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What is a Level 3 Qualification Equivalent to?

A common question we receive about the courses we offer is what the different course levels mean, and how they compare to more ‘traditional’ qualifications like GCSE’s, A Levels and degrees.

What do the course level numbers mean?

Each of the Institute courses we offer is available in 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. 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 tell what demands a course will make on them – 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. The NQF levels make it much easier to compare qualifications provided by different institutes and accrediting bodies.

Why is there no Level 1?

The National Qualifications framework has a Level 1, as well as an Entry level below that, but most professional qualifications don’t offer a course at these levels. Instead, they usually start at Level 2.

What is my qualification equivalent to?

The NQF levels and their equivalents in ‘traditional’ qualifications are shown below:

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 and do 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.

As well as corresponding to academic qualifications, the 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 Level 1 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. For advice on choosing the right level, contact our course advisors today.