The concept of Life coaching first emerged in the 1980’s and steadily grew in popularity during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Today, it is a nearly $3 billion dollar industry with an upward trajectory that shows no signs of stopping.
Thousands of people have chosen life coaching as a career path in various niches. So, what does it take to become a life coach? What degree do you need to become a coach? It turns out these questions have different answers for different people, and you might be surprised to learn yours.
In this article, we’ll dig in and explore the requirements needed to pursue this path. But first, it helps to have some clarity on exactly what a life coach is and what sorts of skills make up an excellent, effective coach.
A Brief Introduction to Life Coaching
A life coach is a professional who works with clients to help them achieve their goals by providing mentorship, guidance, and support in various areas of their personal and/or professional lives. There are many types of coaching niches, including health and wellness, trauma, relationship, finance, general, weight loss, and more. The list, as you might imagine, is quite extensive.
Each coach works with their clients in a unique way to lead them in some form of transformation, whether that be emotional, physical, mental, or all of the above. According to studies, 80% of coaching clients say they improved their self esteem or self confidence due to coaching.
Although life coaching is a relatively new profession, it is quickly growing in popularity. Likely due to the growing demands of work and life, many people have turned to life coaches as a way to reduce overwhelm and/or to get support during times of transition or outright crises. Many coaches work with clients one on one, however group coaching has become a growing trend. This format allows coaches to serve more people at once and also encourages clients to support and learn from others.
What Degrees and Certificates Are Required to Be a Life Coach?
You might be surprised to learn that anyone can be a life coach. No matter what you majored in (or plan on majoring in), anyone who simply has a desire to help people reach their best, most authentic selves can pursue a career in coaching.
Having that said, while it’s not required for coaches to have a particular degree, some degrees have a closer relationship to coaching than others. For example, a psychology degree may be helpful to have as it provides a background of theories, research, skills, and tools that can help your clients to experience significant change and growth throughout their life. After all, a shift in mindset is the first step in any client’s journey to self improvement, and having a deeper understanding of human psychology can certainly inform a coach looking to help their client achieve that mindset shift.
Other degrees, such as Education and Communications could also be helpful in that they focus on concepts that deal with varied learning styles, personalities, effective communication skills, and a number of other interpersonal skills.
Getting Certified as a Coach
While it’s not so clear that any specific degree is more ideal than any other for an aspiring coach, the topic of certification is a bit more clear cut.
Currently, there are approximately 23,000 certified life coaches in the U.S., with the number growing daily. Although certification is technically optional, most life coaches realize the benefit of having the training and community that is embedded in most certification programs. Additionally, it’s becoming more and more common for clients to expect coaches to have received formal training at some point.
One of the most well known and highest rated qualifications for life coaches to have is the ICF certification. Since 1995, the International Coach Federation has existed and served as a worldwide governing body for life coaches. It is widely recognized around the world and offers credibility to those who completed its program. Some of the most commonly noted benefits from those who have received their ICF certification include new knowledge about best practices and ethical standards, enhanced leadership skills, increased networking and job opportunities, and overall higher earning potential.
What to Look for When Choosing a Life Coach Training Program
When it comes to choosing a life coaching certification program, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Most important of all, you’ll definitely want to be sure that the program is accredited by the ICF. This will ensure that you’re getting the highest quality education possible.
You will also want to take into consideration the length of the program. Some programs can be completed in as little as six weeks, while others may take several months (or even up to a year). Choose a program that fits your schedule and learning style.
Find out what type of access you will have to resources and support. It will also be important to know what type of learning format will be offered throughout the program. Will instruction be entirely independent through videos and worksheets? Are there any opportunities for live instruction/conferencing, etc.?
Lastly, you’ll want to research the program’s curriculum to make sure it covers the topics you’re most interested in. As a new life coach, you will find value in learning more about sales and marketing, high level questioning, mindset practices, and more. You will also greatly benefit by receiving hands-on education from experienced life coaches. The more comprehensive the program, the more equipped and prepared you will be to enter the world of coaching.
If you want a more comprehensive overview of choosing a training program, see our complete guide here.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Life Coach?
The cost of becoming a life coach can vary depending on the route you take. If you choose to pursue a formal education, you can expect to spend several thousand dollars on tuition and fees. There are also many online programs that offer life coach training at a fraction of the cost. You can find life coaching organizations that offer certification programs that include both online and in-person components. The price of these programs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It all depends on what you are looking for in a coaching program.
Generally speaking, you can expect to pay more for programs that offer extensive training, resources, and support, and less for programs that are exclusively online. It goes without saying that there are hundreds of varying certification programs for coaches to choose from, so proceed with caution when making your decision.
How Much Does a Life Coach Earn?
While you may pay thousands of dollars for a good life coaching certification program, there is good news. According to a global study performed by ICF, the annual salary for life coaches is $62,500. Compared to therapists, human resource specialists, real estate agents, and fitness trainers, who average between $48,000-57,000, life coaches fare quite well. Many successful coaches have even managed to earn six figures in their businesses.
A couple of factors that determine the success of a coach are experience and coaching niche. Your personal reputation and market demand for what you’re offering will also play an important role in what you can charge and eventually earn.
While a general life coach typically charges approximately $100-$150 per hour, a business coach who works exclusively with executive clients may charge $300+ per hour. Coaches also have the flexibility to determine the format in which they offer their services, which will greatly impact their earnings. For example, coaches can meet with clients one on one or in a group setting. By accommodating several clients at once, you can increase what you earn exponentially.
In addition, some life coaches are employed by organizations, such as universities, health care, or corporate employers, and can earn a steady paycheck as well as supplement this income with independent coaching if that is an option. Another source of income for coaches has been through book sales and speaking engagements. As a coach, you have an array of options for how you set up and charge for your services.
While a degree is not necessary to be a life coach, it can certainly be helpful. Likewise, a high quality certification program can greatly enhance your coaching skills and abilities. By immersing yourself in coaching communities, you will learn and grow as a coach and be better equipped to serve your clients. Invest a little time and research to figure out the best course of action for your goals. With the right attitude and commitment, you will find the ideal path for you.