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CIPD Levels

CIPD Levels 3, 5 and 7 explained

The different CIPD levels provide a qualification route throughout your career. The CIPD levels are each designed to support progression at different points in your career but don’t always have to be taken in order.

Key Information

Level 3: Foundation

Certificate: 6 modules: 6-8 months
Diploma: 8 modules: 8-10 months
Equivalent to A-level

Level 5: Intermediate

Certificate: 6 modules: 6-8 months
Diploma: 8 modules: 8-10 months
Equivalent to undergraduate degree level

Level 7: Advanced

Certificate: 4 modules: 10-12 months
Diploma: 8 modules: two years
Equivalent to master’s level

The Levels

Level 3: CIPD Foundation in Human Resources / Learning & Development Practice

The CIPD Level 3 qualifications provide a pragmatic introduction to all aspects of HR or L&D. If you are working as a HR or learning and development (L&D) administrator or want to move into the field, this is the level for you. You will build skills such as performance appraisal and resourcing talent (HR route) and identifying learning needs and designing learning solutions (L&D route).

Level 5: CIPD Intermediate in HR / L&D Management

CIPD Level 5 is ideal if you already have some HR/L&D experience and are ready to progress in your career. Alternatively, if you don’t have much relevant work experience but have a degree you could also skip straight to Level 5. You will build a deeper understanding of either the HR or L&D function within your organisation. Assignments will ensure you’re evaluating models and practices as well as thinking strategically to support the performance of your organisation.

Level 7: CIPD Advanced in Human Resource Management / Development

The CIPD Level 7 Advanced qualification is the highest-level offered by the CIPD and is equivalent to postgraduate study. It is designed to equip you with the knowledge required to develop and implement strategic and innovative solutions to support organisational growth and performance as a HR or L&D professional. You will gain essential skills in business leadership and leading and managing people. You will be able to analyse the external environment and writing business reports to persuade and influence stakeholders. The Level 7 Diploma will prepare you for Chartered Membership of the CIPD.

MSc in Human Resource Management

The Level 7 Diploma gives you 120 credits at master’s level. To add the designation MSc after your name (as well as Chartered MCIPD) you will need to take a further 60 credits. One way you can do this is to complete a 15,000-word work-based dissertation. For more information on this option see our HR Masters Top-Up Programme.

Watch our video: Which Level Should I take? 

How will you be assessed?

There are written assessments at each level which are set by the CIPD, often in the form of a report. The idea is that they look a little like a report you might submit to senior leadership to put forward a new idea or system.

At level 3 and 5 these written assessments follow the learning objectives for the module. Whereas at level 7 the learning objectives are more intertwined throughout the assessment.

The CIPD Level 3 is a practical qualification whether you chose HR or learning and development. This means you will complete practical assessments in class. Depending on the options you choose this might include recruitment interviews, coaching or training sessions. You will work with your tutor and peers to perfect these skills in a safe environment.

If you want to go for certified membership of the CIPD and take your Level 7 Advanced Diploma there are a couple of extra steps you will need to take. You will complete a 7000-word research project on an aspect of HR or L&D of your choice. You will also need to take two exams; Leading, Managing and Developing People and HR Management in Context. Each exam is split into two sections. Section A is a pre-released case study and section B is a set of questions which follow the objectives for the module. To find out more about how to succeed in your CIPD Level 7 exams check out 8 Top Tips from a CIPD Examiner.

CIPD Award, Certificate or Diploma?

Now you’re a bit more confident with the different CIPD levels there is just one more step to get your head around. How big a qualification you would like to take?

Award: these bite-size qualifications are perfect if you’re looking to build a specific skill or update your knowledge. They’re also suitable if you’re not a in a position to commit to a full qualification.

Certificate: a certificate is six modules at Level 3 and 5 and four modules at Level 7. This size of qualification is will cover the core skills you need for a career in HR or learning and development.

Diploma: this is the most comprehensive option where you will take eight modules to cover the full spectrum of skills needed for a highly successful career.

Previous versions of the CIPD qualifications

Changes to CIPD levels and qualifications were made in 2010, a year after the original CIPD profession map was launched. If you took a CIPD course before this time you might well have one of these certificates at home:

  • CIPD Certificate in Personnel Practice (CPP) = Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Human Resource Practice.
  • CIPD Certificate in Training Practice (CTP) = Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Learning & Development Practice.


Advice and guidance

For more information about the different CIPD levels, speak with one of our Course Advisors. They will talk through your experience and expectations, offering advice on which is the best qualification to get you where you want to be. Click here to contact us.


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