What is a professional qualification?

Professional certificates are specialized educational programs related to a particular business or career path. Others may be taken immediately after graduation, while others are designed for people with many years of experience who want to further their careers.

They’re mostly supervised and awarded by appropriate professional associations, and they’re meant to ensure that anyone working in a certain field reaches the minimum necessary level of professional competence.

Technical certification is required for certain jobs. To serve as a licensed solicitor, for example, you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and you must pass the necessary examinations to become a chartered accountant. Professional credentials aren’t needed in most fields of work, but they look fantastic on your CV and increase your chances of success by showing your talents and knowledge.

What are the differences between professional qualifications and master’s degrees? 

Masters degrees often entail extensive scholarly research at a university level, often culminating in a written dissertation. This will train you for a specific profession, but it also provides you with general skills and experience that will enable you to work in a variety of fields.

Professional credentials are usually more vocational in nature and serve as a stepping stone to a new career or a promotion within an existing one. Technical associations accredit them, and they set the exams and regulate the requirements you must follow to work in that employment.

There is, though, a lot of variation between the two. Since they are approved by the appropriate organization, several master’s degrees double as technical certificates. Many institutions, for example, offer journalism programs, but only a few of them are accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and hence have the NCTJ’s technical credentials as part of the curriculum. Similarly, if you want to be a town planner, you can look into Royal Town Planning Institute-accredited Master’s degrees (RTPI).

If you already have a Master’s degree that isn’t approved by the appropriate business agency, don’t panic – you can usually still take the professional qualification later. Find out more about Masters degrees.

Professional qualifications in the UK

In most industries in the United Kingdom, some kind of technical certification is required. Among the most well-known are those provided by organizations such as:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT
  • Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
  • Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
  • Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

These are just a small selection – there are many more. Discover some of the others:

  • Bar courses
  • Finance qualifications
  • Horticulture courses
  • How to become an engineer
  • HR courses
  • IT training
  • Management courses
  • Marketing courses
  • Sales training courses
  • Social work courses
  • Travel and tourism courses

How long would it take to finish a professional course?

Depending on the qualification and whether you study full or part-time, vocational training courses will last anything from a few weeks to a few years. For accountants, for example, the ACCA Qualification requires at least three years to complete, including tests and work experience. Any specialist associations, on the other hand, merely provide an assessment, and it’s up to you how many hours of practice you put in ahead of time, whether by individual research or completing a training provider’s course.

When classes are delivered part-time or in modules, you can be able to take as long as you want to finish your studies. Before making a decision, double-check the duration of the course with the appropriate educational body or training provider.

What are the contents of professional courses?

You’ll actually practice for about 40 hours a week if you’re enrolled in a full-time vocational program. Part-time research is typically done in the evenings and on weekends; the tempo is slower, but the intensity can be almost as high when combined with work and/or family obligations.

Professional organizations are continually offering a variety of study options, including online distance learning, face-to-face learning, and mixed learning (which combines the two).

Vocational classes are not often offered for a set period. Instead, classes are often offered at various times during the year at various locations around the country. Exams, coursework, a resume, or a mixture of the three are commonly used to assess students. Many courses are built around a series of modules that must be completed to receive a certificate.

What are the conditions for admission?

Professional courses have different entrance criteria depending on the qualification and what it contributes to. To learn more about the entrance criteria for your chosen profession, look at the appropriate work description.

Some courses are available to everyone, while others include A-levels or a bachelor’s degree in a specific subject, as well as several years of on-the-job experience. Many specialist organizations provide a variety of vocational qualifications for school leavers, apprentices, and seasoned practitioners. When you pass one test, you usually become qualified to work on a higher-level degree.

Having appropriate job experience or a demonstrated interest in the subject is often needed. You’ll still need to demonstrate your language skills if English isn’t your first language.

What is the cost of professional training?

Cost is determined by a variety of variables and thus varies greatly. The cost of a course would usually indicate its difficulty and importance concerning the career path you choose to pursue.

For the same course, various training providers can charge different prices, so do your homework. Check to see if there are any extra costs for taking exams or if they are included in the price. Fees for domestic and foreign students are normally the same.

You could be qualified for a government postgraduate loan if you prepare for a technical certificate as part of a Master’s degree.

Will my employer cover the cost of the course?

You may be able to persuade your boss to pay for your course and test fees if the qualification you’re interested in is needed for advancement in your profession or if you can demonstrate to them how it will help them to learn new skills and expertise.

This is especially common if you work for a business that is a member of the ‘Investors in People’ program. Keep in mind, though, that your employer can contractually obligate you to work for them after the course for a fixed period. 

Why do I pursue a professional or vocational degree?

  • It will be the first step toward chartered status, which would entitle you to be accredited as a member of the professional body and a recognized expert in your field.
  • It will assist you in meeting your employer’s continuing professional development (CPD) needs by keeping your qualifications and abilities current.
  • Many careers need unique qualifications, so if you’re thinking about pursuing a career in one of these fields, you’ll need to enroll in a course.
  • By enhancing your specialist experience, you will develop qualifications, reputation, and connections, showing your ability to employers and increasing the opportunities to advance or improve careers.

What is the best way to choose the right professional course for me?

It’s important to thoroughly research your choices before deciding whether or not a career path is appropriate for you. If you plan to go ahead, keep in mind that course duration, expense, consistency, and content will all differ considerably, so you’ll need to carefully consider which one will be the most beneficial to you. You can get more information by contacting:

Current or former students– If you meet someone who has trained for a specialist degree, they will provide you with an impartial opinion of a course or training provider.

Professional organizations – they’ll be able to provide you with all the information you need on obtaining their credentials.

Prospective Tutors– Tutors that offer technical courses will provide you with a good picture of what it takes to excel.

The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)– a trade body representing specialist awarding bodies, provides a wealth of knowledge and contacts.

Your employer – either your line manager or your human resources (HR) manager – is in a good position to counsel you about the technical credentials you can obtain to further your career.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • Fees, as well as the supply of funds
  • How well-known the teaching company and its instructors are
  • Levels of student satisfaction and job
  • The course’s curriculum
  • The implications for your job chances
  • If the schedule is compatible with your other obligations