Choosing a health and safety course

NEBOSH Diploma vs NVQ Level 6 - Which is best for you?

2nd July 2024

For anyone currently working in a health and safety role, career progression is important, so it is essential to know which training course to choose next. A degree-level qualification is often required for more senior positions, but what's the best way to achieve one?

If you have already gained the NEBOSH National General Certificate, another NEBOSH qualification may seem the natural next step, and that means studying for the NEBOSH Diploma.

However, this is not the only option. The NVQ Level 6 is an equally prestigious and respected degree-level qualification. At Phoenix Health & Safety, we offer both. So how do they differ, and which one is right for you?

What is the NEBOSH Diploma?

The National Examination Board in Occupational Health and Safety (NEBOSH) is a globally respected provider of health and safety qualifications and courses. Over 50,000 people per year enrol on NEBOSH courses. The NEBOSH National Diploma is regarded as a first step to becoming a chartered safety and health practitioner, and is currently held by over 10,000 professionals.

What is the NVQ Level 6?

NVQs are the UK's premier vocational qualifications, offering a practical, evidence-based approach to learning, which can be undertaken while continuing to work. Level 6 Diplomas are designed for people whose responsibilities include developing and implementing health and safety procedures within their workplace.

What’s the difference between NEBOSH Diploma and NVQ Level 6?

The NEBOSH Diploma option is ideal for candidates who are comfortable with an academic style of learning, assessed by Open Book Examinations (these are digital assessments that can be done from home). Candidates enjoy access to a tutor or our Student Support team (depending whether they choose classroom, virtual classroom or e-Learning) throughout their study period, so their individual learning experience is supported.

NVQ Level 6 is most suitable for candidates who prefer a practical, work-based style of learning. It is an excellent option for people who wish to continue learning in a full-time job while studying, and is assessed on a portfolio basis, rather than through exams.

Who should study a NEBOSH Diploma or NVQ Level 6?

The NEBOSH Diploma is suitable for health and safety professionals and managers who have several years' experience in such a role. Ideally, candidates have already completed a Level 3 qualification, such as the NEBOSH Certificate.

NVQ Level 6 is appropriate for professionals with three to five years’ experience in management or senior management roles, which include health and safety responsibilities. Candidates who have already completed NVQ Level 5 can simply 'upgrade' to Level 6. There is no need to complete both separately.

Study modules and units

The NEBOSH Diploma consists of 3 units, taught either in a classroom, virtual classroom or via distance learning. Course duration is 6 weeks of classroom study, or around 450-500 hours via distance learning. Students receive access to an online library of activities and learning resources, as well as revision supplements and mock exam papers.

NVQ Level 6 comprises 10 units, and typically takes between 12 and 18 months to complete. The NVQ Level 6 Diploma is not a taught programme. Study is done remotely, via distance learning. Candidates complete a work-based portfolio and are assigned a personal mentor, who offers remote support throughout the course and provides feedback on the portfolio.


The NEBOSH Diploma is assessed by one assignment and two case studies, all of which are done as Open Book Exams (OBE's).

For NVQ Level 6, the invigilators assess a portfolio of evidence submitted by the candidate. This covers the content of the 11 learning modules, plus a case study based on the evidence in the portfolio. There are no formal exams.


To study the NEBOSH Diploma with Phoenix costs £1,250 (+ exams) for e-Learning, £4,195 for Virtual Classroom and £5,595 for a classroom course.

Studying NVQ Level 6 with Phoenix costs £1,850.

All these prices are +VAT.

NEBOSH Diploma benefits

  • Academic degree-level qualification

  • The flexibility of being able to study in the classroom, virtual classroom or via distance learning

  • The course builds on the extensive knowledge acquired by studying the NEBOSH Certificate

  • The Diploma is equivalent to a bachelor's degree and transferrable across industries

  • Holders are eligible for CertIOSH Membership (with relevant industry experience)

  • The NEBOSH Diploma is often requested by employers

NEBOSH Diploma Drawbacks

  • The NEBOSH Diploma course requires commitment to a long and intensive period of study

  • It involves open book exams, which some candidates may not prefer

NVQ Level 6 benefits

  • Study is work-based, so you can continue, uninterrupted with your job

  • No time away from work is required

  • The portfolio-based format puts the focus on real-life experience from your workplace

  • No written exams

  • Holders are eligible for CMIOSH and GradIOSH (with relevant industry experience)

NVQ Level 6 drawbacks

  • The course takes longer to complete than the NEBOSH Diploma

  • Studying remotely, with no taught modules, requires a high degree of motivation and commitment

If you would like to know more about either course, or are interested in degree-level health and safety qualifications but still not sure which option to choose, feel free to contact the Phoenix team at any time.

Visit our course pages to book your NEBOSH or NVQ qualification:

If you have any further questions, you can contact the Phoenix team or see our other NEBOSH health and safety courses.