Perhaps a better question is:
There are many courses available in companion animal behaviour and training but how do you know which one to choose? Well, this depends on what your aims and ambitions are. If you want to improve your knowledge and understanding of your pet then there are probably many courses that could provide this for you. However, if you want to work within the pet behaviour therapy and training industry then a regulated qualification is more likely to fulfil your education needs.
Some education providers accredit their own courses and allocate their own descriptions of 'levels' to them. The term 'level' has a specific educational value and definition, so only courses which are either externally accredited or which lead to regulated qualifications can meet any nationally recognised level of study. You should therefore look carefully at how the terms ‘level’, ‘accreditation’ and ‘qualification’ are used.
To work towards a regulated qualification means that students can be assured of meeting national standards and have the confidence that their studies, if successful, will lead to a regulated qualification that has a properly measured and independently accounted level of study. That level of achievement is readily identifiable across the UK in all educational establishments and enables employers, universities, and other organisations to be confident in your abilities and knowledge. A regulated qualification means that your studies can be recognised outside the UK as well. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) links different countries’ qualifications frameworks together and makes the level of qualifications easier to understand across different countries and systems in Europe. It can help you to compare your qualifications with those of other countries if you are moving from one country to another for work or continuing your education or training.
Well, this is where it gets a little complicated!! A regulated qualification will have undergone stringent quality checks to ensure that both the content and the study level are appropriate. Only approved, regularly monitored organisations are authorised to deliver such qualifications. Ofqual regulates vocational qualifications, GCSES, A levels and AS levels nationally and the QAA regulate higher education qualifications such as degrees, masters degrees and PhDs.
All regulated courses can be compared in terms of level of study. For example the COAPE Level 4, 5 and 6 Diplomas are comparable to first, second and third year university degree study, in terms of the level of study as shown in the diagram below (also see Ofqual’s information on comparing different qualifications).
However, the content and size of study varies, which affects the number of hours of study required to complete the course. Put together the COAPE Level 4, 5 and 6 Diplomas have less content than a full-time BSc course undertaken as a university undergraduate.
It is also important to understand that unlike the first, second and third years of study for a degree, each of COAPE’s three Diploma courses are independent qualifications in their own right, each with individual qualification numbers which are listed on the Ofqual Register of Qualifications.
Do not be confused or misled into thinking that the words ‘accredited’ or ‘recognised’ mean the same thing as regulated. Accreditation simply means that a student’s understanding of what is learned on a course is assessed in a manner agreed with the accrediting organisation. A course with independent accreditation provides assurance to potential students that the course is set at an appropriate level and is regularly quality-checked, but this does not mean that the course will lead to a regulated qualification.
With a regulated qualification, levels are equivalent and clearly defined across the education industry. Regulated qualifications also have to deliver accurate and relevant course content to students, content which is regularly assessed by externally appointed quality reviewers as part of the regulatory process.
Basic theories can be learnt through an element of self-study at home. However, companion animal behaviour is such an integrated subject with so many complex inputs that we believe it can only be studied properly at this level by students and tutors coming together to review, discuss, argue and debate all topics. This is also the most enjoyable way to study and develop in this compelling and fascinating subject.
In addition, to work within the field of companion animal behaviour and training, it is essential that you have sufficient practical skills. It is simply not possible to assess an animal’s behaviour and develop an appropriate training plan without having the opportunity to observe, handle and work directly with pets and their owners. This is why COAPE has developed the first suite of regulated qualifications in both theoretical and practical companion animal behaviour and training, which specifically develop students’ practical skills under the supervision of experienced practical tutors.
COAPE is committed to ensuring that successful students have the benefit of properly verified and quality assured qualifications which pet owners can trust, and so that students can be assured that their tutors have the necessary up-to- date knowledge and practical experience to deliver. Each year of our 2 Year Diploma programme, and the optional third Year, has residential elements where students have face-to-face contact with tutors, learn how to handle real dogs, and also have the opportunity to meet and make friends with their fellow students and tutors.
Having successfully completed Year 2 of the Diploma, your clients and the general public can be confident that you have the ability and expertise to do the job, and an identifiable level of qualification which has been assessed against clearly defined outcomes and criteria through regulated and nationally recognised qualifications. In addition, your membership of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers is there to give you additional help and support through the combined knowledge and experience of its members, along with access to ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) and other professional and social events.