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National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) Guide

What is an NVQ?

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are competence-based awards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are achieved through assessment and training.

In Scotland they are known as Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ).

To complete an NVQ, candidates must prove that they have the ability to carry out their job to the required standard.

NVQs are based on National Occupational Standards that describe the 'competencies' expected in any given job role.

Those studying the course will usually work towards an NVQ that reflects their role in a paid or voluntary position.

For example, someone working in a pharmacy may take an NVQ in Pharmacy Service Skills.

There are five levels of NVQ ranging from Level 1, which focuses on basic work activities, to Level 5 for senior management.

What are the different NVQ levels?

NVQs can be at levels 1 to 5 on the National Qualifications Framework and the Qualifications and Credit Framework.

The frameworks show how different types of qualifications compare, in terms of the demands they place on learners.

Find out more about the different NVQ levels here.

Am I eligible to apply for an NVQ?

These qualifications are available to adults and young people alike.

You can take NVQs if:

  • you are employed
  • you are studying at college and have a part-time job or access to a work placement

You can also take an NVQ qualification at level 2 or 3 as part of an Apprenticeship.

In some cases you may be able to take an NVQ if you are at school. Check with your head of Sixth Form to see if any are available.

What NVQ subjects are available?

There are many different NVQs you can choose from. They are available in a majority of business sectors, including:

  • business and administration
  • sales, marketing and distribution
  • health and social care
  • food, catering and leisure services
  • construction and property
  • manufacturing, production and engineering

How will I be assessed during my NVQ?

NVQs are assessed on practical assignments and a portfolio of evidence.

You will normally find that a qualified assessor will observe you and question you about the duties you carry out in the workplace, or in a realistic working environment.

They will test your knowledge and understanding as well as your actual performance.

When you have reached the required standard for a particular unit, your assessor will 'sign-off' on it.

What can I do after my NVQ?

Completing an NVQ can lead to further training at the next NVQ level.

You can even go all the way to a level 5 NVQ and/or professional qualifications, usually in a related area.

If you've studied an NVQ at level 3, you could also go on to a higher education course in a related vocational area, such as a:

  • Higher National Certificate
  • Higher National Diploma
  • Foundation Degree
  • Other vocational specialism

How do I apply for an NVQ?

The college you are applying to will have instructions on their website.

You will either be able to apply directly online, or download an application form to fill out and send off.

Read the instructions carefully before submitting your application, check you have filled out all the required sections and make sure all details are correct.

Contact the college a few days after your application to make sure they received it.

I’m thinking about taking an NVQ – where can I get more advice?

To find out who is offering NVQs or other vocational qualifications near you, check out the websites of your local colleges, where you can also order a prospectus.

Alternatively, you can talk directly to your careers advisor, college, or employer.