NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism (QCF)

Qualification code
501/1103/6 (NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism (QCF))

Vocational qualifications are either work-related qualifications designed to enable students to gain the skills required to perform a particular job, or qualifications that may be taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.

Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the DfE performance tables, if approved for teaching to 16-19 year olds by the Secretary of State for Education in England under Section 96, where this is in the best interests of individual students.

The NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism prepares students for their first job, further training and the start of a career in journalism.

Students will be equipped with the qualities, skills and knowledge needed to become a journalist and work on publications serving many different platforms.


The grading scale used to signify performance differentiation within the qualification and units is A – F grades with C grade being the industry standard for each unit and F grade being a fail.

Credit is awarded for achievement of grades A – E in each of the units required to complete the Diploma in Journalism qualification.

Teeline shorthand is not graded; speeds are awarded from 60 – 120 words per minute.

The industry standard for shorthand is 100 words per minute.


Each subject is assessed by examination and/or coursework set and marked by NCTJ examination teams.

The e-portfolio is a continuous assessment, including evidence of journalistic skills and application of knowledge and understanding.

Each unit has a programme of study including assessment criteria, how marks are awarded and grade descriptors on which students’ levels of attainment will be differentiated.

The assessment criteria for each unit clearly specify the standard that the student is expected to meet in order to demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been achieved.

Learning outcomes are listed in the qualification specification for the Diploma in Journalism and information on assessments can be found on the NCTJ website:

Further information

There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing vocational qualifications that are not listed on the DfE 16-19 performance tables for England:

  • Some of these qualifications are occupational, and may not be designed specifically for progression to HE.
  • Applicants holding these qualifications may be school or college leavers, however, some may be more mature students who are likely to have other relevant experience alongside these qualifications.
  • These qualifications may have been taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.
  • If they are presented for admission to HE it is likely to be in conjunction with other qualifications.

The NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism is set on the qualifications register with the following objectives:

  • Qualifications that indicate an individual can undertake a specific role in the workplace and that they may be relied upon by employers
  • Qualifications that are included in apprenticeship frameworks, including functional skills.

This qualification provides opportunities for students who are preparing for, or are already engaged in, careers as professional journalists.

It is suitable for those aged 16+ with a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above. There is no age limit. It can be used by those who have completed full-time education or by those who are considering a career change. It can also support individuals to work independently and effectively in life and those seeking to progress further in education and training.

The NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism is a mandatory qualification for students gaining employment as an apprentice junior journalist. The apprenticeship standard for a junior journalist can be viewed here:

NCTJ entry requirements are intended to ensure that there are no barriers to restrict access and progression and equal opportunities exist for all students. Students with particular educational needs are not targeted separately although special provision may be made for them.