HR professionals who are CIPD members, a diverse bunch!

“CIPD qualified” is a statement that you occasionally see in job adverts, but what does it mean? It often confuses recruiters and sometimes I am asked exactly what does it mean.

In some ways, it can depend on who you are talking to, as it can be a subjective subject with various opinions. It could be based on someone having a CIPD qualification whether that be at Level 3, 5 or 7 (including accredited university qualifications) and having CIPD membership. Some might think it means being a Chartered member however to gain this you need 3 years practical experience at Management level* which destroys one advert I saw recently for an HR Advisor/HR Officer that insisted that applicants have Chartered CIPD membership! This vacancy was being handled by a third party that obviously didn’t know what it was advertising for but equally the fault rests with the client as they are obviously out of touch to send out such a nonsense brief!

The truth is there is no standard definition and the reason is over time, qualifications and standards change. The CIPD has a heritage that stretches back to over a hundred years but for our purposes, we only have to go back to the 1990’s.

24 years ago there were two professional institutes, the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) and the Institute of Training & Development (ITD), in 1994 these organisations came together to form the Institute of Personnel & Development (IPD). Members of both institutes were given new designations, for example, Associate members of the ITD became full members of the IPD (MIPD), there has been no requirement for members who qualified under the IPM or ITD to update their qualifications under the IPD’s qualification scheme. It is still possible to come across people who will have ITD or IPM Diplomas.

From 1995 the IPD had two level 3 certificate courses, one for HR and the other training. What was called the “professional level” was a complicated three-year course consisting of taking four exams in general management subjects the first year followed by three electives in the second followed by one elective and a module called Core Personnel & Development in the third year, there would also be an equal number of assignments to complete plus one management report. The exams were notoriously difficult to pass, in one year the pass rate was 50% of all students who undertook the exams, it wasn’t unusual to find students on the exam treadmill for five years taking resits. This course was merely a vehicle for gaining a membership grade as there were no actual qualification certificates at the professional level. If you completed year one successfully you became a Licentiate member of the IPD, Complete the professional scheme then you would become a Graduate member of the IPD, with the opportunity to upgrade to full member (MIPD) when you had gained the required management experience.

In the latter days of the Professional Development Scheme (PDS), course certificates were given to students who had either completed the first year or the whole course (Post Grad Certificate and Licentiate membership or Post Graduate Diploma and Graduate membership respectively).

In 2000 the IPD gained it’s Royal charter and thus became the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), for the first ten years the membership grades stayed pretty much the same as before, with Licentiate CIPD (Lic CIPD) being recognised as part qualified and Grad CIPD as the full qualification. The Licentiate grade was abolished in 2010 and Graduate CIPD a few years later, the CIPD claimed at the time that employers didn’t understand the designations despite the fact that “part qualified” candidates were being asked for by employers in job adverts!

In 2010 the CIPD decided to scrap the PDS in favour of running courses over three levels. The Certificate in Personnel Practice (CPP) and Certificate in Training Practice (CTP) were replaced by Level 3 qualifications at Award (one completed module), Certificate and Diploma.

A new Level 5 was added to the portfolio, again following the Level 3 with Award, Certificate, and Diploma. The Level 5 is completed via coursework and has no exams

The Level 7 followed the same format of Award, Certificate and Advanced Diploma, the latter is the same as a Postgraduate Diploma). The biggest difference between the L7 Advanced Diploma and the PDS is the number of exams, the Advanced Diploma only requiring two exams, the rest is coursework and a management report.

For the most part, the present qualifications were a sensible format to take the institute forward. My only criticism is that the present scheme is open to abuse by education providers particularly at Level 5, for example, one college each year advertises that it will be running a L5 Diploma but when the course starts it becomes a L5 Certificate, this means that students will not be covering the subject in a broad manner, add to the fact some colleges do this to keep their student contact hours down, this means that not only are HR students being cheated but the HR profession is as well. The only way to stop the abuse would be to only have a Certificate at L3, a Diploma at L5 and Advance Diploma at L7.

Other ways people have qualified included taking accredited university courses including Masters degrees, however once again there is non-level playing field here as over the past years there has been a mixture of courses that haven’t required exams to those that do, the latter is more common today! But It just may be that your MCIPD didn’t actually take any exams all those years ago and there is now no way to check!

We then come to professional assessment which is not a qualification but a vehicle for people with many years experience to gain Chartered membership.

So in conclusion, if you have a room of CIPD qualified professionals, then you will find that they probably have qualifications that are varied and one size doesn’t fit all.

*HR Management experience also includes the following:

HR Business Partner (the real mc coy not a glossed up HR Advisor role)
L&D Business Partner
HR Manager
HR Consultant
OD Consultant
L&D Manager
Reward Specialist
Talent Consultant

Published by


HR Professional, interests include HR Metrics, Workforce Analytics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s