10 Best Coaching Certification Programs
There are plenty of ways to become a professional coach and there is no shortage in the availability of coach training programs. But which are the best coaching certification programs that are recognized and provide you with a solid foundation that helps you to advance in your profession as a coach? We have found the 10 best coaching certification programs among a sea of providers. This article helps you understand what to look for and narrows down the best coaching certification options.
“The biggest challenge facing coaches today is that untrained and incompetent Coaches are damaging the reputation of the industry. The coaching field is unregulated. No license is required. Consequently, anyone can call themselves a Coach.
The profession is painfully aware that inept coaching makes the field look bad. Currently, there are more than 500 training and “certification” programs worldwide, and many of them will certify you if you simply pay them a fee.”
Unlike most professional industries, it is true that no certifications, courses, or training are required to practice coaching. Yet, career counselors and coaches employed as regular employees are typically required to have a master’s degree. It’s quite a disparity.
Most coaches either have an industry certification or a related degree in the niche of coaching they practice.
There are many courses and training sessions to help build your coaching skills and knowledge. While you may be thinking ‘why bother,’ having a certification will further legitimize the perceived quality of your services and more importantly, equip you to deliver expert coaching. It will help your professional development, improve the client’s coaching journey, widen your toolbelt and help you to drive the transformation your clients are seeking in working with you.
But, how do you find the best coaching certification for your field? It can feel like the proverbial search to find the needle in a haystack.
How to Choose the Best Coaching Certification Option
If you’re determined to have the best coaching certification to back up your skills, there is an ever-growing list of colleges, academies, and courses available. But not all are the same. Coach training schools differ in their approach and in the prices and outcomes you can expect, namely the number of accredited education hours needed for coaching certification and included mentor coaching.
To compare them, we recommend you look at the best coaching certification providers listed here and some others you may find listed on the ICF list of accredited schools. Then, use the form below to take notes and compare side-by-side before making a decision.
You will learn that schools differ in the type of certification you’ll get, in the practical experience you’ll gain, the field of study covered, the onsite or online curriculum, training format, class sizes, the cost for life coach training, training delivery methods (online, live, onsite, self-paced, etc.), and many other areas. Once you have read through this segment about the best coaching certification, make sure you ask important questions when you research and filter each school of interest to you.
The International Coach Federation’s Role In Coaching Certification
The International Coach Federation (ICF) offers Associate, Professional, and Master Certified Coach credentials. To apply for the certification, applicants must have 60 or more training hours and 100 or more hours of coaching experience. At the professional level, applicants must obtain at least 125 hours of training and at least 500 hours of coaching experience. To apply to the master’s level, applicants must have 200 hours or more of training and at least 2500 hours of coaching experience.
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As you will learn, many coach training institutes also offer their own form of “certification.” We put this in quotation marks because our experience and conversation with hundreds of coaches over the years have confirmed that the certifications of these schools are not known or respected by those outside of the coaching profession. Your clients will hardly know the difference, however, the ICF has been able to establish a strong reputation that has gained acceptance in wider and higher circles, especially for coaches who want to work with enterprise clients.
The ICF is setting the industry standard for quality in coaching, including the quality of training coaches receive. To ensure the standard is met, ICF has listed accredited schools or training organizations that have been vetted and approved. Coaches who pursue highly sought-after certification with the ICF can find coaching education that will count toward the credits needed to apply for their certification, so it’s worth using ICF as the starting point.
Since the list of education programs is long, we felt the need to highlight a few for you here to make it easier to find a place to get started. Next are the top-rated coach certification programs. These are ICF-certified coaching programs and are typically providing a life coach certification. In some cases the name of the certification is specialized, e.g., executive coaching certification, certified career coach, and so forth.
10 Best Coaching Certification Programs & Training Organizations
Before we start with the list of the 10 best coaching certification programs, it’s worth mentioning that none of these organizations are affiliates and we do not receive any financial benefit from mentioning them here. This list is based on our online research and opinion and aims at helping you to have a starting point and to know what to look for. We recommend you compare several schools in the field you’re interested in.
1 • Institute for Life Coach Training
The Institute for Life Coach Training is being one of the best intensive programs out there. This is because it covers everything you could possibly want to know about becoming a life coach. In addition to having over 200 hours of classroom training, it offers electives that are free of charge.
These include topics like how to make money as a life coach and market yourself effectively online, and they even teach coaches how to start their own coaching practice. These programs are approved by the International Coaching Federation and count towards ICF coaching certification.
2 • International Association of Professionals (IAP) Career College
The International Association of Professionals (IAP) Career College course covers a wide variety of topics, including how to coach individuals and groups, learn from other coaches, and resources, gain clients, and start a business.
3 • Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaches (IPEC)
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaches (IPEC) offers an extensive curriculum designed to provide coaches with the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective leaders within the coaching profession. IPEC’s comprehensive virtual training experience includes live webinars, self-paced courses, eBooks, podcasts, blogs, and much more. All content is provided free of charge, and students receive ongoing support and access to mentorship opportunities throughout the process.
The organization’s three distinct credential programs are designed to help professionals develop and demonstrate competency in areas such as leadership, management, supervision, facilitation, team building, conflict resolution, and more. Each program is based on a unique set of standards developed over decades of research and practice. Students earn three certificates upon completion of the required coursework.
4 • Professional Christian Coaching Institute (PCCI)
The Professional Christian Coaching Institute (PCCI) also covers a range of coaching classes from the very basics all the way to coaching niche specializations. The institute is accredited with the ICF and has partnered with best-selling authors like Dan Miller, or Michael E. Gerber, and provides high-quality online courses from experienced and ICF-certified coaches.
Their Essentials program is a comprehensive program that equips new coaches with deep coaching fundamentals and provides an intensive learning opportunity through a combination of education, demonstration, online classroom, and practical application through peer coaching. The modular approach and high quality of content makes it easily one of the best coaching certification options.
5 • Institute of Executive Coaching
The Institute of Executive Coaching also offers training for coaches that is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). They offer fast-track programs and comprehensive programs in various formats, combining online and face-to-face instruction.
Their 2-year program consists of four core modules: Foundations of Coaching; Leading Teams; Managing People and Organizations; and Advanced Leadership Skills. The availability of choices, the depth of topics covered, their close adherence to ICF standards, and the opportunity to join a fast-track program surely validate the institute’s addition to our list of best coaching certification programs.
6 • CoachU
CoachU’s Core Essentials offers a complete virtual training program designed to help you develop essential coaching skills. Their Core Essentials program includes over 77 hours of video instruction and interactive activities. You’ll work alongside a coach mentor throughout the program, and receive feedback and support from our team of coaches via live chat, email, and phone calls. This is a self-paced program that typically takes six months to complete. CoachU also offers shorter programs and in-person workshops.
7 • The Health Coach Institute
The Health Coach Institute has been offering dual life/health coaching certification as an online program since 2010. This allows students who want to be health professionals to earn the Certified Health Coach credential and become a certified health coach while simultaneously earning the Certified Professional Coach credential. They are now the only organization in the world to offer this type of dual certification. Coaches interested in pursuing either of these credentials must pass a written exam and complete a practicum.
8 • Integrative Wellness Academy
The Integrative Wellness Academy is offering a Master Integrative Life Coach Certification program designed specifically for Wellness Coaches already working in the field. Experienced coaches get a comprehensive overview of integrative coaching concepts and practices, including how to apply them to clients, families, groups, organizations, communities, and cultures.
Participants learn about the core competencies required for effective coaching work, as well as how to build resilience, develop empathy, enhance communication skills, and strengthen client commitment. Wellness coaches also receive training in the art and science of group facilitation, leading to increased confidence and effectiveness in facilitating group processes.
9 • Radiant Coaches Academy
Radiant Coaches Academy is an award-winning holistic coach certification program. The curriculum is anecdotally based on cutting-edge science and business education that incorporates neuroscience, business, marketing, and neuropsychology into the curriculum. It is accredited to provide 65 hours of approved coach-specific training hours through ICF.
10 • Certified Life Coach Institute
The Certified Life Coach Institute offers a fast way to become a certified life coach. Their certification program takes just 3 days to complete. There are no exams, no books, and no courses to take online or offline. All you need to do is watch our training videos and pass the final exam. We mention this as the last option simply because we believe it is great to get a high-level overview of coaching, but will not equip you in the same way the other coaching programs do.
The Certified Life Coach Institute is recognized by the ICF, however, the amount of education you will get here will not add the needed hours to qualify you for ICF’s widely recognized and esteemed coach certifications.
Evaluating The Best Coaching Certification Options
It’s worth looking into the best coaching certification options for your field of coaching. To do that, don’t just take our word for it, but take a look at the ratings of different schools online and perhaps consider running an online search for other comparison articles. You may find more detailed coverage for your specific coaching field, for example, the best coaching certification programs for career coaches.