One of the probably most frequent questions aspiring life coaches asks is: Where do I start? Is there any sort of a life coaching degree, license, or accreditation required?
Read our articles to avoid wasting your time and money, while getting into the wonderful world of life coaching to change and improve the lives of clients.
Who are Life Coaches and What is Life Coaching?
As we explained in our article here, life coach is a professional, trained to help you maximize your full potential and reach your desired results. During life coaching session, life coach encourages and counsels clients on a range of professional and personal issues. Life coaching is different from counseling, mentoring and administering therapy. You hire a coach to help you with specific professional projects, personal goals and transitions.
As you can see, life coaching is not focused on the client’s mental health issues, instead, life coaches help a person or team identify a goal (i.e. winning) and then they develop a plan for that person or group.
Is there any sort of a life coaching degree, license, or accreditation required?
Life coaching is a non-regulated industry, which means there are no set laws that govern the field. Right now this is the case in the United States and as far as we are aware also in all other countries, but it is recommended that any coach who wants to know more seek advice from their state or country.
There is no actual coaching degree required to get into this profession, and unlike conventional academic institutions, such as Universities, coach training organizations do not require to be accredited, as there is no accrediting institution in the field of life coaching. And there is no license required to be a life coach as well. Unlike licensed doctors, mental health specialists, or psychologists, in this industry, there are no kinds of laws requiring an official license or certification. This is because life coaching is very different from therapy, as life coaches are not licensed mental health care providers or therapists and should not give any medical advice, get involved in patient diagnosis, or attempt to treat mental illness or trauma.
There are some organizations that claim to be a legal accrediting institution, but this is always false. They are simply associations that charge a fee for training organizations to get their stamp of approval. Though some of these associations may serve an important role in holding this industry to higher standards and establishing a basis of ethics and better practices, they still do not hold any actual authority over the industry, different training organizations, or coaches.
What qualifications do I require to be a life coach?
There are a lot of life coaches who come from industries based on working with people, such as counseling, personal fitness, nursing, massage, and others. But in the majority of cases, coaches do not have any official background, and instead, they bring with them their extensive life experience and/or work experience. Often coaches do their job in a specific niche, in which they have some kind of knowledge and experience. For instance, entrepreneurs may coach business start-ups, ex-personal trainers will become health coaches, teachers will coach others on public speaking, etc.
In most cases, life coaches would enroll in training programs to improve their skills and learn new strategies for increasing the scope of their coaching practice. This gives them a basic foundation of understanding what coaching really is, the psychology behind it, and the methods and processes used. In the end, what kind of training you need in order to coach is totally up to you, as there is no law that requires coach training or any sort.
Most programs that offer training for life coaches are generally focusing on teaching communication methods, goal setting, as well as developing the client-coach relationship. You could choose to attend weekend workshops or join a life coach training school, in any case, you can receive some extra training to learn new coaching skills. If you are not sure about what kind of training you might need to become an expert life coach, try engaging in a coach-training program to evaluate your current coaching skills. More experienced life coaches could also offer advice on those areas that you need to strengthen.
Besides the desire to help people, life coaching requires outstanding listening and communication skills as well as extensive knowledge in those areas of life that you choose to cover. For example, a person who has certain experience working in a health care or social service profession may choose to offer stress management coaching.
While there is no requirement that a life coach has to be certified, there are some agencies that provide such certification. The two of the most reputable organizations that provide certification to expert life coaches are the International Association of Coaching, IAC, and International Coach Federation, ICF. IAC certification is based on written and oral exams. For the verbal exam, you will need to submit a recorded coaching session that will illustrate the practical application of your knowledge. ICF certification takes a lot more time to achieve, as you must complete a particular number of paid coaching hours. Credential types will depend on the number of client coaching hours you complete.
You can get certified as a life coach
While there is no governing organization that requires you to pass an examination or earn a specific degree to become a life coach, earning a coaching credential from a recognized organization, such as the International Coaching Federation, will boost your credibility, especially when you are just starting out in this field and don’t have that many client testimonials yet.
Take a look at these stats from the ICF:
- 77% of coaches said that clients anticipate them to be certified or credentialed
- 83% of coaching clients stated that it was essential for coaches to hold a credential
- People are far more apt to recommend a life coach who holds a credential than a coach who does not
The ICF offers some of the most widely acknowledged professional coaching certifications, and their programs mainly focus on developing coaches’ knowledge and skills around coaching as well as committing to the highest ethical and professional standards.
The certification programs will require practice, training, coaching experience, examinations, and references from credentialed coaches, and depending on the desired certification level, you will have to complete anywhere from 100 to 2,500 hours of mostly paid coaching work.
Coaching – Most Important Skills to Have
As we mentioned in our article “Life coaching skills you need to learn to become successful coach” – Nobody is born with a full set of coaching skills, and it looks like a lot to learn, but in the end, lot of it comes down to a few key things:
- Emotional intelligence to communicate effectively with their clients, to support and understand their perspectives.
- Cognitive intelligence to understand client’s goals, personal values, weaknesses and strengths.
- Creativity and understanding of the coaching process to motivate and develop client’s strengths to achieve the one’s desired goal.
As you can see, you don’t need any formal or academic qualifications to become a Life Coach, and in the end everything boils down to the main question – “How can I become the best life coach I can be, to touch and change lives of the many people, and make a world a better place for everyone?”