There's a huge range of qualifications you can take if you’re interested in hospitality jobs. We’re taking a brief look at the main types, how they help and what they involve...








National Vocational Qualification / Scottish Vocational Qualification (NVQ/SVQ)

NVQs and SVQs are vocational (work-related), competence-based qualifications which include work experience. There are no age limits or minimum entry requirements. Assessment is normally through on-the-job observation and questioning. Levels for both qualifications range from 1 to 5.

NVQs and SVQs don’t have to be completed in a specific time period, but you can expect to get your qualification after around one year's full-time study or two years' part-time attendance.

Other vocational qualifications

BTEC qualifications and OCR Nationals are particular types of work-related qualifications. They come in many different sizes and difficulty levels. They’re great if you’re interested in learning about the skills and knowledge required for the hospitality industry. They offer a mix of theory and practice, and can include work experience. They can be (or be part of) a technical certificate..

Qualifications at different levels have different entry requirements. They’re usually studied full-time at college or school, but you can take them part-time at college (including as part of an apprenticeship). You’re assessed by your teacher or trainer, where you study.


There are different variations around the UK, including Modern Apprenticeships and Young Apprenticeships (for under-16s). If you’re over 16, an apprenticeship lets you combine paid employment with training for specific hospitality jobs, so you can start a career without having to study full-time. You will work towards a vocational qualification like an NVQ. There are three levels:

  • Apprenticeships (equivalent to five good GCSE passes): you will work towards Key Skills qualifications, plus vocational ones like an NVQ Level 2, and possibly a technical (knowledge-based) certificate, such as a BTEC. You can then go forward to an advanced apprenticeship.
  • Advanced apprenticeships (equivalent to two A levels): you will earn a qualification like an NVQ Level 3 along with Key Skills and a possible technical certificate. You will need five good GCSE passes or an apprenticeship to enter. You can move on to a higher apprenticeship.
  • Higher apprenticeships (equivalent to a degree): these offer qualifications like an NVQ Level 4 and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification, including a foundation degree. You will generally need A levels or similar qualifications to enter.

Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma (NHC and HNCD)

These are vocational higher education qualifications. While bachelors degrees focus on gaining knowledge, HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills to put that knowledge to effective use. Work placements are integral to the course. They’re suitable if you hope to work in a management position. They can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations.

You’ll need GCSEs and an A level, an advanced GNVQ or a Scottish Group Award. HNCs usually take one year to complete full-time and two years part-time (or via distance learning).

Diploma of higher education

Diplomas of higher education are similar to HNDs – they’re accredited professional qualifications that are valued by employers in the UK and overseas. They usually take two years to complete and can normally be converted to a degree with an extra year of study.

Foundation degree

This is a type of degree designed to give you the skills and knowledge valued by businesses, or a route into higher education. It’s roughly equivalent to the first two years of an honours degree. You can learn via distance learning, in the workplace or online.

You can complete a full-time foundation degree in about two years, or three to four years part-time. Afterwards you can opt to do a third year, which will give you a university honours degree.

Bachelors degree

A bachelors degree (which you might also know as an ordinary or first degree) is an academic qualification that usually takes three or four years to complete full time. This is normally four years if you're doing a sandwich course, which includes a year in industry or abroad. You can also study part time or through flexible learning.

A degree is designed to give you a thorough understanding of a subject, helping you develop your analytical, intellectual and essay or dissertation writing skills. Most bachelors degrees ask for at least two A levels at grade E or above (or equivalent grades in other qualifications).

Graduate apprenticeship

This qualification is suitable if you already have a diploma or degree in another subject. You’ll gain practical vocational knowledge, as you’ll be in full-time employment in the hospitality industry. It includes Key Skills and NVQ qualifications while in the workplace. There’s no timescale for completion.

Institute of Hospitality qualifications

The Institute of Hospitality is the professional body for managers in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries. It has a range of accredited vocational qualifications specific to hospitality management. These qualifications provide:

  • The knowledge required for leadership and management
  • Specialist business and management skills
  • Appropriate Continuing Professional Development
  • Updated professional business knowledge
  • A route leading from introductory, via intermediate, to advanced level
  • A structured pathway for career progression and promotion

No specific qualifications are required, but you must work in the hospitality industry and have a good general education and a good standard of English and maths.

Useful contacts and information

National Database of Accredited Qualifications: lists and details all qualifications recognised across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Skills Academy for Hospitality: A not for profit organisation offering hospitality specific training courses.

Learndirect: A network of more than 750 online learning centres in England and Wales.

Prospects: The UK's leading provider of information for students and graduates, with employment and postgraduate study guides available.

Apprenticeships: The website of the National Apprenticeship Service, responsible for all apprenticeships in England.

Education UK: The British Council’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities in the UK, offering distance and college courses.

GET: Graduate higher education site offering graduate jobs, independent career advice and a community of job hunters.

Institute of Hospitality: Professional body for managers and aspiring managers in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries.



Further links:

 - Connexions
 - Next Step Careers Service
 - Foundation Degree Forward  (offers information and guidance about Foundation Degrees)
 - Hospitality Diploma site

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