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    FAQS: IOSH or NEBOSH? – Finding the Best Health and Safety Qualification for You

    Mon 19/08/2019 - 06:06

    One of the most frequently asked questions regarding IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications is how to tell the difference between them – in particular, IOSH Managing Safely and the NEBOSH General Certificate.

    As two of the most widely recognised international health and safety courses across the globe, IOSH and NEBOSH courses enhance the holder’s knowledge and awareness of health and safety standards and risks within their organisation. While these qualifications may appear similar on the surface, there are a number of key differences between the two that require prospective delegates to choose carefully before taking the plunge.  

    In order to determine the right qualification for your needs, you will need to consider such factors as the length of time required to complete the course, total cost, your preferred learning method and long-term career goals before making an executive decision. It is also worth taking into account your current level of responsibility with regards to health and safety in the workplace. For instance, are you a non-health and safety professional looking to take your first step into the sector, or are you looking to build upon your existing health and safety work experience with an additional qualification?

    One of the most frequently asked questions regarding IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications is how to tell the difference between them – in particular, IOSH Managing Safely and the NEBOSH General Certificate. Serving as a definitive guide, this blog aims to provide all of the information required to decide on the right course for you, regardless of your level of competence.


    The Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) is a not-for-profit independent membership body with chartered status that offers widely regarded qualifications for all abilities, from employees in low risk industries to experienced health and safety professionals. Founded in 1949, IOSH works to ensure that companies, governments and policy makers have up-to-date, effective and well managed health and safety standards, as well as being equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to ensure their workplace is healthy, safe and sustainable.

    IOSH designs programmes, assessments and exams for accredited providers to deliver a variety of professional qualifications in health and safety training. Upon successful completion of these courses, delegates will have the confidence to identify hazards, define and assess risks and recognise their individual responsibilities with regards to health and safety compliance.

    IOSH Managing Safely is recommended for those at supervisory, managerial or director level in a non-health and safety related organisation who are looking to better understand the fundamentals of health and safety management at work. The course aims to provide delegates with the confidence and expertise to understand the principles of risk management, recognise and control workplace hazards and generally improve health and safety culture within their teams and across the business.

    Follow the link for a more in-depth overview of the IOSH Managing Safely course content.

    IOSH also offers a one-day course aimed at employees of all abilities that covers the essentials of health and safety standards, legislation and responsibilities in the workplace. The IOSH Working Safely qualification can be delivered via in-house training at a venue of your choice or as an e-learning option. Course content has been specifically tailored to enable candidates to apply specific safety principles as part of their wider job role, appropriately investigating and responding to work-related incidents as and when they occur.  

    The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) is a charitable awarding body that has been implementing health and safety policies worldwide since its establishment in 1979. Providing nationally and internationally recognised qualifications to over 50,000 people every year, NEBOSH provides delegates with an in-depth understanding of health and safety compliance and management within the workplace. Like IOSH, NEBOSH also designs course syllabuses and set methods of assessment, which are then delivered by accredited training providers.

    There are a number of vocational health and safety NEBOSH courses on offer for delegates of varying skill sets and abilities, including the NEBOSH General Certificate, NEBOSH Health & Safety Award and NEBOSH Diploma. All of these are widely respected among major professional membership bodies, such as the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).

    The NEBOSH General Certificate is viewed as the first major stepping stone to beginning a career in health and safety and is often thought of as the next step up from the IOSH Managing Safely Course. Delegates will be taught the principles of workplace health and safety, which will allow them to evaluate and monitor a range of workplace risks and demonstrate/apply their knowledge of health and safety legislation.  

    It is recommended that candidates complete the General Certificate before moving on to the NEBOSH Diploma. This is regarded as one of the most prestigious health and safety qualifications, as it is accepted by many UK universities as an indication of prior learning that meets the criteria for MSc courses. Upon completion, candidates will receive Chartered status, which will allow them to access higher levels of IOSH membership.

    Meanwhile, for candidates who have little to no prior experience, the NEBOSH Health & Safety Award provides a basic overview of the relevant health and safety standards and practices. Serving as an effective introduction into the more in-depth NEBOSH qualifications, the course will provide delegates with the fundamental knowledge required if they were to proceed with the General Certificate or Diploma.

    Both IOSH and NEBOSH provide specifically tailored courses that specialise in the management of health and safety at work. IOSH Managing Safely and the NEBOSH General Certificate are regarded as useful qualifications for managers, team leaders, supervisors and directors, providing candidates with a sound understanding of their health and safety responsibilities. It is worth noting that the NEBOSH General Certificate is generally targeted at individuals pursuing a career within health and safety management, while IOSH Managing Safely is recommended for managers/directors outside of the sector who wish to maintain and manage the health and safety culture within their teams.

    As the only organisation to offer Chartered membership status in the health and safety sector, IOSH offers qualification holders the chance to become part of a respected community of likeminded individuals who are passionate about creating safer, healthier and happier working practices. According to the British Safety Council, IOSH membership currently stands at over 47,000, with members across 99 countries.

    Graduates will automatically gain IOSH membership status that corresponds to their level of expertise, enabling them to network, keep up-to-date with health and safety policies and further enhance their knowledge. While anyone can pay to become an IOSH member, you need to hold specific health and safety qualifications in order to access the higher levels of membership. Therefore, how much you benefit from IOSH membership ultimately depends on your long-term career goals.

    IOSH membership is divided into the following categories:

    Affiliate member: With no requirements to join, affiliate membership is open to anyone with a passion for or considering a career in health and safety. Members will be provided with access to their local IOSH branch
    Associate member (AIOSH): Applies to anyone with an IOSH-accredited qualification who has just started their career in the field/a non-health and safety professional whose job encompasses risk management
    Technical member (Tech IOSH): For qualified and experienced professionals working in a range of operational health and safety roles. To maintain Tech IOSH status, delegates will be required to regularly maintain their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in order to address skill gaps
    Graduate member (Grad IOSH): Members have achieved a relevant degree and are working towards attaining Chartered status. They are also required to keep up-to-date with health and safety CPD
    Chartered member (CMIOSH): As the highest qualification for health and safety professionals, members will be required to maintain their CPD record, as well as complete additional qualifications, a skills development portfolio and a peer review
    Unlike IOSH, NEBOSH does not implement a membership structure. However, the successful completion of NEBOSH-accredited courses will meet the academic requirements to support specific IOSH membership applications (Tech IOSH and IIRSM).

    The main difference between IOSH Managing Safely and the NEBOSH General Certificate is the target audience for each qualification. The General Certificate is typically built for candidates who already have a career within the sector and wish to advance into health and safety management, while IOSH is more suited to non-health and safety personnel looking to become more qualified within their given role and enhance their managerial experience to recognise and control workplace hazards.

    However, this is not to say that either qualification is strictly divided between those who work within the field and those who do not. IOSH qualifications are also recommended for those with no previous knowledge or experience in health and safety who are considering it as a profession, while three quarters of those who hold a General Certificate are actually employed in non-health and safety related roles.

    Both courses also differ in terms of the way they are structured and assessed. IOSH Managing Safely offers a more modular syllabus that lasts between three to four days, which requires the completion of a multiple choice test and practical risk assessment. Meanwhile, the NEBOSH General Certificate takes a more comprehensive approach to course length and subject matter. Dominated by exams, self-study and problem-based learning, the qualification can take anywhere between two weeks to three months to complete depending on whether the candidate opts for block study or day release.  

    The NEBOSH General Certificate is highly sought after by reputable organisations, serving as a solid stepping stone into a career within health and safety. If you choose to go down the General Certificate route first, it is not necessary to undertake the IOSH Managing Safely course, as the NEBOSH syllabus will provide delegates with enough of an in-depth understanding of health and safety management. With this in mind, if you choose to study for a NEBOSH qualification, you will be able to apply for a higher level of IOSH membership upon completion. 

    On the other hand, those who are completely new to health and safety and are considering pursuing it as a career often choose to go on to study for the NEBOSH General Certificate following IOSH Managing Safely, as it provides them with further in-depth training in the management of health and safety at work.

    There is no expiry date on either qualification certificate, however, for IOSH-accredited courses, the organisation recommend that delegates refresh their knowledge every three years in order to support best training practice. IOSH Managing Safely offer a one-day refresher course that can be attended as long as the certificate lies within the three-year timeframe.

    Whether you are training your employees to become more aware of their health and safety responsibilities or are looking to advance your own career, recognising the difference between IOSH and NEBOSH-accredited courses is essential. Both qualifications offer numerous benefits for your future employability, with 92% of health and safety-related job advertisements asking for IOSH or NEBOSH qualifications as a prerequisite. Whichever you decide to pursue, ensure that your chosen training provider is appropriately licensed to deliver the course and that they align with your preferred method of learning.

    All of SOCOTEC’s training courses can be taught in-house, online or at our dedicated training facility in Northamptonshire, and all of our trainers are practicing consultants with a wealth of experience in health and safety management and environmental risk.

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