We’re all familiar with standard academic qualifications like GCSE’s, A levels (Secondary & Higher Secondary Education some countries) and degrees. Most of us will also have heard of ‘vocational’ courses like NVQ’s, BTEC’s or City and Guilds qualifications.

However, many people are less familiar with the third kind of qualification – ‘professional’ qualifications. There’s a huge array of different professional qualifications.

What’s a professional qualification?

Professional qualifications are provided by professional bodies like the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply or the Chartered Management Institute. These organizations represent people doing a specific type of work, in much the same way that industry bodies represent certain types of businesses. As part of this, many professional bodies offer their own range of qualifications in the area they represent.

Instead of testing academic knowledge in a subject like maths or history, professional qualifications show your ability to do a job – they’ll cover everything from procedural best practice to more wide-ranging topics exploring how your particular role fits into a business as a whole, as well as more theoretical and strategic areas. So, a professional qualification is a course aimed at people who do a particular type of job, accredited by a professional body representing those people.

What do the levels mean?

Most professional qualifications are available at a variety of different levels, usually ranging from Level 2 to Level 7. At first glance, these can look confusing – what happened to level 1?

In fact, the numbers correspond to the National Qualifications Framework, which assigns levels to different qualifications to give an idea of how they compare to each other in terms of difficulty.

Here’s a breakdown of the different levels in the National Qualifications Framework, along with some more ‘traditional’ qualifications at each level:

NQF LevelExample Qualifications
Entry LevelFoundation Diploma (Basic)
Level 1GCSE grades D-G/ equals secondary education
BTEC Introductory Diplomas and Certificates
Level 2GCSE grades A*-C/ equals to secondary education
BTEC First Diplomas and Certificates
Level 3A levels/ equal to higher secondary education
BTEC Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 4NVQs at level 4
BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 5HNCs and HNDs
Level 6Degree/ Bachelors
Level 7Master’s Degree
Level 8Doctorate

So, you can choose to study most professional qualifications at anything from GCSE level to postgraduate level. However, it’s important to remember that when choosing a professional qualification you study at a level decided by your working experience, not your educational background. Because of this, it’s not unusual for a graduate to start studying at Level 3 if they’re new to the profession, or for somebody with no formal qualifications but years of working experience to start at a Level 5 or even higher.

How do I get a professional qualification?

Because professional qualifications are so closely linked to your work, most professional institutes recommend that you study while you work in a related role. Some colleges run part-time courses, or many people choose to study via a distance learning course.

The course structure will depend on the specific qualification you’re taking, but most courses will be split into several units, with an assignment, exam or even a work-based project to complete for each one. To study the course, you’ll usually have to be a member of the professional body who accredits the course.

Are professional qualifications worth having?

Absolutely! Professional qualifications are fully accredited, and a professional qualification from a prestigious professional body is recognized worldwide as a mark of industry excellence. Because they show that you have a specific knowledge of the job at hand, they’re very valuable to employers, many of whom look for them specifically when they’re recruiting. Because of this, holding a professional qualification can benefit your career considerably – research has shown that having one could help you to earn up to £81,000 more over your working life.

Our organization is aiming to deliver qualifications which will be recognized all over the world and it will help to improve infrastructure, create new jobs, a better environment, sustainable developments, and much more.

  • Facilities and buildings management

  • Health and safety management

  • Development and construction management

  • Surveying management

  • Environment