How To Get Certified As A Life Coach The Right Way

Have you considered getting a life coach certification but don't know how to go about it?

If coaching is a profession that interests you, getting certified is an important step you need to consider.

As a coach myself, I can't stress enough how valuable it is to get certified by an accredited coach training program.

More and more people are willing to invest money in their own personal development and success, and life coaches can help them reach their goals. It's a career that is both fulfilling and financially rewarding.

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the industry is expected to experience a 6.7% average yearly growth rate from 2016 to 2022.

When potential clients look for a professional coach, they are more likely to hire someone who has been certified through a respected coaching organization.

What Is a Life Coach Certification?

While you technically don't have to be certified to call yourself a life coach, getting a certification through an accredited coach training program is becoming essential as the profession has become more mainstream.

It's more important than ever to complete a comprehensive certification program with a robust curriculum that has been accredited by a third party entity.

Coaching schools accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the world’s largest organization of professionally trained coaches, or the International Association of Coaching (IAC), offer certification programs that must follow rigorous standards in order to receive their prestigious accreditation.

When you enroll in an accredited coach training program, you’ll have the confidence that you’re receiving a sound education that includes the core coaching competencies, taught by top-notch trainers.

There are a lot of organizations that claim to offer certification in life coaching, however, those that are accredited by the  ICF or IAC can help set you apart from other coaches out there.

man and woman meeting Life Coach Certification

Earning a certification in life coaching shows that you have met a set of universal standards and have had enough direct practice in the field to prove your worth to clients.

The ICF is a membership organization of professionally trained coaches who set the standards for coaching, train new coaches to meet these standards before rewarding a certification and offer accreditation programs that can provide training specific to coaching.

These training programs include coach skills training, mentor coaching, ethics training, first-hand session observations, and a final exam.

Accredited Life Coach Certification

There are many organizations that claim to offer accreditation to coaching schools. There are two that have developed the most thoughtful, credible, standard-based, internationally-relevant models for coaching program accreditation — the ICF and the IAC.

The ICF and IAC were both founded by Thomas Leonard and are currently the two legitimate accreditation organizations for life coaching. Leonard founded the ICF in 1995 and later went on to develop the IAC in 2003.

ICF credentialing focuses on coach training, mentoring, and gaining first-hand experience, and is followed by an exam and demonstration of proper coaching skills.

An ICF accredited training program affords that program a competitive edge in its curriculum and its standing in the industry. An ICF accreditation gives a coach training program unquestioned credibility.

ICF-accredited coach training will also help you meet the requirements for ICF Membership and Credentialing. Those who are more serious about developing their coaching business will consider pursuing an ICF Credential after coach training.

The ICF Credential is the only globally recognized professional coaching certification. More than 20,000 coaches hold an ICF Credential, representing the best in the coaching industry.

Leonard developed the IAC to streamline the process of certification, which is a simpler process that focuses more on the mastery of the training instead of the documentation of them.

Although this faster process seems easier, only one in four people who apply for an IAC certification pass the test on their first try.

You don't need documented coach training in order to get your IAC certification, however, without having a substantial amount of training, you will be unlikely to prove that you have mastered the necessary coaching skills to become a life coach.

Once you decide if you are ready to fast-track with the IAC or take your time learning with the ICF, you can pick from three levels of training.

The ICF offers certifications for:

  • Associate Credentialed Coach — Students must complete 60 hours of training and log more than 100 hours of practical experience before earning this designation.
  • Professional Credentialed Coach — Aspiring coaches with more than 125 hours of training and 500 or more hours of experience (following the start of training) are eligible to apply for PCC credentials.
  • The highest level of Master Credentialed Coach — A Master has completed more than 200 hours of life coach training and has more than 2500 hours of experience.

There are currently over 150 ICF accredited coach training programs worldwide. Because there are no standards or guidelines on a state level, the accreditation guidelines and standards for coaching are global.

The ICF accreditation guidelines state that each accredited coach training program must offer:

  • At least 125 hours of coach skills training
  • Competency and code of ethics training
  • At least six observed coaching sessions with an expert coach
  • A comprehensive final exam
  • Credentialed trainers by the ICF

The IAC offers two certifications including:

  • Masteries Practioner — Awarded within six weeks of successful completion of the online test and approval of the Masteries Professional Development Plan
  • Certified Masteries Coach (CMC) — Demonstrated ability to incorporate the 9 IAC Coaching Masteries® with clients through an evaluation of two thirty to forty-five minute recorded coaching sessions
  • Master Masteries Coach (MMC) — Demonstrated an understanding of the 9 IAC Coaching Masteries® and demonstrated the masterful use of the Masteries in two recorded coaching sessions.

Getting Certified in Life Coaching Online

If you want to further your education online, there are a variety of accredited e-learning programs available that can give you the proper training to become a certified life coach.

Life coach training is available in various modalities, including in-person classes, teleclasses, online classes, or a combination of these options (depending on the training school that you choose to attend and what they offer).

Related: Can You Earn Good Money As A Life Coach

These various options give you the flexibility you need to fit the classes into your current life. If your schedule won't allow you to take classes in the classroom, taking online classes might be a better option for you.

Life Coach Certification Cost

Depending on several factors, you can receive accredited coach training for anywhere between a few thousand dollars to upwards of $20,000.

man writing in class Life Coach Certification

The key is to find which training is right for you and which will be the most beneficial for the cost. The more expensive programs include mentor coaching or one-on-one help to revise your skills in life coaching.

Another factor that affects price is the format of the class — whether it is in-person, online, over the phone, or a combination of the three.

The duration of the class can also impact the cost, as some of these classes are intensive yet short and others span over several months. You also have to consider the cost of books and whether or not the program goes on to offer certification.

When you are comparing the costs of programs, look for how many coach-specific training hours they provide.

Some programs add coaching practice, peer coaching, reading, videos, or downloadable courses into the number of training hours that they provide, making the program more expensive.

However, these classes do not count towards the ICF's definition of coach-specific training hours so be wary of these programs.

Life Coach Certification Programs

So how do you know which program is right for you?

Related: Should You Become A Life Coach?

There are a lot of programs to choose from, but there are certain things that you want to look for in a program that will set it apart from the rest so you know you're getting your money's worth.

1. Make Sure the Program Teaches Real Coaching

As we mentioned before, anyone can call themselves a “coach,” which also means that anyone can refer to their training program as being “coach training.”

The truth is, anyone who is not a true coach can provide their own method of training that doesn't meet the standards of an accrediting organization.

Coaching is different from other helping professions, and the training provider should teach you how their coach training is unlike other forms of training (such as therapy). If they cannot do this, you should consider other programs.

It is also important to ensure that a program you are interested in isn't following the latest trends and referring to themselves as “coaches.”

Do some research to find out if their teaching model applies the skills and principles that are outlined by the International Coach Federation's core coaching competencies.

These core competencies include:

  • Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards
  • Establishing the coaching agreement
  • Establishing trust and intimacy with the client
  • Coaching presence
  • Effective communication
  • Creating awareness
  • Designing actions
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Managing progress and accountability

2. Make Sure the Training is Approved by a Coaching Association

Because coaching is not a regulated field, anyone can make up their own certification process.

To distinguish true coaching programs from others, independent coaching associations, like the ICF, inspect each program to determine whether or not it is comprehensive enough to be considered a legitimate program.

If you are looking at a program that doesn't have ICF accreditation, you won't know the legitimacy of the program.

3. Make Sure the Program Provides Practicum and Mentoring

To become a confident and competent coach, you have to get out there and apply the skills you learn in your classes and have professionals give you constructive criticism so you can improve.

High-quality training programs often pair students with a “Buddy Coach” in order to get additional practice.

Having a peer mentor allows you to bounce ideas off of each other and role play so you feel more comfortable with your coaching.

You want to be sure you have the opportunity to observe, practice under supervision, and coach alongside a skilled mentor coach.

It’s critical when learning how to be a life coach that you work with more seasoned coaches who can demonstrate examples of how skilled coaches go beyond what they learn in textbooks and demonstrate the essence of coaching.

By observing successful life coaches, you'll also encounter scenarios that demonstrate what not to do.

You may see your mentor handle a situation in a way that is different from what you would have done. In this case, you can talk to your mentor when the session is over and discuss why he or she chose to handle it the way that they did and how you would have handled the situation.

Then, your mentor can tell you why your method isn't the best practice or agree that your idea is another good way of handling the situation.

4. Does the Program Provide Certification?

You want to make sure that you are looking at training programs that offer a certification. Any ICF accredited school will offer certification, and most accredited programs will feature the ICF logo on their websites and marketing materials.

To be valid, your certification has to include supervision and a proper evaluation of your work with real clients. In order to be certified as a coach by the ICF, you must complete 60 or 125 coach-specific training hours.

Additionally, you need ten hours of approved mentor coaching. You'll need to show that you can apply classroom work to your real-world practice.

While you could go through coach training and bypass obtaining the credentials, earning your coaching certification can help you become a more accomplished coach, as it demonstrates your high standards of professional coaching ability to your clients.

5. Will You Finish the Program Prepared to Work?

Many training providers focus on textbook skills and strategies for helping clients work towards their goals.

However, if you don't actually apply this knowledge to real-life cases, the information that you learn will be useless.

Many coaching programs will encourage or require you to have several hours of coaching with clients (either free or for a small fee) in order to receive certification.

You should also leave your program knowing how to run the business of your coaching practice.

For example, you need to know how to do an intake and assessment, create templates for client forms, create a fee structure and know your service delivery systems.

You'll also need to understand how to market your services and attract new clients. Most accredited programs offer courses on the business and marketing requirements of a life coach practice. 

Another benefit of training with an ICF accredited school is your ability to become a member of ICF and join the coach directory on the ICF website.

This directory lists ICF credentialed coaches, and it can bring a steady stream of potential clients to any coach listed.

Are You Ready to Start Looking?

If you are ready to start your hunt for the program that will work best for you, you can use ICF's Training Program Search Service to help you narrow down your options.

You want to make sure to get a strong foundational training on coaching techniques before moving onto a specific niche if you have one in mind.

And, even if you don't necessarily want to become certified at this time, make sure that the training you get can count towards certification in the future. You never know if you may want or need that certification in the future.

If life coaching is the career path that you want to pursue, it is definitely worth your time and money to get certified.

This will help potential clients trust you and therefore want to work with you.

Do you find this life coach certification information useful?

If you're looking to become a life coach, I hope you found value in this post and that you can use the information here to guide you in your search for the best coaching program for you.

Bookmark or copy this information so you can reference it easily as you conduct your research on coaching programs.

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1 thought on “How To Get Certified As A Life Coach The Right Way”

  1. Very informative post and very helpful to all the readers who want to pursue life coach certification. I like the way you have explained everything in so much detail and it’s very easy to understand. I would like to share it with my friends too. Keep sharing such useful articles.

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