One of the most common questions our Course Advisors receive about the qualifications we offer is what the different course levels mean, and how they compare to more ‘traditional’ qualifications like GCSEs, A Levels and degrees.

To help you understand what a level 3 qualification is, and how it could help you progress with your career, we’ve put together this helpful guide. Read on below to find out more, or give us a call on 08000126770 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

What do the different qualification levels mean?

Each of the Institute courses we offer are available at a range of different levels, from Level 2 up to Level 7 depending on the course. The level numbers show where the qualification sits on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This is a standardised scale which allows different types of qualification to be compared against each other, giving an idea of their relative ‘difficulty’.

The NQF enables students to identify how challenging a course will be, as well as making it much easier to compare qualifications provided by different institutes and accrediting bodies.

It’s important to note that course titles like ‘Certificate’ or ‘Award’ don’t have a specific meaning, so two providers offering two different ‘Certificates’ aren’t necessarily offering courses at the same level.

Why are there no Level 1 qualifications available?

The National Qualifications framework does have a Level 1 qualification, as well as an Entry level qualification below that. However, most professional bodies don’t offer a course at those levels. Instead, they usually start at Level 2.

What is each level of qualification equivalent to?

NQF qualification levels can be compared with ‘traditional’ qualifications as follows:

Entry level qualifications are equivalent to studying at Foundation Diploma level.

A Level 1 qualification is equivalent to GCSE grade D-G level.

A Level 2 qualification is equivalent to GCSE grade A*-C level.

A Level 3 qualification is equivalent to A Level.

A Level 4 qualification is equivalent to BTEC Professional Diploma level.

A Level 5 qualification is equivalent to  HND or foundation degree level.

A Level 6 qualification is equivalent to Bachelor’s Degree level.

A Level 7 qualification is equivalent to Master’s Degree level.

A Level 8 qualification is equivalent to Doctorate level.

It’s important to remember that this is only a guide, and that courses on the same NQF level aren’t exactly equivalent – the learning style, course length and content can vary significantly.

I have a degree – should I start at Level 6?

Not necessarily. While a degree is at the same NQF level as a professional qualification at level 6, the entry requirements are very different. Professional qualifications like CILT or CIPS courses focus on your working experience rather than your academic qualifications, so the level you’ll need to start on will depend on your job role and experience.

What level qualification should I take to progress my career?

As well as corresponding to academic qualifications, NQF qualification levels also correspond to the type of job role that is suitable for people working at each level. The types of job roles and skills that are associated with each level are as follows:

Entry Level: People working at Entry Level have a basic level of knowledge, and are able to complete tasks under direct supervision. This level of qualification is not aimed at specific job roles, but rather at building basic skills.

Level 1: People working at Level 1 have a basic level of knowledge relating to their profession, working with guidance or under some supervision to complete everyday tasks.

Level 2: Level 2 represents a good level of knowledge in the student’s chosen area, allowing them to complete a varied range of tasks with some supervision or guidance.

Level 3: Level 3 represents a range of knowledge and skills, including detailed knowledge of one or more areas. Level 3 corresponds to job roles where students are required to work independently.

Level 4: People working at Level 4 have specialist or advanced knowledge and skills – Level 4 is aimed at technical or professional job roles, sometimes with supervisory or first line management elements.

Level 5: People working at Level 5 are involved in complex decision making and problem solving – this is generally in the form of middle managerial roles.

Level 6: Level 6 moves from gaining knowledge through study to using the student’s original research and ideas to solve problems. Level 6 is aimed at senior managerial and professional roles.

Level 7: Level 7 represents the use of detailed original research to deal with complex and unpredictable situations, in jobs such as strategic management or directorial roles.

Level 8: People working at Level 8 are considered leading experts in their field. Their role would involve developing new approaches to extend or redefine current knowledge or best practice in their chosen subject area.

When choosing a professional qualification, you would usually expect to start at the level that best matches your current job role and experience. Once this is complete, you may choose to progress to the next level of qualification, to help you gain the skills and experience you need for the next stage of your career.

What our students have to say

At DLC and Training, we’ve helped many people to gain the qualifications they needed to progress their careers.

Here’s what one student had to say about us:

“When I started to research what courses there were out there, the methods of learning, duration and of course costs of courses, I was impressed by the choice offered by DLC, the accessibility and the level of support available. 

I was worried though, I’d not done any formal studying since leaving school at 15 – we didn’t even have computers back then!  I needed to speak with someone to check out not only my eligibility but to get an honest assessment and assurance.

I needn’t have worried.  From first contact I found everyone to be so friendly and approachable; nothing I ever asked was too much trouble. And now I’ve achieved the Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership qualification.”

– Tricia Pritchard, CMI Level 7 Student with DLC

Want to know more?

Our aim is your success. For advice on choosing the right level of qualification, simply complete the form below with your contact details and one of our highly trained Course Advisors will call you back to provide a no obligation, free consultation. Alternatively, call 08000126770 to speak to us straight away. We look forward to hearing from you!