Understand the differences between IOSH and NEBOSH and which one is best for you

As professionals in various industries, we all strive to provide a safe and healthy environment for our colleagues and employees. But when it comes to health and safety training, the options can seem overwhelming.

Two of the most renowned organisations in the field are IOSH or NEBOSH, but what are the differences between them, and which one is best suited for your needs?

In this blog post, we will delve into the world of IOSH and NEBOSH, comparing their courses, target audiences, and qualifications to help you make an informed decision for your career and workplace.

 Key Takeaways

  • IOSH and NEBOSH offer different health and safety courses, tailored to target a variety of audiences with varying qualifications, course structures & focus.

  • Combining IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications offers comprehensive skillset & knowledge base for improved job prospects in health & safety.

  • Gaining these qualifications provides numerous benefits such as increased productivity, cost savings & potential career advancement.

A group of people in a classroom learning about health and safety training

Understanding IOSH and NEBOSH

IOSH, or the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, is the largest health and safety body globally, with 48,000 members across various industries.

 As a chartered body, IOSH provides training, certificates, and membership for professionals seeking health and safety qualifications. These courses cater to all levels, making them a popular choice for managers, supervisors, and employees alike.

NEBOSH is a UK-based awarding body that offers internationally recognised qualifications. It stands for the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health. A survey in the health and safety industry revealed that 52% of respondents preferred NEBOSH as their go-to provider, with IOSH coming in second at 12%.

The two most popular qualifications awarded by such organisations are the NEBOSH National General Certificate and IOSH Managing Safely. They are both widely respected in the field of health and safety.

IOSH and NEBOSH both significantly contribute to the health and safety industry by equipping professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills for establishing safer workplaces.

Whether you’re a manager looking to ensure a secure environment for your staff or an employee seeking a comprehensive understanding of health and safety, these organisations offer a range of training courses tailored to suit your needs.

A man and a woman discussing key differences between IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications

Key Differences Between IOSH vs NEBOSH

If you're just beginning to explore the realm of health and safety, IOSH foundation courses provide a comprehensive introduction to standard procedures and techniques for hazard control. NEBOSH courses would be more suitable if you're a more experienced health and safety worker aiming for a managerial role.

While both IOSH and NEBOSH are renowned for their health and safety courses, there are some key differences between the two. This section will delve into the differences in their qualification focus, course structure, and target audience. This will aid you in determining which organization aligns best with your specific needs and career goals.

IOSH courses are designed to provide a broad overview of health and safety topics, with a focus on practical skills and knowledge that can be directly applied in the workplace.

Qualification Focus

IOSH emphasises the promotion and maintenance of high health and safety standards, making their training courses suitable for professionals across various industries. Their health and safety qualification is designed to provide practical skills and knowledge, ensuring that you can effectively manage health and safety risks in your workplace.

NEBOSH, on the other hand, offers a wide range of internationally recognised health and safety qualifications, especially beneficial for industries with high levels of health and safety risks. These include certificates, diplomas, and master’s-level qualifications, providing a more in-depth understanding of occupational safety and health practices.

Course Structure

When it comes to course structure, NEBOSH provides a more comprehensive selection of courses tailored to specific industries and levels. This allows professionals to choose a course that aligns with their career goals and industry requirements. Additionally, NEBOSH exams tend to be more structured and formal compared to IOSH exams, requiring more preparation and study.

Conversely, IOSH courses concentrate on various roles within a business, ensuring that managers, supervisors, and employees all receive the necessary training to maintain a safe working environment. Their exams are more flexible, allowing candidates to take them either online or in person, depending on the safety training provider.

We highly recommend reading our guide on how to prepare for IOSH exams for more helpful tips and tricks.

Target Audience

IOSH courses are suitable for individuals without a background in health and safety, catering to managers, supervisors, and regular personnel alike. Their qualifications provide the necessary knowledge and skills to manage safety risks effectively, ensuring a safe working environment for all employees.

On the other hand, NEBOSH courses are designed for those pursuing a career in health and safety, with qualifications available at varying levels to suit individual needs. Obtaining a NEBOSH certification is an excellent choice for professionals seeking to advance their career in the health and safety sector.

A person wearing safety gear and working in a factory

What are IOSH Courses?

What is IOSH? IOSH offers a range of courses that cater to different roles within a business, providing the necessary skills and knowledge to manage health and safety effectively.

We will delve into the IOSH Working Safely, Managing Safely, and Leading Safely courses in this section, offering an overview of their significance and functionality.

Working Safely

The IOSH Working Safely course is an entry-level program designed for employees who do not specialize in health and safety but wish to gain a basic understanding of health and safety concepts and develop practical skills.

This health and safety training course, offered by safety training providers, provides a foundation in workplace safety, teaching participants to identify hazards, assess risks, and implement control measures to minimize potential harm.

The Working Safely course can be completed in a single day, making it a convenient and accessible option for those looking to gain valuable safety knowledge without a significant time commitment. It is available in both in-person and online formats, ensuring flexibility and accessibility for all participants.

Managing Safely

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed with the purpose of equipping managers, supervisors and team leaders with a fundamental understanding of health and safety management. It provides an overview of current best practice in the summarization of key threats and outlines effective strategies to protect your organization from costly accidents, damage, and legal issues. This level 2 qualification, comparable to obtaining a GCSE or General Certificate of Secondary Education, equips participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to oversee health and safety in the workplace.

The Managing Safely course is a 3-day program, available in both in-person and online formats, providing flexibility for participants with varying schedules and learning preferences. Upon completion, participants will have the tools to effectively manage workplace safety, prevent accidents, and ensure a healthy environment for their employees.

Leading Safely

The IOSH Leading Safely course is specifically designed for senior leaders and executives who need to develop a strategic approach to health and safety management within their organization. This course covers topics such as:

Risk assessment
Safety management systems
Legal requirements
Safety culture
This ensures that leaders are equipped with the essential skills and knowledge to safeguard their business and personnel.

Upon completion of the Leading Safely course, business leaders will have the necessary expertise and abilities to efficiently manage health and safety in their organization, thus minimizing the chances of accidents and incidents. This course is an excellent choice for those in leadership positions who are committed to fostering a culture of safety and well-being within their organization.

A group of people in a classroom learning about NEBOSH National General Certificate

What are NEBOSH Courses?

NEBOSH certifications are widely recognized by employers and professionals in a variety of industries worldwide, offering qualifications ranging from introductory to advanced levels.

This section will delve into the NEBOSH National General Certificate, International General Certificate, and Fire Safety and Risk Management courses, offering an overview of their purpose and significance.

National General Certificate

The NEBOSH National General Certificate is a widely recognized qualification for those seeking a career in health and safety in the UK. It is suitable for managers, supervisors, and employees who require a comprehensive knowledge of occupational health and safety matters. The course covers topics such as hazard identification, risk assessment, and control measures, providing participants with a solid foundation in health and safety practices.

To gain the National General Certificate, candidates must pass an open book exam. Additionally, it requires them to finish a practical risk assessment project. This qualification not only enhances your career prospects but also equips you with the skills and knowledge necessary to create a safer working environment for your colleagues and employees.

International General Certificate

The NEBOSH International General Certificate is a globally recognised qualification for those seeking a career in health and safety on an international level. This course focuses on international health and safety principles and practices, ensuring that participants are well-equipped to manage health and safety risks in various industries and locations worldwide.

The International General Certificate is an excellent choice for professionals who wish to pursue a health and safety career outside the UK, as it provides a comprehensive understanding of global health and safety standards. With this qualification, you will be well-prepared to take on health and safety responsibilities in a variety of international settings.

Fire Safety and Risk Management

The NEBOSH Certificate in Fire Safety course is a specialised program designed to provide professionals with the necessary skills to effectively manage fire safety and risk within their organization. It is particularly relevant for those with fire safety responsibilities in the workplace, as it covers topics such as fire safety risk assessment, fire safety management systems, and emergency planning.

By completing the Fire Safety and Risk Management course, professionals can ensure that they are well-equipped to prevent fires, protect employees, and minimize damage in the event of an incident. This course is an excellent choice for those looking to specialise in fire safety and risk management within their organization.

A person looking at a laptop and researching different courses and qualifications

Choosing the Right Course for Your Role

Choosing the right IOSH or NEBOSH course aligning with your role and career goals is pivotal for your professional development and success. When weighing your options, you should:

  1. Identify your role and responsibilities in health and safety.

  2. Ascertain the level of qualification required for your career aspirations.

  3. Investigate the variety of courses on offer along with their focus areas.

It is also important to:

  • Evaluate the delivery method that best suits your learning style (e.g., online, in-person)

  • Locate reputable training providers that are IOSH or NEBOSH certified

  • Read reviews and testimonials from previous course participants to gain insight into the quality and relevance of the courses you are considering

  • Seek advice from professionals or colleagues who have completed IOSH or NEBOSH courses to inform your decision

By taking the time to carefully assess your needs and career goals, you can choose the right IOSH or NEBOSH course that will provide you with the skills, knowledge, and qualifications necessary to excel in your health and safety role. Remember, investing in your professional development is an investment in your future and the safety of your colleagues and employees.

A person holding a certificate with the logos of IOSH and NEBOSH, representing the benefits of gaining IOSH or NEBOSH qualifications.

Benefits of Gaining IOSH and NEBOSH Qualifications

Securing IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications brings an array of benefits for professionals within the health and safety industry. These qualifications are highly valued by employers worldwide, enhancing your employment opportunities and making you a more attractive candidate for health and safety roles.

In addition to improved job prospects, IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications provide you with a comprehensive understanding of health and safety practices, equipping you with the knowledge and skills to create safer workplaces and prevent accidents and incidents. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity, reduced costs, and a positive safety culture within your organisation.

Lastly, obtaining a NEBOSH diploma or pursuing membership with IOSH can lead to professional growth and additional career prospects. By combining IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications, you can further enhance your expertise and abilities in health and safety, opening up new opportunities for career advancement and success.

Combining IOSH and NEBOSH Qualifications

While each organisation offers valuable qualifications in health and safety, combining IOSH and NEBOSH courses can provide a comprehensive understanding of health and safety in the workplace. By pursuing qualifications from both providers, you can ensure that you have a well-rounded skill set and knowledge base, making you an even more valuable asset in your organization.

Merging IOSH and NEBOSH qualifications provides numerous benefits including:

  • Enhanced employability

  • Comprehensive knowledge

  • Professional growth

  • Increased career opportunities

By investing in your professional development through these organizations, you are setting yourself up for success in the health and safety industry and creating a safer workplace for all, alongside other safety professionals and health and safety professionals, ultimately promoting workplace health.


In conclusion, both IOSH and NEBOSH are renowned organizations offering valuable health and safety qualifications for professionals across various industries.

By understanding the key differences between these providers and selecting the appropriate course for your role and career goals, you can enhance your knowledge, skills, and employability in the health and safety sector.

Whether you choose to pursue qualifications from one organization or a combination of both, your investment in professional development will undoubtedly contribute to a safer and more productive workplace for all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better NEBOSH or IOSH?

NEBOSH Diplomas are more advanced than IOSH courses, and require longer study, making them ideal for a career in health and safety management. However, IOSH entry-level courses offer a great introduction to best practice and hazard control.

Is IOSH worth having?

IOSH qualifications are invaluable for anyone in charge of workplace health and safety, making them well worth having.

What does IOSH stand for?

IOSH stands for Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the Chartered body for health and safety professionals. For further information please read our What is IOSH? Comprehensive Guide

Can I take both IOSH and NEBOSH courses?

Yes, you can take both IOSH and NEBOSH courses to gain a more comprehensive understanding of health and safety in the workplace. This can help you enhance your employability and career prospects.

How do I choose the right IOSH or NEBOSH course for my role?

When selecting the right IOSH or NEBOSH course for your role, take into account your job requirements, desired outcomes, and the courses available from each organization. Get advice from professionals or peers who have taken similar health and safety courses to inform your decision.


  Published on 29 September 2023 By Gary Holland

About Gary Holland

Chartered Health and Safety professional, with extensive knowledge of creating and implementing health and safety, environmental and quality management systems to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 / ISO 45001 standard.

Experience in working with a number of high profile clients in demanding and high-risk industries, including; Utilities, Construction, Manufacturing, Renewable Energy (offshore and onshore wind), Defense, Nuclear and Public sector.

I am able to understand client’s needs and expectations and deliver projects to high standards, implementing best practice above compliance.