HNC vs HND Business – Should I study a Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma?

HNC vs HND – Should I study a Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma?

Pearson BTEC Higher Nationals are vocational qualifications developed to help learners obtain the knowledge, skills and practises needed to succeed in their field and workplace. They represent the latest in professional standards and provide opportunities for learners to develop their behaviours for work. Higher national qualifications are intended to keep doors open for future study and do this by allowing space for developing higher education study skills, such as the ability to conduct effective research. Course content is revised to remain relevant and closely aligned with the needs of employers, professional bodies, vendors, and higher education for a skilled future workforce.

HNC and HND courses are becoming popular alternatives to university, especially when facilitated to study through distance learning. Despite this, many people find themselves confused about what they are – what level they equate to and what progression options they can provide. It’s not as baffling as it seems, we promise. BTEC qualifications are awarded by Pearson, the UK’s largest awarding body, offering academic and vocational qualifications that are globally recognised and benchmarked. This guide should shed some light on the a

When designing their HNC and HND Business courses, accreditor Pearson collaborated with numerous businesses and higher education providers to deliver the best possible programme informed by industry standards.

This qualification aims to develop your business skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve high international performance. It develops learners with inquiring minds with the abilities and confidence to work across different business functions and lead, manage, respond to change, and tackle a range of complex business situations. It is designed to balance employability skills and the knowledge essential for learners with entrepreneurial employment or academic ambitions. Interestingly, it provides insight into international business operations and the opportunities and challenges a global marketplace presents.

What is a BTEC qualification?


BTEC is the brand of choice for learning communities worldwide and has been so for over thirty years. Higher Nationals are widely supported by higher education and industry as the principal vocational qualifications at levels 4 and 5. Pearson BTEC Higher Nationals in Business aims to develop learners as independent-thinking professionals who can meet the demands of business employers and adapt to a constantly changing world. These qualifications aim to widen access to higher education and improve the career prospects of those who take them.


What is a HNC?


HNC courses have been developed to provide learners with a sound understanding of the critical areas of a subject, in addition to developing skills in conjunction with salient theory be married and applied in industry. For this reason BTEC HNCs are fundamentally vocational qualifications, which prepare learners for the next step of their career or education.

HNC meaning

HNC stands for Higher National Certificate, a shortened acronym of Pearson BTEC Higher National Certificate.

HNC level

An HNC is a level 4 qualification, equivalent of completing the first year of university. Upon completion, you will be awarded 120 FHEQ Credits, which you can use as a pathway to enter the second year of a university course should you wish to do so. The level 4 units are designed to lay the foundations of learning by providing a broad introduction to business and different functions. HNC qualifications are accepted and sometimes required for entry level positions. For example, our HNC Business course is perfect for learners looking to gain the skills and knowledge they need to start their first role in the industry. Next, we take a look at HND qualifications.


What is a HND?


HND courses are designed to deliver advanced knowledge and help learners develop critical skills in a chosen subject area through a combination of directed and independent learning. The units prepare learners to move to University level study or specific business areas at Level 6 or enter employment with the qualities and abilities necessary for roles that require personal responsibility and decision-making. Our HND Business course offers learners specialist pathways they can choose to go down, as shown on our course page. These coincide directly with the progression pathways detailed further  below. Completing this course will allow for a sound understanding of the principles in their area of specialist study and will know how to apply those principles more widely in the workplace.

HND meaning

HND stands for Higher National Diploma, a shortened acronym of Pearson BTEC Higher National Diploma.

HND level

Higher National Diploma is a level 5 qualification, equivalent to the second year of university or 120 FHEQ credits. This will let you join the final year of a university degree

While a generic business studies online course for example may provide quality learning material, a lack of vocational focus and resultant employability may mean these courses are valued less on your CV by prospective employers. Choosing to develop skills specifically for employment through a Business HNC course instead, once you’re in employment in your chosen industry, you’ll be able to perform to a higher level.


Progression pathways


By completing both a HNC and HND course, learners will have worked through two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree . For learners looking to study alongside work and home commitments, we’re one of the best distance learning providers in the UK, affording our learners a generous five years to our Business HNC, for example. With our flexible distance learning model, our learners can choose when they start and study or take a break whenever they choose. Choosing to study either a HNC or HND depends on the pathway you want to take your career down. If you would simply like to gain the basic skills and knowledge you need to kickstart your career and improve your employability, you may be fine with just a HNC qualification.  If your career goal is to specialise and/or progress to completing a degree and enter at a higher level or more specific niche, you should be looking at a HND qualification.

BTEC Higher National accreditor Pearson offers a degree finder tool on their website that allows learners to input which HNC and HND pathways they have completed and search for various universities. Pearson has confirmed this entry route onto years 2 and 3 of a degree. You can find this degree finder tool here.

Those who achieve an HNC and HND can continue on to study one of the following university degrees:

  • BA (Hons) Business Management.
  • BA International Business.
  • BSc (Hons) Accounting.
  • BA Business Administration.
  • BA in Business and Human Resource Management.
  • BA Business and Marketing.
  • BA (Hons) Global Business Management.
  • BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance.
  • BSc (Hons) Digital Business – Management.

Career prospects unlocked by higher national courses


Those who have completed an HNC in Business can be expected to perform essential business tasks and work effectively to understand processes and operations. Some of the roles available to HNC Business graduates include – HR Assistant, Recruitment Coordinator, HR adviser, Marketing executive, Marketing communications assistant, Accounting Clerk, Bookkeeper, Payables officer, Supply chain analyst and procurement specialist.

HND Business graduates will be able to increase business performance through strategic business planning to meet business aims. They can also manage business functions effectively in lower or middle management positions. Completing this qualification opens job opportunities such as – People and Culture Coordinator, Assistant Recruitment Manager, HR Consultant, Assistant Marketing Manager, Digital Marketing Executive, Digital Marketing Specialist, Finance Officer, Accounts Assistant, Contract Officer, and Supply Chain Executive.

Approvals & Memberships