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What is the difference between a qualification and accreditation?

What is the difference between a qualification and accreditation?

Qualifications are developed and issued by Awarding Organisations (AO) Such as CIBTAC, VTCT, City & Guilds, TQUK and Highfield Qualifications. Courses are listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which is the national framework for UK qualifications. An accredited course is usually shorter in length and approved or verified by an independent company such as the Centre of CPD Excellence, CPD UK, BABTAC or The CPD Standards Office. These companies should carry out quality assurance checks of training manuals to ensure the content is to a high standard and to ensure the trainer delivering the course is also trained and experienced to do so. Accredited courses should be used as an introduction to certain treatments or to become skilled in new technology or techniques and not as a stand-alone ‘qualification’ as they are marketed by many academies.

What is an awarding body?

An awarding body is an organisation that is regulated by Ofqual to develop, create and certify qualifications. They are responsible for implementing the RQF and quality assurance (QA) of qualifications.

They employ external verifiers (EQA) who regularly visit training centres to ensure qualifications are being delivered to the required and expected standards set out on the framework.

Qualifications from AO are generally regarded as equivalent regardless of who has certified the course. The content, assessment criteria and the learning outcomes of all similar qualifications with the same course title are virtually equivalent.

What is an NVQ?

An NVQ refers to National Vocational Qualifications which have been around for many decades. They are applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The qualifications are used mainly to assess work-based competency. Unlike academic qualifications, NVQ focuses on testing your ability to perform skills and tasks associated with your industry. In 2004, changes were made to NVQs to allow them to increase from level 4 to 8. NVQs are underpinned by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

Benefits of qualifications

One of the biggest differences between a qualification and skill building is the duration of the course. NVQs are guided by the set Guided Learning Hours (GLH) set by the RQF. These GLH need to be met in order to achieve a qualification and evidence must be recorded in how the learner met this goal.

Qualifications allow you to be more employable and opens up the world when it comes to emigration or job opportunities abroad. Employers prefer to employ those that have obtained a professional qualification and whilst many therapists choose to be self-employed this may face obstacles of its own. Local Authorities (LA) are now starting to observe stricter licensing laws within certain areas, preferring business owners and their employees to have qualifications by awarding bodies so that they can ensure that a certain standard of training has been met. Having a qualification gives you more opportunities and the reassurance that you will always be able to work.

As there are more talks of industry regulation, professional industry organisations are pushing to enforce a minimum training standard across the sector. Failing to obtain your qualifications in the time frame of these changes coming into effect may leave you without an income until you qualify.

Not having a qualification that is from an awarding body may also prevent you from obtaining certain insurances or preventing you from teaching in some areas especially qualifications from awarding organisations.

What is accreditation?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘Accredited’ as: officially recognised or approved. Within the beauty and aesthetic industry this means that the training academy or course has been through certain processes in order for it to become approved or accredited. Accreditation is often through a number of often independent organisations or insurers.

This third-party organisation should be checking the quality of the course material, the qualifications and experience of the trainers delivering the course and ensuring the ongoing due diligence of accountability. However, in recent years, the credibility of some accreditation providers are evidently stacked towards financial gain rather than to improve and back quality industry training. This became evident with the recent ‘scandals’ of several academies that even with unhappy students reporting poor levels of training and bad behaviour of trainers, the reports were ignored, and the academy remained approved by them as quality training providers.

Prior to getting your courses accredited or booking on to a course, you should find out not only the credibility of the training provider, but also the organisation that accredit them. A list of trusted accreditation providers are listed below.

There are three main types of accreditation or CPD providers within the UK. We will look at some of these in more detail.

CPD Services

CPD as mentioned previously stands for Continuing Professional Development. This is a way to track or record activities that are taken both formally and informally after your initial training or qualifications. CPD activities can ranges from exhibitions, training course or seminar attendance, self-study, or time spent reading industry related magazines or websites.

All trainers should be undertaking a minimum of 30 hours CPD every year and should keep a log of all activities they have taken part in. This ensures that trainers keep updating any skills and staying on top of current industry regulations or changes.

Unlike a qualification that has set learning hours, CPD certificates record the number of time spent partaking in that certain activity. Accredited courses are also not required to be assessed and therefore you may receive a certificate regardless of competency.

It is important to note the number of academies purporting that a course delivered by them and accredited or approved by a CPD provider is a 'Level 3' or 'Level 4' course etc. Only Ofqual backed qualifications can list a 'level' of competency or criteria that the course meets. Any course other than a qualification that you attend is not equivalent to or similar to an NVQ level. They are self imposed levels and often mean very little about the standard or the level of the course being delivered.

The leading CPD companies in the UK are:

· The CPD Certification Service

· Centre of CPD Excellence

· The CPD Standards Office


Insurance Companies

Prior to CPD accreditation this was often done in-house by insurers, however, with the rise of aesthetics, this has forced more training providers towards CPD accreditation due to the fact that they:

a) Recognise all forms of training, from holistic, beauty and aesthetics with a more flexible approach to teaching methods and teaching platforms.

b) Allow the student more choice and flexibility with a larger variety of insurers that will cover them.

The upside of insurance approval for your courses will give you the confidence that the course is insurable, providing the student meets the pre-requisites set out by the insurer.

Some insurers have strict criteria when approving a course for insurance on their platform, however this may limit the student’s options when it comes to choosing an insurer or insurance may not be easily obtained by their current insurer.

Insurance companies that approve courses include:

· ABT insurance

· Hamilton Fraser

· Westminster insurance

Professional Organisations

In addition to insurers, courses can also be approved by professional organisations. However, the same issues arise as courses approved by insurance companies that the insurance options of students are often restrictive.

Professional organisations are also selective with the courses that they approve and thus you may find that an academy requires more than one accreditation provider, it is crucial that the courses offered are clearly labelled with the correct accreditation provider to avoid confusion. Aesthetic courses are usually not covered by any professional organisations at this present time.

Professional organisations represent the industry and often host trade shows or offer membership schemes to therapists and salons. They can often seek to set standards and are involved in working towards improving industry standards and setting industry regulations.

Professional Organisations that are amongst the highest respected within the industry include:



· Professional Beauty


When looking to embark on a career in the beauty and aesthetics sector, starting out with regulated qualifications will be a great foundation for the future. CPD or approved courses should be a stepping-stone only or used to add new skills to your existing qualifications.

When seeking out a course to attend, look at the industry set pre-requisites as this ensures you meet the minimum level of experience to attend the training and be able to get insured after. Remember that training academies are a business. They, like any other business require bookings or customers in order to make a profit. Many academies and training providers are ethical in their approach to recruiting students. They hold the correct qualifications to teach, ensure students meet the required pre-requisites and are approved or accredited by a professional third-party company that has high standards of accreditation criteria and provide an effective feedback service for students. This will ensure bad trainers and academies are removed from the platform quickly and only the best training providers are listed, that are driven to improve industry standards.

Excellent training providers will choose accreditors that have the highest authority and credibility and inform students of the pre-requisites required for attending your chosen course.

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