Training professionals who decide to get their personal development in order
are finding there is a myriad of qualifications to choose from. Patrick McCurry
highlights the benefits of some of the most popular courses
Professionals working in training and HR should know better than most the
value that qualifications hold in career progression and employability.
Taking the right qualification can not only provide increased knowledge for
the job, but also demonstrate commitment to the practice and open the door to
interviews further down the line.
But what extra qualifications should training and HR practitioners consider?
And what are the pros and cons of different forms of study?
The range of courses available include diplomas in HR-related areas, MAs,
MScs and MBAs, as well as the CIPD programme.
Jenny Davenport, director of work relationships consultancy People in
Business, says: "Qualifications can bring big benefits in the way you do
your current job and for your longer-term career."
In your current position, having an extra qualification often means people
listen more seriously to your views on, say, a change management programme.
"They know you’re basing your opinions on what you’ve learned and so
you get extra clout," says Davenport.
When it comes to changing jobs or seeking promotion, having a respected
extra qualification could make a crucial difference between whether someone
gets the job or not, she adds.
Diplomas delivered through universities and other institutions tend to be
aimed at more junior-level staff and many are accredited with the CIPD and lead
to associate or graduate membership.
Of the post-graduate courses, MScs are often fairly specialist, while MAs
may cover a broader topic. MBAs are broader still, looking at business in
general, although HR issues will form a key part of the core curriculum. There
are also executive education programmes at prestigious institutions like
June Sebley, director of client services at Henley Management College, says
that while the open executive programme focuses on general management , it is
also highly relevant for HR professionals.
"These days, they need to be qualified in areas like executive
mentoring and coaching, in addition to what they’ve gained from CIPD
qualifications," she says.
The kind of qualification someone takes will depend on their circumstances.
For example, at De Montfort University there is a diploma in personnel
management, a masters in HR management and a masters in personnel and
The diploma is aimed at younger HR practitioners or those planning to join
HR, the full-time personnel and development masters at young graduates and the
masters in HR management at more senior people who want to develop their
strategic management skills.
Mike Doyle, course leader in the HR management MA, says it does not cover
the nitty-gritty skills that the other two courses cover, such as how to run a
training course.Instead, it covers more strategic skills, such as managing
"One of the reasons organisational change programmes fail is not
because people lack the technical skills, but they lack the people management
skills. This course is aimed at filling that gap."
Julia Yates, a careers adviser at the University of London, stresses the
CIPD qualification is essential for anyone who wants a good career in training
"There are other qualifications that are as good, but they’re not so
widely recognised," she says.
Many other courses, however, are recognised by the CIPD and may offer
exemptions from CIPD exams.
"People can do the full CIPD qualification or just choose the training
and development modules, which are run at over 100 centres nationally,
including universities and colleges," says Judy Whittaker, director of
membership and education at the CIPD.
"Many people choose just to take certain modules and then return later
in their career to do the rest."
One of the most ambitious options in terms of extra qualifications, is an
MBA. It which demands intense study and can be expensive, but it offers a
general knowledge of business issues, ranging from finance and marketing to HR.
It may not be the right choice for everyone but Sri Srikanthan, director of
modular MBAs at Cranfield School of Management, says it can be a good move for
those in HR or training who want to progress far up the corporate ladder. An
MBA may also offer exemptions from CIPD exams.
"You can do an MBA or a specialist MA, depending on what you want from
your career," he says. "If you want to stay in a specialist part of
HR then do an MA. But the further up you go, the more important it is to
understand other business functions."
He adds that the most successful HR people tend to be those who easily
relate to colleagues from other disciplines.
Like other MBAs, Cranfield’s is split into a core curriculum followed by
practical specialisms that students can choose, such as cross-cultural training
in organisations. But the range of specialisms available will depend on the
size of the institution, says Peter Calladine, education services manager at
the Association of MBAs.
"It’s also important to check that the MBA institution is accredited
with us," he adds.
Another question to consider, is how academic or how practical the student
wants the course to be. Roffey Park, for example, stresses the practical
aspects of how its MSc in people and organisational development is delivered.
Students receive input during the course from other experienced trainers,
developers and consultants, as well as from course tutors, says programme
director Therese Turner.
"Many of the students say that this variety of input is equivalent to
high-level consultants reviewing the students’ work," she says.
In terms of how practitioners choose to study for extra qualifications, much
will depend on individual circumstances.
Jenny Davenport of People in Business says doing a course part-time can put
enormous pressures on the student’s private life. But that may be offset by the
chance to apply the learning in the workplace over time, which is not possible
if someone takes a year out to do a qualification.
Also, employers paying for all or part of the course are unlikely to allow
someone to do a full-time course.
On the other hand, Henley’s June Sebley says studying full-time gives
students the advantages of getting away from day-to-day work pressures,
enabling them to "think outside the box", as well as offering more
opportunities for exchanging experiences with other students.
Distance learning is another option, although some argue that the
people-oriented nature of HR and training issues means it can be difficult to
study effectively without any personal contact with tutors or other students.
Leicester University offers masters degrees in training and HR management
through distance learning, although the majority of students are from overseas.
Marketing co-ordinator Sally Gatward says although the course is book-based,
there are regular internet conferences where students can communicate with each
other and tutors.
"Most have full-time jobs and families, so it’s a practical way of
studying for them," she says.
At De Montfort University, the MA in HR management is delivered by distance
learning, but students have the opportunity to meet at the university for one
day of each module.
"I did an Open University course in the 1980s so I know how lonely
distance learning can be," says Mike Doyle. "We try to provide the
chance for students to come here and take part in group discussions and so on,
although it’s not compulsory as some may live overseas or in remote
With pressures increasing at home and at work, coupled with the difficulties
of regularly attending a teaching institution, a growing number of part-time
courses are offering periodic residential sessions.
Roffey Park’s Therese Turner says that while the two-year course is
demanding, it has been designed not to impose an inflexible regime on students.
They all work in small groups, called ‘learning sets’, which meet monthly, and
there are six three-day residentials at Roffey Park that provide the
opportunity for group work, discussion and presentations.
Guide to courses
Cranfield School of Management, Full-time MBA, £23,000; Part-time,
weekend MBA, £30,000; Part-time, modular MBA, £30,000, www.som.cranfield.ac.uk
De Montfort University, Diploma in personnel management, two-year
part-time, £1,350; MA personnel and development, one-year, full-time, £3,900;
MA HR management, distance learning, £12,500, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dmu.ac.uk
Durham University, MA strategic HR management, two-year block
release, £6,750, www.dur.ac.uk/udbs
Henley Management College, Executive development programme, three
weeks, £10,595; one year full-time MBA £23,500; distance learning MBA, two
years £12,400; evening MBA, two years, £21,000, www.henley.ac.uk
Kingston University, MA strategic HR development, part-time, £4,500;
MA personnel management, full-time, £5,000; diploma in personnel management,
Lancaster University, MA management learning, two-year part-time,
£9,850; MA HR development and management learning, full-time, £4,250; MSc HR
development and recruitment, part-time, two years, £7,300. Residential
workshops cost extra, www.lums.lancs.ac.uk
Leicester University, Distance learning masters in training, training
and HR management, training and performance management, £4,500; diplomas in HR
management and in training and development, £1,680, www.clms.le.ac.uk
London Business School, MBA, full-time (21 months), part-time (24 months), £19,500, www.london.edu
Luton University, MSc HR management, one-year full-time, two-year
part-time, £3,700, www.luton.ac.uk
Middlesex University, MAs in HR management, HR development, people
management, full-time (one year), part-time (two years), £4,500
Roffey Park Management College,
MSc People and Org Development, two-year, part-time, £11,300, www.roffeypark.com
University College Northampton, MA organisational behaviour and
change management, part-time, £4,800, www.northampton.ac.uk
* Please note that the fees quoted in the Guide to Courses may fluctuate,
are subject to discounts for members of certain profess-ional bodies and carry
different prices for overseas students. Please check such details directly with
Practical course wins prize
Charles Middleton, who runs a management-training company in
South Wales, has just completed the Roffey Park MSc.
Middleton, chief executive of TSW Ltd, says: "I did the
MSc because I’ve been in training for 30 years and wanted to get up to speed
with current developments." He found it tough fitting in the studying and
residential courses while running his company.
Middleton specialised in leadership, culture and change and
says the course has helped immensely in learning new ways of designing training
courses for clients. He was particularly impressed with the ‘learning sets’
teaching method, in which small groups of students meet monthly to work on
assignments. "It was strange at first, but once I got to trust the other
participants it became a very powerful way of learning," says Middleton.
Modules make sense
Mary Moore was head of development and training at the Highways
Agency when she began studying for the Masters in HR management at De Montfort
University two years ago.
‘I was already a member of the CIPD, had studied for a post-graduate
diploma in HR management and was seeking a further qualification to broaden my
knowledge," she says.
One of the attractions of De Montfort was that the course was
delivered in a modular format that involved periodic two-day sessions at the
‘I could not undertake a full-time course. Because of work and
other outside commitments, it also would have been very tough to do a part-time
course which involved regular weekly attendance," she says.
Her dissertation was on the ‘psychological contract’ between
employer and employee, and the research
was of value to both her and the work of the Agency.
She says one of the benefits of such courses, is that they
allow training and other HR professionals to get a much broader overview of how
the different components of HR fit together, as well as a very useful academic
‘Sometimes HR people can get drawn into their specialist area
and lose sight of the overall picture," says Moore, who is now head of
recruitment and HR policy at the Crown Prosecution Service.
She recommends that potential students research the institution
they are going to study at very carefully.
‘I had a bad experience at another university, where the course
and teaching were badly organised,’ she says.