What are SVQ courses?
Alistair Stafford

What are SVQ courses?


First published date December 04 2013 Amended date October 05 2015

Looking for new skills to give you the best chance of breaking into the jobs market? Wanting to specialise in a particular industry? If your CV and experience could do with a boost, then taking an SVQ course will give you the advantage when it comes to getting that first career break.

SVQ stands for Scottish Vocational Qualifications and is an industry recognised qualification that focuses on hands-on practical skills to give you as much experience as possible in a particular sector. Think it’s something you would be interested in? Then read our SVQ FAQs to find out more...


When were they launched?

SVQs were introduced in 1989, as part of a UK wide scheme to improve the skills of the British workforce.  They’re the Scottish equivalent of the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) that are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


How does an SVQ course work?

A typical SVQ course is divided into several sections or units, with each unit signed off by the assessor once it has been completed. Each unit will test a separate skill or technique needed to work in that industry, with the student having to show a certain amount of ability and knowledge to pass it.


Is an SVQ for me?

People of all ages take SVQs, although lots of the entry level and low level courses are studied predominantly by those still in full-time education at sixth form or college. Usually, those low level SVQs are offered to those who may struggle academically with their GCSEs or other exams, while others are included as part of apprenticeship programmes. This doesn’t mean SVQs are only suitable for those still in education, with mature students using SVQs to switch careers or gain new skills.


Are they only recognised in Scotland?

Although SVQs are only studied in Scotland, the qualifications are recognised all over the world.


What subjects can I study a SVQ?

Like with the NVQ equivalent in England and Wales, there’s a huge range of subjects you are able to study at different levels, ranging from computing to cleaning to construction. All of the vocational qualifications are sector-specific, so will give you as much experience as possible in a particular area you’re passionate about.


What level is an SVQ?

Each SVQ level is a part of the UK education system and has its own place on it, ranging from entry level to level five, with the higher levels being a more prestigious qualification (If you’re confused then fear not, as it’s not as difficult to understand as it seems). Getting five A*-C GCSEs is the same academic standard as an SVQ level two, while gaining two A Levels is the same qualification bracket as an SVQ level three. SVQ Levels four and five are worth the same as the early stages of an undergraduate degree, although these courses are usually far more time consuming to complete.


Can I switch subjects to study a different SVQ in the future?

Usually, if you complete an SVQ in one subject, the option is available for you then to progress and study a higher level SVQ in a completely different sector. So, whether you have a level two SVQ qualification in construction or have completed your GCSEs,  most programmes will allow you to enrol on a level three course in any subject, which can give you a wider range of skills when it comes to applying for jobs. This isn’t always available though, so it’s always worth checking with the course you’re planning to study first.


How do you get assessed in an SVQ?

To complete an SVQ course, a large chunk of your total mark will be made up from the portfolio of work you will have made throughout the course. That portfolio will then be marked by your assessor or teacher, with the rest of the marks usually coming from you being assessed in a live working environment. That’s where your assessor judges your ability to work by watching you complete industry related tasks.


The next step after SVQs

Once you’ve finished your SVQ course, you can put your new knowledge to practice by attempting to use those acquired skills to forge a career in your chosen industry. If you feel you want to continue learning, then you can progress to the next level of SVQ study to make your CV even stronger. An SVQ course gives you a good stepping stone to move from, so whatever you decide to do next, what you’ve learnt can be of use in a job in any industry.


Alistair Stafford

With a BA in Journalism, Alistair has a passion for writing, especially if it's got anything to do with football or other sports. In his spare time, he's big on exercise and he once completed the London Marathon.