Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers.

The HNC and HND qualifications in Music have been designed for those interested in pursuing a career in music or a music-related activity and who wish to develop practical skills in music performance, proficiency on an instrument or voice, and knowledge of music theory, working with recording technologies and the music industries. The personal qualities required to secure work in music and music-related fields will also be developed.

The HNC in Music (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as musical creativity, music theory, and technical musical skills.

The HND in Music (SCQF level 8) builds on the knowledge and skills of the HNC by increasing the depth of learning and knowledge, developing proficiency in musicality, expression and creativity in performance, stagecraft and/or composition and developing critical analysis.

This qualification covers areas such as music performance, proficiency on an instrument or voice, music theory, composing, sound engineering/design, business practice, self-evaluation, and self-presentation.

This qualification is available through colleges and some universities. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete and an HND takes two years.

Subject updates

HN Music, Music Business and Sound Production Webinar

Online webinar sessions help teachers and lecturers develop their understanding of the new Higher National Music, Music Business and Sound Production frameworks to be implemented from session 2018/19.

The following optional guidance can be used to support delivery and assessment as an alternative to the approaches outlined in the Group Award / Unit specification.

Optional assessment guidance 2023-24

Higher National qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities, and industry ¿ so that employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The unit-based structure supports flexibility. A unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There is a wide choice of optional units which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet the learners' needs.

This HN provides progression routes to further study (see Progression).

The HNC and HND in Music are suitable for a wide range of candidates, including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • people who wish to start their own business


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • Higher Music or relevant units
  • National Certificate in Music (SCQF level 6)
  • Relevant NQ Music unit(s)
  • Any two National Qualifications at Higher (preferably Music and English) or equivalent
  • Appropriate experience of music performance or composition
  • Relevant work experience

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications, and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Mature learners with suitable work experience may be accepted for entry provided that the enrolling centre believes that the learner is likely to benefit from undertaking the award.

Progression and employment

HNC and HND in Music is designed to be of value to learners who hope to progress to employment or further study. Learners who achieve an HNC in Music can progress to the HND in Music or the first or second year of a relevant university degree, further study, or to employment, eg a musician.

Learners successfully completing an HND in Music could progress to the relevant degree programmes.

Relevant degree programmes include:

  • BA Applied Music
  • BA Popular Music
  • BA Commercial Music
  • BA (Hons) Applied Music
  • BA (Hons) Popular Music
  • BA (Hons) Commercial Music
  • MDes: Sound for the Moving Image
  • MA Music (Songwriting)
  • MA Music

Employment opportunities in a range of sectors of the music industry may include:

  • performing musician (solo and/or band member)
  • session musician
  • teaching music within an institution
  • peripatetic music tutor
  • songwriter/composer/arranger
  • media composer (multimedia/TV/film/games)

Centres interested in offering this qualification require 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. The specific delivery requirements are set out in the group award specification (arrangements document).

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

Assessments are based on realistic environments. Learners will be assessed on their performance which hopes to encourage the learner to see their work as part of their development as a musician.

The majority of units have assessment support packs available, which stipulate assessment approaches and should be adhered to for the assessment to remain valid.

HNC Music

Group award code: GP12 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Music at SCQF level 7 consists of 5 mandatory units (64 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional units (32 SCQF credit points).

HND Music

Group award code: GP15 16 (240 SCQF credit points)

HND Music at SCQF level 8 consists of 9 mandatory units (128 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional units (112 SCQF points).