Choosing a health and safety course

NVQ Level 5 or NVQ Level 6, which one should you choose?

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
8th October 2020

If you’re a health and safety professional ready to take your career to the next level, there’s a wide range of qualifications to consider. For instance, we have some of the industry’s most knowledgeable tutors teaching IOSH and NEBOSH courses across the UK.

But we also offer other ways to progress your career in health and safety, one of which is by taking an NVQ Diploma. These courses provide a practical, work-based, exam-free approach to gaining those all-important qualifications.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what an NVQ Diploma in health and safety could do for your career.

What is an NVQ?

National Vocational Qualifications are the UK’s leading vocational qualifications, available for a range of subjects including social care, catering, plumbing... and health and safety. They are widely valued by employers in the UK and internationally.

Thanks to distance learning, NVQs are ideal for professionals who wish to continue working in a demanding role while studying in their own time.

How do NVQs work?

When you pursue a health and safety NVQ with Phoenix, you work through a series of modules — building a portfolio of evidence in the process. A personal mentor will be assigned to you by Phoenix, whose role is to support you throughout the course. They will evaluate your work, advise you when something needs to change, and submit it to the assessors when it’s ready to meet all their requirements.

In short, our experienced staff guide you through the entire qualification process.

The benefits of NVQ Diplomas include:

  • The ability to study at home in your own time.
  • Flexibility — you can take up to 18 months to complete the course, tailoring it around your work schedule.
  • Assessments and portfolios are focussed around your company role.
  • There are no written exams.
  • There is a tailored study plan for each candidate.
  • Use feedback on assessments and portfolios to improve your final submission.

Now for the big questions. Why are there two NVQ diplomas in health and safety? And what’s the difference between them?

NVQ Level 5 or Level 6?

Both are degree-level qualifications and cover the same curriculum over 11 units.

NVQ Level 5 is the equivalent of a foundation degree, attained after two years of completing a university course.

As you would expect, NVQ Level 6 is a higher qualification, equivalent to a full bachelor’s degree and the NEBOSH National Diploma.

The main difference is that in NVQ5, the final module requires you to satisfy the continuous professional development (CPD) requirement by writing a case study based on the online portfolio you have created.

Level 6 spreads this requirement across every module. So, if you complete NVQ5, then later wish to upgrade to Level 6, you would have to go back over the whole portfolio — adding more reflective and analytical work with real-life examples.

Due to its slightly more stringent requirements, many international employers prefer NVQ Level 6.

Who should study an NVQ in health and safety?

Both courses are suitable for a range of health and safety professionals in senior management or advisory roles.

Please be aware that because you’re required to use real-life evidence from your workplace, you are likely to have several years’ experience in that role. To reach this professional level, you may have already studied a Level 3 qualification, such as the NEBOSH National General Certificate.

Does completing an NVQ Diploma entitle you to GradIOSH membership?

At the moment, both NVQ levels allow you to apply for graduate membership of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. This is a significant step towards gaining chartered status; a prerequisite for many senior roles in the health and safety industry.

For NVQ Level 5, however, you must study an extra unit called “Professional development and ethics in health and safety management”. But things are fast changing in the world of health and safety, and, as such, it is likely that only NVQ 6 will be eligible for IOSH graduate membership in the future.

If the NVQ route sounds like your preferred approach to gaining graduate-level health and safety qualifications, why not find out more? Feel free to contact the Phoenix team at any time.