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Vocational qualifications on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)

Vocational qualifications on the Qualifications and Credit Framework are new, work-related qualifications. They are designed to allow you to learn in a way that suits you, and give you the skills that employers are looking for. There are already lots to choose from, in a wide range of subjects.

New vocational qualifications

These new work-related qualifications are located on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). The QCF groups qualifications together into a number of ‘levels’ that place different demands on you as a learner.

See ‘at a glance’ what’s involved

Each qualification title tells you:

  • what it covers
  • how long it takes
  • how difficult it is

Learn in a way that suits you

Vocational qualifications on the QCF are designed to be much more flexible than other work-related qualifications.

They are made up of units, so you can study a pace that suits you. Over time, you can combine units in different ways to make up a full qualification.

This means that no learning you do is ever ‘lost’ or counts for nothing. It also means you don’t have to repeat learning unnecessarily.

Track your progress

If you take vocational qualifications on the QCF, your learning is ‘banked’ over time and stored on your own personal learner record. This shows what training you have done and helps you to see how you can progress further.

Qualification size: how long it takes to complete

Learn in a way that suits you

  • fit learning around your work and home life
  • learn in small chunks, at your own pace

Every new qualification and unit on the QCF has a credit value, showing how long it takes to complete. One credit is equivalent to 10 hours. This can include time spent learning in a variety of ways – not necessarily being taught by someone.

There are three different sizes of qualification, worth different numbers of credits. Larger qualifications will take longer to complete than smaller ones.


An award is the smallest type of qualification on the QCF. It is worth between one and 12 credits. This means it takes between 10 and 120 hours to complete.


A certificate is worth between 13 and 36 credits. It takes between 130 and 360 hours to complete.


A diploma is worth 37 credits or more, so takes at least 370 hours to complete.

Qualification level: how difficult it is

Choose from a wide range of subjects

Thousands of these new qualifications are available already – more are being added all the time

Each type of qualification on the QCF also has a level between Entry level and level 8, showing how difficult it is.

The QCF levels are the same as the levels on the National Qualification Framework, which lists other types of qualification. For example, GCSEs are at levels 1 and 2, A levels are at level 3, and a PhD is at level 8.

Choosing a qualification to suit you

The title of every qualification on the QCF contains the following information:

  • what the qualification is about
  • the size of the qualification (award, certificate or diploma)
  • the level of the qualification (Entry level to level 8)

This means you can see at a glance how much time you’ll need to complete the qualification, and how difficult it is likely to be compared with other qualifications.

You can choose the size and level of a qualification that best suits your needs, as long as you meet any entry criteria. For example, you could choose a diploma at level 1, or an award at level 8.

Improve your career prospects

New vocational qualifications give you the skills employers want

Search for vocational qualifications

There are already over 2,500 of these new vocational qualifications on the QCF, available in a wide range of subjects. More are being added all the time.

You can search for them on the National Database of Accredited Qualifications.

Follow the link below. Then, in the search box enter ‘QCF,’ and the subject you’re interested in. For example: ‘QCF, hairdressing’.

Where are these new qualifications available?

Qualifications on the QCF are available from a wide range of learning providers. A number of employers are also developing these qualifications.

They are available in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. They are also recognised in Scotland.

This means, for example, that you could complete a unit in one part of the UK, and then combine it with other units that you take somewhere else in the UK.

Changes to other vocational qualifications

Between now and the end of 2010, other vocational qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (such as BTECs) are being changed into units and moved on to the QCF.

NVQs are also changing this way - although some qualifications will continued to be called NVQs.

Help and advice

Advice for young people

For advice on learning and qualifications for 13 to 19 year olds, contact Connexions Direct.

  • Call an adviser: 0808 00 13 2 19

The 'It's your choice: options after 16' section has information about options after Year 11.

Advice for adult learners

Get advice about qualifications for adult learners from the Careers Advice Service.

  • Careers Advice helpline: 0800 100 900

Other sources of advice

You can also get advice from your school, college, employer or careers adviser.

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