Home > Vocational Learning > Vocational Qualifications and Changing Career

Vocational Qualifications and Changing Career

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 22 Dec 2012 |
Career Qualifications Vocational

Feeling stuck in a job and want to make a complete fresh start, but not sure how? Looking for a job but not got the experience that employers are looking for? Vocational courses can be a good way to gain qualifications for a career change or a brand new career, and many can be studied part-time, while working, or even while still at school or college.

What Are Vocational Qualifications?

Vocational qualifications (also known as VQs), are practical, work-based qualifications, which have been designed in collaboration with employers. As well as learning a new skill, studying for a vocational qualification may also give people an opportunity to get some work experience in their new chosen area.

Vocational qualifications can be studied at college or at work. Vocational qualifications aren’t just about getting a new job – the qualifications can be based on assessments in an existing job, to and can be very useful to get to the next step up in the company.

The vocational qualifications structure is changing during 2010, bringing in new vocational qualifications, which are designed to be more relevant to employers, and to allow a broader range of people to study for them. The different levels of the qualifications are now part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). As well as the new qualifications, the framework still covers the existing qualifications, such as NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications), BTECs, City and Guilds, OCR Nationals, HNCs (Higher National Certificates) and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas).

Levels of Vocational Qualifications

People can study for vocational qualifications in units, and each of these has a ‘credit’ value, with one credit equivalent to ten hours of study. This means that study can be taken at an individual’s own pace, and can fit around home and jobs. The credits build up into qualifications:

  • Award – 1-12 credits (10-120 hours)
  • Certificate – 13-36 credits (130-360 hours)
  • Diploma – 37 credits or more (370 hours plus)

Because the qualifications are recognised across the UK, it is possible to start a qualification in one part of the UK, and complete in another.

As part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework, vocational qualifications are available at different levels:

  • Level 1 – equivalent to GCSEs grades D-G
  • Level 2 – equivalent to GCSEs grades A-C
  • Level 3 – equivalent to A levels
  • Level 4 – equivalent to BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
  • Level 5 – equivalent to HNCs and HNDs
  • Level 6 or 7 – equivalent to BTEC Advanced Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
  • Level 8 – equivalent to a PhD

What Can You Study?

There is a huge range of subjects available to study, all of which are relevant to different kinds of work. Examples include:

  • Administration
  • Art
  • Business
  • Construction and property
  • Design
  • Distribution
  • Food, catering and leisure
  • Health and social care
  • Information technology
  • Media
  • Manufacturing, production and engineering
  • Public services
  • Sales and marketing
  • Science
  • Sport

Where Next?

Completing a vocational qualification may lead to a new job or a promotion, or to studying at the next level of vocational qualification. After completing a level three course, it’s possible to move across to a higher education course in a related area, such as an HNC, an HND, or a foundation degree.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Shaun
    Re: Learning Through an Apprenticeship
    Hi I'd like to know more about becoming an electrician, I'm 34 in Derbyshire and would be grateful for any information you…
    23 November 2019
  • Martin
    Re: Considerations when Changing Career
    Hi there, i am considering changing my career but staying within the construction industry. I'm currently working as…
    9 November 2019
  • Chaza
    Re: Become A Vet's Assistant
    Hi I have an executive diploma in zoology can I be a veterinary nursing assistant with this qualification or do I need something else.…
    5 November 2019
  • Gordmac80!
    Re: Learning Through an Apprenticeship
    Hi, I live in Inverness, I’m 39 will be 40 in March, I’ve worked in retail since I was 16 I’ve been a manger for 16 years…
    17 October 2019
  • Ashi
    Re: Teaching Adults as a Career
    Currently I am working as a HLTA (teaching assistant) in primary school with EAL children. I am thinking of working with adults,…
    11 October 2019
  • Linds
    Re: The Adult Learning Grant
    I am in receipt of Universal Credit. Do this disbar me from claiming a grant?
    22 September 2019
  • Sophokles
    Re: Teaching Adults as a Career
    I retired a year or so ago; however, I've still 'something left in the tank', and my English usage has always been praised. (I have…
    10 September 2019
  • Donna
    Re: Learning Through an Apprenticeship
    Hi I am 37 years old. I have worked the majority of my life in retail supermarkets. I have nvq level 2 in both retail and…
    1 September 2019
  • Ger
    Re: Adult Dyslexia Assessment Explained
    After years of struggling my so was assessed at college and finally diagnosed, and received excellent support. His…
    27 August 2019
  • Ballerina
    Re: Become A Vet's Assistant
    Hi, I am 63 and for the past 20 years have worked in an Emergency Department as an Enrolled Nurse dealing with a variety of…
    17 August 2019