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Navigating your career in HR

Whether you’re starting from scratch or already have a bit of HR experience under your belt, this blog will serve as your trusty compass if you’re after a career in HR in the UK but are wondering, “Where do I start?”

Let’s look at the various HR career paths to help you secure your first role in the people profession.

CIPD qualifications: Boost your knowledge and skills.

Studying for a professional qualification is an excellent way to enhance your expertise and get a rewarding career in HR.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offers a range of qualifications suitable for HR professionals at different stages of their careers. Starting with CIPD Level 3 for foundational knowledge and moving up to CIPD Level 7 for advanced strategic HR management skills.

These qualifications are recognised by employers as the global standard of excellence. And they show the profession you value knowledge and ethical practice:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Practice: This foundation-level course covers essential HR principles, offering a solid grounding in HR practices. It will set you off on the right HR career path.
  • CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in People Management: This intermediate course delves into complex HR concepts, such as talent management, organisational development, and employee engagement. It will help steer you on the course for a higher salary and position. (There’s also a CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Organisational Learning and Development if you’d prefer to pursue a career in L&D.)
  • CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management: This is the pinnacle of HR excellence, designed for seasoned HR professionals or people who have completed Level 5 and are ready to tackle strategic HR management. This qualification could help you earn a salary of £80,000 and above in an HR Manager or HR Director role.

Our interactive CIPD learning programmes are 100% online, so you can study around your existing job and life commitments. Just like over 27,000 other people have!

Apprenticeships: Combine on-the-job training with study

In England, apprenticeships offer a practical route into the HR profession. They offer a salary and a combination of on-the-job training and off-the-job learning.

The two types of apprenticeship are:

  • Level 3 (advanced apprenticeship): This is an entry-level route for those just starting their HR careers, providing structured training and development opportunities.
  • Level 5 (higher apprenticeship): Designed for experienced professionals, this higher-level apprenticeship offers a chance to upskill and progress in your HR career.

Graduate schemes: Launch your career in HR with top employers.

Many large employers in the UK offer graduate development programmes in HR. While you may not always need an HR-specific degree to apply, these can be a great entry point into the industry.

Once onboard, you might be able to get your employer to fund your CIPD qualification, so you can move up the career ladder faster. We can even support you in developing a business case to help make that happen.

Entry-level jobs: get your foot in the company door

While a CIPD qualification or HR experience will help get your CV to the top of the interview pile, it’s also possible to secure an entry-level HR position with transferable skills, such as communication and teamwork.

Look out for roles like HR Administrator, HR Assistant or HR roles that include ‘junior’ or ‘entry level’ in the name.

Sidestep: transition to a career in HR

It’s perfectly possible to use the experience and transferable skills you’ve gained in a completely different field to get your dream job in the people profession.

For example, if you’ve been working in data, you could transfer your skills into the areas of reward or people analytics. Or if you’ve led as an engineer on technical training, you might be able to transition into an L&D role. There are plenty of similar opportunities, meaning you don’t have to start again at the bottom of the HR career ladder.

While this career guide will help you understand the various routes into the people profession, it’s important to chart your own HR career path, so you can channel your efforts towards your end goal.

Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in the future?” and “What skills do I need to get there?” Once you’ve worked out your end goal, you can break the journey down into smaller goals and use them as a handy checklist to keep you on track. Good luck!

Nilesh Jha