HNC Cyber Security

HNC Cyber Security

Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers. The HNC Cyber Security (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as Data Security and Ethical Hacking. The HND Cyber Security (SCQF level 8) will be available from August 2019 and will build on the knowledge and skills of the HNC.

In addition to the above, this qualification covers areas such as Computer Architecture, Computer Programming, Computer Networking, and Professionalism and Ethics in Cyber Security.

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

Find out about the NPA Cyber Security

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 Qualification Development Team (QDT) included representatives from the University of Dundee, the University of Glasgow, Forth Valley College, and Police Scotland, among others.

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

There is a wide choice of optional units, such as Penetration Testing, Digital Forensics Case Studies, Internet of Things or Big Data, which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet local needs.

The HNC Cyber Security will allow progression to the HND Cyber Security (available from August 2019) and various degree programmes. Cyber security-related degrees currently include:

  • BSc Cyber Security (University of the West of Scotland; Robert Gordon University)
  • BSc Ethical Hacking (Abertay University)
  • BEng Cyber Security and Forensics (Napier University)
  • BSc Cyber Security and Networks (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Who does this qualification suit

The HNC and HND Cyber Security will be suitable for a wide range of learners, including:

  • school leavers who wish to pursue a career in cyber security
  • college learners who have completed a lower level qualification in Computing or a related field
  • adults who wish to retrain in this field with a view to finding employment or changing career
  • adults wishing to gain a recognised national qualification as part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements; this could be on a day-release or part-time basis


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

  • National Certificate in a computing discipline at SCQF level 5 or 6
  • any one relevant Higher (SCQF level 6) together with three National 5 courses
  • relevant National Progression Awards, such as the NPA in Cyber Security at SCQF level 5 or 6
  • relevant industrial experience

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


Learners who achieve an HNC Cyber Security can progress to the HND Cyber Security (available from August 2019).

HNCs and HNDs can provide progression to degree-level study. For example, the HNC Cyber Security should allow direct entry into the second year of most degree programmes, and the HND in Cyber Security should allow direct entry to most third year programmes.


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

Centres without devolved authority 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.

How to assess

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

An alternative approach to unit-by-unit assessment is to assess two or more units holistically. Integrated assessments combine the assessment of up to three units (24 SCQF credit points) in either an examination or project (these are known as ‘alternative assessments’).

For example, the knowledge evidence in the following units could be combined into a single examination:

  1. Computer Architecture
  2. Computer Programming
  3. Professionalism and Ethics in Cyber Security

There will be ASPs available for all mandatory units of the HNC in Cyber Security and some optional units. These will be available on the SQA secure site.

Where can you take this course?

Qualification Structure

HNC Cyber Security

Group Award code: GP10 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

The HNC Cyber Security at SCQF level 7 consists of eight mandatory units (64 SCQF credit points), including the Graded Unit 1 examination, and at least four credits from the list of optional units (32 SCQF credit points).

Group Award Specification