Qualifications Explained

NCFE offers a wide range of qualifications that Ofqual regulate. These include qualifications on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

QCF and NQF qualifications appear on Ofqual's Register of Regulated Qualifications, along with other types of qualifications such as A Levels and GSCEs. Qualifications that appear on the Register are known as ‘regulated qualifications’.

All regulated qualifications are grouped together in different levels. The level shows how difficult each qualification is – from Entry Level right up to Level 8. Qualifications are made up of units, and every unit and qualification has a level.

The majority of NCFE’s qualifications appear on the QCF. Qualifications on the QCF have credit attached to them, which allows learners to transfer their achievements from one qualification to another. Each unit in a QCF qualification also has a credit value.  

One credit represents 10 notional hours of learning, showing how much time the average learner would take to complete the unit or qualification.

There are three sizes of QCF qualification and these are based on credit size:

  • Awards (1 to 12 credits)
  • Certificates (13 to 36 credits)
  • Diplomas (37 credits or more)

You can have an award of any difficulty Level from 1 to 8. This is because the type indicates the size of qualification, not its difficulty.

Qualifications on the NQF do not have credit attached to them, but are generally measured in guided learning hours (GLH) – ie how much contact time the average learner is expected to need in order to complete the unit or qualification.

The title of a qualification indicates:

  • qualification level (from lowest, Entry Level to Level 8 at the top)
  • qualification size (either award/certificate/diploma based on the number of credits)
  • content of the qualification

Ofqual are in the process of reviewing the qualification frameworks and will have more information soon.

NCFE doesn’t just provide courses that lead to a QCF regulated qualification. We also provide a range of accreditation services for providers who, if they meet our criteria, are able to write and deliver programmes that are approved and certificated by NCFE.


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See all of the types of qualifications NCFE offers

Description

Entry Level Awards are designed for learners looking to take the first step in their vocational education. Learners undertaking these courses often have no formal qualifications but Entry Level qualifications can be used as an introduction to study at any given time in a person’s life or career, for example if someone is looking to change careers or area of study.

Duration

Usually less than a year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Entry Level courses are the perfect stepping stone to further vocational study in your chosen area, and can help you upskill in the core subjects of English, Maths and ICT.

Progression

Level 1 vocational courses.

Description

Entry Level Certificates are designed for learners looking to take the first step in their vocational education. Learners undertaking these courses often have no formal qualifications but Entry Level qualifications can be used as an introduction to study at any given time in a person’s life or career, for example if someone is looking to change careers or area of study. A Certificate contains more credits than an award and often has a longer duration. Certificates also contain more vocational, hands-on learning.

Duration

Usually less than a year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Entry Level courses are the perfect stepping stone to further vocational study in your chosen area, and can help you upskill in the core subjects of English, Maths and ICT.

Progression

Level 1 vocational courses.

Description

Entry Level Diplomas are designed for learners looking to take the first step in their vocational education. Learners undertaking these courses often have no formal qualifications but Entry Level qualifications can be used as an introduction to study at any given time in a person’s life or career, for example if someone is looking to change careers or area of study. A Diploma contains more credits than an award or a certificate and often has a longer duration. Diplomas often involve practical training and work experience.

Duration

Usually around one year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Entry Level courses are the perfect stepping stone to further vocational study in your chosen area, and can help you upskill in the core subjects of English, Maths and ICT.

Progression

Level 1 vocational courses.

Description

Functional Skills teach the essentials in English, Maths and ICT. They can be studied if learners don’t achieve an A-C grade at GCSE level. Functional Skills qualifications can be embedded in other programmes of study like GCSEs and Apprenticeships. Entry Level Functional Skills are below GCSE level. Functional Skills also teach you how to apply English, Maths and ICT skills in the workplace to show you not only have the knowledge of these subjects, but can apply it in a real life situation.

Duration

Each Functional Skills is 45 Guided Learning Hours.

Why choose this course?

Upskilling in the core areas of English, Maths and ICT or to show you can apply this knowledge in work and life.

Progression

Further study in any area, and increased performance and confidence in the workplace.

Description

Level 1 Awards build upon the study and the knowledge and skills gained at Entry Level. Learners may choose to undertake a Level 1 course in any given area to decide if they would like to continue in this subject area at a higher level. Level 1 awards are perfect for learners who have not achieved A-C grades at GCSE and give learners personal and work-related skills needed to progress into employment.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

It gives learners an introduction into a specific vocational area, with projects, hands-on learning and work-related experience.

Progression

A Level 2 Award, Certificate or Diploma.

Description

Level 1 Certificates build upon the study and the knowledge and skills gained at Entry Level. Learners may choose to undertake a Level 1 course in any given area to decide if they would like to continue in this subject area at a higher level.  A Certificate contains more credits than an award and often has a longer duration. Certificates also contain more vocational, hands-on learning.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

It gives learners an introduction into a specific vocational area, with projects, hands-on learning and work-related experience.

Progression

A Level 2 Award, Certificate or Diploma.

Description

Level 1 Diplomas build upon the study and the knowledge and skills gained at Entry Level. Learners may choose to undertake a Level 1 course in any given area to decide if they would like to continue in this subject area at a higher level. A Diploma contains more credits than an award or a certificate and often has a longer duration. Diplomas often involve practical training and work experience.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

It gives learners an introduction into a specific vocational area, with projects, hands-on learning and work-related experience.

Progression

A Level 2 Award, Certificate or Diploma.

Description

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are often designed in partnership with employers and Sector Skills Councils, meaning they are mostly studied and assessed in the workplace. NVQs are specifically designed for certain career paths and outline what is needed from a learner to progress in their chosen role. Level 1 NVQs deliver the basic knowledge and skills learners need to carry out routine work practices at a satisfactory level. A Level 1 NVQ is equivalent to 3 or 4 D-G GCSE grades. 

Duration

This depends on the learner and the employer.

Why choose this course?

NVQs prepare learners not only for employment, but are tailored to the area and job role the learner hopes to achieve. It builds on the skills and knowledge they already have, as well as developing new skills.

Progression

An apprenticeship, higher level training and employment.

Description

Functional Skills teach the essentials in English, Maths and ICT. They can be used if learners don’t achieve an A-C grade at GCSE level. Functional Skills qualifications can be embedded in other programmes of study like GCSEs and Apprenticeships. Functional Skills also teach you how to apply English, Maths and ICT skills in the workplace to show you not only have the knowledge of these subjects, but can apply it in a real life situation. A Functional Skills qualification at Level 1 is roughly equivalent to half a GCSE at a D-G grade.

Duration

Each Functional Skills is 45 Guided Learning Hours.

Why choose this course?

Upskilling in the core areas of English, Maths and ICT or to show you can apply this knowledge in work and life.

Progression

Further study in any area, and increased performance and confidence in the workplace.

Description

A Level 2 Award is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 1 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Progression in the career path of the learners choice; Level 2 qualifications pave the way for employment or study at a higher level.

Progression

An apprenticeship, further study at a higher level, or employment.

Description

A Level 2 Certificate is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 1 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment.  A Certificate contains more credits than an award and often has a longer duration. Certificates also contain more vocational, hands-on learning.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Progression in the career path of the learners choice; Level 2 qualifications pave the way for employment or study at a higher level.

Progression

An apprenticeship, further study at a higher level, or employment.

Description

A Level 2 Diploma is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 1 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment.  A Diploma contains more credits than an award or a certificate and often has a longer duration. Diplomas often involve practical training and work experience.

Duration

Usually around 1 year but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Progression in the career path of the learners choice; Level 2 qualifications pave the way for employment or study at a higher level.

Progression

An apprenticeship, further study at a higher level, or employment.

Description

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are often designed in partnership with employers and Sector Skills Councils, meaning they are mostly studied and assessed in the workplace. NVQs are specifically designed for certain career paths and outline what is needed from a learner to progress in their chosen role. Level 2 NVQs build upon the skills and knowledge gained during a Level 1 NVQ and prepare learners to undertake a wider and more specialised range of activities and tasks in the workplace. A Level 2 NVQ is equivalent to 5 GCSEs (grade A*-C).

Duration

This depends on the learner and the employer.

Why choose this course?

NVQs prepare learners not only for employment, but are tailored to the area and job role the learner hopes to achieve. It builds on the skills and knowledge they already have, as well as developing new skills. 

Progression

An Intermediate Apprenticeship or a Level 3 qualification, or employment.

Description

Apprenticeships involve qualifications and workplace training or a job to give the learner all the knowledge and experience needed to progress into employment. Apprenticeships include knowledge, competence and Functional Skills, all tailored to the apprentice’s job role, giving learners a well-rounded education.

Duration

Usually 12-18 months.

Why choose this course?

Learners gain real experience in the workplace in their chosen career path, as well as knowledge gained from the knowledge-based qualification, and can earn while they learn.

Progression

A higher level apprenticeship or employment.

Description

Functional Skills teach the essentials in English, Maths and ICT. They can be used if learners don’t achieve an A-C grade at GCSE level. Functional Skills qualifications can be embedded in other programmes of study like GCSEs and Apprenticeships. Functional Skills also teach you how to apply English, Maths and ICT skills in the workplace to show you not only have the knowledge of these subjects, but can apply it in a real life situation. A Functional Skills qualification at Level 2 is roughly equivalent to half a GCSE at a B grade.

Duration

Each Functional Skills is 45 Guided Learning Hours.

Why choose this course?

Upskilling in the core areas of English, Maths and ICT or to show you can apply this knowledge in work and life.

Progression

Further study in any area, and increased performance and confidence in the workplace.

Description

National Awards, Certificates and Diplomas are very career-focused and prepare learners for higher study and a career in their chosen area. A Level 3 National Diploma is equivalent to 3 A Levels. 

Duration

Usually around 2 years but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Developing the knowledge and skills needed for your chosen career path, but also developing the knowledge needed for university, should you choose that option.

Progression

Employment, a Bachelors or Foundation Degree, or a HND/HNC.

Description

A Level 3 Award is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 3 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment, and prepares them to carry out a job at a professional level. 

Duration

Usually around 2 years but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Developing the knowledge and skills needed for your chosen career path, but also developing the knowledge needed for university, should you choose that option.

Progression

Employment, a Bachelors or Foundation Degree, or a HND/HNC.

Description

A Level 3 Certificate is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 3 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment, and prepares them to carry out a job at a professional level. A Certificate contains more credits than an award and often has a longer duration. Certificates also contain more vocational, hands-on learning.

Duration

Usually 1-2 years, but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Developing the knowledge and skills needed for your chosen career path, but also developing the knowledge needed for university, should you choose that option.

Progression

Employment, a Bachelors or Foundation Degree, or a HND/HNC.

Description

A Level 3 Certificate is designed to build on the knowledge and skills learned in a related Level 3 qualification. These qualifications develop the workplace-related skills and knowledge a learner needs to progress in their chosen area of employment, and prepares them to carry out a job at a professional level. A Diploma contains more credits than an award or a certificate and often has a longer duration. Diplomas often involve practical training and work experience.

Duration

Usually 1-2 years but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Developing the knowledge and skills needed for your chosen career path, but also developing the knowledge needed for university, should you choose that option.

Progression

Employment, a Bachelors or Foundation Degree, or a HND/HNC.

Description

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are often designed in partnership with employers and Sector Skills Councils, meaning they are mostly studied and assessed in the workplace. NVQs are specifically designed for certain career paths and outline what is needed from a learner to progress in their chosen role. Level 3 NVQs further build upon the work-related skills in a Level 2 NVQ and showcase a learner’s ability to excel in a number of complicated, non-routine roles and tasks.

Duration

This depends on the learner and the employer.

Why choose this course?

NVQs prepare learners not only for employment, but are tailored to the area and job role the learner hopes to achieve. It builds on the skills and knowledge they already have, as well as developing new skills.

Progression

A Higher Apprenticeship or another Level 4 qualification, or employment.

Description

Apprenticeships involve qualifications and workplace training or a job to give the learner all the knowledge and experience needed to progress into employment. Apprenticeships include knowledge, competence and Functional Skills, all tailored to the apprentice’s job role, giving learners a well-rounded education.

Duration

Usually around 2 years but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

Learners gain real experience in the workplace in their chosen career path, as well as knowledge gained from the knowledge-based qualification, and can earn while they learn.

Progression

A higher level apprenticeship or employment.

Description

Apprenticeships involve qualifications and workplace training or a job to give the learner all the knowledge and experience needed to progress into employment. Apprenticeships include knowledge, competence and Functional Skills, all tailored to the apprentice’s job role, giving learners a well-rounded education. A Higher Apprenticeship is equivalent to degree-level study.

Duration

18 months-4 years.

Why choose this course?

Learners gain real experience in the workplace in their chosen career path, as well as knowledge gained from the knowledge-based qualification, and can earn while they learn. A Higher Apprenticeship in particular prepares learners to work at a high professional level.

Progression

Employment, or degree-level education.

Description

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are often designed in partnership with employers and Sector Skills Councils, meaning they are mostly studied and assessed in the workplace. NVQs are specifically designed for certain career paths and outline what is needed from a learner to progress in their chosen role. At Level 4, NVQs show that learners are able to work in a variety of complex and high-level roles autonomously. A Level 4 NVQ is equivalent to a HNC or a HND.

Duration

Usually 12-18 months but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

NVQs prepare learners not only for employment, but are tailored to the area and job role the learner hopes to achieve. It builds on the skills and knowledge they already have, as well as developing new skills.

Progression

Employment at a managerial level, or degree-level study.

Description

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are often designed in partnership with employers and sector skills councils, meaning they are mostly studied and assessed in the workplace. NVQs are specifically designed for certain career paths and outline what is needed from a learner to progress in their chosen role. At Level 5, NVQs show that learners are able to work in a variety of complex and high-level roles. Learners should also have the ability to be responsible for the work of others and be able to work completely autonomously.

Duration

Usually 12-18 months but this can vary.

Why choose this course?

This qualification is perfect for learners looking to enhance their career options or develop further in their career.

Progression

Employment at a managerial level, or degree-level study.

Description

The Traineeship programme consists of a period of work experience and qualifications in English and Maths, along with job preparation such as CV writing tips and advice on how to prepare for an interview. This means that learners can concentrate on developing the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to enable them to progress on to Study Programmes, Apprenticeships or into work.

Duration

Depends on the learner.

Why choose this course?

Traineeships combine academic and vocational learning and prepare learners for a job with employability element, making sure they are work ready.

Progression

An Apprenticeship, or employment in their chosen area/career.

Description

Study Programmes consist of a substantial qualification, English and maths and work experience, ensuring your learners are gaining a well-round and balanced education, preparing them for employment.

Duration

Depends on the learner.

Why choose this course?

Study Programmes cover in-depth an area of study that a learner would like to pursue a career, while also providing necessary literacy, numeracy and employability skills.

Progression

Further study or employment. Study Programmes with UCAS point-carrying substantial qualifications can also lead to Higher Education study.

Description

Apprenticeships cover a range of Full Intermediate and part Apprenticeships, as well as Advanced Apprenticeships covering a variety of sectors.  There is also the flexibility to create bespoke Progression to Apprenticeship package for learners.

Duration

12-18 months to 4 years

Why choose this course?

There is the possibility to earn while you learn, gain hand-on experience as well as knowledge and skills in the workplace.

Progression

A higher level apprenticeship, degree level study or employment.

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