Choosing a Health & Safety qualification: NEBOSH Certificate vs NVQ vs NCFE IOSH Level 3

10 minute read | Oct 24 2017

Choosing a professional qualification can often be quite daunting. After all, you’re going to be investing both time and money into your course, so it’s important to choose one that’s beneficial to your career, lifestyle and budget.

When it comes to foundation level health and safety qualifications in the UK, there are three players: the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (NGC) and the NVQ Level 3 Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and the new NCFE IOSH Level 3 Certificate in Safety and Health for Business.

Each course can help get the ball running on your health and safety career but differ greatly when it comes to the learning method. We’ve broken down the difference between these qualifications to help you decide which route is right for you.

About the Courses

NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health & Safety

NEBOSH National General Certificate In Health & Safety Qualification

The NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (NGC) is the most widely held health and safety qualification in the UK, with over 175,000 learners achieving the course since it was launched.

It provides an understanding of areas you would expect to encounter in a health and safety job role: HSE legislation, hazards, human factors, risk assessment, accident and incident investigations, safe systems of work, reporting, performance reviews, and more.

The NGC is suitable for managers, supervisors and any other staff who need a broad understanding of health and safety issues. It’s also popular amongst those just starting out in health and safety as no previous knowledge or experience is required to take the course.

It provides the foundation for a career in health safety management that can be built upon with other skills or indeed any management role where safety will play a part.

If you work outside the UK find out more about the NEBOSH International General Certificate.  

NVQ Level 3 in Occupational Health and Safety

City and guilds NVQ Level 3 in Occupational Health & SafetyThe NVQ Level 3 Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety is a work-related, competency based qualification. It doesn’t necessarily teach learners anything new but rather assesses your current knowledge and skills through the collection and submission of evidence from workplace activities.

The NVQ is aimed at those already working in a health and safety related role, with a certain level of responsibility, and requires formal recognition of their current knowledge and skills. As a purely work-based qualification, it’s more suited for those who are disciplined and comfortable with generating a lot of reports.

NCFE IOSH Level 3 Certificate in Safety and Health for Business

This NCFE IOSH Level 3 is a new qualification that takes a business and technical focus to health 

IOSH  Level 3 in Safety & Health for Business qualification

and safety addressing employers current issues. It adopts a more strategic approach to health and safety and how companies can adapt to long term trends including how to drive programmes of cultural change. There is a strong focus on health and well-being, including health hazards, health assessment, global health trends and good practice.

This NCFA IOSH Level 3 is a portfolio based qualification so targeted at people already working in a health & safety role.  

Course Content

NEBOSH General Certificate

The NEBOSH General Certificate consists of 3 modules, each assessed separately:

  • NGC1: The management of health and safety
  • GC2: Controlling workplace hazards
  • GC3: Health and safety practical assignment

You must pass all 3 modules within 5 years to obtain the full qualification.

The NGC1 module also forms a core module of other NEBOSH courses, including NEBOSH Certificate in Construction Health and Safety, NEBOSH Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management, NEBOSH International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas. This means that once you have achieved your NEBOSH General Certificate, you will be exempt from this module in the other qualifications so you can build on your range of skills for your career. It provides practical based learning based on management models and legislation that you can use in your workplace with confidence.

NVQ Level 3

To achieve the NVQ certificate, you must achieve a total of 31 credits; 23 credits from the mandatory units (301-305) and a minimum of 8 credits from the optional units (306-309):

  • Unit 301: Ensure responsibility for actions to reduce risks to health and safety (4 credits)
  • Unit 302: Develop procedures to safely control work operations (4 credits)
  • Unit 303: Monitor procedures to safely control work operations (5 credits)
  • Unit 304: Promote a culture of health and safety in the workplace (4 credits)
  • Unit 305: Conduct a health and safety risk assessment of the workplace (6 credits)
  • Unit 306: Investigate and evaluate health and safety incidents and complaints in the workplace (5 credits)
  • Unit 307: Make sure actions in the workplace aim to protect the environment (4 credits)
  • Unit 308: Review health and safety procedures in the workplace (4 credits)
  • Unit 309: Supervise the health, safety and welfare of a learner in the workplace (4 credits)

NCFE IOSH Level 3

To get this qualification you must complete 3 mandatory units to achieve this qualification:
  • Unit 1 - Safety and health management in an organisation
  • Unit 2 - Understand how to influence a safety and health culture within an organisation
  • Unit 3 - Understand a strategic, business focused approach to safety and health

Course Duration

NEBOSH General Certificate

The duration of the NEBOSH General Certificate depends on the chosen learning method; it can be taken via classroom, online or distance learning. Classroom courses are typically taken across 2 weeks with an additional day for exams. Online and distance learning options allow learners to work through the course at their own pace, but there will be a limit for the amount of time you have access to tutor support or online materials. It can be completed in a short time period.

NVQ level 3

The NVQ is a work-based qualification which is completed in your own time and workplace. It usually takes between 12-18 months to achieve; again the duration of tutor support will vary between course providers.

NCFE IOSH Level 3

The NCFE IOSH Level 3 is also a work-based qualification. You organise your time to complete the learning outcomes and assessments. It is recommended that 60 hours of guided study and preparation which is directed by the course provider. To complete the whole qualification it is estimated that you need to devote a total of 120 hours over the time period that you agree with your course provider.

Assessment

NEBOSH General Certificate

The NEBOSH General Certificate is assessed with two 2-hour exams: one for NGC1 and another for GC2.

The exams consist of 1 long essay question and 10 short essay questions. GC3 is a practical assignment which requires the learner to complete a risk assessment and a follow-up report.

NVQ level 3

The NVQ level 3 certificate is entirely work-based with no formal exams or assignments. Instead, you are assessed through a portfolio of evidence based on the criteria within the qualification.

Qualification Recognition

NEBOSH General Certificate

NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) is an awarding body in health and safety. Their range of qualifications attracts 50,000 learners worldwide each year, with exams taken in over 120 countries. It is more of a portable qualification due to its worldwide recognition.

"More than a third (38%) of vacancies called for a NEBOSH Certificate level qualification...Overall, 92% of [health and safety job advertisements] asked for either some form of NEBOSH qualification and/or Membership of IOSH" - NEBOSH Jobs Barometer

The NEBOSH General Certificate meets the requirements for membership of professional bodies including:

  • Associate Membership of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (AIOSH)
  • Technical Membership of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (TechIOSH)
  • Associate Membership of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM)

It also provides a solid foundation for further study, with many learners going on to take their NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety and becoming competent safety professionals who are rewarded with much greater responsibility and higher salaries.

NVQ level 3

The NVQ level 3 certificate is awarded by City and Guilds, an international leader in skills development across a spectrum of industries. It meets the requirements for membership of professional membership including:

  • Technical Membership of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (TechIOSH)
  • Associate Membership of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM)

NCFE IOSH Level 3

NCFE IOSH Level 3 is awarded by NCFE, formerly the Northern Council for Further Education.

Working outside the UK?

If you are not based in the UK, learn more about the NEBOSH International General Certificate.

Find out more

Thinking of taking a qualification in health and safety? Take a look at our NEBOSH General Certificate course available via classroom and online learning.

Want to know more? Get Your Free NEBOSH General Certificate Info Pack

Tags: NEBOSH General Certificate

Rosie Thomas

Rosie is the International Marketing Executive at Astutis. After graduating with a degree in Business and Management from Aberystwyth University, she joined the Astutis team to work closely with our learning development team and health and safety consultants to create useful content for our readers. Since taking her Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing online, Rosie particularly enjoys writing how-to-guides and career posts, using her own experience of online learning and professional development to offer advice to those thinking of taking a health and safety career. Rosie has also taken her NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.