HND's and HNC's are work-related (vocational) higher education qualifications. While degrees tend to focus on gaining knowledge, HNCs and HNDs are designed to be more practical and give you the skills for a particular job. They are assessed through assignments, exams and practical tests.

An HNC is a Higher National Certificate which is a level 4 qualification equivalent to the first year of a degree.
An HND is a Higher National Diploma which is a level 5 qualifications and equivalent to studying the first two years of a degree or a foundation degree.


HNCs and HNDs are available in a wide range of subject areas related to work  including:

  • Agriculture
  • Computing and IT
  • Construction and Civil Engineering
  • Engineering
  • Health and Social Care
  • Business and Management
  • Sport and Exercise Sciences
  • Performing Arts
  • Retail and Distribution
  • Hospitality Management

It is usual to only take one course at a time but some students combine their HNC/HND studies with work.

HNCs can take one year to complete full time and two years part-time. HNDs take two years full time and can also be taken part-time which can take 4 years. Some HND’s can be studied by distance learning.

Because HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills for a particular field of work some students may be taking them whilst already working; others will go into a career related to the HND/HNC after they complete their studies. If you have studied an HNC you can increase your level of qualification by moving onto an HND course or onto the second year of a degree programme. You can also convert your HND to a degree by taking a top-up course which usually takes one year full time or going onto the second or third year of a degree.

For more information visit the Pearson website.

To find out more about other qualifications return to the Qualifications page.

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