National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ)

The NCTJ Level 6 National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) is the NCTJ’s professional senior qualification that examines all-round competence in a range of essential journalism skills.

It is designed to meet the needs of employers and to provide trainee or apprentice journalists with the knowledge and skills required by a senior journalist working across the media sector.


The NQJ is available to all journalists including senior journalist apprentices working across the media and is tailored to meet different sectors’ needs.

There is flexibility for candidates and employers to choose a pathway relevant to their skills and the area of the media they’re working in.

Currently, there is a news pathway for print, online and broadcast journalists and a production pathway for production journalists. There are also discrete pathways for community news journalists, local democracy reporters and journalists working in specialist brand (magazine) publishing. Additional pathways for other specialist fields may be developed.

The assessments

Assessments are completed online: there are two exams and an e-logbook assessment which is completed prior to taking the exams.

  1. Media law and ethics in practice a two-hour online exam covering key subjects such as defamation, contempt, copyright, privacy etc. This is an open book exam with candidates able to refer to McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, the Editor’s Code and the Ofcom Code.
  2. E-logbook of evidence: 10 sector-specific tasks set to specific requirements and all delivered via a bespoke online assessment portal. Topics covered may include handling data, use of social media and analytics, visual journalism, court and inquest coverage and political stories.
  3. Online practical skills-based exam: candidates will choose which pathway they are taking to sit the applicable online practical skills-based exam. NB: this choice must be made at the point of registration

More details about the NQJ assessments can be found in the document links below.


Many candidates begin their NQJ training when they take up their first job, after gaining the NCTJ’s entry-level Diploma in Journalism qualification at industry ‘gold standard’ (grades A-C in all subjects plus 100 words per minute shorthand, if applicable).

Other candidates may join the programme with no previous journalistic training. Typically, they will be graduates, but will not necessarily have studied journalism as part of their degree. In this case, they will need to gain the essential journalism skills at diploma level before moving on to the more advanced skills, knowledge and behaviours applicable to the NQJ.

Candidates must have at least 18 months’ experience working as a paid journalist (this may be reduced to 12 months in some circumstances) before taking the exams.

Employers may also set their own standard requirements for their journalists to take the NQJ. For example, journalists working in the regional press need to have the ‘gold standard’ Diploma in Journalism including court reporting, public affairs and 100wpm shorthand. Results for media law, court reporting and public affairs cannot be more than five years old.

If you would like to discuss your eligibility to register for the NQJ, please contact us by phone or email. We will assess each individual candidate, validate any prior learning and determine your eligibility to begin working towards the NQJ.

How can I sign up for the NQJ?

If you are eligible, there are several ways to study for the NQJ:

If you are working as a trainee or apprentice journalist, or as a local democracy reporter, your employer may suggest you undertake the NQJ as professional development towards becoming a senior journalist.


In this case, your employer will provide the training and support you need and may also prepare you to take the NQJ assessments. If this is the route you are taking, you can register for the NQJ here. The NCTJ also offers NQJ exam preparation workshops prior to the exams via the Journalism Skills Academy.


Please note your employer may well require you to have achieved the ‘gold standard’ Diploma in Journalism to be eligible for the NQJ so please discuss with your editor or line manager in the first instance.


The cost of registration, training and exam fees are likely to be borne by your employer, but if you are in doubt, please speak to your line manager or contact us.

If your company does not offer an NQJ training scheme, you can study for the qualification using the NCTJ’s bespoke e-learning platform, which is part of the NCTJ Journalism Skills Academy. 

To complete the NQJ via a distance learning course, you will first need to contact the NCTJ to confirm your eligibity. Tutor support for the programme can be provided either by your employer, or (at additional cost) by the Journalism Skills Academy.


One of the NQJ assessments is completion of an e-logbook of published material. There are specific categories and requirements to satisfy and if you are working for a company we strongly recommend you discuss the assessment requirements with your editor before embarking on the qualification, since you will need to demonstrate a wide variety of journalistic skills depending on which pathway you are on (e.g. news journalism, community journalism, production journalism etc).

If you are working as a freelance journalist you should think carefully about whether you will have the necessary opportunities to produce the published content required. Please note that we will also require your editor(s) to verify that all the work you submit for your e-logbook is your own.

The full cost of completing the NQJ through the Journalism Skills Academy is £800+VAT. This includes: registration fee; distance learning materials; tutor support; and an exam preparation workshop. Exam fees are payable separately.

Please note:

  • Registration for the NQJ includes access to the e-logbook assessment and support materials
  • Exam preparation workshops can be paid for separately when required
  • You pay for the exams only when you enrol for them.


You can gain a place on an apprenticeship scheme.  A level 7 apprenticeship standard for a senior journalist is available which includes the NQJ as a mandatory qualification. This is an 18-month to two-year training scheme, which combines on-the-job training with off-the-job learning. Apprenticeship schemes can only be offered by employers, and companies offering apprentice positions (both at junior and senior level) are responsible for hiring individuals into those roles and for the training which is integral to the programme of work and study.

The NCTJ worked closely with employers to design the apprenticeship standard. We award the NQJ and will also deliver the end-point assessment, which is the final element required to complete the senior journalist apprenticeship standard.

If you are interested in finding out more about apprenticeships – either as an employer or as a potential apprentice, please click here.

If you have gained a place on a senior journalist apprenticeship scheme, your training provider will guide you through the NQJ registration process, the NQJ training and prepare you for the NQJ exams which must be passed before completing the end-point assessment. Training costs for an apprenticeship are covered by the employer and/or government funding. For any queries, please contact us.

Non-apprentice candidates who have registered for the NQJ will need to complete a seperate enrolment form to sit the NQJ exams. Please see the exam date page for upcoming NQJ dates and information on enrolment opening and closing dates.

The NCTJ offers exam preparation courses to any NQJ candidate, which feature useful hints and tips for the exam day itself and practical experience, with feedback, on all sections of the qualification. For more information on NQJ workshops, please click here.