Is a Level 4 Qualification Equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree?

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Students spend a large amount of time in education building up skills and qualifications to help them in life. It’s a journey that may seem to never end. Even once you get a job you would still need to do training and other courses to build up the necessary skills to help you while at work. There are so many qualifications and degrees available, especially as a student in sixth form or college. There are so many questions surrounding the next steps to take. Academically, most students may choose to go to university or opt to do a Level 4 qualification. 

In short, A Level 4 qualification isn’t equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, but a Level 6 qualification is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree (that takes 3 or 4 years to complete). A Level 4 qualification could be seen as the completion of the first year of a bachelor’s degree which is referred to as FHEQ Level 4. 

If you would like to find out more between the differences and similarities a Level 4 qualification and a bachelor’s degree please continue reading. 

What is a Level 4 Qualification?

A Level 4 qualification tends to be taken once you turn 18 and above as it refers to Higher Education (HE). Higher Education is education once you have completed your A levels and could be seen as a bridge before starting university if you decide to go later. These types of qualifications can be taken at a university (a degree awarding body), or a specialist institution, (non-degree awarding) that provides vocational courses that would lead you into employment. 

A higher apprenticeship is an example of a Level 4 qualification and it includes working full time with an element of studying as well. This would be a good option if you’re unsure about university but you know the career path you would like to go down and would like to build up skills at the same time.  

Higher apprenticeships tend to last for a year but as they are quite flexible it could take longer. It all depends on the pace you would like to go. In a higher apprenticeship you would have to complete training and the assessment would include some practical work-related tasks. At the end you would receive a Higher National Diploma or a NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Level 4.  

For more information about applying to a higher apprenticeships, you can use Apprenticeships. For guidance on the key steps to actually getting on an apprenticeship programme, you may find this website useful. 

What is a Bachelor’s Degree?

A bachelor’s degree takes place at a university and normally takes 3 years or 4 years if you decide to do a placement year. It tends to take place after further education and is classified as a higher education qualification as you do it post 18. It is typically called an undergraduate, first or honours degree and the majority of students study full time.  

You will need to have A levels, BTEC’s or another equivalent Level 3 qualification before applying for a bachelor’s degree 

There are various types of bachelor’s degrees which differ depending on the course you do, some examples of the types of bachelors and the degree name are listed in the table below: 

Types of Bachelor  Degree name  
Bachelor of Arts (BA)  Art and Creative Writing  
Bachelor of Science (BSc)  Biomedical Science  
Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)  Civil Engineering  
Bachelor of Laws (LLB)  Law with International Relations  
Bachelor of Medicine (MB)  Medicine  

The Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science are the most common, which cover a range of different degrees. Each degree programme comes under a specific school or department, and faculty. For example with a Law degree, it comes under the School of Law which is in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  

Each degree will give you a very thorough understanding of the topic over the 3 or 4 years, developing numerous skills and techniques. Some subjects are preparation to go into a certain career, for example Law or Medicine, whereas other can quip you with skills for a number of different jobs, for example Creative Writing or History. 

The assessments involve exams and coursework and at the end of the 3 or 4 years you would graduate with a Level 6 qualification, shown in Table 1.  

What Different Qualifications Are Available?

There are a total of 9 qualifications available (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), starting from entry level all the way to Level 8 

As the level of each qualification increases the level of difficulty also increases, as well as the age required to complete each qualification and all qualifications are at the same level of difficulty. 

The table below shows the different qualification levels and what type of qualification is included. As you can see from the table, Level 1 and 2 qualifications are achieved by all students while at secondary school, and is compulsory. This is because the school leaving age in England is 16 which is the age most students would be once they have completed their GCSE’s.   

Further education refers to education post 16 and is the equivalent to a Level 3 qualification which could be a BTEC or A level, and occurs post-secondary school 

Students either have to remain in full time education by going to a sixth form or college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship programme or work part time while in part time education or training.  

This article goes into further detail on the different options students have once, they have completed their GCSE’s. 

Essentially as you pass through education, you will pass through most of these levels, although it does depend on your specific journey in education as you would have the option to stop after Level 3 or 4. 

Level   Type of qualification 
Entry level  Entry level/foundation learning  
Level 1  GCSE grades 1-3/D-G 
Level 2  GCSE grades 4-9/A*-C 
Level 3  AS and A level  
Level 4  Certificate of higher education  
Level 5  Foundation degree 
Level 6  Degree with honours, e.g Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) hons 
Level 7  Master’s degree e.g Master of Science (MSc) 
Level 8  Doctorate e.g PhD 

What is FHEQ level 4?

FHEQ stands for the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and is given by degree awarding bodies, for example universities. 

At university, the first year of a bachelor’s degree is normally called the 1st year, year 1 or by most lecturers level 4. So the 2nd and 3rd year would be termed level 5 and 6, respectively. This is where an overlap can be seen between the qualification levels and the years in a university degree.  

FHEQ level 4 is essentially the qualification you will receive at the end of your first year on a bachelor’s degree. You need to achieve 120 credits at the end of each academic year in university in order to pass, and to graduate a degree with honours you would need a total of 360 credits (achieved over 3 years). 

With a Level 4 qualification, at the end you receive a Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), which is essentially a higher education qualification at the most basic level, that normally takes a year to complete.  

You would generally need to complete 120 credits to complete a Level 4 qualification which is the same number of credits required to pass each academic year in university. 

This could suggest that the first 3 years at university could be seen as Level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications, given that Level 6 is when you actually graduate and will receive your degree. 

How do You Apply for a Level 4 Qualification or a Bachelor’s Degree?

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services) is what all the students in the UK use to apply to higher education (it’s literally in the name). It can also be used to apply for apprenticeships and internships, and it offers careers advice and guidance.  

UCAS can be seen as an intermediary between you and your university as it is where you would select your 5 university options and will also be the place you go to find out if you got accepted into your desired university on A level results day. 

The National Careers Service is a website that can be used to search for a Level 4 qualification and any other qualification. It can also be used to assess your skills to find out what career path you may be suited to, apply for jobs and provides support in the application process, for example how to write a CV or interview tips. 

The Open University provides thousands of distance learning courses including undergraduate courses and qualifications that can literally be taken from anywhere in the world. 

The websites are linked below: 

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