Find out what's involved in studying Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), the range of job sectors available, and how long they take to complete.

SVQs are work-based qualifications people complete while carrying out their normal day jobs. They are available to anyone, of any age, including employees who have lots of work experience, but not the qualifications to prove it.

Jointly supported by an employer and a training provider, students collate and submit evidence of their work, which is then assessed to confirm if they are competent in all aspects of their job. There are no formal written exams.

The levels you'll be expected to reach are based on national standards for the particular job you are doing, or want to do. These standards are produced by experts from industry, commerce, and education.

There are more than 500 subjects available in a range of sectors, such as:

  • accounting
  • business and administration
  • management
  • childcare
  • construction
  • dental nursing
  • oil and gas industries

Find out what SQAs are available by sector, on MySector.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) recognises each SVQ. Find out more about SCQF.

How are SVQs studied?

SVQs can be studied in a college, school, workplace, or through a training provider, and they:

  • are a good choice if you have an idea of what job you'd like to do
  • are made up of bite-size units, which cover the many aspects of a job
  • allow you to work through each unit, one by one, or gather evidence for more at the same time
  • offer the opportunity to progress on to higher level study
  • consist of assessments that can be carried out in the workplace, or at college, or a training provider
  • are made up of eight levels, so you can start at a level that suits you, and work your way up.

How long do they take?

There's no fixed time to complete an SVQ, but, on average, it’s six to eight months. If you need additional time to gather evidence or provide necessary examples of work, you can agree this with your assessor.

SVQs can be taken by:

  • full-time employees
  • school and college students who have a work placement, or part-time job, that enables them to be observed in the workplace and further develop technical and transferable skills

The assessment

The assessment is made up of two parts:

  1. A portfolio assessment – you build up evidence of what you've done at work. You can provide evidence from work you’ve completed up to a year ago. It has to be as current as possible, to ensure your skills are up-to-date.
  2. Observation – an assessor observes you at work, and checks you can do the required tasks to the specified standards. You’ll meet with your assessor around once a month, or more frequently if you need extra support with some of the units.

Assessor visits

Your performance will be assessed in genuine daily situations, as they crop up, to review your progress against the SVQ standards. The assessor will also speak to your work colleagues and line managers, to record testimonials and feedback.

The visit is a great opportunity to ask your assessor about the different types of evidence you could provide, and plan future work activities accordingly. The assessors will advise you about the knowledge requirements for each unit, to help you apply it effectively in your job.

You can send evidence to your assessor at any time for assessment and feedback, either during, or at the end of, a unit. Just agree this with your assessor and keep a log of deadlines agreed.

Benefits for students

Employers recognise the value of SVQs because they want to recruit and develop a high-level skilled workforce to meet future industry needs­­. 

It’s a nationally recognised qualification, which sends out a powerful message that you:

  • can do your job well and with confidence
  • are motivated and ambitious
  • are keen and ready to take on responsibility
  • are committed to your work and want to do well