelated subject a postgraduate degree in IT or computing may increase your chances of finding work.

The BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) also offers a variety of qualifications to IT professionals at all stages of their career, from foundation to higher level. Through the BCS you can gain qualifications in IT service management and consultancy. Aimed at those in, or moving into a consultancy role, the Consultancy Practitioner Level Certificate requires you to have a recognised qualification or at least three years technical or business experience in your consultancy discipline. The BCS International Diploma in Consultancy is a higher-level qualification and is targeted towards business or technical specialists.

Gain an insight into the role of an IT consultant.

Marketing management

You can move into marketing management with a business-related degree but bear in mind that is not a graduate-entry profession. To become a marketing manager you will usually need three to five years' experience in a marketing or business role.

A marketing-based Masters may help if your undergraduate degree was in an unrelated subject. Search for postgraduate courses in marketing management.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offers a range of qualifications from foundation to postgraduate level. The Diploma in Professional Marketing (Level 6) is for those in supervisory or management roles and aims to develop both knowledge and skills. The Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing is targeted towards experienced marketers and senior business people who aim to work in strategic marketing management. The CIM also provide a variety of individual and in-house training courses.

Human resource management

If your interest lies in HR it is possible to move into this area with a business or management-related degree. Masters degrees are available and may help you secure a job if your undergraduate study is unrelated. Search for postgraduate courses in human resource management.

You can enter HR without professional qualifications but for middle and high-level posts, especially management, many employers prefer you to hold a professional qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Available in award, certificate and diploma form the intermediate (Level 5) and advanced (Level 7) qualifications are for aspiring and experienced HR managers and aim to expand your knowledge, skills and experience and to provide a pathway to chartered membership status.

Short training courses run by CIPD are also available and cover leadership, management and business skills, learning and development, employment law and employee regulations.

Risk management

Although not essential, many employers will look favourably on graduates of a risk management degree. If you're passionate about entering the risk profession but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level you could consider a Masters qualification to increase your chances of success. Search for postgraduate courses in risk management.

If you decide to forgo a Masters graduates of less relevant degrees can still achieve an entry-level role by studying for the Institute of Risk Management's (IRM) International Certificate in Risk Management; an introductory, distance-learning qualification perfect for candidates at the beginning of their risk career. No previous experience or qualifications are necessary and the certificate usually takes six to nine months to complete.

Graduates of a relevant degree can study for the International Diploma in Enterprise Risk Management - a postgraduate level qualification for risk professionals. Undertaken via distance learning, the diploma takes three years to complete. The first two modules lead to the International Certificate, which you must complete before moving on to modules three to six.

If you have your sights set on the financial sector the IRM cater for you too with the Certificate in Risk Management in Financial Services.

Other training providers include the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), which offers an e-learning foundation course in financial risk, suitable for new risk managers.

Learn more about the role of a risk manager.

Find out more

  • For information on graduate management schemes and business internships see getting a graduate job.
  • Jobs within business, consulting and management can often overlap with roles in the accountancy, banking and finance sector. Read up on finance qualifications for information on courses run by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.