Skip to main content

NVQs are hands-on qualifications gained while actually working and have few constraints. The only requirement is that the individual has to be either in full or part-time employment or studying.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) – what are they?

Relevant and required skills are taught and learnt in a working environment, while theory is taught in the classroom. This programme ensures that nationally all students reach the same competency levels.

NVQ, training, employment, qualifications, up-skillNVQs – a bad press?

Historically NVQs have received bad press but don't listen; for many, they are a perfect way to become qualified in a certain sector. They do what they say on the tin and are excellent vocational qualifications for certain fields.

Who does them?

NVQs are taken by individuals who have been working for a while in a specific field and now would like to prove that they are capable and proficient. The qualification enables them to up-skill, change jobs or perhaps gain a promotion.

Entry requirements

The only requirement for an NVQ is to be in current employment or studying. NVQs do not demand other qualifications as a prerequisite to application as they are designed to suit the student and their learning abilities.

There is no age limit for NVQ students and NVQ students submit a portfolio of work as proof of their capabilities.

How are they assessed?

NVQs are completed step by step, with each step only being assessed as and when the individual is deemed ready by the assessor. NVQ assessment is ongoing and internal so the examiner will be aware when the student can show they can confidently complete and pass all areas of the module.

NVQs also use online tests and occasionally written exams to support the evidence that a student has learnt and reached the National benchmark required to pass the unit. This model of examination means that students can take as long as they need to complete each section of the course.

There are five levels of NVQ qualification in total. All NVQs are graded as a pass and all units within the course must be passed to qualify for the award:

Level 1 = 3-4 GCSEs grades D-G

Level 2 = 4-5 GCSEs at grades A-C

Level 3 = 2 A Levels

Level 4 = Higher Education Certificate / BTEC

Level 5 = Higher Education Diploma / Foundation

Completion of a Level 3 NVQ opens the door to further study either a full apprenticeship or the BTEC Specialist award. And while NVQs have no time limit, levels 1, 2 and 3 each take about a year to complete.

Courses and fees

There are a large number of NVQ providers and courses, with all providers associated with the professional bodies connected to particular occupations. Check who provides your course of choice and speak to your employer for details of the fees.

Many NVQs however, are free as the cost of the course is shared between the employer who pay one-third and the government, who pay two-thirds. The government are keen to ensure the workforce is highly skilled and competent and therefore shouldering these costs.

Here is a list of providers of NVQs 

The most popular NVQ subjects are:

  • Administration and management
  • Beauty and hairdressing
  • Care of the elderly and children
  • Catering
  • Construction
  • Communications
  • Design
  • Plumbing
  • Social Care
  • Travel and tourism

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • University Technical College (UTC)

    UTCs sit somewhere between school and the apprenticeship training programme. Set up in 2010 by the Baker Dearing Trust, a private foundation, UTCs are free, regionally-based and with enrolment catchment areas that are generally wider than normal. window.__lc = window.__lc || {}; window.__lc.license = 9097600; (function() { var lc = document.createElement('script'); lc.type = 'text/javascript'; lc.async = true; lc.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(lc, s); })();

  • A Levels, IB

    A levels are a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school students aged 16–18, at a level above GCSE. The equivalent in Scotland is the Higher.

  • BTEC Nationals

    BTEC Nationals, otherwise known as The Business and Technology Education Council qualification, are overseen by Pearson.  One million students sit BTEC Nationals each year and over 250,000 go on to HE.

  • HNCs & HNDs

    Many people will know BTEC Highers by the acronyms HNC (Higher National Certificate) and HND (Higher National Diploma). They are equivalent to completing years one or two at university.

  • Art Foundation Diploma Course

    This is a BTEC vocational course that has three outcomes. It is a stand-alone qualification. Or it could suit school leavers who wish to test the water and see if they might like to continue on to study Art at university. Alternatively, this course is for those who are certain that they want to complete a BA in Fine Art. An Art Foundation course is generally preferred as the first step. 

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,200 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.