Types of Level 4 Qualification - Online Courses (2024)

A quick guide to the many types of level 4 qualifications available online from UK training providers.

What is a Level 4 qualification?

Level 4 qualifications are equivalent to the first year of a bachelor’s degree and are considered advanced learning. They are typically taken after college A-levels, an Access to Higher Education programme or similar Level 3 courses. This guide will focus on the main types of Level 4 courses available. We will highlight the awarding bodies and the accreditation checks you should do before making an application.

Main Level 4 Qualifications in the UK

  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Level 4 Award
  • Level 4 Certificate
  • Level 4 Diploma
  • Level 4 NVQ
  • Higher Apprenticeship
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Certificate Of Higher Education (CertHE)

What Can You Do With a Level 4 Qualification?

Level 4 certificates demonstrate higher learning and can be used for career progression, enhancing your CV and for admissions to level 5 courses, such as an HND. For many students taking a course at this level is their first step toward gaining a bachelor’s degree.

Where are Level 4 Certificates in the Qualifications Framework?

When searching for a course, it is important to understand the credit and qualifications framework.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Level 4 qualifications are the first stage of university-level learning. They range from vocational NVQs to entirely academic courses such as a Certificate of Higher Education.

There are nine qualification levels in England, Walse and Northern Ireland. Entry-level qualifications start in secondary school with GCSEs at level 1 and progress to level 8 with a doctorate. Level 0 is counted as a level for courses covering basic life skills.

The table below shows where Level 4 sits in the qualifications framework.

Types of Level 4 Qualification - Online Courses (1)

What Do Credits at Level 4 Mean?

Firstly, credits are a way to quantify the hours of learning involved in a course. One credit roughly equates to 10 hours of study. One year of full-time education equals 120 credits.

All recognised level 4 courses will have a credit value. Level 4 qualifications range from Certificates that can last a few weeks and comprise as few as 1 or 2 credits to a Diploma with 120 credits.

Credits are important if you want to progress to an HND or similar level 5 qualification. Standard entry requirements for a level 5 course would be 120 credits at level 4. Earning enough credits at levels 4 & 5 is important if your goal is to progress to a full Bachelor’s degree via a Top-up degree pathway.

Check the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)

After the level and credits, the next thing to check is that the course you are interested in joining is listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework. If you are looking to progress to a higher level qualification, it’s vital to take a course recorded on the RQF for a couple of reasons.

  1. The course can be used to access further education opportunities at level 5 and above.
  2. The qualification has been reviewed, the learning outcomes pass quality benchmarks, and the final qualification and transcript are credit-bearing.

The RQF register is open access (opens the link in a new window )and easy to search. It shows courses that are currently being delivered as well as old courses that have stopped being taught.

Who are the Awarding Bodies for Level 4 Certificates?

All recognised qualifications are awarded by an accredited education provider, such as a university or private training centre. When granted by a private education provider, the certificate will be from the awarding body, which may differ from the actual college or school that delivered the course and teaching. For example, the Level 4 Health and Social Care Diploma taught by the Online Business Schoolis awarded by QUALIFI. The final qualification will be from Qaulifi with their logo and details. If you check the RQF you will see the award is registered under Qualifi.

Types of Level 4 Qualification - Online Courses (2)

Top tip- always check that the course you are about to enrol on is on the RQF.

Entry Requirements for Level 4 Courses

Students typically need A-levels or a recognised access course to gain a place on a level 4 course at a University. However, entry-level qualifications, such as GCSEs and relevant work experience at the right level, would generally be acceptable for vocational courses like an NVQ. For Short level 4 courses, you may be able to gain admissions just from work experience or workplace training.

Level 4 Higher Education Qualifications

These are the main level 4 certificates available from UK education providers. For each course type, we show the current training provider registered on the RQF who can award them.

Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE)

The Certificate of Higher Education is the equivalent of the first year of a university degree. The course is 120 credits at level 4. A CertHE can be a great way to find out if university learning is right for you without committing to a full degree programme. This is because these courses are 100% academic with lectures, individual reading and essay assignments.

CertHE Awarding Bodies

UK Universities

Higher National Certificate (HNC)

Higher National Certificates are higher education qualifications that focus on the skills and knowledge required by the industry. They can be taken as stand-alone certificates or as a stepping stone to Higher National Diplomas. These courses are vocational. Students build a portfolio of work as they progress. HNCs are taught by a wide range of colleges, universities and private education providers.

HNC Awarding bodies- 1


Level 4 Award

A level 4 award is a short course, usually under 20 credits. These are bite-sized, flexible ways to gain specific knowledge and skills. They are offered by a wide range of education providers and universities. As the courses are credit-bearing, they can be combined with other credit-bearing courses to use for admissions to more advanced university courses.

Types of Level 4 Qualification - Online Courses (2024)


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