What Qualifications or Degrees are Required to Be a Successful Life Coach?

What Qualifications or Degrees are Required to Be a Successful Life Coach

Professionals who work as life coaches are those who support individuals to attain a successful life; both in career and personal life. The primary purpose of life coaching is to improve the quality of the client’s life.

If you are inspired by helping others and you want to become a personal life coach to motivate people to achieve their goals, then you can become a professional life coach. However, the first question is what qualifications do you need to be a life coach?

Just like anyone can call themselves a plumber, electrician, or chef.  Anyone can call themselves a coach. There are no barrier or laws to prevent you from doing so.  However, the question is should you do that?   

The answer is, are you skilled enough take money from clients in exchange for coaching services?   Are you confident and do you posses a coaching process that is resilient, powerful and going to provide what your clients need? 


We all know examples of home owners spending lots of money on home renovations completed by people that appear to be qualified, only to learn they did not get what they paid for.  In some cases, this could cost the home owner thousands of dollars to fix the mess this untrained person created.  So just because someone says they are a coach, are they really a skilled professional life coach?  Are they going to help you or create more anxiety, disappointment and problems?

Qualification for Life Coach Training

Although there’s no legal qualification or training required to become a life coach, taking an accredited course will certainly boost your life coaching qualifications in the eyes of potential clients, while providing the skills and tools you need to be an effective coach. While there are a few universities offering academic programs for life coaches, most successful coaches do not have degrees in coaching.   The only exception is an organization called the ICF, (International Coach Federation) who’s certification is considered the gold standard for life coaches around the world. (more about this below).  In the coaching world this is considered the proof that a coach is skilled and qualified. 

What Are the Best Life Coach Certifications and How do You Obtain One?

Professional Life coaches have two paths they can follow.   First would be to get a job in a business or organization that supports their staff by hiring qualified life coaches. Second, which is the most common path coaches follow, is the entrepreneur’s path.  Developing their own coaching practice and selling services to individuals and organizations.

For the first path, getting a job as a coach most often the requirement is to have a certification from the International Coach Federation.   The reason is simple.  If an organization is going to hire you, pay you for services, feel confident you are going to help them, how can they determine this?   By you saying so?   Not really!  What about liability issues?  A business who brings you in to work with staff now has a responsibility to make sure you have a positive influence and know what you are doing in addition to all kinds of ethical issues that could come up.

So no, a university degree is generally not needed to work in organizations.  As a matter of fact, graduates from our program work with NASA, Accenture, Microsoft, Department of the Navy, State Department and many more…  none of these graduates have degrees in coaching but they do have ICF certification.

Regarding coaches who go down the entrepreneur’s path, ICF certification is not as critical as people in the general public are not familiar with it.  However, coaches that do invest in their skills and become certified are in most cases going to provide higher value to their clients.   Just like a Red Seal Plumber has much higher skills, and can charge more.  An ICF certified life coach sets themselves apart from all the other unskilled coaches.

If you are concerned about time, then understand achieving ICF certification is no where near the time or cost of a university degree. The curriculum for professional ICF accredited life coach training schools is anywhere from 30 hours to 250 hours. Even the 250-hour programs are divided into segments so you can earn while you train.

What topics are covered by professional ICF accredited coach training schools?

Professional life coaches are superior communicators.  While many people might say they are good listeners, a skilled coach is listening for specific things.  Often it is clarity around the meaning of what the client says but also what is not being said.
These listen and questioning skills are critical to anyone to be able to enhance a client’s motivation, desire and ability to achieve a goal. 

  • The life coach, coaching process. (getting a client from A to Z)
  • All ICF accredited Life Coach Training Schools will cover the following (at a minimum).
  • Details and various strategies for goal settings
  • Understanding the client’s motivational profile
  • Intake processes to analyze clients for suitability
  • How to introduce yourself as a coach and make that captivating
  • Record keeping and confidentiality
  • Professional Coaching Ethics
  • How to build and maintain a successful life coaching practice

Are their online coach training programs for life coach certification?

As our society and even education systems have changed, you have many different options to obtain your coaching certification: from traditional bricks and mortar schools, to week long or weekend training's in hotels, to fully online life training via webinar.

What is critical is that 75% of the course work is taught live with a professional coach trainer. Reading a book of watching a set of videos can be helpful however to become really skilled as a coach you need live training and mentoring. This is also one of the distinguishing requirements of all ICF Life Coach Training Schools.

What are the benefits of an online Life coach certification program?

●You complete the program from the comfort of your own home
●You do not need to commute or travel
●You have a student community via Facebook and webinars
●You meet students from all over the world
●No lost work time to attend a course
●Programs are much less expensive

Just like online university courses, online accredited ICF life coach training programs enable students to become highly skilled, at a more reasonable cost and at a reasonable schedule. 

How much will it cost to earn an online life coach certification?

The average cost of online ICF coach training programs ranges between $1,000-$12,000. Some of these are basic and requiring 20 hours of course work and other can be quite advanced requiring hundreds of hours. The important point to remember is you need to start somewhere. 

What Certification Options Do Life Coaches Have?

Basically, three options exist.

The International Association of Coaching (IAC). This is certification is more recognized in parts of Europe.
International Coach Federation (ICF).The gold standard of coaching organizations recognized around the world.
Certified Coaches Alliance (CCA). Secondary certification that helps students wanting liability insurance

These are the best-known organizations that provide certification to professional life coaches. It is however this writer’s opinion that the ICF provides the greatest value for those wanting recognition as a professional certified life coach. 

How Long Does It Take to get ICF Certification?

Please consider that it takes time to be good at anything, right? While you might be able to kick a ball, you are not a professional football player. While you can sit at Starbucks and give your friends/family your opinion on their problems you are also not a professional coach. Coaching like anything takes knowledge, talent, practice and experience.

ICF Life Coaching certification can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on the course layout and your schedule. However, for those that want to stand out, for those that want to provide greatest value to their client, training at a professional ICF school and obtaining your ICF certification will provide a much higher level of success. 

Author: Steven H. Kiges
Master Coach & Coach Trainer
Co-Founder / Director

TheCoachTraining Academy.com

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