How to Get an ICF Credential: Clearing Up Common Misconceptions
Too often, we talk to coaches who don’t quite understand what it takes to get an ICF credential.
Every time a coach edits their profile on Noomii and indicates that they have an ICF credential, we are notified by email and then we look up that coach in the ICF member directory. It’s a manual process but it only takes us a minute or so to do and is worth doing because approximately three out of every four coaches accurately represents their credential. In other words, one out of four coaches indicate that they have an ICF credential but in fact, they do not. We’ve discovered over the years that they are not trying to be deceiving or misleading. They often legitimately believe that they have “earned” an ICF credential. Even when they don’t.
My goal for this article is to clear up the confusion and explain a couple of the subtleties of the ICF credentialing process.
Below are the two most common ICF accreditation misconceptions.
Misconception #1: I received coach training from an ICF accredited coach training school; therefore, I should have an ICF credential.
Short Answer: Not necessarily so.
Long Answer: The ICF reviews coach training programs and checks to see if the schools comply with the coach training standards established by the ICF. They want to answer two questions. The first question is: “is this school offering coach training or is it offering something else?” If the ICF deems the curriculum offered by the school to comply with their standards, it approves the program. These schools are called Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH).
Once they know whether the school is in fact offering coach training, they want to answer the second question: “does the program offered by the school meet the minimum requirements for a coaching credential?” If the ICF deems the curriculum offered by the school to meet the minimum number of coach training in-class hours, coaching hours with real clients, and hours with an ICF credentialed mentor coach, then it approves the program. This is what the ICF calls an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP).
Let’s look a parallel industry to explain the rationale. Imagine taking a weekend course in first aid from a highly qualified emergency response training program. During that time, you may learn a handful of life saving techniques such as CPR or how to put a splint on a broken arm, but by no means would you qualify as a paramedic. The same exists in coaching. Just because you attended a qualified school that offers a high level of training, doesn’t mean that you are suddenly qualified as a certified coach.
Misconception #2: I’ve completed an ACTP program, therefore, I have an ICF credential.
Short Answer: Wrong.
Long Answer: Just because you completed an ACTP program and have met all of the requirements for an ICF credential, doesn’t mean that you automatically have an ICF credential. You still have to go through the process of reporting all of your hours to the ICF and having a performance evaluation. The good news is that you likely had to provide all of your coaching hours to your coach training school so most of the work is done already. All you have to do is take all of your reporting and give it to the ICF. It’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks to apply but in my opinion, it’s a small price to pay to have the official stamp of approval from the largest, most reputable coaching credentialing body.
Now that I’ve cleared through the top two misconceptions about getting an ICF credential, I’ll answer one more quick question:
Q: Should I get an ICF credential? Is it worth it?
Answer: I think it is. Even if you have been doing the work of a coach for years, have many years of industry experience, you should still get coach training. In our experience, there are hundreds of different ways to build a successful, thriving coach business, but the single best marketing tactic is to be a great coach. When we interviewed the best coaches in our network to build Coach Marketing Bootcamp, our 10-module business building program, every single one of them told us that their main source of clients leads, now that they had been at the business for a number of years, was referrals. That doesn’t mean that the only thing you need to do is get an ICF credential to build a thriving business, but it seems to help. The correlation (and not causation) between an ICF credential and business success is high.
The other reason to get an ICF credential is that by doing so, you stand for the professional standards and ethical practices laid out by the ICF. That’s worth something to coaching clients. In fact, some corporations are only hiring ICF credentialed coaches now.
Any other questions about getting an ICF credential?
Ask them below in the comments.