Choosing a health and safety course

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

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
20th January 2021

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 recently introduced 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 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 is designed for people whose responsibilities include developing and implementing health and safety procedures within their workplace. They are not necessarily in a full-time health and safety role. It is a more advanced qualification than the Level 5 NVQ Diploma in Health and Safety, which is a foundation degree. 

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 traditional examinations. Candidates enjoy access to a tutor on a one-to-one basis throughout their study period, so their individual learning experience can be personalised.

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 project 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 4 units (3 taught units and 1 assignment), taught either in a classroom environment or via distance learning with access to a tutor via email and video calls. Course duration is 7 weeks of classroom study, or 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 paper.

NVQ Level 6 comprises 11 units, and typically takes between 12 and 18 months to complete. The NVQ Level 5 and 6 Diplomas are not taught programmes. 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 3 three-hour exams (one exam per taught unit module), plus an 8,000-word work-based project.

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, the fee is £4,995 for a classroom course and £1,195 for distance learning. 

Studying NVQ Level 6 with Phoenix costs £1,795.

NEBOSH Diploma benefits

  • Academic degree-level qualification
  • The flexibility of being able to study in the 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 can use DipNEBOSH after their name, and are eligible for CMIOSH and GradIOSH
  • 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 formal exams, which some candidates may not prefer
  • Exams must be taken in person; it is not possible to sit them remotely

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

NVQ Level 6 drawbacks

  • The course takes longer to complete that the NEBOSH Diploma
  • Studying remotely, with no taught modules, requires a high degree of motivation and commitment 
  • The qualification is less transferable to other workplaces and industries, because your portfolio is based on your current role 

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: