If you’ve come across this article, it probably means you’re interested in becoming a life coach. Congratulations! At Life Coach Path, we think becoming a life coach is a worthwhile investment of time and resources, yielding skills and knowledge that you can use to build a coaching business and help countless clients improve their lives and mindsets.
It is a career path that takes significantly less time to complete than similar areas of study, including becoming a therapist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker. On average, most coaching programs require you to complete between 40 and 160 hours of work in order to gain ICF certification, which usually takes between 6 to 12 months to complete. Of course, this range of time hinges on whether you are receiving a base-level certification or chasing an advanced one.
With online programs, you are able to move at your own pace, completing the work requirements as your schedule allows. These programs tend to be completer faster. With traditional, live classroom settings, you move along at a steady pace along with the rest of your class. These programs tend to last longer. With blended programs, you get to experience some in-person training while also having the freedom to move ahead with a majority of coursework whenever it is convenient for you.
Let’s explore some of the more popular coach training programs to get a better sense of how long they will take to complete.
Online Training Programs
There are dozens of coaching programs available online and they all have unique requirements and program offerings. The Coach Training Alliance, iNLP Center, and CoachU are all incredibly popular, completely accredited virtual life coach certification programs. Let’s take a closer look.
Coach Training Alliance
Coach Training Alliance (our most highly recommended program) has trained more than 10,000 students through life coaching, professional coaching, and personal development coach training. All learning takes place via a virtual format. Each class is limited to 12 students, which helps encourage learning and cultivates meaningful involvement among the students. Programs are all self-paced, which means that you can access all of the material on an on-demand basis.
On average, coaches complete their program of choice in 6 months or less (while working through approximately 22 consecutive weeks’ worth of coursework). The live tele-sessions last for 60-90 minutes per week, and the corresponding coursework takes up 1-2 hours per week, depending on how quickly you are able to work independently.
iNLP Center is an internationally accredited Neuro-Linguistic Programming training center that offers students access to weekly coaching workshops, Practice Partner sessions, and Coaching Buddies groups, as well as direct mentorship opportunities. The iNLP Center’s programs are available on a 24/7 basis, so you can easily customize your learning to whatever works with your unique schedule. Depending on what program you choose to enroll in, you can expect to work through approximately 40-80 hours’ worth of coursework. Most coaches complete the program they select in as little as 6 months, although you can certainly take longer if needed. Live training events happen on a consistent basis via Zoom, and are available at varying times throughout the week so that you can easily select individual training sessions that best fit your schedule and course load preferences.
CoachU has spent the past two decades teaching coach certification programs online. Their programs offers many different learning options and strategies that are guaranteed to help each student find success in their chosen coaching path. They offer flexible course scheduling, self-study materials, and many supporting online resources, all geared toward giving you freedom to learn at your own independent pace.
Once you become a member of the CoachU program, you receive a 1-hour orientation training session. These detailed orientations are held twice monthly. After you complete the orientation, you gain access to the student dashboard, where you can review the entire course schedule and enroll in courses that interest you. This schedule is created many weeks in advance so that students can plan their learning efficiently, and coordinate it with their existing schedules.
How quickly you move through the program depends on how many courses you take each month, and how many client coaching hours you can accumulate per month as well. You have up to 15 months to complete basic programs, although most students find they are easily able to complete all coursework within 6-9 months. Advanced programs take up to 36 months to complete, although they can be completed in as little as 1 year.
Certified Life Coach Institute
The first of its kind, Certified Life Coach Institute (CLCI) offers an ICF-accredited, comprehensive life coach certification in just 3 days! This all-virtual course (held over a Zoom webinar) will earn you 32.8 Accredited Coach-Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) toward your ICF credential. By the end of the course, you will earn your Certified Life Coach designation.
After completing this course (labeled as Level 1), you are free to open up your own coaching practice and get some experience under your belt. Once you’ve done that, you can deepen your coaching knowledge by taking CLCI’s Level 2 course, which will count toward another 33 Accredited Coach-Specific Training Hours. This is important, as that will put you at 65.8 hours in total, putting you above the minimum requirement to achieve your Associate Certified Coach (ACC) title as recognized by the ICF.
CLCI has trained nearly 10,000 coaches over their 11+ years in operation and continues to be a favorite among coaches looking to hit the ground running right away.
Traditional In-Person Training Programs and Blended Learning Options
While life coach programs found online typically take significantly less time to complete than programs that are a part of a 1, 2, or 4-year degree, many people still prefer to learn in a traditional classroom setting. Countless colleges, universities, and learning centers have accredited life coach certification programs available, some of which offer both completely in-person learning and others that offer a blend of traditional and online coursework. Some of the most popular are listed below:
New Ventures West
Accredited by the ICF, New Ventures West is an ACTP (Accredited Coach Training Program) certified life coach program that offers a blend of in-person and online training and provides students with more than 180 hours of learning, complemented with mentorship and other valuable resources. The program runs for approximately one year, conducted through weekly calls, group meetings, live trainings, and more.
Co-Active Training Institute
Formerly named the CTI, the Co-Active Training Institute is comprised of a blend of online and in-person learning. They offer both entry-level coaching programs as well as advanced programs geared toward those looking to gain professional life coach certification. These ICF-approved programs provide students with a comprehensive, well-supported, and mentored learning opportunity. The standard coaching program takes approximately 4 months to complete, while the professional coaching program takes 6 months to complete.
Rice University offers an incredible in-person coaching program put on by the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. All degree levels offer more than 60 hours of ICF approved training, and everything takes place inside of a traditional classroom setting. Completion of this program happens via completion of a traditional 4-year degree (or via an advanced degree program, which typically spans 1-2 years).
University of Texas at Dallas
This 4-year (or more) degree by the University of Texas at Dallas offers in-person life coach certification and covers both personal and professional coaching. It has a hefty list of prerequisite requirements as well, since it is part of a full college degree program. Courses are taken on a traditional semester basis, so the time it takes to complete the program depends on how many courses you enroll in each semester.
The Columbia Coaching Certification Program is an in-person training program built on top of a robust prerequisite foundation of full college degree-based courses. Students are offered marketing education as well as the option to obtain a certificate in business excellence. They also receive a coaching certification once the program is completed. While you can choose to take a light course load, taking the recommended number of courses each year will allow you to complete the program within 4 years’ time.
Fielding Graduate University
This Evidence Based Coaching program (EBC) is a fully accredited one-year ICF program that can be counted toward a graduate degree and is taught in person at the University. The coaching program must be completed as part of a full 4-year degree at the University.
Available as both an online and an in-person training program, this Georgetown University executive-level life coach certification course is comprised of 8 mini-programs delivered consistently over the span of 8 months. The program is an ACTP certified by the ICF and all training hours are eligible to go toward applying for certification once the program is complete.
Overnight Coaching: Choosing Not To Complete Certification
Opting to work as a coach without certification credentials is a route that many life coaches choose to take, and it allows you to effectively begin your coaching business immediately. In this scenario, you are earning while you learn – taking on clients as you go through whatever training program you have selected. While this may be an attractive option, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider:
One major advantage to beginning coaching without a certification is the fact that you can start making money right away, which can help offset the cost of your training program. When you are able to put the skills you are learning to work right away, you build confidence and grow your client base at the same time you are growing your skills and experience.
Another advantage that can get overlooked is that ICF-accredited coach training, while important and still highly recommended, can tend to set boundaries and standards that some coaches might not feel comfortable being limited to. It encourages a standardized way of thinking that some might find limiting and boxed-in. For some, drawing on personal experiences as opposed to academic training is a more authentic way to practice coaching.
One of the biggest reasons to wait to take on clients until you have obtained a certification is the peace of mind that being a certified life coach provides to those you serve. Depending on where your received your training, you may also have a 2 or 4-year college degree backing up your work as well, which – for many clients – is yet another signal that you are experienced enough to merit their trust.
As professional coaching makes its way into the mainstream, more and more clients are expecting their coaches to have some kind of formal training under their belt. While it used to be considered esoteric and only for the most highly motivated individuals, certification is rapidly becoming the norm.
No matter how long it takes you to complete your life coach training, you are choosing a career path that is both fulfilling and meaningful. Your exact duration will depend on a variety of factors, including your method of learning and whether your program is a standalone or part of a large university program. (Standalone programs are much more common.)
Regardless of which program you choose, your education and training will give you the opportunity to serve clients you’re passionate about. To top it off, certification will give your clients much-needed peace of mind that you’ve been trained by professionals in their field on the most current, science-backed, and ethics-based principles.