HR courses

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
December, 2022

You'll need to gain the right skills and continuously keep them up to date if you want to have a successful role working in human resources

HR degree

Lasting three years, you'll study the basics of working in human resources - including staff recruitment and retention, strategy, training and managing people. Your first and second years will usually be spent covering general topics, while in your third year you'll be able to take optional modules that align with your career goals. You may also be asked to do a research project or dissertation.

You may also have the option of a placement year, usually after your second year. As well as gaining practical experience, you'll also earn a salary. However, doing this will extend your human resources degree to four years, so you'll have to weigh up what's best for you.

Some courses are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which means on graduation you'll receive a professional level of membership, subsequent to joining and membership fees.

Masters in HR

If you're a graduate looking to make a career change, or you have a relevant degree but want to deepen your HR knowledge to increase your chances of securing employment, consider studying for a Masters in HR to stay ahead of the competition.

Full-time HR Masters degrees typically take one year. Many institutions also offer the option of studying part time over two to four years.

The modules you take will depend on the course you're on, but generally you'll study:

  • the role of HR in organisations
  • improving employee relations
  • skills development, in relevant areas such as organisation, motivational techniques and retaining a team.

If you're more suited to distance learning, The Open University's MSc in Human Resource Management can be taken over the course of up to seven years.

Course fees vary. For instance, the London School of Economics (LSE) is charging £28,824 for 2023/24 entry onto its MSc Human Resources and Organisations. Southampton Business School offers its MSc in Human Resource Management for £14,756 for those starting in 2023.

Look into the specifics of your chosen course to make sure it's right for you before applying. Once you've made your decision, you can begin to look into postgraduate funding and deadlines.

CIPD courses

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the professional body for HR management professionals. To apply for many HR roles, you'll need to complete a CIPD-accredited course. 

They're offered at three levels, recognised by the Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF):

  • Foundation - this A-level (Level 3) equivalent qualification is for those starting out in their career or already working in support roles.
  • Intermediate - if you're already working in HR, this undergraduate standard (Level 5) qualification is for you to enhance your skills and knowledge.
  • Advanced - this postgraduate standard (Level 7) qualification is for experienced professionals looking to move up to a strategic level and become a chartered member.

As well as these levels, CIPD courses come in a range of sizes:

  • Award - a 'bitesize' qualification where you'll learn about one area of HR.
  • Certificate - the most popular entry-level qualification where you'll gain an all-round grasp of the essentials for a career in HR.
  • Diploma - the largest qualification.

CIPD offers full and part-time courses taught digitally, through block learning or by incorporating workplace evidence if you're taking the course while working.

If you study for an Intermediate or Advanced Certificate or Diploma, you'll be able to apply for associate CIPD membership upon obtaining your qualification. If you successfully complete the Advanced Diploma, you'll be eligible to upgrade to Chartered membership with the right experience and skills.

The individual centres that provide the courses set entry requirements and course fees. They'll also be able to advise you on application deadlines and start dates. To see what's available, search CIPD-accredited Masters courses.

Online HR courses

If your circumstances aren't suited to block learning or attending a college or university, there are plenty of online HR courses available. For example, you could take an online course with ICS, who offer HR courses up to the Level 7 Advanced Diploma.

Rather than a full course you could take shorter courses that focus on a particular topic. Peninsula's HR training consists of webinars held weekly, covering topics such as annual leave entitlements and statutory sick pay. You'll earn continuing professional development (CPD) credits from attending these webinars and have the opportunity to chat with the webinar leader.

There are also CIPD's HR short courses which are offered both residentially and in-house and delivered over one to three days. One example is ‘HR in practice, Essential Insights’, which is a self-directed 60-90 minute course that looks at the changing role of HR and the models of HR.

Discuss your options with your employer. They may be willing to foot the bill for any HR training you'd like to complete and will be able to help you find other training opportunities.

To find out more, search online postgraduate HR courses.

Recruitment training

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) is the UK's professional recruitment body, offering qualifications from GCSE standard, Level 2, to degree standard Level 5 on the RQF.

Diplomas are offered at Levels 4 and 5 for those aiming towards, or currently working in, senior roles within recruitment. You'll complete the qualification on the job, with flexible learning opportunities at Level 4 and on-demand enrolment at Level 5.

You could also carry out a recruitment apprenticeship, earning a wage as you learn on the job and gaining a recruitment qualification. Take a look at the REC list of approved providers to get started.

Joining a professional body such as the British Institute of Recruiters (BIoR) or the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) is optional in recruitment, although doing so can be valuable for developing networks and continuing professional development (CPD). Membership also gives you a professional identity within the industry and demonstrates your commitment to best practice, to delivering quality service to your clients and shows that you're taking your personal development seriously.

Find out more

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