HNC Applied Sciences

HNC Applied Sciences

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

The HNC in Applied Sciences at SCQF level 7 is a general science qualification intended for those wishing to find employment in the science industries or to progress to further (HND level) study. It is a wide-ranging course providing learners with an exposure to biological, chemical and physical sciences. Learners will also develop a wide range of practical laboratory skills and good laboratory practice.

This qualification is available through colleges.  Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete.

Why deliver this qualification

Higher National qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry — so 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 local needs.

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

Who does this qualification suit

The HNC Applied Sciences is suitable for a wide range of learners including:

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


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

  • a minimum of one science qualification at Grade C or above at Higher level, with appropriate supporting qualifications at National 5 level (or equivalent) in relevant science and mathematics subjects
  • NC Applied Sciences level 6
  • qualifications in appropriate science and mathematics programmes, such as Access programmes — learners should have gained some Units at Higher level in an appropriate science
  • suitable work experience gained in a science laboratory 


Learners who achieve an HNC Applied Sciences can progress to the HNDs in Applied Sciences (GK6F 16), Applied Biological Sciences (GK6G 16), and Applied Chemical Sciences (GK6H 16).

HNCs can also provide progression to degree-level study. For example, the HNC Applied Sciences may allow direct entry into the first or second year of some degree programmes.

Higher National qualifications may also provide the knowledge and understanding required for related Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) — for example, the SVQs in Life Sciences and Related Industries.


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

Centres without devolved authority will have 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 Guide to Approval.

How to assess

Each individual Unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each Unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

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

Where can you take this course?

Qualification Structure

HNC Applied Sciences

Group Award code: GK6E 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Applied Sciences at SCQF level 7 consists of 5 mandatory Units (56 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional Units (40 SCQF credit points).


Group Award Specification


Understanding Standards

Understanding Standards documents have been developed for the following Units:

Applied Sciences: Graded Unit 1 (H91W 34)

To access the Understanding Standards documents, please visit the Understanding Standards website.

Qualifications Support Team (QST) - Action Grids