The IPA Foundation Certificate is intended not only to answer outside criticism that the industry offers too few professional qualifications, but that its growing fragmentation prevents recruits from learning how its various parts combine to build brands.
Stephen Woodford, the IPA president, has made setting up a low-cost and largely online foundation course his personal crusade.
He claims that the growing specialisation within the industry, particularly the split between creative and media agencies, makes it difficult for new arrivals to understand all forms of communications.
The free programme will be open to all newcomers, suits or creatives, and irrespective of the kind of agency that employs them. By putting the course online, the IPA hopes to keep costs down and make it more appealing to member agencies outside London.
Tuition will take between ten and 15 hours and cover six disciplines: marketing, client services, research and evaluation, communications strategy, ideas and execution.
It will allow participants to test themselves on what they have learned.
About 100 people are expected to sit the first certificate exam in February.
IPA chiefs also expect the foundation course will help the industry attract more recruits from ethnic minorities.
Woodford described the course as "a milestone in the IPA's effort to raise professional standards in the agency business". He added: "I'm confident this will become a new benchmark for developing our talent."