What Credentials do Life Coaches Require?
The short answer: none.
That’s right. Anybody who wants to call themselves a life coach can go ahead and do so, right now.
So buyer beware.
But there is good news.
Whether or not life coaches should require credentialing is a long standing debate in the coaching industry. Many coaches insist that in order for the profession of coaching to become recognized, respected, and widely adopted, credentialing is necessary. The reality is that the industry faces some challenges before it can do so. I could go into greater detail to discuss what those things are but that’s not the point of this article. Instead, I would like to explain what coaching credentialing bodies exist and ask a potential coaching client, what you should look for when hiring a coach.
What life coaching credentials exist?
When you investigate the education and training of coaches, it can be confusing because there are so many coaching credentials. The ones that count the most are credentials issued by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Let me explain why there are so many different coaching credentials.
Imagine if every University issued a different acronym for a B.Sc or MBA. As impractical as that would be, that’s pretty much what’s happening in the coaching world.
From my best estimation, the coaching industry has somewhere between 200 and 500 independent, for-profit coach training schools (a small number of universities also offer coach training programs) and in order to give their schools credibility and to generate brand awareness, many of them offer their graduates a unique coaching certificate.
Some of those certificates take years to acquire. Others can be earned during a weekend workshop.
Due to the wide range of coaching programs, a few different governing bodies have sprung up to (try to) establish a standard of education, training, and ethics among coaches. In our experience, the three most commonly referenced governing bodies are:
- The International Coach Federation (ICF)
- The International Association of Coaching (IAC)
- The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE)
Of the three governing bodies mentioned here, the ICF is by far the largest and most widely adopted credentialing service. They review and approve both coach training schools and individual coaches.
When you hire a coach, you can be most assured of their training if they have one of the following ICF credentials:
- Associate Certified Coach (ACC), 60+ training hours, 100+ coaching hours
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC), 125+ training hours, 750+ coaching hours
- Master Certified Coach (MCC), 200+ training hours, 2500+ coaching hours
Sure, there are plenty of coaches who could get an ICF credential if they simply applied but they have no legal obligation to do so.
Maybe one day that will change.
Until then, we offer these guidelines when looking for a coach.
What education and training should you look for when hiring a coach?
- Look for an ICF credential. On Noomii we manually review every coach’s claim to having an ICF credential and display a little badge on the coach’s profile only once their credential is verified. The ICF credential is proof of the coach’s training, practical coaching hours, and acceptance of the ICF coaching code of ethics.
- If the coach doesn’t have an ICF credential, ask them about their training. Ideally, they have completed an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) which is the equivalent training required by the ICF for one of its credentials. If not, most rigorous coach training programs take 6 months or more. If the coach has only completed a weekend workshop or has no specific coach training, you should proceed with caution.
- If the coach has no specific coach training, make sure you understand what you are buying. Sometimes business consultants, branding experts, spiritual guides, or other service providers call themselves coaches even though they have no specific coach training and may not fit the definition of a coach provided by the ICF or other coach governing bodies. They can still call themselves coaches and they may very well be able to help you provide great results in your life.
Have any other questions about life coaching?
Check out answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about life coaching:
- How much does life coaching cost?
- How to choose a life coach?
- How does life coaching work?
- What is the difference between life coaching vs therapy?
- What problems does life coaching solve?
- Why don't more people hire life coaches?
This article was written by Stephan Wiedner, co-founder and "Head Coach" at Noomii.com.