Is the ILM Level 5 the right qualification for me?

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Working out the right qualification for any new activity is difficult. After we decide we want to learn the new “thing”, we then have to look at all the possibilities for learning it. Do we need a qualification? And if so, which is the best one? Do I have the time for it? How to choose? If you have tried to choose a qualification, whether it be a degree, an IT qualification, a yoga teacher, you’ll know. It’s a minefield!. 

This blog focuses on one qualification in particular. The Level 5 certificate in effective coaching and mentoring,accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). We’ll look at the benefits of taking this qualification, how it may fit in with your career, and how it compares with others. (For a more generalised overview of all qualification options, read my blog on choosing a coaching qualification.

Awarding bodies for coaching qualifications 

You have decided that you want to take a coaching qualification, and you don’t want to return to university to do it.So, the next question is “whose accreditation should I use?”. As well as the ILM, there are three coaching bodies who are dedicated to coaching. They are: International Coach Federation, Association for Coaching, European Mentoring and Coaching Council. They all offer good, robust coaching qualifications that are useful and are high quality. The main challenge for all of them is the barrier to entry. For their qualifications, they all require plenty of hours of coaching practice – between 50 and 100. This is fine for the coach who wants to devote all their time to coaching and to make coaching their career. But it is too much for many who want to use coaching as a smaller part of their career or job. 

By contrast, the entry point for the ILM is somewhat lower. For most of their qualifications it’s 20 hours. This is far more suitable for workplace coaches, or leaders who want a coaching approach. It is enough hours to develop a solid practice, but not too many to make it overly onerous. 

In addition, the ILM is a highly regarded, generalist qualification body for adult learning. It awards 90,000 qualifications in the UK each year. These are awarded to learners who study a range of skills, including leadership, management, coaching, mentoring, supervision. They have robust processes, make sure their learning partners are fit for purpose. Their qualifications are very well considered. Coaches who obtain ILM qualifications have access to coaching registers and approved coach lists. And potential purchasers of coaching readily accept ILM qualifications. 

These reasons are why we choose to offer ILM qualifications for our coaches in training. 

Different levels for coaching qualifications 

The second question I am asked by people considering coming on our courses (the first question is always about the ILM generally), is “what is a level 5?”. Although they may seem like it, levels aren’t plucked randomly out of the air! They are decided by the UK’s qualification authority, Ofqual. They map out the levels and link them to a common set of standards (National Occupational Standards). Their levels apply to all adult learning qualifications, including degrees and postgraduate courses.  

The three qualifications that we use for our coach training are: 

Level 3 – equivalent to A levels. Normally appropriate for first line supervisors and managers. 


Level 5 – equivalent to an undergraduate degree. Normally appropriate for more experienced managers. 


Level 7 – equivalent to a postgraduate qualification. Normally appropriate for senior managers, who have some experience in the topic being studied.

A further distinction is between award, certificate and diploma. With the ILM, the main difference in these is the number of practice hours needed. We tend to avoid the award as the number of hours is too few (often 6) 

It is helpful to understand these different levels, so that we can see what we are signing up for! Even though the levels are equivalent to an academic qualification (i.e. level 5 = degree), the workload isn’t the same! Taking on a L5 degree is work, but not as much as for a full degree! 

Who is the level 5 qualification for – typical candidates 

Typically, people who sign up for the ILM level 5 certificate hold a management position of some sort within an organisation. They may be new to management or may have some experience. But they are unlikely to have done very much coaching, apart from informally as part of their role. We have trained managers in health, education, transport, retail, voluntary sector, as well as self-employed people. And typically, they have good general experience of working with people that they can bring to the coaching. 

Sometimes we see a different profile between our in-company programmes and our open programmes. For open programmes, where individuals sign up, it tends to be more self-employed people. They are keen to want to use coaching for the next steps for their career. Whereas, for in-company programmes, it tends to be when organisations are looking to create a coaching cultureSo, they are looking to develop a good pool of skilled coaches. For this, often the range of roles of participants is really wide – from learning and development managers, to finance, admin and technical managers. The approach is that any manager can benefit from taking a coaching approach. 

What will I learn, and how good do I get to be? 

This, of course, is the ultimate question. In a nutshell, on a level 5 programme you’ll learn coaching basics and rudiments, skills and techniques, structures and approaches. These will give you the skill and confidence to coach in many situations. The intention is to give coaches a good, solid foundation in coaching, and a full toolkit to be able to coach colleagues well. For full details of the course content of our level 5 qualification, download our current brochure here. 

And how good do coaches become? At the least, coaches become highly competent, and at the best, highly skilled! Part of the qualification is an assessment of your coaching. We assess a coaching session against a rigorous set of criteria that represents high quality coaching. Most people pass this assessment first time, and those who don’t are given extra support to re-take and pass at a later date. We have never had anyone fail permanently and are happy to continue the support to get everyone to the right level. 

Some managers really take coaching to heart and dedicate themselves to it, do extra study and practice. And with the extra time, extra skills get developed and they become advanced in their coaching. 

Final thoughts 

The coaching world and the UK marketplace has many thousands of coaches in it. Many have good qualifications, but many also don’t. Do you want to have coaching as part of your CV, your way of working as a manager or as a steppingstone to a new career? Then a coaching qualification is essential. We highly recommend an ILM level 5 coaching qualification as a great starting point. It will give you the skills, the credibility, and the confidence that you have learnt to coach at a good level. Join us to find out more. 

Happy coaching! 



Our ILM accredited level 5 certificate in effective coaching and mentoring is a great starting point. If you have some leadership experience, but haven’t taken a formal coaching qualification, then this is the course for you.Accredited by the prestigious Institute of Leadership and Management, it assures high quality. You will complete the course, earn a qualification and be able to coach at the highest level. And of course, it is available as an online course! 

Download our flyer here

If you were stimulated by this article and want to know more about how to use coaching for your career, your organisation or your life generally, then get in contact. Email us at or book in a time for a 30-minute phone or Zoom call  

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Charlie Warshawski is a leadership coach and coach trainer. He runs an accredited coach training organisation, Love Your Coaching, offering coaching qualifications. In his coaching, he works 1:1 with leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, supporting them on topics that are both professional and personal – according to their needs 

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