The NEBOSH General Certificate Explained

This post will tell you about the NEBOSH General Certificate, including the National and International versions of the qualification.

Table of Contents

What is the NEBOSH General Certificate?

It’s a vocational qualification, meaning that it has been designed to meet the needs of employers. NEBOSH and the General Certificate are recognised and respected worldwide.

The course that leads to achieving the certificate is split into two units. Unit one focuses on the management of health and safety. Unit two concentrates on workplace hazards and controls.

Many people taking the course are surprised by the volume of information, and there is a lot to learn when undertaking this course. Unit one covers areas such as:

  • Legislation
  • Management Systems
  • Risk Assessment 
  • Incident Investigation
  • Auditing Systems

Unit two goes through all sorts of hazards found in a typical workplace and the recommended control measures and precautions that should be put in place to reduce the risk.

Here are some links to the NEBOSH Learner Guides so you can see exactly what the course covers: 

NEBOSH National General Certificate Guide

NEBOSH International General Certificate Guide

What level is it?

The NEBOSH General Certificate is equivalent to a UK-based A-Level. Click on the image to see where it sits in the qualifications framework. Your secondary school education is probably long behind you, but don’t worry if you didn’t achieve A-Levels during your formative education. If you’ve successfully made your way in the world as an adult since your school days, you’ll be more than capable of achieving this qualification.

How hard is it?

It’s challenging but doable! We’ve put together a video going in-depth on how hard it is. Click here to watch it.

What are the language requirements?

If you’re taking the course in English, but that’s not your first language, NEBOSH guidance says that you should be around level 6 on the International English Language Testing System, which according to the information given on their website, means…

Has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

So, if the above description applies to you, you shouldn’t have any problems. By the way – you don’t have to take the IELTS test to take the NEBOSH certificate course in English.

NEBOSH does offer the certificate in multiple languages. At the time of writing, they are:

  • Arabic
  • Russian
  • Turkish
  • Portuguese (European) 
  • Spanish (European)
  • French

How is it assessed? Are there exams?

Yes. Unit one (health and safety management) is assessed via an open-book exam. It used to be evaluated with a closed-book exam, but NEBOSH changed it in response to the COVID pandemic (but it’s a permanent change). 

The open book exam is completed at home (there’s a 24-hour time limit), and you’re allowed access to your course materials, the internet, etc. 

The open book exam is quite difficult. It shouldn’t be assumed that it’s going to be easy because you have access to course materials and the internet. It’s all about applying the knowledge gained from studying the course content to an in-depth scenario that NEBOSH prepares for each exam. And, likely, the scenario will not be related to your current work (you could, of course, get lucky, but don’t count on it).

Unit two (hazards and controls) is assessed by completing a risk assessment project. However, some parts of Unit 1 are also included in the risk assessment project, so we recommend completing your studies of both units before completing your risk assessment project. NEBOSH hold open book exam sitting once a month (usually on the first Wednesday). The risk assessment project can be submitted any time up to 14 days after you sit the open book exam.

How long does it take?

According to NEBOSH guidance, unit one comprises 29 taught hours (for a classroom-based course) and an additional 20 hours of self-study, with unit 2 comprising 39 taught hours and an extra 20 hours of self-study. This comes to a total of 108 hours, so it’s a significant commitment in terms of time as well as money.

The hours can be spread over as short as two to three weeks, but this is a relatively intense way of completing the course. You can make things much easier and less stressful by going with a training provider that will allow you to spread the learning out over a longer timescale.

What does it cost?

This can vary quite dramatically. The cheapest way of doing it is the distance/online learning route. Prices for this are somewhere between £300 – £500 (based on 2023 prices). The most expensive option is doing it by attending a classroom course.  Typical prices are in the £1,500 – £2,00 range.

As you can see, it’s substantially more expensive if you go via the classroom route.

Is the NEBOSH Certificate course right for you?

It depends. Many factors go into a decision like this. If you’re looking for a career in health and safety, it is an excellent qualification to get under your belt. It’s worth bearing in mind that many health and safety job vacancy postings specifically ask applicants to have already attained this qualification to be considered for the job.

If you’re not looking to become and health and safety manager and want to learn more about health and safety to carry out specific health and safety related tasks because they’re part of your broader job role? 

In that case, the NEBOSH Certificate might be too much of a commitment. You would be better off going for the IOSH Managing Safety course instead, which is a shorter course (3 days) and also much cheaper than the NEBOSH Certificate.

How can you take the course?

First, decide what mode of delivery suits your circumstances. Then go ahead and look for a ‘Learning Partner’. This is what NEBOSH calls its network of approved training providers. They are ranked gold, silver or bronze according to how well they deliver on NEBOSH’s six Leaning Partner Excellence Principles, which are:

  1. Ensure all learners understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from their Learning Provider
  2. Create a learning environment that is engaging and encourages interaction that is appropriate for the course and type of delivery
  3. Provide accurate course materials and continually update and improve them
  4. Ensure tutors are qualified, knowledgeable, competent and engaging
  5. Give learners feedback on their progress and provide appropriate support
  6. Review course delivery and learner feedback and action as necessary

Try to find out as much as you can about a Learning Partner before handing over any money. How responsive are they? Will you receive a good level of support? How do other learners who have used them rate their service?

We hope this post has answered your questions about the NEBOSH General Certificate. If we’ve missed anything, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’ll be glad to help.