If you want to get a recognised qualification related to a particular industry or sector, a National Vocational Qualification, or NVQ, may be for you. You can study NVQs at work, FE college, or as part of an apprenticeship.

NVQs: what they are 

NVQs are a 'competence-based' qualification, which means you learn practical, work-related tasks designed to help you develop the skills and knowledge to do a job effectively. Taking an NVQ could be suitable if you already have skills and want to improve them, or if you are starting from scratch.

NVQs are available to adults and young people. There are five levels ranging from Level 1, which focuses on basic work activities, to Level 5 for senior management. You can take NVQs if you:

  • are employed
  • are studying at FE college and have a part-time job
  • are completing an apprenticeship
  • are at school

You can also take an NVQ qualification at level 2 or 3 as part of an apprenticeship. In some cases you can also do an NVQ if you are at school.

What NVQs are available

There are various NVQs to choose from which cover the majority of business sectors, including:

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

Many learners take about one year to complete an NVQ at level 1 and 2 and around two years for an NVQ at level 3. Within reason, there is no maximum time limit in which to complete an NVQ as they are designed to be taken at a pace that suits your needs.

How you are assessed

NVQs are assessed on practical assignments and a portfolio of evidence that you build up. Normally, a qualified assessor will observe you and question you about the work you do. They will test your knowledge and understanding as well as your performance. Your assessor will 'sign-off' individual units within the NVQ when you have reached the required standard.

You are assessed as being either 'competent' or 'not yet competent'.

Where NVQs can lead

Completing an NVQ can lead to further training at the next NVQ level.  If you've achieved an NVQ at level 3, you could also go on to a higher education course in a related vocational area such as:

Further information

If you know what NVQ you'd like to do, you should speak to a school or Further Education college that offers it to discuss enrolment.

If you're not sure and want to learn more about NVQs and where you can do them, the Careers Service offers information and guidance.

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