We’ve narrowed down six ways for you to build the understanding, knowledge and experience you need to secure your first role in the people profession.

1. Qualifications

Qualifications allow you to increase your knowledge and skills in your chosen area of study. You can usually choose to study in a range of different study modes, from full time or part time learning to block learning or digital learning. There are two types of qualifications which enable you to enter the people profession: accredited professional qualifications and specialist university degrees.

Accredited professional qualifications

Whether you plan to study full time, part time or through distance learning, CIPD qualifications develop the essential knowledge and skills employers are looking for.

A five-step guide to choosing the qualification that’s right for you.

Learn more

Specialist university degrees

You could, alternatively, study a specialist university degree in Human Resource Management. Note that not all degrees reach the CIPD’s standard of accreditation, so they don’t all provide automatic entry into professional membership. When researching degree options, make sure you check in with the university to see whether the course is CIPD-accredited.

Search ‘human resource management’ on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) for information on the courses available and the universities that run them.

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Considering studying a CIPD qualification? Take a look at our FAQs for prospective students.

2. Networking and communities

The people community is always happy to share their experiences with others. CIPD LinkedIn is a great place to connect with peers, while the CIPD Community and branches enable you to connect with fellow people professionals - online and in person.

By becoming a CIPD member, you get access to a community of like-minded people professionals, tools and support to kick-start your career journey, including our member-only LinkedIn group - an effective way to put you in touch with relevant people networks.

I find this one of the most useful aspects of being a CIPD member. The collective knowledge, experience and support is so valuable, especially in organisations where HR can sometimes feel like a lone dissenting voice. I think it gives us all confidence to do our jobs well, thoughtfully and fairly.

Nina Waters

Chartered Member

Ways the CIPD can help you network

3. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are paid jobs combining practical, on-the-job training with off-the-job learning. In HR and L&D, a level 3 apprenticeships can offer structured entry level routes into the people profession, whilst a level 5 apprenticeship can give experienced workers the opportunity to ‘upskills’ and progress in their careers.

4. Graduate development programmes

A number of large employers offer university graduate programmes in HR. Although you don’t always need an HR degree to apply, employers may sometimes help you gain a CIPD-approved postgraduate qualification if you successfully secure a place on their programme.

You can take a look at the types of graduate programmes out there by visiting the Prospects website.

5. Work experience

If you’re hoping to gain practical skills relevant to the profession, why not look at job shadowing or placements, or even projects you can get involved in? You could, for example, take on additional responsibilities for a project in your organisation or seek out new volunteering opportunities.

A great way to make yourself stand out is to gain some work experience while you study. Many charities, like St John’s Ambulance, are always looking for support from volunteers.

6. Direct hire

In addition to formal development programmes, many organisations look for direct hires at more junior levels. It’s not always essential you possess specific work experience, though transferrable skills (like communication skills) and experiences (like team working) always come in handy.

Browse the latest UK and international vacancies from employers in the private, public and third sectors.

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Career guidance

Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break

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