Training qualifications: Follow the paper trail

So you want to be the coach with the most? Well you had better arm yourself with the qualifications that count. But with so many to choose from, which ones matter and how do you get them?

According to Elaine Cox, director of postgraduate coaching and mentoring programmes at Oxford Brookes University, the must-have qualification for a professional coach is a university-accredited postgraduate certificate or masters degree. “I would want my coach to have that as a minimum,” she says.

Some lower-level qualifications also have value, says Cox, but only if they are a part of a progression route that leads to a masters.
Postgradute studies

At Oxford Brookes, the postgraduate certificate takes one year to complete and the masters takes two to three.

Like most coaching qualifications at this level, much of the tuition is carried out online and is complemented with face-to-face sessions with the tutor – in Brookes’ case, one Saturday every month. Its postgraduate certificate and masters fees are £2,100 and £6,300 respectively.

Lancaster University Management School also offers a masters-level postgraduate certificate, which takes a year to complete and costs £4,700. Director of coaching Simon Western says the programme is aimed at two groups: professional coaches who want expert tuition and an accredited coaching qualification, and HR staff, consultants, and managers who wish to acquire executive coaching skills, and create a coaching culture in their workplace.

The course combines residential elements with home study and requires candidates to give and receive coaching, and record their progress in a journal.

Western says the course covers coaching theories and encourages hands-on activity. It also deals with personal and organisational development.

Demand for professional coaching programmes has increased significantly of late, says Eric Parsloe, chief executive of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring (OSCM), part of the Oxford Total Learning Group.

OSCM launched its programme eight years ago and now has about 150 candidates studying at any one time. It offers a foundation certificate, a diploma accredited by Oxford Brookes University at degree level, and an advanced certificate and diploma, which gives successful candidates points towards a masters.

Blended approach

Candidates taking OSCM courses are assessed in several ways, reflecting the blended nature of the programme delivery. Volunteers who have received coaching from candidates provide feedback, while the candidates must produce a portfolio of evidence. This should demonstrate that they have read and understood the course literature and issues raised during the programme. All this is coupled with assessments from tutors.
OSCM’s courses are endorsed by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), a standards body that is developing a competency framework for professional executive coaches.

The issue of which will be the established standards body in the coaching and mentoring arena is yet to be resolved. Apart from the EMCC, there is the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a US organisation that has developed a presence in Europe. But with neither having much of a history, the debate on which will emerge as the top player continues.

Focused on coaches

At Bristol-based executive coach development company Humantechnics, managing director Matt Tobutt has thrown his weight behind the ICF. He says it is more focused on what coaches, rather than training providers, want.

Humantechnics runs an advanced certificate course involving two short residential events, which costs £1,795. The course gives candidates 38 of the required 60 hours of coaching contact time needed to qualify for associate membership of the ICF.

Tobutt says the course looks at structured questioning techniques, neuro-linguistic programming and how language can be used to change and develop relationships.

One organisation whose reputation is already established is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It offers a certificate in coaching and mentoring and an advanced certificate in coaching and mentoring. The former leads to associate CIPD membership, while the latter offers postgraduate status.

But, in the final analysis, choosing the right course and provider will come down to what you think is right for you, says Peter Jackson, a senior lecturer on coaching at Oxford Brookes University, who also runs his own coaching business.

He suggests looking at the emphasis of course programmes, the method of delivery and even asking to be put in touch with former students to quiz them on the programme’s suitability.

Jackson says, ask yourself why you want to study. While qualified freelance coaches can charge anything between £100 and £200 a day, he says a coach’s main incentive for professional study should be a desire to demonstrate responsible professional development – not the urge to make more money.

Coaching programme providers

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development  020 8612 6200
Oxford Brookes University  01865 741111
Humantechnics 08700 627790
Lancaster University Management School  01524 510752
Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring 01869 338989

Standard bodies

International Coach Federation  e-mail:

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council 020 8386 5304 e-mail:

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