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The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) answer some commonly asked questions from our graduate readers.

Do I need a degree?

Yes, if you decide to join a graduate training scheme after university. You can either join a generic training scheme where you’ll gain experience of a range of different departments. Or you can join a programme that’s focused specifically in HR. A degree can aid in faster progression, in particular if you are looking to study a CIPD approved postgraduate course.

Which subjects help?

All degrees equip you with transferable skills, so as long as you can demonstrate teamwork, organisational skills and an enthusiasm, a specific subject is not required. Saying that, any business related degrees can help demonstrate commercial awareness, essential for a career in HR or recruitment. Work experience can help you in getting ahead of the competition.

Where can I get work experience?

Voluntary experience of budgeting, financial management, organisation and teamwork can be developed at university at the Students’ Union or by joining a society. A holiday job can also help in developing these skills. Have a look at the latest HR summer placements and work experience opportunities.

How many years does it take to become chartered?

This all depends on any qualifications you already have, the grade of membership you are seeking and your own career plans. Some companies may sponsor your training, giving you day release to study, whereas if you decide to take on study of your own accord, you can decide how long it will take for you to qualify.

How much can I expect to earn?

At graduate entry level positions salaries average at £24,375. This will increase the more responsibility and training you take on board. HR Directors can take home between £75,000 to £100,000, this can be as much as £500,000 for Group HR Directors at a FTSE20 company. Recruitment consultant salaries may differ somewhat as packages are often commission based.

Read more about this in our salaries article.

What are my career prospects?

If you gain professional qualifications, the prospects to develop are immense. With the help of the CIPD, you will gain the support to progress, with structured training and professional qualifications available. The IRP also offer a certificate or diploma in recruitment practice which may help to improve your future prospects.

Once established in your career, you may choose to become self-employed as a consultant or forge a career as an independent trainer – analysing the needs of the workforce. HR and recruitment offers a degree of flexibility and choice, allowing you to move sideways rather than simply upwards.

Are there any international opportunities?

Although a career in HR or recruitment does not guarantee overseas opportunities, the increasingly global nature of the industry can make this a real possibility. You need to check with the local association about the requirements that are made of practitioners in your proposed destination. More information can be found on the website of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations.

Is it worth doing training courses?

Yes. For many employers, possessing professional qualifications signify you are up to date with the latest developments and legislative changes in the industry. Those looking to pursue a long-term career in management will find it beneficial to study towards an approved postgraduate course.

What other qualities are employers looking for?

Strong communication skills are paramount when carving a career in HR. However, employers are also seeking those individuals with the ability to remain balanced and objective, be trustworthy and discreet, patient, flexible, adaptable and commercially aware. Find out more by reading our HR and recruitment skills article.

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