Levels of Qualifications

Whether you are returning to education or helping your child find their way, it’s important to know the levels of qualifications available and what they require. Levels of qualifications range from Level 1 through to Level 8 and we will explain here what each level relates to on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

Although you may be more used to seeing levels of qualifications relating to Diplomas, they actually also apply to GCSEs and A-Levels too. The level of a qualification actually relates to the difficulty of the course content, rather than it’s type and each level can offer hundreds of different subjects within it.

Level 1 Qualification

Level 1 qualifications relate to ‘Skills for Life’ courses and so would be entry level qualifications that students can use to build on and prepare them for the next level of learning.

Level 1 qualifications also cover GCSE courses that offer the lower end of the grading scheme so from grade 4 through to 1 (previously grades D – G).

Level 2 Qualification

Level 2 qualifications are equivalent to GCSE courses that carry grades of 5 or above (previously grade C), these courses are available in the traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and more.

You can also get Level 2 Diplomas, these courses tend to be more vocational in style and are a way for students who are not interested in the traditional route of education to begin preparing for study and work at a higher level. Courses available at level 2 are ones such as CACHE Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care.

Also available at Level 2 are courses relating to Functional Skills, these are in English, Mathematics and ICT. They are ideal courses for students who are returning to education and who don’t already hold the relevant GCSEs in the subjects.

Level 3 Qualification

Level 3 qualifications relate to courses such as A-Levels and most Professional Diplomas, they provide students with a solid and foundation understanding of any one particular topic and allow for the student to then progress their learning at a higher level, either at University or via the vocational route.

A-levels tend to follow a more traditional method and focus on learning and the use of study skills, with examinations at the end of the course. Whereas with Diplomas, the learning methods and routes available to students vary greatly and can allow for a more flexible and modular method of learning, so ideal for students not keen on examinations.

There are no set entry requirements for studying at this level and so students with interest in the subjects are free to begin studying as and when they wish.

Level 4 Qualification

Level 4 qualifications are the equivalent to the first year of University study, so quite a lot higher than the previous levels and often more complex in nature and content. You can get courses at this level in hundreds of different subjects and topics.

Also equivalent to level 4 study is the BTEC HNC, which is a Higher National Certificate. This is a good way for students to demonstrate their learning ability without the cost of attending University.

To study a level 4 qualification, students need to hold a level 3 qualification, but this qualification doesn’t need to be in the same field of study.

Level 5 Qualification

Level 5 qualifications are equivalent to a Foundation Degree, or the first two years of University. These courses are a good way for students to save on the expense of going to University, as once achieved, they can be used to study a ‘Top Up Degree’ which will result in them attaining a full Bachelor’s Degree.

To study a level 5 qualification, students must already hold a level 4 qualification, preferably within the same subject of study to ensure they have the relevant knowledge in place.

Level 6 Qualification

Level 6 qualifications relate to courses such as Bachelor’s Degrees.  These courses are designed to give learners a thorough understanding of a subject, and usually takes three years to complete.

Diploma qualifications are also available at Level 6 and cover hundreds of different topics and subjects for students to study.

Due to the level of difficulty, students need to hold a level 5 qualification in a related field in order to study at this level.

Level 7 Qualification

A level 7 qualification is the equivalent to a Master’s Degree (Msc), these qualifications can either be achieved at University or again via a more vocational route of study of a higher level Diploma.

In order to study at this level, students are required to already hold a Bachelor’s Degree, to ensure they have the capability of studying at this level.

Level 8 Qualification

Level 8 qualifications are equivalent to a Doctoral Degree (Phd). Due to the high level of study and ability needed, the selection of courses for this level of study is not as wide as that of others.

To study at this level, students are required to already hold a Bachelor’s Degree, preferably within the same subject.