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ECDL: What is it and why does it matter?

Whether it’s for daily use at work, buying shopping online or just browsing the internet, the vast majority of us use computers on a frequent basis. However, despite over three quarters of the UK’s working population regularly using computers, most have never had formal IT training.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) is an internationally recognised qualification that enables people to certify their computer skills to an internationally recognised standard. BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, a leading professional body for IT is the only organisation allowed to offer these qualifications in the UK. ECDL is highly regarded around the world and is seen by employers as a benchmark in IT user competence.

Never heard of it? Unsure what it’s all about? Our handy ECDL FAQs guide will reveal all you needed to know about the computer courses.

What is ECDL?

ECDL qualifications are internationally recognised and enable people to certify their computer skills to an internationally recognised standard.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, a leading professional body for IT is the only organisation allowed to offer these qualifications in the UK. ECDL is highly regarded around the world and is seen by employers as a benchmark in IT user competence.

Tried, tested and trusted, ECDL qualifications have been delivered to over 15 million people, in 171 countries.

All ECDL qualifications available through BCS are recognised by qualifications regulators in England (Ofqual), Northern Ireland (CCEA Regulation), Scotland (SCQF Partnership) and Wales (Qualifications Wales).

Why does ECDL matter?

Practically every job function involves IT in some way. With that in mind, we have a look at how important it is to have an ECDL qualification. 

There are some obvious skills and qualifications that people need in order to get a job, a working knowledge of English and basic maths being the most frequently requested. Back in 2016, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Digital skills crisis report stated that 90% of jobs will require computer use by 2020.

Now, a more recent study by burning glass found that: 

  • More than 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs (82%) require digital skills
  • Digitally intensive middle-skill jobs pay more than non-digital middle-skill jobs
  • Digital skills provide a career pathway into middle- and high-skill jobs
  • Digital middle-skill jobs represent roughly 38% of overall job postings – but some markets afford more opportunity than others.

All of this together means that ECDL a great introduction into work.

ECDL for the FE market

There are three ECDL qualifications available through BCS which are suited for the Further Education market.

BCS Level 1 Award in IT User Skills (ECDL Essentials) is an excellent introduction to the world of technology. It recognises the application of a range of IT user skills and knowledge in the workplace, meeting employer workforce demands. Learners will understand how to get started on a computer, email and the internet, with a particular focus on how they are used safely and productively.

Once completed, they can progress to BCS Level 2 Certificate in IT User Skills (ECDL Extra), to build on their knowledge and experience to improve their understanding of computer applications including word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software. They will also learn how to work more effectively with IT to improve their productivity.

Students can also take BCS Level 3 Certificate in IT User Skills (ECDL Advanced) which builds on existing knowledge and understanding of key software applications including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases.

Where is ECDL recognised?

Speaking to BCS, they explained that by completing this qualification learners would have the skills to competently carry out a range of job roles in business administration including jobs such as:

  • Receptionist
  • Communications Operator
  • Customer Services Advisor
  • Personal Assistant
  • Credit Administrator
  • Office Co-ordinator
  • HR Administrator
  • Service Delivery Manager
  • Data Entry Administrator
  • Administration Team Leader

ECDL Core focuses on learners gaining a better understanding in IT applications that are a requirement in many job roles across many different sectors today. Some of these roles include:

  • Marketing Assistant
  • Office Assistant
  • Data Entry Administrator
  • Personal Assistant
  • Service Delivery Manager
  • Customer Services Advisor

Why choose ECDL?

It is evident that ECDL is still very much relevant in 2017 given the job roles it lends itself to. From an employer’s perspective, according to BCS, it’s what they want.

‘Employers need people who can contribute to achieving goals in the most efficient and productive way. ECDL gives you the computer skills to do this. That’s why it is recognized and valued by companies around the world as the benchmark in IT user competence. Over 2 million people have taken ECDL in the UK alone,’ Lucy Ireland, Managing Director for BCS Learning & Development

As IT has evolved with the times, surely the ECDL has had to do the same in order to be reflective of modern day technology.

‘Testing was previously paper based and improvements have continued to be made, moving to automated marking, taking the burden away from the training centre and providing a high degree of accuracy.

‘The student has always been assessed by actually using the technology keeping the content of assessment up to date,’

- Kate Barlow, Product Manager, BCS Learning & Development

Knowing how useful ECDL is across a number of job functions, it’s always a good decision to invest and add to your qualifications and skillset which will no doubt make you a versatile candidate across a number of positions.

Find ECDL courses


How many people have their ECDL licence?

To date more than 14 million people have engaged with the ECDL programme, in over 150 countries, through our network of over 24,000 ECDL Accredited Test Centres 

Are there any entry requirements to study it?

Most centres that offer the ECDL programme don’t require any specific qualifications, although obviously some understanding of computers before you start is definitely an advantage. Many secondary schools offer the programme as something extra to those studying for their GCSEs, although the majority of ECDL candidates tend to be older. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 55 or 95, it’s not too late or too early to enrol on a course.

Can I study part time?

Yes you can, as virtually all ECDL courses take place part time, while others give you the option of studying online from home.

Is the ECDL all one qualification?

ECDL is a suite of qualifications for learners of all abilities from Level 1 through to Level 3

How are the modules classified?

From Level 1 through to Level 3 there are qualifications designed for people who are looking to gain a basic understanding and capabilities in the use of IT applications and provides the skills and knowledge needed to progress to the next level of learning in IT user skills or any subject where basic IT skills are required, such as administration

How much does the course cost?

This varies hugely depending on where you decide to enrol on an ECDL course. Some centres allow you to pay per individual module, which can vary anything between £40 and in excess of £100. Others charge per each hour of training given while some allow you to pay in one lump sum. So, it’s best to research a few different ECDL course providers to get the best deal for you (and also check for any hidden costs).

What is the qualification worth?

The ECDL is accredited by the Chartered Institute of IT (BCS) as an ITQ, which is the term given to a flexible IT qualification. For those who complete the level two standard profile, they will receive a qualification worth the equivalent of a GCSE A*-C, while those who progress to complete the advanced qualification will have gained a qualification worth the same as an A Level.

What can I do with an ECDL qualification?

As a recognised qualification worldwide, having the ECDL qualification can give you a huge boost when it comes to looking for employment anywhere in the world, as it shows you have up-to-date and relevant computer skills. The specialist modules you took in the standard profile will also provide you with an added CV boost, as you will be able to demonstrate some unique computer skills to your current or future employers.

Compare ECDL courses

Last updated: 17 Oct 2019

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