What is the difference between IOSH and NEBOSH?

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There are several educational bodies offering health and safety training. IOSH and NEBOSH are two of the most well-known and respected. Let’s compare them and find the right course for you.

Key points

  • Both IOSH and NEBOSH offer health and safety qualifications from Level 2 up. If you want a career in health and safety, look to NEBOSH, but if you’re after awareness training for non-health and safety specialists, IOSH might be what you need
  • You don’t need to pick just one. Both IOSH and NEBOSH are accepted and respected by employers. To possess a combination of qualifications is very common
  • IOSH is a Chartered body with members, whereas NEBOSH is an awarding examination board


If you don’t have any responsibilities for health and safety, working in a low-risk environment, or you’re dipping your toe into health and safety, IOSH entry-level courses give you an overview of best practice and the tools to control hazards.

NEBSOH courses are more appropriate if you’re a skilled health and safety worker, angling for a career in management.

But both are well-respected and recognised, plus evidence that your skills are up to date and you’re complying with the law.

IOSH and NEBOSH have separate frameworks, but you can pick and mix courses to get the experience that you want.

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IOSH is a Chartered body, NEBOSH is an examination body

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, or as it’s more widely known, IOSH, is a Chartered membership body for workers in health and safety that also offers qualifications.

It’s based in the UK, but it’s the largest health and safety body in the world, with 48,000 members worldwide.

It’s self-regulating and governing, meaning it’s widely trusted and highly respected. As a Chartered body, IOSH keeps company with Oxford and Cambridge uni, among other world-leading organisations.

The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH), is an awarding body. It too is based in the UK and offers 18 qualifications in health, safety and environmental management.

IOSH courses

If you’re at the beginning of your health and safety career, IOSH’s Working Safely and Managing Safely courses give you a solid start spotting and controlling hazards in the workplace.

But you don’t have to be a health and safety specialist, or even have a risk management related role to take IOSH courses.

Its qualifications are designed to raise the standards of health and safety for everyone, in any business, in any industry.

IOSH Working Safely is an entry-level course that takes just one day to complete. It covers the basic, yet essential, health and safety information that can be used by anyone in an organisation to make it safer.

IOSH Managing Safely is a Level 2 qualification (equivalent to a GCSE) that takes three days, an exam and a practical project to complete. If you pass successfully, you leave with heightened hazard perception and risk assessment know-how, plus a certificate to prove your knowledge.

You don’t need prior health and safety qualifications, grades or years of experience to join either Working Safely or Managing Safely. They’re open to everyone.

NEBOSH courses

The NEBOSH General Certificate is a Level 2 qualification, equivalent to an A-Level. It’s more challenging than the starter courses and needs a greater time and financial commitment.

It’s specifically for professionals who want a career in health and safety management. NEBOSH has a rating system – Gold, Silver and Bronze – so you can pick which training provider is right for you.

Again, there are no entry requirements but because this is a more advanced course, you’ll usually be encouraged to get a level 2 health and safety qualification so you’re prepared for the content within the syllabus.

To pass the General Certificate, you must pass an open book exam and a practical risk assessment project. If you’ve already done the IOSH Managing Safely course, it’s a familiar format.

Mix IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications

The conventional pathway is to take Level 2 IOSH Managing Safely, before moving onto Level 3 NEBOSH General Certificate.

But there’s no preferred pathway. If you plump for IOSH Level 3 Health and Safety for Business, it’s still equivalent to the NEBSOH General Certificate.

IOSH and NEBOSH are both coveted by employers all over the world. You won’t be overlooked because you decide to take one over the other.

And, if you go to NEBOSH to develop your skills, you can still come back to IOSH for membership.

As a health and safety professional with a Level 3 qualification, IOSH recognises you as an ‘IOSH Tech’, which shows you’ve achieved the NEBOSH General Certificate.

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If you’re not sure which course is right for you, take our IOSH Managing Safely vs NEBOSH General Certificate quiz.

Answer these questions to find out which course is right for you.

Q: Are you responsible for health and safety at work?

A: No. If you’re not responsible or accountable for health and safety at work, you’re best suited to IOSH Managing Safely because it’s a course that improves your hazard awareness.

If you answered ‘Yes’, you need a course that shows you how to make the safest decisions when you’re accountable for the consequences. Move onto the next question to see if you need to take the NEBOSH General Certificate.

Q: Have you completed any health and safety training before?

A: No. If you haven’t had any training, IOSH Managing Safely is the best place to start as it’s a level 2 entry-level course. If you’ve already completed a basic awareness course, like fire safety or Safety, health and environment (SHE) for construction training, Managing Safely is the next step. If you already have Managing Safely on your CV, the General Certificate is the next rung on the health and safety qualification ladder.

Q: Have you completed any risk assessment training?

A: No. Managing Safely and NEBOSH General Certificate covers risk assessment training. If you’ve never done it before, IOSH walks you through the process and tests your understanding to make sure you could handle it in the field.

If you answered ‘Yes’, risk assessments might be part and parcel of your day job already – you understand the mechanics! The level 3 NEBOSH would be more appropriate for your skill and expertise in this case. The General Certificate also asks you to prove your knowledge with a practical risk assessment.

Q: Have you already completed and passed a level 2 health and safety course?

A: No. If you haven’t got a level 2, it might seem obvious that you need to start with IOSH. But if you have a number of years experience on the job, Managing Safely might be too basic for you. You can start with a level 3 qualification, even if you don’t have the level 2. It’s not usually recommended because you need to get into the swing of the academic approach and way of thinking – but it’s not impossible. We’ll coach you and help you adjust to the pace.

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