Last updated: 20.01.23

How Long Does a First Aid Course Take To Complete?

First aid is a hugely valuable skill that can be applied in situations ranging from minor injuries to severe, life-threatening accidents and illnesses. This is why it’s taken very seriously by UK businesses and regulated by the Health and Safety Executive

What does it take to become a first aider? Is it a long and complex course that will cost businesses lots of money? Or is it quick and easy to achieve? In this article, we’re going to answer these questions.

What Do You Do on a First Aid Course?

On a first aid course, you’ll be introduced to the topic of first aid and given the training to equip you to act in a range of different scenarios. Situations that are often covered in first aid training include choking, heart attacks, unconsciousness, asthma attacks, shock, allergic reactions and broken bones.

A first aid course will also include an introduction to the role of a first aider and the responsibilities that you will have after you have completed your training. You’ll be taught how best to act in first aid situations and how to deal with minor injuries like cuts, burns and scrapes which can usually be dealt with using a first aid kit.

At the end of a first aid course, you will be assessed to consolidate your learning and ensure that you've remembered what the course has covered. The format of this assessment will depend on the type of first aid course you’ve taken.

In-person first aid courses will usually be assessed through practical demonstrations during the course and then a short written assessment at the end. Online courses will be assessed using an online quiz, often with multiple-choice questions.

How Long Does a First Aid Course Take?

The length of time a first aid course takes to complete will depend on the type of course you’re taking. Here are some of the most common examples.

Emergency First Aid at Work and First Aid at Work Courses

To be a recognised first aider, a person must take one of the fully accredited first aid training courses, which are known as either FAW or EFAW courses. FAW simply stands for First Aid at Work, and EFAW stands for Emergency First Aid at Work. 

Both courses must contain certain components, follow the guidelines set by authorities such as the St John Ambulance, and have to be taken in person with a fully accredited training organisation, but these are slightly different.

An EFAW course is designed for businesses that operate in a low-risk environment. It’s specifically designed to equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to deal with a rare but severe emergency situation. These courses generally take about one day, usually around 6 or 7 hours of tuition with both theoretical and practical elements. 

Following such a course, a first aider will be trained to deal with major emergency situations, such as giving CPR and dealing with people who are choking or bleeding severely. Basic first aid for small injuries is also covered, making this an ideal course for office environments.

A FAW course includes considerably more information than an EFAW course, and is designed for people who work in high-risk environments, where general accidents are more likely. In addition to the emergency elements, someone taking a FAW course will learn about dealing with more specific injuries, such as severe cuts, chest injuries, eye injuries, burns and more. 

As a result of this additional information, EFAW courses can often last for around three days, which are sometimes taken together or sometimes taken over 2-3 weeks.

Most training organisations will allow a first aider to upgrade from EFAW to FAW by taking the additional elements of the course.

How Long Is a First Aid Refresher Course?

While the main first aid courses are comprehensive, and certification lasts for three years afterwards, many people find it useful to take refresher courses in the time between. This helps ensure that knowledge and skills are fresh, which could be very important in a severe first aid situation. Some large organisations may mandate that their first aiders take an annual update every year.

Refresher courses generally last just a few hours, and as with the FAW and EFAW courses, they should be done in person to ensure practical skills are still effective, particularly when it comes to CPR or using a defibrillator.

Other Courses

While FAW and EFAW courses are required to be a recognised first aider, it does not mean that other courses won’t give you knowledge in this field. Many businesses don’t require a fully trained first aider under the law, or they’d like multiple people trained but would prefer not to have the major expense of sending several people away for days at a time to learn.

In these cases, taking online first aid training courses is often the preferred option. These give the person completing the course a good general knowledge of first aid situations and responses, which is ideal if a trained first aider isn’t needed but employees would like to know some basic first aid.

At Virtual College, we’re pleased to be able to offer a range of health and safety courses, including our online ‘First Aid at Work Course: Primary Survey’ course. This course is designed to help people understand how they should approach a first aid situation, and gives them the knowledge they need to confidently make the situation safer. 

It includes information about assessing the severity of a first aid situation, as well as placing someone into the recovery position in advance of trained medical personnel arriving on the scene. This course can be completed online in around 1 to 2 hours, and a first aid online certificate can be downloaded.

Where Can I Do a First Aid Course?

First aid courses are offered by providers up and down the country, so if you’re looking to complete a first aid course then you can search for local training providers that run regular, in-person first aid courses.

First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work courses are offered by providers such as St John’s Ambulance and The British Red Cross. If you’re required to take one of these courses to become a qualified first aider, a course run by a well-known provider like these two is one of the best options.

If you are required to complete first aid training by your employer then they might arrange for you to take a certified first aid course. This may be done in your workplace if enough people are involved, or you may be sent to a local training centre to receive your first aid qualification.

Online first aid courses can be completed anywhere that you have an internet connection, making them a great option if you don’t have access to a local training provider or are short on time. A range of providers, including Virtual College, offer online first aid training, and it’s important to check that these courses are accredited so that you receive a valid qualification.

Why Do a First Aid Course?

Learning first aid through a certified first aid course gives you the appropriate training to know how to react in a range of emergency medical situations. The aim of first aid is to keep someone stable and alive until professional medical help arrives, and knowing first aid means that you can do this if you encounter someone hurt or unwell. In some cases, the actions of a first aider can save someone’s life.

Another reason to do a first aid course is that it is a legal requirement for many jobs. If you work in a dangerous environment, with vulnerable people, or in a care setting, having a first aid certification means that you’re complying with official health and safety legislation.

You might also want to do a first aid course because it helps you to feel safer and more prepared at work. Knowing how to help people in a range of first aid scenarios can increase your confidence and reduce anxiety, as you know what risks to look out for and how to deal with emergency first aid situations. This may improve your overall mood and help you to better focus on your job and responsibilities.


How much is a first aid course?

The cost of a first aid course really depends on what type of first aid course you take and the format that the training is delivered in. Comprehensive, in-person courses that last for several days will be more expensive, usually over £100, whereas online training courses are less money, more like £20-£50, as they often don't take as long.

What do you learn on a first aid course?

During a basic first aid course, you’ll learn what to do in the event of several different emergency first aid situations such as choking, bleeding and unconsciousness. You’ll also learn how to assess a situation where first aid might be required, learn how to use the contents of a first aid kit, and will often be taught how to use a defibrillator.

Different types of first aid courses cover different topics, so the content of a first aid course will depend on what it's designed for. Paediatric first aid courses will teach attendees specific first aid skills for children, whilst first aid at work courses focus on scenarios likely to happen in a professional environment.

How long is a first aid course valid for?

First aid course certificates are valid for three years after you take the initial course. Once three years have passed, you need to complete either a first aid refresher course or undertake another full first aid course to remain qualified and ensure you remember everything covered in the training.


Comprehensive first aid courses can take several days to complete, but making this time commitment is definitely worth it to receive training that can help you to save lives and keep yourself and others safe in a range of situations. The great thing about first aid courses is that there are lots of different options to suit every situation and availability, so no matter how much time you have to get a first aid course certificate, there will probably be a course out there to suit you.

If you’re looking for online first aid training, we offer a ‘Primary Survey’ training course that is ideal for anyone looking for an introduction to workplace first aid.