What are VRQ courses?
Alistair Stafford

What are VRQ courses?


First published date November 25 2013 Amended date October 05 2015

You may have your heart set on a particular career, many of which will have potential employers looking for a recognised qualification from you to show you’re passionate about that industry. Even if your academic grades at GCSE or A Level weren’t how you’d hoped, it’s not too late to make your first step into your dream profession, as there will be a VRQ course to suit you.

VRQ stands for Vocationally Recognised Qualifications and are courses that give students the skills and knowledge to meet the standards of a particular industry. Sound good to you? For more information, read through the VRQ FAQs to solve your answered questions...


How do VRQs work?

Vocational qualifications work in a very similar way to NVQs and other qualifications, in the sense that they have different ability based levels. The lowest VRQ is an entry level qualification, with the highest being a level 8, which is the equivalent of a post graduate diploma or a doctoral degree. The higher the VRQ level, the more time consuming and academically challenging the course will be.


How is a VRQ different to other qualifications?

Whereas most qualifications focus on formal exams and testing, a VRQ looks at how you work on a day-to-day basis during the programme and highlights your achievements during the course.


Is the VRQ classification system easy to understand?

Every vocational qualification has a certain number of units, which are given a credit value. Each credit is gained per around 10 hours of learning, so the more credits the course is worth the longer it will take. Confused? Don’t worry, once you start looking at courses in more detail it will become much clearer.


What courses are available to study?

There are literally hundreds of different subjects that are available to be studied on a VRQ programme. Most of these programmes will be focused on giving you the skills and knowledge in a particular area of work, such as catering or a construction trade.


How long does a course take?

To gain a certificate in a particular level, you’ll be expected to have between 13 and 36 credits, so have studied for between 130 and 360 hours. To qualify for a VRQ diploma, it will be needed to be 37 credits or over, so at least 370 hours. That may seem like a huge amount of time but split 370 hours over the course of a year and it can be completed for in just seven or eight hours a week (although if you want to commit less time a week to your course then that’s fine). Generally though, a diploma takes around 18 months to complete.


When can I study a VRQ?

Many of the entry level and level one programmes are offered to Key Stage 4 pupils in schools and colleges, meaning students as young as 14 are taking their VRQs. However, there is no minimum or maximum age restriction for the vast majority of courses, so if there’s a subject you’re keen to study age should be no issue.


How much does it cost to enrol on a vocational course?

The cost of a VRQ varies depending on your age, where you’re studying and the level of qualification you’re planning to take. For those still in full-time education, many of the VRQs will be offered free of charge at the school or college you’re already studying at. Regardless of your age, you may still be able to register for an entry level or level VRQ for free at a centre near you. As you progress through the levels, the cost of studying a VRQ can rise considerable from a few hundred pounds to several thousand pounds. Like when signing up to anything, it’s well worth searching a few different courses before enrolling on a course, to ensure you’re on a programme at a location and cost to suit you. 


What happens once you’ve finished your course?

Not only will you have earned your award, certificate or diploma (depending on which kind of course you selected) by completing your VRQ, but you’ll be in a much better position to pursue that career you’d hoped for. Having an industry recognised qualification will give your CV a real boost and significantly boost your job prospects.


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.