Vocational qualifications offer practical learning programmes that relate to specific job roles or employment sectors.

There are many different types of vocational qualifications in a wide range of subjects at all levels - from Entry Level right up to Level 8

Vocational courses are designed to help young people learn in a practical way about a specific job area - helping you to get the skills needed to start a job, progress in a career or go on to higher levels of education.

Vocational subjects that are related to a broad employment area such as business, engineering, IT, health and social care
Vocational courses that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, accounting, professional cookery, plumbing
Apprenticeships where you are employed and trained for a specific job role - getting paid as you learn and gain in-work qualifications

Vocational qualifications are typically, but not exclusively, technical in nature. This means they aim to provide occupational skills and signal work-readiness to employers. Most students at this level are studying subjects aligned to technical routes, the remainder are studying qualifications whose main purpose is academic progression – for example, a Foundation Degree in History, or a Diploma of Higher Education in English

Depending on your Level 3 qualifications, the next step in vocational qualifications is Level 4 & 5.

Level 4 and 5 qualifications are those that sit between level 3 (A levels, T levels, applied generals, such as like BTECs and Cambridge Technical) and level 6+ (bachelors with honours, master’s degrees, PhDs).

Nearly all FE colleges (97 per cent) and most HE institutions (88 per cent) provide level 4 and 5 qualifications. Nearly 200 private and adult community learning providers deliver level 4 and 5 providers, which includes 48 alternative providers in HE that are not FE colleges.

These post-school, pre-degree qualifications are currently filled by the likes of higher national diplomas (HNDs), higher national certificates (HNCs), NVQs and foundation degrees

Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates are work-related courses provided by a number of colleges. Generally speaking an HND is the equivalent to two years at university but they can often be studied part time over four years. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' and develop skills that you can use in a particular job. Many students who undertake these courses are already employed in the industry and the qualification helps them to further their career or update their knowledge. They are highly valued by employers and can also count towards membership of professional bodies.

Entry requirements for a HNC/D vary and relevant professional or technical experience is often taken into account. Progression from an HNC/D can include further study at university which can lead to a degree, or entry to and progression within a related industry.

HNDs are offered in vocational areas such as:

• Arts, Media and Publishing
• Business, Administration and Law
• Construction, Planning and the Built Environment
• Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies
• Information and Communication Technology
• Leisure, Travel and Tourism

To apply, contact the college or training provider directly.

NVQ stands for national vocational qualification and are work-related qualifications; they are available in more than 1,000 subjects across a wide range of business sectors, including business and management, construction, manufacturing and healthcare.

An NVQ at Level 4 & 5 is equivalent to the first year and second year of a degree course or HNC and HND.

How long do they take?

• NVQs don't have to be completed in a specific amount of time, but most people find it takes between 9 months and a year to complete an NVQ Level 4, and over 12 months to complete a Level 5 qualification.
• They can be taken by full-time employees or by school and college students who have a work placement or part-time job that enables them to develop the appropriate skills.