NCI Blog

From CIPD to Master's Degree: Brendan's Human Resources Study Journey

Posted by Andrea Leyden on 18 January 2024

Brendan Breslin - CIPD in HR Graduate Story

Having always loved working with people during his career in retail management, Brendan Breslin had an abundance of experience but came to a professional crossroads. After some advice from a career coach, he started his journey to gaining valuable qualifications in the HR field and he hasn't stopped since.

He started with the CIPD Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice which is an ideal course for anyone who wants to gain Professional Membership of CIPD, something which is often required by employers seeking to hire HR professionals. Following this, he progressed on to Stage Two the BA (Honours) in HRM Strategy and Practice, an accelerated degree which allows students to gain a Level 8 qualification in just two years, and now he has set his sights on the MA in Human Resource Management.

Brendan discusses his journey to date and shares insights into his experience studying HR at National College of Ireland, including his advice for anyone considering following this path, below.  

1. Tell us about your career and educational background?

I studied computer science in college, but I soon discovered it was not for me, so I dropped out and entered the workplace. I was always interested in music, which prompted a move to London to work in music retail, first as a cashier and then as a buyer, which lead to a junior management position.

I moved back to Ireland and continued my retail management career as a store manager, and eventually as a regional manager. The fact that I dropped out of college always bothered me so I decided to undertake a postgraduate diploma in management. Since then, I have managed large retail and trade, single and multisite operations, leading to a national role in a volunteer charity organisation, where I currently work.

2. Why did you choose to study the CIPD Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice at NCI?

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I was at a crossroads professionally. I had always loved working with people and being a retail manager I had amassed considerable experience in the practical side of HR, however, I was always drawn to the decision-making and strategic side. I spoke with an excellent career coach who recommended I explore the CIPD courses available at NCI.

I was torn between the Diploma in Professional Learning and Organisational Development and the Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice but decided to study the latter, as it was (at least for me) more suited to my skillset, experience, and the direction I wanted to go in professionally.

3. Tell us about your experience studying this programme at NCI.

Initially it was daunting. Online learning was new to me, and more than a decade had passed since I last studied in earnest. Thankfully, the pace at the beginning of the course was ideal for me returning to study. I soon developed a pattern of work, family life, and study, which suited me and my family. The support from the course lecturer was fantastic, as well as from my fellow students, who were all in the same position, juggling careers, life, and study.

"The course layout was particularly good, focusing on one subject at a time, which allowed me to really immerse myself in the content of each module."

In particular the module that really benefitted me was Talent Acquisition, which emphasised the role that the people profession can play in assisting the delivery of organisational goals, and how that applied to my job, as well as the part I play in my organisation. The course reading recommendations, along with the library facilities and CIPD online content were fantastic, which made it easier for me to plan my time, complete my assignments, and achieve the grades needed. The mix of theory, practical elements, and group discussion were ideal for learning. The broad range of backgrounds and careers from fellow students also made learning enjoyable and allowed me to benefit from their experiences.

4. How have you been able to apply what you have learned on the course in your current role?

The theoretical and strategic aspects of the course gave me the confidence to contribute more in the workplace, as well as giving me the understanding of the decision-making process of my organisation. Working in a predominantly people led organisation, the course content gave me the skills to apply critical thinking and theory to real-life situations, building on the skillset I already possessed. The Employment Law module gave me an understanding of parameters affecting people in the workplace, and the Evidence Based Practice (now named Professional Behaviours and Practice) module taught me a discipline to decision-making, which taught me to base decisions on the facts, rather than my own interpretation of the facts.

My personal learning journey has inspired my friends and colleagues to seek out their own learning needs and as a result of completing the (CIPD) Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice, I have been selected for people projects that would not have been available to me previously.

5. What advice would you give to anyone considering a CIPD programme in HR at NCI?

Attend all the classes, read the recommended texts, and plan your study schedule around your normal life, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Use your fellow students to gain insight into other professions, lean on them when you are finding it difficult, ask questions in class, and use the lecturer feedback from assignments to help you improve. The most important advice I could give, is not to wait until the last week to complete assignments! Start the assignment as soon as you get it and write it up while its still fresh in the memory.

"It is a truly rewarding experience, one which will seem tough at times, but you will look back on it with a tremendous sense of achievement and pride."

It can also lead to further learning, which it has done for me, and I have just completed a degree in Human Resource Strategy and Practice, again at NCI. Completing the CIPD Diploma in Human Resource Practice meant I could directly progress to Stage Two of this degree. The support from the lecturers, staff, and the library at NCI was critical in my completing the Diploma course and made the experience truly worthwhile.

6. Finally, what’s next for you and your career?

I am still performing the same role but with a wider understanding, and I am able to apply the learning I received in the Diploma, to people and situations that I previously struggled with. A move into the people profession would be desirable, however, in the meantime, I wish to continue my education and hope to begin the MA in Human Resource Management this year at NCI.

Brendan studied the CIPD Diploma in Human Resource Management at National College of Ireland. He progressed on to the BA (Honours) in HRM Strategy and Practice and hopes to pursue the MA in Human Resource Management in the future. Visit our CIPD Hub to learn more about these accredited courses. 

Topics: Part-time Courses, Student Testimonial, School of Business, HRM