HNC/HND Nautical Science (England)

HNC/HND Nautical Science (England)

Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers. The HNC in Nautical Science (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as chartwork and tides, navigational mathematics and science, marine meteorology, bridge watchkeeping, marine cargo operations, ship stability, naval architecture and celestial navigation.

The HND in Nautical Science (SCQF level 8) builds on the knowledge and skills of the HNC and also covers marine emergency response and communication, marine law and management, marine passage planning, management of bridge operations, applied marine meteorology, ship stability, marine vessels: structures and maintenance, management of vessel operations, shipmaster's business, shipboard management and marine engineering systems.

In the UK outside of Scotland, Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC) is the registered trademark of Pearson Education Limited and the trademark is used under licence from Pearson Education Limited

Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete, and an HND takes two years.

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.

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

Who does this qualification suit

The HNC and HND Nautical Science 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


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

  • National Certificate in Ship and Marine Operations (with deck options SCQF Level 6).
  • At least two Higher level (SCQF Level 6) passes, one of which should be Mathematics or a Physical Science.  Learners should have National 5 English at SCQF Level 5 or above.
  • Relevant work experience.

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

Candidate Information

The HNC Nautical Science

The HNC Nautical Science is specifically designed to equip you to enter employment in the Merchant Navy as a Deck Officer. Find out more

HND Nautical Science

The HND Nautical Science is specifically designed to equip you to enter employment in the Merchant Navy as a Deck Officer. Find out more


Learners who complete the HNC award will have the opportunity to progress onto the HND. 

The HN Nautical Science awards offer you a wide range of articulation routes to higher education.  Depending on the HE institution, learners with HNC and HND awards can apply for entry to degree programmes. Entry to these programmes is usually dependent on a satisfactory UCAS reference and specific conditions of either HNC or HND graded units.

Learners who successfully complete the HNC Nautical Science as a means of gaining a UK MCA 'Officer of the Watch' Unlimited certificate, will be eligible to progress to complete the full  HND Nautical Science Group Award at Chief Mate Unlimited level once they have gained the industrial experience specified by the MCA.

In addition, those learners who wish to change career and work ashore may, depending on academic performance in the HNC, be allowed to proceed directly onto Part 2 of the HND Nautical Science. These learners, whilst eligible for Certification at OOW level, would not be able to use HND part 2 as a route to Certification at Chief Mate level without first gaining the relevant industrial experience.

Learners who successfully complete the HND Nautical Science may also articulate to an MSc programme in Marine Operations delivered at the City of London University.

You should approach individual centres regarding possible articulation options.


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

Centres without devolved authority must 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.

How to assess

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

Where can you take this course?

Qualification Structure

HNC Nautical Science

Group Award code: GM7P 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Nautical Science at SCQF level 7 consists of 9 mandatory units (96 SCQF credit points).

HND Nautical Science

Group Award code: GM7N 16 (240 SCQF credit points)

HND Nautical Science at SCQF level 8 consists of 23 mandatory units (240 SCQF credit points).

Group Award Specification