Trends: do HR professionals need more qualifications?

Getting hands-on experience through generalist HR roles is viewed as more important than gaining qualifications, according to the results of a survey of 135 senior HR practitioners, published earlier this year by IRS Employment Review. Howver, there is an argument that getting more than the CIPD qualification under your belt can help HR professionals to become more effective business partners.

Susan Major, director of HR at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, says: “The CIPD qualification is good for starting out in HR as it provides theoretical knowledge. But senior professionals can gain more respect from other functions by having an MBA or MSc in a subject such as psychology or organisational change.

“Having these qualifications on your CV can really add gravitas and get you noticed by the chief executive,” he adds.

The CIPD argues that its qualification aims to give students all the grounding they need to get on in HR. Christine Williams, membership manager at the CIPD, says: “The CIPD qualification covers management issues and understanding business. Having an MBA or MSc as well is excessive. Our qualification gives HR professionals the foundation they need to understand business principles and become an effective business partner.”

However, the case for extra study is compelling. The average salary of someone with an MBA is 64,000, and three in five are either board directors or senior managers, according to the Association of MBAs.

Executive education and research organisation Roffey Park provides an MSc in people and organisational development, which is popular among HR practitioners. Diane Moody, director of MSc programmes at Roffey Park, says: “Typically, students are people already working in HR who want to expand their roles. In the five years I’ve been here, almost everyone has made a significant job move after taking the course, many making the leap to HR director. It is more than a paper qualification as students can build dissertations around pro-jects at work and apply what they are learning.”

The courses are expensive – Roffey Park’s two-year part-time course costs 13,500. The key is to get sponsored. “Over 80% of our students are funded or part-funded by their employers,” says Moody.

If HR professionals want to become more business-savvy, Williams says that getting experience of working in different business environments is far more effective than further academic study.

However, Major says that adding another academic string to your bow will help you stand out from the crowd. She adds: “Without a shadow of a doubt, having a qualification that proves you have commercial understanding helps you get through the door.”

Reasons to study for an MBA or MSc



  • Helps your CV stand out from the crowd.

  • Can help you gain credibility from other business functions.

  • Builds confidence and skills.

  • Can help you change careers.


    Reasons to be wary

  • CIPD says its qualification provides everything HR needs.

  • Gaining work experience in different functions can be equally valuable.

  • Study is demanding, making work-life balance difficult.

  • Courses are expensive, so you may need sponsorship.


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