What is meant by Qualification, Accreditation, or Credentialing?


The Ombudsman Service for the coaching and mentoring industry received a number of complaints from the students of a Private Commercial Training Organisation who has selected to confuse the consumers with the results issued to their students.

In talking to a Professional Body, the students discovered that they could not be recognised as certified/qualified and accredited, so which was it?

Although the Private Commercial Training Organisation had been training students for a number of years, in June 2019 the organisation applied for and was awarded a level of accreditation/credentialing for their coach training course and trainers from one of the industries Professional Bodies.

During the first few months of 2020, these students applied to join the course or were registered by a third-party, and subsequently, after successfully completing a 12-week on-line coach training course, qualified as ‘Master Coaches’.

Enthusiastic about the coaching and/or mentoring industry, after completing their coaching course these students applied for another training course with the same Private Commercial Training Organisation.  Although successfully completing the second course, the challenges the students experienced when they included the second course on their biography or curriculum vitae encouraged them to contact the Professional Body who had accredited/credentialed their original coach training course.

Raising their questions with the Professional Body, they were told by a senior member of staff that although they were qualified as ‘Master Coaches’, the training company could not also ‘accredit’ them. Therefore, their ‘accreditation’ was deemed invalid.

On approaching the Private Commercial Training Organisation, they were treated with disdain. In looking for a solution they registered their complaints with the Ombudsman Service.

The case study generated from the formal complaints registered with the Ombudsman Service: where the Private Commercial Training Organisation has selected to both gain an accreditation from a Professional Body for their course and their trainers, as well an as provide independent external verification of their student's standards through issuing each student with an accreditation/credential and a qualification.

In an industry such as the Coaching and Mentoring industry, it is difficult for students coming into this industry who have no knowledge of the industry to understand some of the terminologies.

The dictionary definition for the word accreditation is ‘the action or process of officially recognising someone as having a particular status or being qualified to perform a particular activity’.  It is recognised across a range of industries, including in the coaching and mentoring industry; that accreditation (or credentialing) is recognised as an external validation of a person’s ability and is based on their knowledge and personally gained experience.

It is for this reason that the IRCM CIC has defined accreditation/credentialing as ‘an independent external verification of competence awarded by an external body, which in the coaching and mentoring industry is the Professional Bodies (accreditation bodies, trade/membership bodies, or associations), of a Coach or a Mentor’.

This case study highlights the industry concerns about Private Commercial Training Organisations who may either not know the industry standards or may elect not to follow the industry standards.

The outcome of the Ombudsman Service investigations concluded that this Private Commercial Training Organisation is run by two recently qualified coaches who have no previous business experience and as such have a lack of knowledge about this industry and the industry challenges of standardised terminology.

For this reason, it was found that:

  • Private Commercial Training Organisations may not know, or may select not to follow, the industry standards, who believe that they can both ‘qualify’ and ‘accredit’ their students are:
    • devaluing the quality of their training courses.
    • devaluing the accreditations/credentials issued by the Professional Body.
    • devaluing the coaching and mentoring industry.
  • Students coming into this industry have no knowledge of the industry standards
    • Prospective Students (the Private Commercial Training Organisations consumers) who are not aware of the coaching and mentoring industry unified internationally recognised industry standards, ethics, and definitions before they select a coaching or mentoring training course or workshop will continue to be disappointed and not meet their own expectations.
    • Applying to complete a training course or workshop by following a motivating and interesting advert, without understanding the industry, will continue to produce consumers who make assumptions about the offering made by Private Commercial Training Organisations.  Where the Private Commercial Training Organisation has gained a Professional Body accreditation/credential, the prospective student in this situation would assume that they will be granted both a qualification by the Private Commercial Training Organisation and an accreditation by the Professional Body.

As the Ombudsman Service can see no evidence of the issues being resolved, as neither the Private Commercial Training Organisation nor the Professional Body has fulfilled their sanctions/recommendations and through researching the Private Commercial Training Organisations website or the Professional Bodies website, the Ombudsman Service recommends that, when looking for a coach or mentor training course, all consumers:

  • review the Private Commercial Training Organisation for its competence and:
    • use and understanding of industry standard terminology,
    • independent external verification of the trainers,
    • independent external verification of the course content,
    • inclusion of the Unified International Codes of Conduct;
    • and an understanding of the end result of the training.
  • review the Professional Body that has awarded the independent external verification of the trainers and the course; and
  • verify that the Professional Body, Private Commercial Training Organisation, and Trainers are currently REGISTERED on the relevant IRCM CIC Directory.