NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism (QCF)

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  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

This qualifications is not listed on the DfE 16 – 19 performance tables.

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

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

Education context

The NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism was first accredited to the QCF on 1 September 2010.

It recognised by the Skills Funding Agency for adult funding and 24+ learning loans.

It is also valid for EFA funding with the last date for new starts in the EFA funding model as 31 August 2016. This is in line with the qualification review date registered with Ofqual.

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

The Diploma in Journalism was designed for The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).

This is a unit-based qualification. All units are at Level 3.

To gain the Diploma in Journalism learners must gain a minimum of 82 credits.

Learners must complete five mandatory units (Group A) gaining 68 credits, and at least two optional units (Group B) to gain another 14 credits.

A learner taking broadcast journalism as an option may complete just this one option to gain the full Diploma qualification. It is a double module covering TV and radio journalism.

Subject areas

Journalism skills. 

The five mandatory units are:

  • News reporting (16 credits)
  • E-portfolio for journalists (21 credits)
  • Essential media law and regulation for journalists (9 credits)
  • Essential public affairs for journalists (7 credits)
  • Teeline shorthand for journalists (15 credits).

Specialist journalism skills.

 The optional units include:

  • Media law court reporting (7 credits)
  • Video journalism for online (7 credits)
  • Production journalism (7 credits)
  • Sports journalism (7 credits)
  • Business and finance journalism (7 credits)
  • Business of magazines (7 credits)
  • Photography for journalists (7 credits)
  • Broadcast journalism (14 credits)

Further information on the content and assessment of the Diploma can be found at:

  • Level 3

UK Level 3 Qualification regulated to the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF)[1]

A levels are Level 3 qualifications regulated to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)[2]

Level 3 is equivalent to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6

[1] The QCF was a credit-based transfer system which recognised qualifications and units by awarding credits. It has now been withdrawn for all new qualifications.

[2] The RQF is the new system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual, indexing them by level and size.



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 learners’ levels of attainment will be differentiated.

The assessment criteria for each unit clearly specify the standard that the learner 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:

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Certification includes a list of subjects studied and the grades achieved for each subject including the highest speed achieved for shorthand.

Learners who gain grades A – C in each unit plus a minimum of 100 words per minute shorthand will be awarded the industry ‘gold standard’ Diploma in Journalism which is stated on the certificate.

Resit arrangements

Where a learner is not able to reach the minimum standard in an examination, coursework or portfolio, application for reexamination at that level is permitted.

Guided/notional learning hours
82 credits: 650 hours
UCAS Tariff points

NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism (QCF)

Grade Points
P 48
Key issues for UK HE admissions

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.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Results will normally be issued within four weeks of the date of the examination. This time is necessary to ensure that all results are properly standardised and checked by the NCTJ.

NCTJ exams are held on a monthly basis to accommodate a number of different training providers and courses that the NCTJ accredits to deliver the Diploma in Journalism. These include:

  • HEPs: 3 – 4 year undergraduate, postgraduate diploma and master's courses.
  • FE colleges: academic year courses, 18 – 20 week fast-track courses and apprenticeships.
  • Independent training providers: 16-week short courses and fast-track courses.
  • Distance learners: national exam dates offered during April and November each year.
Qualification dates notes

This is a current qualification.

It is regularly reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of the media industry in terms of structure, content and assessment.

Reporting and certification information

Certificates will normally be issued within six weeks of the course end date.

Certification data is submitted on a quarterly basis to Ofqual when requested.

The NCTJ also provides data to the Personal Learning Records Service.

Progression information

Gaining the diploma qualification can lead to employment within the industry.

It can also provide access for entry to the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) – the NCTJ’s professional qualification which can be entered for after at least eighteen months’ employment in the industry. This qualification is recognised on the qualifications register at Level 5.

If a learner wishes to follow a news reporters’ pathway, they must ensure that one of the optional units achieved is media law court reporting (as this is an NQJ progression requirement).

All units must be achieved at grade C or above, including 100wpm shorthand, to be eligible to sit the NQJ for news reporters.

Further information

This qualification provides opportunities for learners 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 learners 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 learners. Learners with particular educational needs are not targeted separately although special provision may be made for them.