If you are a life coach or thinking about becoming one, you probably already know that an ICF coaching certification isn’t needed to practice as a coach. And yet, most coaches would agree that in today’s world, it is highly advantageous to be certified.
Unlike becoming a psychologist or clinical therapist, there are no specific requirements for practicing as a life coach.
On the one hand, this makes sense as there are so many different ways to approach coaching.
On the other hand, it means just about anyone can call themselves a coach. Not surprisingly, that’s led to disgruntled clients and, from time to time, a questionable reputation for the coaching industry at large.
Thankfully, the coaching industry realized something needed to be done to standardize coaching.
You may think this would be difficult as there are many kinds of coaching, and they are vastly different from one another.
However, whether you want to work as a coach specializing in relationship coaching, corporate coaching, or intuitive coaching, there are underlying coaching practices that apply. And the more well-versed you are in those, the easier it will be to create a foundation for your work—no matter what direction you want to take it in.
Think of it the way you would the foundations of drawing—there are different drawing techniques, but by the end of the day, everyone needs to understand composition.
Similarly, some psychologists specialize in ADHD while others specialize in trauma, but they all hold a degree in psychology.
Plus, ICF certification isn’t just about understanding basic principles. It’s about adhering to ethics, getting mentoring, and ensuring you have enough hours of practice under your belt to be considered a professional.
A universal coaching certification helps build trust in the coaching profession and enables clients to stay clear of fraudsters and coaches who take on more than they can chew.
What Is ICF?
ICF stands for International Coaching Federation. It’s a not-for-profit organization that sets global standards for coaching programs and works to uphold the coaching profession at large. They’ve also set out standards surrounding ethics in the coaching business.
ICF was launched in 1995 and has gone on to become the gold standard in coaching. If a coaching education or coach receives their stamp of approval, it opens doors into the global coaching market.
The ICF (in their own words) is focusing on:
- Developing coaching core competencies
- Establishing a professional code of ethics and standards
- Creating an internationally recognized credentialing program
- Setting guidelines through accreditation for coach-specific training programs
- Providing continuous education through world-class events, Communities of Practice (CPs) and archived learning
- Leading and informing conversations about the future of coaching.
Why ICF-Accredited Training Is Essential
Now, let’s have a closer look at why getting an ICF-accredited coach training is so essential for life coaches.
Gaining Skill and Confidence
If you’re looking for a coaching program that enables you to become a coach, you want to be confident you invest your time and money in the best possible program. You want to enroll in a program that offers the equivalent of a business degree from Harvard or Columbia. In other words, you want to enroll in the best-recognized program available.
When you see that a program has ICF credentials, you know it’s the real deal. These programs are offered by private institutions, as well as universities around the globe.
By the time you graduate, you’ll be confident you have the skills needed to be an excellent coach. What’s more, you have the credentials to prove it. You have the equivalent of that Harvard or Columbia degree. That certificate alone will give you a boost of confidence!
Likewise, getting an ICF credential is the right way to go if you’re already a practicing coach but want to gain more skills and confidence. Not only will you learn the most up-to-date coaching practices, but you’ll also get mentoring and be assessed as a coach. If there are any areas you currently fall short in, you’ll be able to improve upon them.
You may already be a competent coach, but you can always up your game! And the ICF offers three different kinds of credentials, depending on where you’re at in your career.
The three different credentials are (in ICF’s own words):
Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Completed 60 hours of coach specific education and 100 hours of client coaching experience
Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Completed 125 hours of coach specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience
Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Hold or have held a PCC Credential, completed 200 hours of coach specific education and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience
You must establish trust if you want your clients to feel comfortable with you. Firstly, you must establish enough trust for them to hire you. Secondly, you need to develop enough trust that they take on your advice during sessions.
If you do not have a reputation like that of Tony Robbins to fall back on, credentials help when establishing trust. Once a client finds out the world’s top coaching organization has accredited you, they will feel more comfortable being coached by you. Coaching is often expensive, and clients want to know that the coach can deliver what they said they would.
Another critical thing to consider here is that ICF has a code of ethics that their coaches abide by. Coaching is often deeply personal, so knowing that confidences won’t be abused and a coach has integrity is extremely important to clients.
The ICF base their code of ethics on the below values:
Today many clients, especially professional organizations, expect you to have ICF coaching credentials. Coaching is no longer the Wild West where anyone can enter the profession and claim they know what they are doing. As the popularity of coaching has grown, so have peoples’ expectations of credentials. And this is a good thing! It ensures that coaches are held accountable.
According to the ICF, “the 2022 Global Consumer Awareness Study found that 85% of coaching clients say it’s important or very important that their coach holds a certification or credential.”
While that study did not clarify that an ICF credential was needed, once a potential client starts googling the best credentials for coaches, they’ll find out that ICF tops the list.
In short, while some clients may prefer you have an ICF credential, others will demand it. This holds especially true for corporate clients who, when actively looking for a coach, will often put it in the job requirements.
If it’s between hiring a coach who holds an ICF coaching certificate and one who doesn’t, who do you think will get hired? The one with the ICF credential, most likely.
Clients feel more comfortable when they know a coach is who they say they are and can deliver on their promises as a coach. In a world of paid endorsements and fake reviews, people are looking for independent ways of verifying someone’s skills. Therefore, an ICF credential is important if you want to be chosen ahead of other coaches.
Just as a person with a college degree can usually demand higher pay than one without, so can a person with an ICF credential.
Having an ICF coaching certificate doesn’t just mean you have taken a written exam. It means you’ve been mentored, have verifiable hours of coaching experience, and been evaluated on your actual performance as a life coach. Plus, you’ve agreed to abide by a set of ethics that are uniquely aligned with the coaching profession.
When asked why you charge what you do, you have an answer for it because you have the experience, knowledge, and credential to prove you’re worth it.
Just like any professional body, ICF offers networking opportunities. Once you get your credential, you become part of a worldwide community of coaches. You’ll be able to find support, guidance, and simply camaraderie among ICF coaches. Working as a coach can sometimes be lonely if you don’t belong to a coaching practice. Many coaches work from home, so having a professional network to turn to is crucial.
What’s more, if you’re looking to set up a coaching practice with several coaches, this network is the perfect place to find a qualified coach. Just like your clients will have peace of mind knowing you hold an ICF coaching certificate, you will have peace of mind knowing a potential co-worker will hold the same.