If you’re based in the UK, you might be familiar with qualification levels such as Level 3, Level 5 and Level 7 and you might wonder how our courses map to these levels.
The simple answer is that, as with most coaching courses, they don’t.
These levels are used by the UK’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) to indicate a qualification’s educational level. For example, Level 3 is equivalent to “A” Level, Level 5 to a Degree and Level 7 to a Postgraduate course.
However, these levels only apply to specific qualifications which are regulated by Ofqual and administered by Awarding Bodies such as the ILM, CIPD and City & Guilds.
Most coaching courses do not sit within this framework but are, instead, accredited and quality assured by specialist professional coaching associations including:
- International Coaching Federation (ICF)
- European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)
- Association for Coaching (AC)
The first two organisations are not UK based, and whilst the third is, it is also international in scope. With the ICF being a US-based association and the EMCC being European, and with all three spanning the globe in terms of coaching membership and influence, the UK’s framework has not been adopted as a core part of the coaching profession as a whole.
In short, there is really no direct comparison between an accredited coaching course and a UK Ofqual qualification and any attempt to suggest there is would be disingenuous.
In coaching, ultimately what matters more for the credibility and competence of an aspiring coach is how they can fit within the framework of the key professional bodies mentioned above.
Whilst such accredited coaching courses are typically more practical in focus and less theoretical and therefore a better fit for those who want to work as a coach with clients, for those who are committed to obtaining a UK qualification in coaching, the dominant awarding body is the Institute of Leadership & Management. The ILM does not directly deliver qualifications themselves but instead licenses approved providers of their qualifications. As mentioned, these courses tend to be more focused on organisations, largely theory-driven and assessed through essays rather than practical competency.
The key is to know what’s most important to you in all of this: the practical competence you develop and your place in the coaching profession or a specific qualification, perhaps required by your employer or as part of a wider educational path. As Stephen Covey would say, “Begin with the end in mind”.