PDA Software Development SCQF levels 7, 8 and 9

Professional Development Awards (PDAs) extend or broaden professional or vocational skills and are linked to National Occupational Standards. The PDAs in Software Development at SCQF levels 7, 8 and 9 focus on skills in computer programming.

These qualifications equip learners with a wide range of underpinning knowledge and skills relevant to computer programming, together with practical skills in software maintenance and program testing.

Areas covered include software development analysis, design and implementation. There is also a software development project where learners will have opportunities to work within a programming project team and apply project management techniques to the software development process.

This qualification is available through colleges, training providers and some employers. It has been designed to be delivered as a taught course and will normally be available as a combination of workshops and self-directed study.

The PDAs in Software Development at SCQF levels 7, 8 and 9 have been developed in partnership with employers and industry so are suitable for the current sector.

They will help employers meet skills gaps and provide continuing professional development for staff, while learners will gain knowledge and skills needed for progression in the workplace.

These qualifications focus on software development and aim to produce job-ready employees for businesses. They can be used to train people with computing backgrounds or to retrain people from other disciplines.

The suite of qualifications span three levels and is hierarchical — learners can mix and match units from different levels and gain a group award at the level of the lowest unit.

These short qualifications can be taken over an intense period of study.

The Scottish Government’s Skills Development Plan includes the proposal to establish a number of Digital Skills Academies to provide short and highly focused courses in Software Development. These qualifications can provide a suitable curriculum for such academies.

The target audience is those in work, or seeking employment, who require a specific skill set.

These qualifications are aimed at anyone with an interest in becoming a computer programmer. No previous experience of programming is required but the award will require intensive study for those without it. The qualifications are suitable for learners with backgrounds in computing who wish to focus on coding or learners with no background in computing who wish to retrain in this area.

Entry requirements

Entry is at the discretion of the centre.

All learners will be expected to possess basic IT skills before admission to the qualifications. Learners would benefit from having attained the skills, knowledge and understanding required by one or more of the following or equivalent qualifications and/or experience:

  • level 7: no previous knowledge of computer programming is required, but learners would benefit from having previous experience of using computers, for example, the use of office applications
  • level 8: learners would benefit from having a lower-level qualification in computing, eg an Advanced Higher, Advanced Certificate, or a graduate level qualification in a non-STEM subject
  • level 9: learners would benefit from having a graduate-level qualification in a STEM subject or another subject that promotes logical thinking

These qualifications are not expected to articulate to any specific degree programmes. Discussions with universities have suggested that these qualifications would only be considered in conjunction with the other qualifications held by the learner.

Learners completing the SCQF level 9 PDA should be prepared for employment as entry-level programmers. Those completing lower levels are likely to require further training before being ready to enter employment.

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority will need to come forward for approval and should contact SQA’s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA’s general requirements for technical/occupational competence, as outlined in the Systems and Qualification Approval Guide.

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the evidence requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Each unit is assessed separately.

Assessment will allow candidates to enhance their own practice. The use of reports and projects is crucial to this.

Assessment/e-assessment support packs are available for this qualification.

SCQF level 7 Group Award Code: GT22 47 (48 SCQF credit points)

SCQF level 8 Group Award Code: GT23 48 (48 SCQF credit points)

SCQF level 9 Group Award Code: GT24 49 (48 SCQF credit points)


Each of the levels consists of three mandatory units and the total credit value — 6 SQA credits (48 SCQF credit points) for each level. There are no optional units.

For further information on the structures and units of these qualifications please refer to the group award specification.