A career in human resources requires specialist knowledge and skills, so it’s not surprising that many aspiring HR professionals invest in professional certification. But do you really need to pay for tuition when there are plenty of online learning programmes that don’t cost a penny?
We explore four of the top free HR courses and ask the question, how do they compare to CIPD certification?
1. FutureLearn’s HR Fundamentals course
Providers: Social learning platform FutureLearn in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Length: This course requires 15 hours of study and lasts for five weeks. There are multiple start dates every year and you’ll receive access to the course for five weeks plus an extra 14 days.
Content: FutureLearn’s course covers a range of useful topics, including:
Delivery style: The course content is delivered via high-quality videos, articles and interactive quizzes. You can also discuss lesson content and share your knowledge with other participants.
Designed for: People who are considering a career in human resources. If you definitely want to work in HR you’ll need to undertake further learning. However, FutureLearn’s course still provides a useful introduction to the sector.
Certification: If you upgrade to a subscription you’ll be able to access a digital and printed certificate of achievement. Otherwise you’ll receive a statement of participation.
2. OpenLearn’s Human Resources: Recruitment and Selection
Provider: OpenLearn, the Open University’s free learning platform.
Length: This course involves 12 hours of study. You can start studying at any time, work at your own pace and track your progress.
Content: OpenLearn claim that their HR course provides a “straightforward guide” to the recruitment and selection process. The course covers:
Delivery style: The course content is delivered via articles, images, discussion and a variety of learning activities.
Designed for: anyone who is involved with recruitment at work.
Certification: Successful completion will be rewarded with a statement of participation.
3. Alison’s Diploma in Human Resources
Provider: Global free learning platform Alison
Length: This self-paced course takes 8-10 hours to complete and you can start learning at any time.
Content: Alison’s Diploma looks at:
Delivery style: The course content includes articles, images, charts, presentations and opportunities for discussion.
Designed for: People who want an HR career and HR professionals who are keen to enhance their skills.
Certification: If you achieve 80% in each course assessment you can purchase a digital diploma, a printed certificate or a framed diploma.
4. Oxford Home Study College’s HR Short Courses
Provider: Leading specialist distance learning provider Oxford Home Study College
Length: This course lasts for 20 hours and you can join at any time
Content: OHSC’s course includes:
Delivery style: The content is mainly delivered via high-quality articles. If you need any support with your studies you can access advice from the college.
Designed for: People who are already in an HR role or interested newcomers.
Certification: You’ll receive an OHSC completion letter.
How Do These Free HR Courses Compare with CIPD Certification?
They’re introductory courses
The free courses we’ve looked at are intended to act as a stepping stone for further study. For example, the FutureLearn team describe their course as a “solid foundation on which to develop their skills and professionalism further through practice and additional learning and resources.” They then proceed to recommend the CIPD’s professional qualifications to students who are serious about pursuing a career in HR.
They’re much less in-depth
While some of the free courses cover an impressive number of topics, they do this in a very short amount of time. For example, Alison’s HR course describes itself as “reviewing the role of an HR manager in depth”, but it involves a mere 8-10 hours of study. In comparison, the CIPD’s intermediate-level Diploma in HR Management involves 440 hours of study over 18 months.
You won’t receive formal accreditation
Many HR recruiters look for candidates with CIPD training, as it guarantees a high level of knowledge and skills, as well as showing your commitment to your professional development. CIPD courses are also regulated by Ofqual, Qualifications Wales and the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment.
Unfortunately, the certificate of achievements and statements of participation you’ll receive for completing free HR courses simply don’t have the same credibility among employers.
Course delivery is less flexible
The free HR courses we’ve explored do keep things interesting by including interactive elements such as quizzes and videos. However, you can only access these part-time courses online.
If you take a CIPD qualification you’ll be able to choose from a range of study options including classroom-based courses, intensive study blocks, blended learning and digital learning. AVADO even offer the option of learning via regular live online classes, which are designed to keep learners on track.
You won’t receive tutor support
None of the free HR courses we’ve looked at include tutor feedback or marked assignments. In contrast, the CIPD’s qualifications are delivered by learning providers who offer much more support.
For example, if you study the CIPD’s Foundation Level Diploma in HR Practice with ICS Learn, you’ll receive unlimited tutor support online or via phone, as well as regular marked assignments. 24/7 technical support is also available.
You’ll miss out on membership perks
If you take a CIPD qualification, you’ll become a student member of the CIPD, which means you’ll be able to access to the organisations valuable HR resources, learning and development tools and networking opportunities. Once you’ve completed your course you’ll be eligible for associate CIPD membership, which shows employers that you’re knowledge and skills are up to date.
You could earn less
If you’ve completed CIPD level 3 training and you become an HR assistant, your starting salary is likely to be approximately £25,000. This is a full £10,000 more than you would have earned without a CIPD certificate.
Just considering becoming an HR professional? Then it’s definitely worth taking a free HR course, as they provide an excellent overview of the skills you’ll need and the tasks involved. However, if you’re sure that you want to work in HR we recommend opting for professional certification, as this will give you credibility, knowledge and specialist skills you’ll need for career success.
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