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Vocational Qualifications

Vocational Qualifications

Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications and they are designed to develop and evidence your competence and knowledge in a particular occupational field, such as hospitality and catering.

Types of vocational qualifications


National vocational qualifications are competency based. They are based on national occupational standards (NOS) and therefore offer learning and training that is in line with industry expectations of employees.

National Diplomas (BTECs)

National diplomas are knowledge based. Unlike NVQs they do not require you to necessarily demonstrate your competency.


Scottish vocational qualifications work in much the same way as NVQs and are available in Scotland.


Vocationally related qualifications such as security guarding are linked to specific areas of employment.


International vocational qualifications are designed especially for the international marketplace.


IVETs are Welsh Introductory vocational qualifications suitable for learners of all ages.


CVETs are Welsh continuing qualifications linked to occupational competencies in the same was as NVQs are.

Vocational qualifications as part of an apprenticeship

Often, as part of your apprenticeship programme you will complete one or more of the above qualifications. You will do this alongside working for an employer and being paid. With the introduction of new apprenticeship standards which will replace frameworks, completing a nationally recognised qualification will not be compulsory and will instead only form part of your apprenticeship programme if your apprentice employer deems it necessary.

Vocational qualification levels

Vocational qualifications are available from entry level, which is pre-GCSE to Level 8. Level 2 qualifications are the same level as GCSEs, Level 3, the same as A-level, Level 4 the same level as an HNC (Higher National Certificate), Level 5 the same as an HND (Higher National Diploma), Level 6 the same level as a Bachelor’s Degree, Level 7, a Master’s Degree and Level 8 a Doctorate (PhD or Dphil).

All vocational qualifications are made up of units, which have a credit value – the more units you do, the greater the credit value.

Regulating qualifications

All qualifications are managed and regulated to ensure that they are fit for purpose. Any qualifications that are not regulated will not be funded by government.  In England and Northern Ireland the body that regulates qualifications is the Office of Qualifications and Exams Regulation (Ofqual), in Wales they are regulated by the Department of Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS), and in Scotland they are regulated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Vocational qualifications as a route to university study

Vocational qualifications at Level 3 and above provide entry to university should you wish to go in exactly the same way as A-levels do and they carry UCAS points in the same way.

Deciding that a vocational qualification is for you

If you know what industry that you want to work in then studying for a vocational qualification could be a really good educational choice for you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work in any other industry either – many of the skills and much of the knowledge that you learn will be transferable to other sectors.

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