NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH: Which One is Best?


Trying to compare the merits and demerits of the different career paths taking into consideration the three (3) major career paths (NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH) in Occupational Health and Safety. There have been questions as to which part is better, and more productive in the health and safety profession.

This article “NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH” aims to give in-depth insight into the three (3) major career paths in attaining professionalism in health and safety, and also give a personal opinion on the choice of a suitable path.

It is a long article, I will encourage my readers to follow up patiently to pick all the necessary information available. The article will help clear a lot of gray areas.

First of all, let us get to understand what the different qualifications are about, i.e., NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH.

NCRQ (National Compliance and Risk Qualifications)

NCRQ (National Compliance and Risk Qualifications) is a qualification awarding organization based in Chester. They develop and deliver qualifications in occupational health and safety. NCRQ was formed by a collaboration between some of the largest employers in the UK and EU (such as the BBC, Royal Mail, and Siemens plc), together with senior officers of the Health and Safety Executive, academics and barristers. It is headed by the former Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, Geoffrey Podger CB.

NCRQ has developed a suite of degree-level (QCF Level 6) qualifications in occupational health and safety, with a focus on the competence and skills required in the modern workplace. Learners are assessed by assignments and an online validation interview, instead of exams.

NQRC certification is based on practical experience and does not share theoretical understanding. NCRQ believes that theoretical understanding and just knowing how to answer exam questions is not the way out of the current economic deficiency in qualified and experienced health and safety administrators.

The management of NCRQ has this to say:

National Compliance and Risk Qualifications – NCRQ – has been established by a number of leading experts in health and safety. This includes representatives of some of the UK’s largest employers, including the BBC, Royal Mail, Siemens plc, and local authorities, specialists from the Health and Safety Executive, legal experts, and academics.

NCRQ was formed to address the lack of competence of a large number of seemingly “qualified” health and safety practitioners. Employers and experienced regulators both agreed that the existing qualifications did not provide the knowledge and skills that are actually required to supervise or manage employees in a safe manner, to manage the health and safety of an organization, or to provide assurance of a competent consultant.

Employers require safety practitioners that can effectively manage health and safety; not necessarily those that can answer exam questions that recite safety knowledge. An effective safety practitioner is one who can apply legal duties to any workplace scenario from basic principles, can independently undertake research on topics beyond their knowledge, can confidently determine suitable and sufficient risk control measures that are sensible and proportionate to the risks and can then justify any additional costs to senior management. The NCRQ suite of safety qualifications provides assurance that an individual has these skills.

Some of the qualifications of NCRQ include:

  • NCRQ Level 6 Certificate in Applied Health and Safety (Tech IOSH / AIIRSM accredited)
  • NCRQ Level 6 Certificate in Personal Injury Liability and Absence Reduction
  • NCRQ Level 6 Diploma in Applied Health and Safety (Grad IOSH / MIIRSM accredited
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The NCRQ Diploma is made up of three units. The first two of these units consist of the two Certificate qualifications above so that learners can obtain two Certificate-level qualifications as they complete the full Diploma.

NCRQ is committed to removing barriers to quality education.

  • Reducing financial constraints – by combining the development of qualifications with the delivery of online and distance learning, we reduce costs and ensure that fees are not excessive.
  • Reducing physical constraints – a blend of online activities and self-study, in addition to a focus on assignment-based assessment, reduces the burden of travel time and costs for those who do not live close to major cities.

All NCRQ courses are aligned with the QCF – the Qualifications and Credit Framework and are accredited by the qualifications and examinations regulator OFQUAL.

NVQ (National Vocational Qualification)

NVQs are work-related, competency-based qualifications that reflect the skills and knowledge needed to do a specific job. NVQ is not a health and safety-specific qualification, it covers a wide range of professional areas including administration.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were work-based awards in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland that are achieved through assessment and training. In Scotland, the equivalent qualifications are known as Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ). The regulatory framework supporting NVQs was withdrawn in 2015 and replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), although the term “NVQ” may be used in RQF qualifications if they “are based on recognized occupational standards, work-based and/or simulated work-based assessment and where they confer occupational competence.

An NVQ is simply an assessment of existing knowledge and skills and does not necessarily involve any learning. Assessment is undertaken by the creation of a detailed portfolio of evidence that you will have generated in your current employment.

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Individual benefits of undertaking an NVQ

  • A flexible route to becoming qualified in the workplace with no examinations.
  • A practical demonstration of the individual’s skills, knowledge, and understanding.
  • Certification to demonstrate you have met a national standard for an occupational role.
  • Improved employability and transfer ability.
  • Access to recognized qualifications for employees with no other formal education.

NVQ Levels

NVQs are competence-based qualifications. The five levels of NVQ are defined as having the following competencies.

  • Level 1: Competence, which involves the application of knowledge and skills in the performance of a range of varied work activities most of which may be routine and predictable.
  • Level 2: Competence, which involves the application of knowledge and skills in a significant range of varied work activities, performed in a variety of contexts. Some of the activities are complex or non-routine, and there is some individual responsibility or autonomy. Collaboration with others, perhaps through membership of a work group or team, may often be a requirement.
  • Level 3: Competence, which involves the application of knowledge and skills in a broad range of varied work activities performed in a wide variety of contexts most of which are complex and non-routine. There is considerable responsibility and autonomy, and control or guidance of others is often required.
  • Level 4: Competence, which involves the application of knowledge and skills in a broad range of complex, technical, or professional work activities performed in a wide variety of contexts and with a substantial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy. Responsibility for the work of others and the allocation of resources is often present.
  • Level 5: Competence, which involves the application of skills and a significant range of fundamental principles and complex techniques across a wide and often unpredictable variety of contexts. Very substantial personal autonomy and often a significant responsibility for the work of others and for the allocation of substantial resources feature strongly, as do personal accountabilities for analysis and diagnosis, design, planning, execution, and evaluation.
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NEBOSH Occupational Health and Safety Certifications

NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) was formed in 1979 as an awarding body with charitable status.  They offer a comprehensive range of globally-recognized, qualifications designed to meet the health, safety, and environmental management needs of all places of work.

NEBOSH qualifications are recognized by the relevant professional membership bodies including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), and IEMA.

NEBOSH examinations and assessments are set by its professionally qualified staff assisted by external examiners; most of whom are Chartered Safety and Health Practitioners or Chartered Environmentalists operating within industry, the public sector, or in enforcement.

The technical standards are overseen by a Qualification and Technical Council with representatives drawn from national institutions.

NEBOSH is an awarding body approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Accreditation, which has a UK-wide regulatory remit.

NEBOSH offers both certificate and diploma courses.

NEBOSH certificates in occupational health and safety include:

  • NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety.
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management.
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in the Management of Health and Well-being at Work.
  • NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management.
  • NEBOSH International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.
  • NEBOSH International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety.
  • NEBOSH International Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management.
  • NEBOSH International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational. Safety.
  • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management (Pilot).

NEBOSH Diploma in occupational health and safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma is the flagship NEBOSH award and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

I have spent time giving insights on the different certifications, i.e., NCRQ, NVQ, and NEBOSH.

Now the question is, which of these three ( 3 ) qualifications is most recognized? (NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH)

My candid opinion is this: The choice of certification to pick will depend on what you aim to achieve, your level of experience, time, finance, etc.

The different certifications have made room for every professional, no matter the level to develop their career.

But from my knowledge of what the employer needs most, I will go for NEBOSH certifications. It will give you an edge when it comes to sourcing for job opportunities. You will need to start with the NEBOSH certificate of your choice before upgrading to the diploma level.

See other people’s views on the different certifications. (NCRQ vs NVQ vs NEBOSH)

Health and Safety for Beginners forum

IOSH forum

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