NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification. It is available to people in the UK, and is one of the few qualifications that employers have heard of. If you want to work with computers, and live in the UK, becoming NVQ certified is quite a good route to take. These certificates used to have a bad reputation, and were held in such low regard that the letters NVQ were disparagingly nicknamed Not Very Qualified. Not any more, though. The course material for all NVQs were radically overhauled a few years ago, to great success. Doing an NVQ in any subject these days involves quite a lot of studying.

An NVQ in Information Technology is split in to two different categories: User, and Practitioner.

Practioner: Installing software, maintaining computers, Desktop support, technical role>
User: Using software packages in an office environment

There are three NVQ levels to aim for, whichever category you study for.

NVQ Level One in Information Technology - User

You need 40 points to pass the NVQ level one in Information Technology. There's a mandatory unit worth 15 points, and the other 25 points can be made up from about 15 optional units. The most popular optional units are word processing (10 points), spreadsheets (10 points) and databases (10 points). Other popular optional units are: email (5 points), internet (5 points), internet security (5 points).

Although the NVQ level one is fairly basic, and shouldn't take you too long to complete, it can be quite rewarding if you know very little about computers. Here's a study list:

Mandatory Units
> Make selective use of IT (15 points)

Optional Units
> Operate a computer (10 points)
> IT trouble-shooting for users (5 points)
> IT maintenance for users (5 points)
> IT security for users (5 points)
> Internet and intranets (5 points)
> Email (5 points)
> Word processing software (10 points)
> Spreadsheet software (10 points)
> Database software (10 points)
> Website software (10 points)
> Artwork and imaging software (10 points)
> Presentation software (10 points)
> Evaluate the impact of IT (5 points)

The idea is that you do the mandatory unit, and take you pick from the optional ones. But the total has to add up to at least 40 points.

NVQ Level Two in Information Technology - User

The subjects for level two are pretty much the same as for level one. The difference is how much you need to learn before you qualify. In level one, you only needed 40 points to pass; in level two, you need 100. Again, there's a mandatory unit (worth 25 points now), and about 15 optional ones. The optional units will be worth 20 and 15 points each. You need a more in-depth knowledge to pass level two.

NVQ Level Three in Information Technology - User

If you pass level three it equates to about A Level, which is the pre-university qualification in the UK for 16 and 17 year olds. You need 180 points to get your level three NVQ. The mandatory unit is now worth 35 points, while optional units are 35 and 30. The studying for level three is far more intense, and you'll be quite the expert when you're done! A lot of universities are taking on IT students who have passed NVQ level 3.

NVQ Levels One to Three in Information Technology - Practioner

The points on offer for the Practioner NVQ qualifications in IT are the same as for User above. So for level one, you need 40 points to pass. The subjects are different, though. To get an idea of whether this is for you, here's a few of the popular ones:

Mandatory Units (you need both of these)
> Develop personal and organisational effectiveness (5 points)
> Health and safety in ICT and contact centres (5 points)

Optional Units
> Customer Care (10 points)
> Software installation and upgrade (10 points)
> System operation (10 points)
> Technical advice and guidance (5 points)
> Technical fault diagnosis (10 points)
> Working with ICT hardware and equipment (10 points)

As you work your way through each NVQ level, the studying gets harder. Achieve level three and you could gain work in an help desk environment, with a decent entry-level salary. If you want to move on to higher qualifications in a support or networking role, gaining a NVQ level three qualification is an excellent place to start.

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