Types of Qualifications in Scotland

There are lots of qualifications available to you, no matter what age you are or your level of ability. Whether you want to study full-time or part-time, at college or 'on-the-job', there is something to suit you.


Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are work-related qualifications that allow you to gain the skills and knowledge you need to do a job. You can do an SVQ at different levels. These qualifications are based on National Occupational Standards agreed by industry, so they are recognised by employers throughout the UK.

Find out more information about SVQs here.

National Qualifications

National Qualifications (NQ) are taken by students in secondary schools and colleges (and some training centres). They cover subjects to suit everyone’s interests and skills. The types of NQ that you will come across are:

  • National 1-5, eg National 4 Maths
  • Highers and Advanced Highers, eg Higher Biology
  • Group Awards such as a National Certificate in Agriculture or National Progression Awards in Rural Skills.

Find out more from SQA's website here.

Higher National Qualifications

Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND) are taught in a range of subjects. The courses give you the practical skills you need to do a job and the knowledge your employer will expect you to have.

Find out more.


A Degree is a level 6 qualification and usually takes 3 years full-time, although some very specialist areas of study may take 4 or even 5 years to complete. The two most common Degrees are either called a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc), such as a BSc in Horticulture. Honours Degrees are divided into four 'classes' (like grade): 1 (first - the highest level), 2.1 (upper second), 2.2 (lower second) and 3 (third or pass).

You can find out more information about Degrees from UCAS.

Postgraduate Qualifications

A Postgraduate qualification is awarded after a Degree. These qualifications concentrate less on theoretical learning and more on hands-on, practical application for the job market. Postgraduate qualifications take a year or more to complete and can be studied full or part-time. Many offer direct entry onto Master's Degrees at partner universities. You can study qualifications such as Crop Protection & Agronomy and Agricultural Engineering.

Postgraduate qualifications are usually studied at a further education college or at a university. You can find out more information about the venues offering the courses from UCAS.

Masters and PhDs

A Masters is a Postgraduate qualification that can be taught in scientific (MSc) or non-scientific arts (MBA) subjects and usually take 2 years to complete. A doctorate (PhD) usually takes 3 years or more to complete and is made up graduate study and a dissertation. This is the highest level of study someone can achieve. You can study qualifications such as Rural Estate & Land Management and Farm & Agricultural Business Management.

Masters and doctorate qualifications are usually studied at a university. You can find out more information about universities from UCAS.


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