March 21

Professional Life Coach Training: All You Need to Know


As people constantly seek support and help, the career path of life coaching has become increasingly popular in recent years. Life coaching is a way of navigating clients through self-discovery that empowers them to reach their goals and become the best they can be.

However, it can be challenging to give them the necessary level of support without sufficient training. This article will help you gain basic life coaching knowledge and understand why getting certified is important.

If you're looking to start a career in life coaching, you must first train with an accredited institute. These programs allow you to fulfill all the requirements and develop a deep understanding of how to help people as a certified professional life coach.

Basics of Professional Life Coaching

Professional life coaches help clients set and reach their personal and professional goals. They help clients in guided goal setting, developing plans to reach their goals, and maintaining their progress.

How do you become recognized as a professional coach?

You start by graduating from an accredited International Coach Federation training program. The ICF is considered the gold standard for coach training and certification worldwide. 

Receiving an ICF certification takes time, with 99% of students starting with an ACC (Associate Certified Coach) certification credential. An ACC certification requires one to attend a school offering a minimum of 60 hours of training. 

On top of this, the ICF requires 100 hours of client coaching experience plus completing a special advanced mentorship program. ACC certification is ideal for those starting their coaching career, signifying a foundational level of coaching proficiency.  

Many more jobs as coaches are being advertised, most of which require the first level of ACC.  So do not get stressed about the other levels. Everyone has to start somewhere. 

The next level with the ICF is called PCC (Professional Certified Coach), which requires 125 hours of training and 250 hours of client coaching experience. PCC is suited for coaches looking to solidify their professional standing and expertise in the field. With coaching, just like in other fields, coaches can always learn more and improve their skills. PCC is certainly something to work towards. 

If you want to enhance your coaching skills further, an MCC (Master Certified Coach) certification is the highest level of ICF certification. It requires at least 200 hours of training and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience. MCC certification is for highly experienced coaches who have mastered various coaching competencies and techniques.

Essential Qualities of a Professional Life Coach

A certified life coach must have emotional intelligence to grasp and manage clients' emotions, empathy to connect and show genuine care, good communication skills for clear advice and active listening, and ethical integrity to maintain trust and confidentiality. 

These qualities are key to helping clients reach their goals effectively.

Coaching Regulations

Key organizations like the ICF, EMCC, and AC regulate the life coaching field. These bodies set coaching standards, provide certifications, and enforce ethics to maintain the profession's quality and trustworthiness.

  • ICF (International Coach Federation): Sets global standards for coaching, offers certification paths for coaches, and upholds a code of ethics to ensure professionalism and integrity in coaching.  An ICF certification is recognized around the world. 
  • EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council): Focuses on promoting best practices in coaching and mentoring across Europe, offers accreditation for training programs, and ensures coaches meet European quality standards.

Why Accredited Training Programs Matter

Accredited programs meet strict standards for their curriculum and ethics. This ensures you get top-notch education aligned with industry best practices, making you more credible to potential clients. This does not mean nonaccredited schools cannot be good; however, once a school is accredited by the ICF, you know it has been vetted and approved by an independent organization. All ICF schools are quality schools. 

These programs also require ongoing education to maintain your certification, keeping you updated with the latest coaching.

Accreditation by bodies like the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is known worldwide, allowing you to work internationally.

Moreover, being certified by an accredited program boosts job opportunities. Organizations and clients often prefer coaches with recognized credentials, which can also lead to higher earnings.

Choosing the Right Life Coaching Program


Check if the program covers the core competencies required for coaching, including ethics, coaching techniques, and client communication. The curriculum should be comprehensive and aligned with industry standards like those set by ICF or EMCC.


Look for a life coach certification program with experienced and certified coaches as instructors. A faculty member with a strong background in coaching and a proven track record can provide useful training and tips.  Note: All ICF schools can only allow professional ICF coaches to teach for them. 

Student Support

Good programs offer robust support throughout your training. This includes resource access, coaches' practice sessions, and how you can develop your coaching abilities from the feedback.

Alumni Success

Research the program's alumni outcomes. Stories of success, testimonies, and former students' professional progress can account for how helpful such a course is and the networking opportunities it offers.

Curriculum Essentials

In life coach certification programs, the curriculum is designed to cover essential topics crucial for effective coaching. 

Here's a breakdown:

Coaching Ethics: Training on the ethical standards set by governing bodies like ICF, including confidentiality, professional conduct, and how to handle ethical dilemmas.

Coaching Psychology: Understanding psychological principles relevant to coaching, such as motivation, behavior change, and emotional intelligence, to understand better and support clients.

Coaching Methodologies and Tools: Learning various coaching models (such as GROW, CLEAR, etc.), techniques for effective questioning, goal setting, and strategies for helping clients overcome obstacles.

a life coach talking to a client

11 Core Coaching Competencies

The ICF created and requires a strict standard that relates to the core competencies. They have recently combined and changed 11 to 8; however, it is easier to understand by reviewing 11. 

1. Ethics and Standards: Follow ICF's ethical guidelines and professional standards in all coaching interactions.

2. Coaching Agreement: Clearly define what the client wants to achieve and agree on the coaching process and goals.

3. Trust and Intimacy: Build a safe and trusting environment where clients feel comfortable sharing openly.

4. Presence: Be fully engaged and flexible, responding to the client's needs.

5. Active Listening: Listen deeply to what is said and unsaid, noticing emotions, tone, and body language.

6. Powerful Questioning: Ask questions that provoke thought and insight, helping clients explore beyond the surface.

7. Direct Communication: Communicate clearly and effectively, providing feedback that moves the client forward.

8. Creating Awareness: Help clients gain insights and self-awareness through reflection and exploration.

9. Designing Actions: Work with clients to create and implement actions that lead to desired outcomes.

10. Goal Setting: Help clients set goals and develop a plan.

11. Progress and Accountability: Monitor client progress, adjust as needed, and hold clients accountable for their commitments.

Techniques to Develop in Life Coaching

Effective Communication

Practice clarity in speaking and writing to avoid misunderstandings. Use open-ended questions to encourage exploration and tailor your communication style to match the client's preferences and needs.

Active Listening

Give full attention to the speaker, avoiding distractions. Reflect on what you've heard to confirm your understanding. Notice nonverbal cues like body language and tone to grasp the client's message fully.

Empathetic Engagement

Try to understand the client's perspective without judgment genuinely. Validate the client's feelings and experiences to foster a deeper connection. Use empathy to guide your responses and support.

How to Manage Your Coaching Process

Initial Consultation

Establish rapport and trust. Clarify the client's goals and expectations and agree on the structure and boundaries of the coaching relationship.

Assessment and Goal Setting

Use assessments or tools to understand the client's starting point. Help the client set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals.

Coaching Sessions

Use a mix of questioning, listening, and feedback to facilitate client growth and keep the client focused and on track toward their goals.

Monitoring Progress

Regularly review goals and progress. Adjust the coaching plan as necessary based on feedback and new insights.


Review achievements and lessons learned and discuss next steps and potential future goals. Close the relationship respectfully and encourage client autonomy.

a life coach writing in a notebook

How to Set up a Successful Coaching Business

Becoming a certified professional coach helps improve your coaching skills and makes you become established in the field. 

Here's an overview of the certification process and the significance of various ICF certification levels.

The Certification Process

Steps to Obtain Certification

  1. Completing Training Hours: Start with completing a certain number of training hours from an ICF-accredited program. These hours cover both the theoretical and practical aspects of coaching.
  2. Mentor Coaching: Engage in mentor coaching sessions with an experienced ICF-certified coach. This step is crucial for personal feedback on your coaching style and strategies.
  3. Written Exams: Pass the written online exam, which assesses your understanding of coaching principles and your ability to apply them in real-life scenarios. 

Accreditation and Setting Up Your Practice

Gaining ICF certification bolsters your coaching qualifications and helps you set up a successful coaching practice. Accreditation signals to clients and organizations that you adhere to the highest coaching standards, making you a preferred choice for those seeking coaching services. 

Here are steps that all ICF-accredited Coach Training programs will lead you through: 

  • Define Your Coaching Niche: Specialize in areas where you have passion and expertise, such as executive coaching, wellness coaching, and others.
  • Develop Your Business Plan: Outline your business goals, target market, pricing strategy, and marketing plans.
  • Establish Your Online Presence: Create a professional website and use social media to attract clients and build your brand.
  • Network and Build Relationships: Attend industry conferences and other coaching associations to connect with other professionals. This will help expand your reach and referral network.
  • Continuously Improve: Engage in ongoing education and professional development to keep your skills sharp and stay abreast of industry trends.

Of course, instead of setting up a private coaching practice, many coaches are now taking jobs that companies and organizations offer that are progressive and see the benefits of having a coaching culture. Become a Professional Life Coach with The Coach Training Academy

If you’d like to take an accredited life coach course, visit these coach training programs and inquire to find out if this is the right path for you.

View our coach training program scholarships here.

FAQs About Professional Life Coach Training

What qualifications do I need to start life coach training?

While specific prerequisites vary by program, most require a high school diploma or equivalent; but all will require a passion to help others. 

How much does life coach training cost?

Costs vary widely, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, based on the program's length, format, and accreditation. You can also find affordable ICF coaching certifications that still offer quality training.

How can I stand out as a life coach?

Specializing in a niche after exploring the areas you are passionate about, obtaining accredited certification, and continuously improving your skills and knowledge are key strategies.

Can I specialize in more than one coaching niche?

Yes, many certified life coaches pursue multiple specialties, allowing them to cater to a broader client base and address various aspects of personal and professional development. This is one of the most frequent questions asked. In fact, no matter the niche, clients come to you for help in four main interchangeable areas. 

Career and Jobs: Dissatisfaction or toxic environments

Relationships: Family, work

Wellness: Stress, time management, health

Performance: Need specific improvement in an area. 


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