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What Course Should I Take to Boost My Career?

We all have a period in our careers where we feel like we’re standing still. Our career development seems to be stuck in a rut where we aren’t really challenged by what we’re doing and we don’t feel any closer to achieving our long-term career goals. 

Experiencing a feeling like is often a good indication that you’re ready to progress your career forward. One of the most effective ways that you can do that is through studying a course or a qualification.

There are a huge range of courses out there, from professional to vocational ones, which it’s easy to get overwhelmed at. Here’s our guide to what course you should take to boost your career.

Option 1: Study an online professional qualification

Professional qualifications are courses that are designed to equip you with the range of specialist skills, knowledge and expertise that you’ll need to excel in your chosen field. 

Usually offered by industry-specific professional membership bodies, professional qualifications are widely-respected by employers worldwide and prove that your knowledge and skills meet a particular level of quality and sophistication. Often, having evidence that you’ve studied a course or qualification with a specific professional membership body is required by many employers for top roles. 

In the past, you generally had two ways to study a qualification like this. You could either attend in-person classes, in a school, college or university, on a regular date and work through the course, or you could complete the course in your own time, via post – called distance learning. Both of these learning formats were not perfect, with in-person learning in particular often ending up more expensive and tiring overall (especially if you happened to be juggling it with a job).

Then came the digital revolution and something interesting happened. The growth of the internet, with its novel ability to let you access information anywhere with a connection, meant that distance learning received a new lease of life. 

Add into that the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, where remote working and social distancing meant that society had to adapt to new ways of functioning, online learning has exploded in popularity and continues to expand. 

So, why is it so popular? Well, mainly because of the unparalleled levels of flexibility that it offers. With most online courses, you’re free to work through courses at your own speed and pace. This makes it perfect for fitting around the demands of full-time work, or of raising a family. 

A desk laid out with a laptop, writing pad and cup of coffee

What online professional courses and qualifications can I study?

There are huge range of online professional courses and qualifications that you can study to advance your knowledge. Here are a taster of the most popular ones in the most in-demand career areas at the moment. 

It almost goes without saying that the exact course and qualification that you decide to study will depend entirely on the specific industry that you’re working in. This blog is designed to give you a basic overview of the professional qualifications that are available for specific industries and fields, and what they’re useful for.

Human Resources and Learning & Development

Qualification provider: CIPD

Human Resources and Learning & Development are both fields that are experiencing high demand from employers, creating lots of opportunities for growth and career development. With the average UK HR salary sitting at £38,636, the field can offer professionals fulfillment, combined with a decent salary – a combination that’s increasingly rare. 

The main provider of courses for HR and L&D is the CIPD – the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. This body offers a range of courses and qualifications designed for people at all levels of their career: from people approaching the industry with no knowledge or work experience at all, to those at a senior level with years of experience behind them. 

One of the benefits of studying a CIPD course is the fact that you can work through qualifications in progression: completing one course after the other, in sequence. This means that you can steadily climb up the career ladder in one place, rather than having to scramble around different providers, trying to find the next course that right for your skillset. 

HR and L&D



Accountancy and Bookkeeping 

Qualification provider: AAT

The main provider of qualifications for the accounting and bookkeeping fields is the AAT: the Association of Accounting Technicians. With over 150,000 members worldwide, the AAT is one of the premier membership bodies for the industry and AAT qualifications are in high-demand from employers around the world. 

Similar to the format of CIPD qualifications, AAT qualifications can also be completed in a progression: helping you enter the industry more easily and improve your skills in a logical way, over the course of your career. 



Business Management

The world of business management qualifications is a large one. After all, a lot of different roles, fields and specialisms are encompassed by the field, including everything from project management, marketing and management through to procurement and supply and IT. 

Professionals who work in fields like this are in high demand from employers. As a result, studying a professional course can enhance your skillset, helping you to command a higher rate in salary negotiations for roles. Having a professional qualification on your CV will also help to distinguish you from other candidates when it comes to applying for jobs. 

Management and Leadership

Qualification provider: ILM and CMI



Project Management

Qualification provider: PTCOE, accredited by PeopleCert.


Qualification provider: BCS

A woman studying at a laptop with a child on her lap


Qualification provider: CIM

Procurement and Supply

Qualification provider: CIPS

Banking and Finance

Qualification provider: LIBF

Corporate Governance

Qualification provider: CGI

What level should I study?

As you can tell from the list above, most qualifications are ordered according to level. This refers to the difficulty of the qualification and helps you determine which qualification you should be studying to improve your skills. 

The UK government gives a good explanation of the difference between levels here which is well worth a read if you’re curious. Here’s a summary of the information though:

  • Level 2: Aimed at complete beginners in an industry. Equivalent to GCSE grades (A*-C), or an intermediate apprenticeship
  • Level 3: Designed for people working in entry-level roles in an industry, or looking to join with a little prior knowledge of the field. Equivalent to AS/A Level, an Access to Higher Education Diploma, Advanced Apprenticeship or International Baccalaureate Diploma 
  • Level 4: Equivalent to a certificate of higher education (CertHE), higher apprenticeship or higher national certificate (HNC)
  • Level 5: Aimed at early-career professionals with some experience of their industry, who are looking to progress to more advanced positions. Equivalent to diploma of higher education (DipHE), a foundation degree or a higher national diploma (HND)
  • Level 6: Equivalent to a degree with honours
  • Level 7: Designed for senior professionals in leadership roles at organisations, looking to enhance their strategic knowledge of their field. Equivalent to a masters degree

At ICS Learn, we recommend that you study a Level 3 qualification if you’re at the very start of your career in your chosen area, and you don’t have any prior experience or knowledge. 

If you’re a little more advanced in your career and you have a few years work experience and knowledge, we’d recommend a Level 5 qualification. 

And if you’ve been working in your field for a number of years and you have significant knowledge and experience, we’d recommend a Level 7 qualification. 

Option 2: Find a vocational course

Of course, professional qualifications aren’t for everyone. They’re fine if you find you learn well through academic study, but sometimes, learning more practically is a better way to gain the same type of knowledge. This is where vocational courses come in. 

Vocational courses differ from professional qualifications in the fact they place more focus on practical skills rather than detailed theoretical knowledge, which can be useful for some people in specific roles. 

You’ll usually be able to find vocational courses in a huge range of subjects at your local college. There are too many to list here!

Study your way to success at work

We hope you’ve found this blog useful and that it’s helped to summarise some of the key information about the type of courses you could study to enhance your career. Good luck in your learning journey!

Develop your career anywhere, anytime with a 100% online qualification. Download your free course guide today and start your journey.