HNC in Construction

Because the world of construction is so practical in nature, regular A-level and equivalent college courses just don’t cut it any more.

For this reason more and more people are choosing to study BTEC or a Higher National Certificate in Construction. To find out more about a HNC in construction, and why this type of qualification could be just what you’re looking for, read on…

The HNC in Construction

In order for you to get the job you want in construction, you may find that you need some kind of qualification to get it.

More and more construction employers are looking for workers that have higher level qualifications. So, bagging your self a Higher National Certificate in Construction, could help you land those jobs you want.

If you decide to study your HNC in construction full-time, the course will take you just 1 year to complete. But, if you’d prefer to continue working during your HNC study, you can opt to split the course over a two-year period and study part-time instead.

Because a HNC covers a wide variety of construction areas in detail, you’ll come away with a broad knowledge and plenty of practical experience too. You’ll have an in-depth understanding of a variety of construction based skills, which will help in your search for employment at the end of your qualification.

These types of HNC course are now being offered at numerous colleges and universities all over the country. As well as being a great stepping stone towards the career you want, a HNC is also great if you wish to further your construction qualifications.

Your Higher National Certificate in Construction can either lead to a full HND, or in some cases, can count as your foundation year of a construction degree at university.

HNC Construction Core Units

Your work will be a mixture of practical and theoretical work, and your individual and group projects will be regularly assessed each term. The HNC course will be delivered in units and may cover some of the follow construction areas –

  • Building services engineering technology
  • Construction economics
  • Construction economics
  • Design principles and applications
  • Design procedures
  • Health, safety and welfare
  • Law and contract
  • Management principles and applications
  • Site surveying procedures


Courtney – Are you able to get a trainee job whilst studying a hnc if so what type? READ MORE…

You could be fornutate to find an employer who will sponsor your course and give you time off to attend college but these jobs are difficult to get at the moment. Most of them are run via the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

Have a word with your local college who should be able to tell which companies local to you are running the scheme.

James – I am currently a contracts manager for a civil engineering and groundworks company. Could I do a HNC on line? Or day release? READ MORE…

You can’t do the HNC online but it is offered on a day release basis by most colleges and runs over a 2 year period. Some colleges may also run evening courses if there is enough local demand.

Anon – What qualifications are needed to get onto a HNC course? I have 2 average AS Levels? READ MORE…

Normally a Level 3 qualification is the minimum. One AS Level is the equivalent of a Level 3 so you should be OK. Or, if you have relevant work experience, the minimum qualification requirement can be waived at the discretion of the college running the course.

Lewis – Is there a recommended reading list for this course or would it be best picking up a more tailored one from the individual’s tutor? READ MORE…

Individual colleges tend to issue their own recommended reading lists which will be updated from time to time. Generally speaking The Building Construction Handbook (Chudley and Greeno) and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Building Services Handbook (Hall and Greeno) are pretty much essential sources of reference you’ll find useful throughout the course (and in your working life afterwards).

Kevin – I’ve been unemployed for two months now after working as a contractor for Carillion for 5 years and apparently NVQ level 3 construction supervision and having SMSTS site management is not enough to secure a job with another construction company. Is an HNC really going to help? READ MORE…

Long term, yes, it’s certainly going to help, depending on the kinds of jobs you’re looking at. But, in the short term, probably not. THE SMSTS, gold or black CSCS card and a first aid certificate appear to be valued more highly than any academic qualification at the moment?

James – I am currently studying for my HNC at college and I am underway with the second year of the two. I am 20 years old and currently work as joiner and do not have a clue what I want to do or when to even go job wise once I finish. What jobs can this take me too. READ MORE…

Unlike a lot of other vocational qualifications the HNC doesn’t lead to any job in particular. It gives you a basic grounding in many aspects of commercial construction that you wouldn’t gain elsewhere.

I’m assuming you’re doing the HNC with a view to getting off the tools? The usual career path for someone like yourself would be to progress from foreman to contract manager or assistant site manager. The HNC is often cited as a requirement for these kinds of jobs.

You might also want to consider going down the professional route as a surveyor? In which case completion of the HNC would enable you to do a foundation degree or full degree in your chosen discipline.

Nick – I am doing my first year of a hnc in construction management. I’m going to do the degree once I have finished the hnc. I run my own maintenance firm and I’m a nvq 3 carpenter with 12 years experience. When should I look at getting in to management? Would I have enough experience now if I did a smsts to get a job somewhere or should I wait until I finish either the hnc or degree. I know I’ll have to start at the bottom but if I had a degree would I be overqualified for a trainee site manager? READ MORE…

There is nothing to stop you looking for and applying for jobs right now; you certainly have sufficient experience. If you wait until you have finished the HNC or degree you may be missing opportunities that may not be available in a few years time.

The only downside is that not all employers are keen on having staff who are part-time students. It is a negative attitude on their part and something you’ll just have to accept.

If you’re looking at opportunities in site management the degree will be beneficial but experience is more important.

Dan – I am a 42 year old bricklayer with over 25 years experience , I am looking to go into a role in health and safety off the tools. I’m looking for the right advice as to what courses I need to be getting on, any help would be greatly appreciated. READ MORE…

The NEBOSH Certificate in Construction Health & Safety is what you need to be looking at.

You could also do the 2 day first aid course, if you haven’t already, and the Site Safety Plus course for managers or supervisors (details).

I don’t think you need any formal qualifications for the NEBOSH courses although you would likely be accepted on work experience anyway?

Obviously there is a cost involved with all these courses but sometimes grants are available – ask the course provider if they know of any currently available.

Gareth – I have project managed and self- renovated houses additional to my full time job as a police officer for the last 13 years.
I have no formal qualifications or nvq’s for any trade although quite proficient in many trades.
I am 33yrs old and looking to change my career completely, I have just completed the level 3 BTec diploma in construction and the built environment to distinction level and am starting the HNC in the same this September.
I am looking to complete my level 3 certificate in the electrical city and guilds 2365 and get my 17th edition quals in the next 6-9 months.
My question is, Is the HNC in construction the right course to have when I hopefully will move into management or would you advise of a differing route to take?

As you’re already going down the mechanical and electrical route the Building Services HNC/HND may be worth considering? CIBSE have a list of providers HNC Building Services Courses

That said the construction HNC does touch on building services to a degree and is probably your best route since it covers many other subjects while allowing you to keep your options open?

SP – I’m currently working within the Estates department for the NHS in the West Midlands. I have completed my first year HNC studies and will be starting my second year in September (paying for the course myself). However I want to find a new job that would let me attend college but also give me experience and on the job training ideally towards project management/ site management . Any suggestions as to what companies may be suitable or any advice? READ MORE…

What you’re describing would be an ideal way for the construction industry to train and recruit project/site managers. The problem is that many of the main contractors and housebuilders are only interested in recruiting young graduates. And they complain about skill shortages?

Smaller firms tend to be more forward thinking but investing in training is still something a lot of them are nervous about.

Your best bet is to contact local small/medium sized builders and contractors and ask if they’d be interested in employing you on a trainee basis. The fact that you’re already paying for your own studies demonstrates the level of commitment they might be looking for?

Sean – Hi, I am currently looking at further education as a part time / evening class mature student. On looking at appropriate courses, an HNC in Construction Management interests me.
I have no prior experience in the construction industry and work full time as a Police Officer, but I would like to keep my future career options open.
What are the possible careers/jobs that this qualification could lead to and what college courses could I progress onto to open up even more careers/jobs?

The HNC is generally a prerequisite for management roles or to proceed onto a degree such as the Construction Management Degree or Construction Surveying.

For someone with little or no on the job experience I’d suggest Health & Safety as an area worth looking at. You can do the NEBOSH qualification in a relatively short period of time and doesn’t require the level of experience that, say, an assistant site manager position would do.

The problem with the construction industry is the tendency to pigeonhole people into job specific roles and it can be difficult to break through this barrier. Obviously, any hands on experience you can get is going to be to your benefit.

Paul – Would a HNC construction help on the way to becoming a Quantity surveyor? READ MORE…

To qualify as a QS you’ll need to do a relevant degree and complete an assessment of professional competence (APC). Universities will generally accept candidates with decent HNC grades and some relevant experience. So yes, the HNC will help on the way; it’s also a course worth doing as a way into a number of job roles, not just surveying.

Glen – Hi I’m looking to get into project management for the company I currently work a heritage joiner and have 13 years experience in the making and installing of all joinery aspects. I only really have nvq level 3 in bench joinery as qualifications so wondering what would be the best step for me to take? READ MORE…

I guess the first step is to talk to your employer to discuss what it is they need from you that you don’t already have? A course such as the HNC building studies may give you a grounding but it covers a lot of subjects, some of which you may or may not need? The HNC construction management may also be a more suitable course but isn’t so widely available.

A meeting with the head of built environment at your local college would also be worthwhile. It won’t cost you anything and will give a you a better idea of what route to take.

Leon – Hi im a groundworker/pipe layer i want to move of the tools into setting out surveying as an engineer if i complete hnc in construction and the built environment could i then apply as a trainee/junior site engineer and gain my experience that way? READ MORE…

You could start applying for trainee jobs as soon as you start the course. Also look out for chainman jobs as a way of getting some relevant experience.

Karl – Hello, I am an NVQ level 3 qualified electrician with 4 years experience. I want to start my own electrical contracting firm. I have noticed a lot of the work I want to go for is put out for tender. Will this course teach me about the tendering/ bid process & would you say it would be a good step for starting my own business baring in mind I won’t be on the tools myself but rather ‘managing’ things. READ MORE…

The HNC/HND courses are designed to cover all aspects of commercial construction so you’ll find a lot of the modules useful and relevant. Individual colleges provide the course with a selection of mandatory and optional modules – some in more detail than others.

You’ll need to check with your local college what courses they run and what modules they include.

As an electrician you may find the Building Services Engineering course more appropriate but I would recommend talking to the head of dept at your college of choice for more specific guidance.

Brian – I need a copy on my HNC certificate passed more than 25 years ago in Somerset , does anyone know who could help? READ MORE…

Sean – I’m currently about to finish my last year in my HNC construction and the built environment course. I’ve funded the course myself and am currently working for the NHS in the facilities and estates department in Birmingham. I want to use the HNC qualification I will get to go into project management. Do you have any advice or point me in a direction? READ MORE…

You could do the BSc (Hons) Construction Management Degree that’s offered by a number of Universities. Completion of the HNC should enable you to join the course in the second year.

You might also consider taking the professional route via the Chartered Institute of Builders which would be the preferable route for your long term prospects.

Callan – I have just finished completing my Construction level 3 and am slightly confused on what to do next. I want a career in quantity surveying so should I take up a HNC or what other option? READ MORE…

The HNC is a good route to take as it will give you a good grounding in commercial construction and basic surveying principles. To go further you’ll need to do a degree in a surveying discipline and getting decent HNC grades will help you – especially since you’ll be able to join the degree course on year 2 rather than starting from the beginning.

You could also become a student member of RICS where you’l find more specific guidance and advice on your options in the world of surveying.

The CIoB is another option although more centred towards construction management than surveying.

Jordan – I have finished the 1st year of my apprenticeship (BTEC Level 3 Construction and built environment) and have one year left. I am trying to gather as much information as possible to make my life easier when it comes to applying for colleges or University for September 2017.
I am torn between completing a subsidiary diploma or moving up to a Full diploma, as I am not sure if I would prefer to complete an HNC or go straight to university and will be studying quantity surveying in the future.
If I complete a 2 year part time HNC course in Surveying, will this allow me to start the 2nd year of a part time University degree or allow me to start the 3rd year (5 year courses).
The reason why I ask is that I have been given a lot of conflicting information. A colleague of mine and my college tutor both completed a 2 year HNC course and went into the 3rd year of a degree. However, I contacted Greenwich university who advised that it would allow me to start on the 2nd year of the course.

As a rule of thumb good HNC grades (mostly merits and distinctions) will allow you to join a relevant degree course on the second year. However, individual Universities will have their own criteria depending on how the course is delivered and this is why you may know of exceptions to this rule.

The advise you got from Greenwich University is what I would expect but you may get a different response elsewhere.

Joe – I have just finished my first year HNC with 3 distinction and 1 merit and was lucky enough to get a job in quantity surveying, but i’m not sure it is what i want to do i have looked at other degrees other than quantity surveying and architect and project management stand out and i would find more interesting could i do this degree of a HNC and what year/level could i jump onto after finishing my course? READ MORE…

Good HNC grades will get you to the second year of most construction related degrees. However, rather than looking for something more interesting at this stage it might also be worth thinking about things such as how you are going to fund the degree and membership fees etc? Will the company you are working for now fund this for you and how easy do you think it will be to find another decent employer if you do make a change?

Quantity surveying is, perhaps, not the most glamourous option but I can tell you this. If you do qualify as a QS you are unlikely ever to be out of work, even if you switch disciplines later on.

Mark – I am working for a company as an assistant engineer and am on the verge of being promoted becoming a site engineer. I can perform most of the tasks expected by a civil engineer. The only problem is I hold absolutely no recognised qualifications. My conpany have funded college and I have been accepted into a HNC in construction. I am due to enrol next week but am I little worried as rhey have asked me to bring my gcse results and I dropped out of school with nothing. I do think im capable of achieving this course. Should I be worried? Or will my experience be recognised when I enrol? READ MORE…

There is no reason to worry since relevant work experience is generally accepted. However, this is at the discretion of the college so, to save embarrassment, it would be a good idea to contact the head of the built environment department before you go to enrol. You can, of course, expect any communication with the department head to be confidential.

If you contact the college reception they should be able to give you a direct email or direct phone number for him/her.

Martyn – I’ve been working in Property Management for 4 years and other office roles for 8 years previously. I have decided to focus on Building Surveying as a chosen career. I have 10 GCSE’s (A-C) and 3 A-levels (BCC), but at 30 I am not 100% on the best route towards qualifying as apprenticeships are now beyond me…
Based on research, the ‘approved’ path towards qualification is a 2 year part-time HNC in Construction, followed by a 3 year part-time degree in Building Surveying. Would you agree with this route? READ MORE…

You should also consider joining the RICS as student member and network as much as possible. For non-conventional (non-school leavers, that is) entrants it’s often a case of being in the right place at the right time and getting your foot in the door.

Mo – I have question that may sound very weird, I am currently in the financial sector completing my AAT level 3 while working for a construction company, lately I have been very interested in BIM and I am looking to change my profession, can I dive into a new position that has opened up for trainee BIM/CAD asking for minimal 120 ucas points to enter a HNC course in civil engineering? will my level 3 (160 ucas) points suffice or will I have to do construction courses before I can get into this position? or am I asking this question in the wrong place? READ MORE…

It will be at the course provider’s discretion but the likely answer is yes. The HNC course is designed for people with at least some basic knowledge of construction but you’ll find even with people who do have a lot of industry experience there are lots of subjects they know nothing about. You may find your experience in finance gives you some advantage in some areas.

The right place to ask is the college providing the course, since it is they who can give you a definite answer.

Dylan – I already have a degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering but now I wish to change my field to civil engineering. Can I still do a HNC even if I already have a degree? Also, can gaining a HNC lead straight to employment or do I need to do a HND and then complete the final year of my degree to get a job within civil engineering? READ MORE…

Yes, you can do the HNC even if you already have a degree. Having the HNC will certainly help when it comes to finding a job but there are no guarantees, even if you go on to do another degree. You can find more specific advice about careers in civil engineering and how to gain professional status via The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

David – I am 45 and looking towards doing a HNC in construction and have city and guilds advanced craft( which is now replaced with the Nvq cert )
I have 28 years experience in construction and have recently been moved into the office and feel I need the relevant qualifications to progress in my new surroundings, any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

I would advice you try and get as much support from your employer as possible but also bear in mind this is as much about your own future as your employers. Once you have settled in to the course start thinking about what you will do afterwards, maybe a degree or professional qualification?

The Chartered Institute of Builders (IoB) have a lot of advice and you would do well to think about membership.

Wayne – I’ve been in construction for 15 years and I’m currently a supervisor/manager for my company. I want to progress to project management level but all I have is experience can you point me in the right direction? READ MORE…

There isn’t a right direction as such, a lot depends on who you work for and what opportunities may arise. If it isn’t happening with your current employer then you should think about moving?

Academically, the route you could take is HNC Construction followed by a degree in construction management but there is no guarantee of a job at the end of this long road.

Personally, I would try and join CIoB and progress through to the NVQ levels 5 and 6. You may have to do the HNC first but I think this gives you more chance than the degree route?

Completing the NVQs level 5 and 6 qualifies you for a Black CSCS card and this seems to be a golden ticket, so to speak.

You should also do the First Aid certificate and keep it up to date as well as the SMSTS course as soon as you are able.

I need a replacement HNC certificate for a visa I’m applying for how do I go about getting one? READ MORE…

Person should be able to help you out. Visit the link below to get in touch:

Apply for a copy of your results or certificate

Tony – Hi, I am about to start the second year of a HNC in Construction in the built environment, in which direction or job role would you advise me to go for, I am currently having a career change from publishing to construction? READ MORE…

It depends if you want to do any further study really? After you do the HNC you could go the professional route via RICS or CIoB.

If you just want to get a job or start a new career from the bottom up it’s going to be tough without any relevant experience. The HNC gives you a good grounding but it doesn’t necessarily qualify you for any specific role. A lot of entry level positions are aimed squarely at school leavers and recent graduates; the construction industry has a lot of problems in this respect and seems determined to keep making them worse I’m afraid.

Off the top of my head, some roles that may interest you and where there may be openings available to you are:

Local Government – ie. planning, estate management, building control, etc. Sometimes you’ll see opportunities at junior/trainee level. Worth checking if your LA has their own jobs portal as not all positions are widely publicised. Same goes for Housing Associations, of which there are many.

Property management – lot’s of estate agents/letting agents are managing portfolios of houses and flats. This can be a way of starting out with a view to gaining experience, if not a career in itself.

Health and safety – an industry in itself. Lot’s of opportunities although you may have to invest a bit more money in doing the NEBOSH certificate first?

Also, what about your colleagues on the course, what jobs do they do and is there anything there that appeals to you? The key really is to find something you think you can make a go of and just get on with it.

There are so many roles the danger is you become too generalised and unemployable – as mentioned before, this industry is a bit backward on the career progression front and likes to pigeon hole people into set roles. So the sooner you decide what your role is going to be the better.

Having had a previous military career and with a number of years experience in construction and property management I find myself needing to study for an HNC in construction. Ideally this needs to be online or visa distance learning. I am based in Scotland if this helps. READ MORE…

There aren’t any online or distance learning courses. You’ll need to contact a college that offers a course locally and you’ll probably need to attend for at least one full day a week.

Hi I 22 years old and currently working as a steel fixer I have a lv 2 NVQ in it, I abit bored of my job and don’t see myself doing it forever I’m unsure of what exactly I could go onto next?

I’ve looked into HNCs in the built environment but am not exactly sure I qualify for it and am a bit unsure of what I could do afterwards as I feel I’d possibly be to old for university by that time. What else can a HNC qualification lead onto without having to go to university and what other qualifications are out there.

As I say I’m a bit unsure of what career I want at this moment but am quite interested in the role of a building control surveyor. What steps should I take to get into a role like that?

At 22 you could complete the HNC by the age of 25. If you think this is too old for university you are very much mistaken. I wouldn’t worry too much about what kind of role you want at the end of it since you need to explore further in to what each offers.

Your main problem is that you’ll need time out of work to complete both courses with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. If you can handle this then go ahead and do the HNC and follow it up with a degree.

Your current experience should enable you to join the HNC course without any other qualifications needed. Good grades in the HNC will enable you to miss the first year of your chosen degree. Anybody can get good grades if they are willing to do the work required.

The biggest mistake you can make now is to spend too much time thinking and not actually doing anything about it.

Hi, I am a 31 year old plasterer with over 10 years experience. I run my own small plastering company which I enjoy, but I’m really keen to study something now while I a HNC in order to one day get off the tools…. I only have a level 2 nvq.

Would it make sense to go try and go straight to the HNC or do a level 3 nvq in construction and built environment first? Obviously if I get offered a place in the HNC course I’ll give it 100% but I don’t want to just struggle through it!

I don’t see why not? School leavers are expected to do the BTEC National first but you would probably find this a bit too basic and, dare I say it, a waste of time?

The HNC is a more advanced course and you’ll struggle with some aspects of it but, since it covers a wide range of disciplines, most people have problems at some stage.

You will find like minded people also on the course as well as people from different backgrounds who can help you with stuff you may have had little experience with. A lot of emphasis is placed on cooperation and how you get on with fellow students often determines how well you’ll do on the course.

At 31 you won’t be the oldest person there either, I can guarantee that.

See Also
Surveying site using a theodolite
Construction Degrees
BTEC National Certificate in Construction