What are vocational qualifications?

Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications available in a wide range of career areas. They are designed to enable the learner to acquire knowledge and skills that meet recognised standards necessary to perform a particular job.

They are called National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in England and Wales, and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Scotland. Work performance is assessed by on-the-job observation rather than exams.

Since they are broken down into units covering different aspects of a particular job, they are flexible enough to allow you to use some units gained for one job to count towards qualifying for another if you decide to change careers. NVQs and SVQs are available in five levels (the lowest being Level 1). Vocational qualifications from Level 3 may be used to apply for higher education courses.  

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