Level 3 Foundation qualifications

CIPD Level 3 Foundation qualifications (Awards, Certificates and Diplomas) are perfect if you want to acquire a wide range of relevant practical skills in Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D).

Who are CIPD Foundation qualifications for?

CIPD Foundation qualifications are suitable for those:
  • wanting to gain the essential knowledge and skills required to move into HR or L&D

  • working in an HR or L&D support role but who do not hold a formal HR or L&D qualification

  • line managers with responsibility for people management and development

  • looking to become a professional member of the CIPD (Associate Assoc CIPD).  

Level 3 Foundation Qualification options

CIPD offer a flexible range of Foundation qualifications that vary in size, content and length. You’ll gain credits for successfully completed units and the total number achieved will equate to:

  • a Foundation Award (the shortest and bite-size qualification)
  • a Foundation Certificate (medium scope qualification)
  • a Foundation Diploma (the most extensive qualification).

These qualifications are on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) at Level 3 (equivalent to A Level). This is comparable to Level 5 in Ireland, Level 6 in Scotland and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) Level 4.

Foundation Certificate and Foundation Diploma qualifications share the same three core units (10 credits) - see below.

Core units

Unit nameCredit value
Developing Yourself as an Effective Human Resources or Learning and Development Practitioner
Understanding Organisations and the role of Human Resources
Recording, Analysing and Using Human Resources Information

In addition the total number of optional units (see below) taken will determine a Foundation Certificate (28 credits) or Diploma (37 credits) outcome.

HR Optional Units

Unit nameCredit value
Resourcing Talent
Supporting Good Practice in Managing Employment Relations
Supporting Good Practice in Performance and Reward Management
Contributing to the Process of Job Analysis
Supporting Change within Organisations

L&D Optional Units

Unit nameCredit value
Undertaking a Learning Needs Analysis
Preparing and Designing Learning and Development Activities
Delivering Learning and Development Activities
Evaluating Learning and Development Activities
Developing Coaching Skills for the Workplace
Developing Mentoring Skills for the Workplace3

Further details about the content of each unit can be found within Unit Summaries at Foundation Level (PDF 106 KB). Further details about the structure of the CIPD Foundation Certificate qualifications and the combination of units you can take can be found within Rules of Combination at Foundation Level (PDF 64 KB)

Level 3 Foundation Certificates

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate is a medium scope qualification. A popular entry-level qualification, it offers comprehensive coverage of essential subject areas and provides a firm introduction to HR and L&D in a wider business context.

CIPD offer two Foundation Level Certificate qualifications:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in Human Resources Practice (QCF)
  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in Learning and Development Practice (QCF)

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate qualification is a total of 28 credits (including three core units, 10 credits in total and 18 credits taken from optional units).

Study duration
A Certificate qualification consists of a total of 280 study hours, of which 140 hours should be private study. On average it can take nine months to complete, however this will depend on your chosen  centre and your study mode.

Level 3 Foundation Diplomas

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma qualification is the most comprehensive qualification at this level, covering the most units. It enables you to develop your skills of HR and L&D through studying more subjects and widening your breadth of knowledge in HR and L&D.

CIPD offers two Foundation Level Diploma qualifications:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Human Resources Practice (QCF)
  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Learning and Development Practice (QCF)

A CIPD Level 3 Foundation Diploma qualification is a total of 37 credits (including all three core units at 10 credits and the remaining 27 credits from the optional units in HR and L&D).

Study duration
A Diploma qualification (37 credits) is a total of 370 study hours of which 185 should be private study.  On average it can take 12 months to complete, however this will depend on your chosen  centre and your study mode.

Level 3 Foundation Awards

An Award is the smallest size of CIPD qualification. You can study bite-size topics and gain knowledge from a range of professional areas in HR and L&D, enabling you to build a qualification that suits your specific professional needs.

CIPD Foundation Awards are suitable for those:

  • with limited time and require greater flexibility to study a subject or two, without completing a full Certificate or Diploma qualification
  • who are looking to build on or refresh their existing professional knowledge after completing a CIPD Foundation Certificate or Diploma qualification
  • who are specialists wishing to pick up knowledge specific to their area of work.

CIPD offers two Foundation Level Award qualifications:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Award in Human Resources Essentials (QCF)
  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Award in Learning and Development Essentials (QCF)

An Award qualification can be made up of any one unit or a combination of units totalling between 2-12 credits.

Study duration
Studying an Award (2-12 credits) takes between a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 60 study hours. This will depend on what unit(s) you study, your chosen centre and your study mode.  On average it can take between one to six months to complete.

Next steps

CIPD qualifications are delivered at CIPD centres in the UK, Ireland and internationally. You can study full- or part-time, in a block format or distance learning. Mixed mode is also available for more experienced professionals. Find a CIPD approved centre who delivers your chosen CIPD qualification by using our centre and qualification search.

CIPD membership

Once you have decided on your CIPD qualification and have registered with your chosen approved centre, you will join the CIPD as Student member. As well as increasing your professional credibility with employers, CIPD membership will also give you exclusive member-only access to the latest HR and L&D resources, development tools, networking opportunities and discounts. Plus continuing your membership beyond your studies will ensure your progression to achieving professional membership of the CIPD. Successully completing your CIPD qualification means you’ll automatically upgrade to Associate member, which is a professional level of CIPD membership. Becoming a professional member of the CIPD will enhance your career prospects and earning potential. As an Associate professional member you’ll be able to use the letters Assoc CIPD after your name.

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