HNC/HND Cyber Security

Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers. The HNC in Cyber Security (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as data security and ethical hacking. The HNC also covers areas such as computer architecture, programming, networking, and professionalism and ethics in cyber security.

The HND in Cyber Security (SCQF level 8) builds on and enhances the knowledge and skills of the HNC. In addition to the above, learners will have an opportunity to learn data flow, blockchain, and open source operating systems.

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

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, 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 and HND Cyber Security are 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 SQCF 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 may gain direct entry into the second year of the HND if they have already completed the HNC.

Progression and employment

The HNC Cyber Security will allow progression to the HND Cyber Security and various degree programmes. The HND has been designed to allow learners to gain a wide range of knowledge and skills in the key areas of cyber security, and should enable learners to specialise and progress to various degrees at different levels at the discretion of the universities.

Furthermore, there may be the opportunity for learners to continue onto an apprenticeship, for example, the level 8 Diploma for Information Security Professionals, which is part of the Technical Apprenticeship in Information Security.

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.

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

Another example is network-based units. There will be a lot of crossover between Routing Technology and Switching Technology as there are many common commands that are used to configure both routers and switches. Furthermore, the Firewall Essentials unit could be bolted on to the delivery of these units to complete a holistic teaching and assessment stream.

There are ASPs available for all mandatory units of the HNC Cyber Security and some optional units. The ASPs for all mandatory units in the HND are being developed and will be available on the SQA Secure site later this year.

HNC Cyber Security

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

HNC Cyber Security at SCQF level 7 consists of 8 mandatory units (64 SCQF credit points), including the Graded Unit 1 examination, and at least 4 credits from the list of optional units (32 SCQF credit points).

HND Cyber Security

Group Award code: GP83 16 (240 SCQF credit points)

HND Cyber Security at SCQF level 8 consists of 14 mandatory units (136 SCQF credit points), including the Graded Unit 1 (exam-based) and Graded Unit 2 (project-based), and at least 13 credits from the list of optional units (104 SCQF credit points).