From A-levels to Degrees, to BTECs and Diplomas, there is a good range of qualifications out there for students in education and training to choose from.
But, when it comes to deciding what to study, it can be difficult to compare vocational qualifications, like NVQs and BTECs, which focus on hands on experience, to academic qualifications, like A-levels, which tend to focus on theory and exams.
You might be surprised, though, just how far you can go with an NVQ or apprenticeship.
Ofqual, the organisation that regulates the national curriculum and the exams we take, has developed the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF), to help us understand how vocational qualifications compare to other exams.
About QCF and NQF Levels
The QCF aims to make vocational-related qualifications more flexible by dividing them up into units.
As you study for a QCF regulated qualification, you will get credits, which represent the amount have time you have studied/trained. For example, one credit equals ten hours effort.
QCF qualification levels are broken down like this:
Award (1 to 12 credits)
Certificate (13 to 36 credits)
Diploma (37 credits or more)
Each qualification also has a level, to show how demanding or skilled it is. For example, level 3 QCF qualifications are equivalent A-levels, level 7 qualifications can be equivalent to a masters degree.
QCF levels are used to regulate vocational qualifications, but the levels are similar to NQF levels, which classify qualifications based on their level of difficulty, not time spent.
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is used in Scotland and classifies qualifications on their difficulty, like the NQF.
We have put together this diagram for you here so you can see how the main qualifications and training programmes stack up in glorious Technicolor.
There are lots more specialist national qualifications available for vocational training, (more than we could fit on one diagram), but when something is advertised as QCF level 2 for example, you can use this diagram to see how it compares.
Find out more about how qualifications compare from Ofqual.