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Matthew Joyes is Risk Services Director at ATC Risk Management; one of the UK's leading providers of risk solutions, as well as health and safety training and being experienced health and safety consultants. His experience involves working in risk management and health and safety roles across a number of industries, including retail, logistics and distribution, healthcare and the police service. Click here to read his full resumé.

Note: All of the entries in this blog provide general advice and should not be interpreted or used as specific health and safety guidance to your organisation - you must always consider your own circumstances and take appropriate action. If in doubt, contact us for professional and specific advice.

Diploma or NVQ: Which One Is Right For You? - November 2011

Very often I get asked the question of which professional health and safety qualification is the best - mostly between the NEBOSH Diploma and the NVQ Diploma Level 5 in Occupational Health and Safety Practice (formerly the NVQ Level 4).

Firstly I should say these are not the only options - IOSH maintain a list of qualifications they consider suitable for Graduate Membership which is well worth giving full consideration towards. Many universities now offer undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in health and safety.

However, the big two players still remain the NEBOSH Diploma and NVQ Level 5 Diploma.

So, is one better than the other?

Short answer: no. A lot of health and safety practitioners have a preference towards one or the other, and often I find they prefer to recommend the route they themselves undertook. But the reality is no one is better than the other. The difference is all about the learning process.

The NEBOSH Diploma is an excellent qualification for those wanting to learn - it relies on the traditional method of teaching the student and then testing that the knowledge is understood through exams. Therefore the NEBOSH Diploma is great for those wanting to learn - maybe a new practitioner wanting that knowledge for the first time, or an experienced practitioner wanting to top up or refresh their knowledge whilst obtaining the qualification to enhance their career.

The NVQ Diploma Level 5 is a health and safety nvq specifically designed for those who are already in a health and safety practitioner role and who have already achieved a high degree of practical experience and theoretical knowledge. The NVQ Level 5 relies on the student proving their competence through the submission of high quality evidence. The current standards expect that the student has an autonomous role for managing health and safety in an organisation with complex risks.

Whichever route is best for a student is very much an individual choice as to what they want to get out of the qualification. Contrary to popular myth no one is easier then the other - the NEBOSH Diploma has some tough exams that require hard work to pass, whilst the NVQ Diploma Level 5 expects you to be able to present a good selection of high quality evidence showing an equal amount of knowledge. Likewise no one is quicker than the other, as it all depends on where you are in your career and how much time you can commit to study.

For those considering either of these courses I strongly advise careful research into each. Make a considered decision as to which is going to give you the most valuable learning experience. It's not just about the end result, but also what you learn and experience on the way there.

Related Links:

To see the NEBOSH Diploma programme structure, entry requirements and cost, please click here.

To see the NVQ Diploma Level 5 programme structure, entry requirements and cost, please click here.

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