NVQ levels: What you need to know

Looking for a practical route into work? Try an NVQ…

Studying for an NVQ is a great way to expand your knowledge and fulfil your career goals – without having to stick to an academic schedule. Whether you’re still at school or you’re already in a job, an NVQ provides all the practical skills and knowledge you need to kick-start your career and break into your chosen industry.

To help you figure out if NVQs are right for you, here’s everything you need to know about NVQ levels:


What is an NVQ?

An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is a work-based way of learning – which is carried out at a college, school, or workplace.

Each NVQ level involves a range of on-the-job tasks and activities that are designed to test you on your ability to do a job effectively.

You may start out by applying your knowledge to basic tasks, and progress to incorporating fundamental principles into a variety of contexts.

View all NVQ courses now


What are the benefits of studying for an NVQ?

Studying for an NVQ is a great way to kick-start your career by learning on-the-job.

Here are some of the key benefits of completing an NVQ:

  • You don’t need any formal qualifications to get started
  • It proves your practical ability to future employers
  • It’s a flexible route into your chosen industry
  • You can learn while you earn
  • You’ll gain a recognised qualification without any exams


How many NVQ levels are there?

There are seven main NVQ levels (not including entry level), and each one involves the teaching and application of particular work-based competencies.

These include:


Entry level – Ideal for those without any previous qualifications or knowledge. Teaches the application of basic knowledge and skills on a generic level.

NVQ Level 1 – An introduction to the subject area you choose to study, covering routine tasks and the learning and practical application of basic knowledge.

NVQ Level 2Involves carrying out complex work-based duties, and gaining a good knowledge and understanding of a subject. These are performed in a variety of contexts – involving a combination of individual responsibility and teamwork.

NVQ Level 3 The range of duties become vaster, and more complex. Autonomy and responsibility is also more prevalent in this level – with some control and guidance needed.

NVQ Level 4Provides a specialist and detailed level of learning, usually covering a specific area of work. This level is ideal for those looking to manage others or work in technical roles.

NVQ Level 5Involves learning about an area of work on a deeper level, allowing you to understand and respond to complex situations whilst gaining a high level of expertise. Also covers senior management and the training of others.

NVQ Level 6 – Intended for senior managers, this will give you an in-depth understanding of your discipline, building on the specific knowledge you’ve already acquired. Equivalent to an undergraduate degree. 

NVQ Level 7 – The highest level of the NVQ structure, this is equivalent to a master’s degree, demonstrating that you’re an expert in your field. Once again this level is intended for more senior managers. 


NVQ equivalents

Although NVQs are vocational qualifications, they can be measured against a number of other certifications – allowing a range of career and education opportunities.

Here are the rough equivalents for each NVQ level:

  • NVQ Level 1 equivalent – 3/4 GCSE grades D-G
  • NVQ Level 2 equivalent – 4-5 GCSE grades A*-C
  • NVQ Level 3 equivalent – 2 A Levels
  • NVQ Level 4 equivalent – Higher Education Certificate/BTEC
  • NVQ Level 5 equivalent – Higher Education Diploma/Foundation Degree
  • NVQ Level 6 equivalent – Undergraduate Degree/Degree Apprenticeship
  • NVQ Level 7 equivalent – Master’s Degree/PGCE


How long does it take to complete an NVQ?

There is no set time limit for these qualifications, and you’re free to complete an NVQ at your own pace.

However, the first three levels will generally take around a year each to complete.


How will I be assessed?

You won’t have to take any exams to complete an NVQ, and assessment is based on your ability to carry out the duties needed to meet occupational standards.

Assessors will test you based on:

  • Your portfolio. You’ll need to ensure this contains evidence of the tasks, duties, and achievements you’ve carried out at work.
  • Observation. Assessors will watch you work to make sure you’re capable of completing the tasks and duties involved with your role.

The levels you need to meet are based on the national standards of the job you’re in – and each unit will be signed off as and when you meet those standards.


What are the entry requirements for an NVQ?

There are no specific entry requirements to study for an NVQ.

You can be any age, and are free to start at a level that suits you – although you may need to complete a level 2 NVQ before starting a level 3.

You’ll also need a job or work placement that allows you to develop the skills needed to complete your qualification.


What subjects can I do an NVQ in?

NVQs are available in a broad range of subjects in almost every sector – ranging from healthcare to hairdressing.

Here are a few of the most popular subjects:

View all available NVQ subjects


How do I find NVQ courses?

There are hundreds of different NVQ courses on reed.co.uk right now. 

Not only are the topics on offer incredibly varied, they’re also available for many different skill and experience levels. Meaning you don’t necessarily need to have experience in a role to get started. 

Many offer tutor support as part of the package, as well as flexible finance options. And some may even be available to study on a part-time basis, so you can earn while you learn. 

So no matter what NVQ level you’re looking for, and no matter what subject you’re interested in, we’ve got something to suit you.



Ready to start studying? View all available NVQ courses