If you’ve thought about becoming a life coach, you may have also thought about if you need a life coach certification. The short answer is no, you don’t need one. There’s no official life coaching certification process. However, the long answer is it depends on your coaching services, clients, and goals.
Life coaching is a fast-growing industry that brought in $1.5 billion in the United States last year. Globally, the coaching industry is worth around $2.85 billion. It could be a profitable business for you, but what do you need to get started?
There are hundreds of life coaching programs to choose from, which can also make it hard to decide. In this article, we’ll dive into life coach certification programs and alternatives to help you make a decision.
To be a life coach, you only need knowledge and experience in your coaching niche. An accredited life coaching certification can distinguish you from other providers. For example, let’s say you work with a large company and offer your coaching services to their employees. The company may ask for a certification as an extra layer of credibility.
Life coaching isn’t a regulated profession—it doesn’t have a universal standard or certification process. It’s up to each coach to decide whether to pursue formal life coaching certification.
However, you can leverage the below qualifications to help you land more (and higher-paying coaching clients).
Although many life coaches (55%) have a Bachelor’s degree, they don’t usually go to college to pursue life coaching. Rather, specific majors like psychology (24%) and business (12%) can naturally transition to a life coaching career.
Certification may provide resources, training programs, and networking opportunities. You can supplement certifications with real-world experience, too. For instance, a former personal trainer or professional athlete would have the right experience to become a fitness coach.
Ultimately, life coaches should be ethical, honest, and knowledgeable of the subject they’re coaching. Whether you gain those qualities through a life coach certification program or somewhere else, isn’t as important.
Becoming a certified life coach won’t hurt, but is it worth it? The answer depends on your background, needs, and goals.
For some, life coaching certification is a valuable way to gain the tools and knowledge for a professional coaching career. It can also help you connect with potential clients, demonstrate your expertise and credibility, and expand your network.
On the other hand, you can be a successful life coach without it. Ultimately, you must decide what’s best for you. Consider the potential benefits and other factors to determine whether life coaching certification is worth it for you.
Opting out of life coaching certification today doesn’t mean you can’t do it later on after you have your first coaching clients. You can jump into your coaching career and revisit it in a year or two. There’s no right or wrong way to start down the path of coaching.
If you pursue certification, look for programs that are accredited. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) accredit coaching programs. ICF focuses on life coaching more broadly, while NBHWC accredits health and wellness coaching programs.
ICF’s accredited programs have three certification levels. Each requires you to pass an exam to get certified. Other requirements are that you must do specific hours of learning and client coaching experience. Here’s the breakdown for each level:
Many legitimate coaching programs use the ICF credentialing structure for their certificate programs. However, they may call their levels different names from those above. Carefully review the details of a program to verify it’s worth your time and money.
Your coaching niche will also influence the certification you choose. For instance, if you specialize in nutrition, business, or executive coaching, you might look for certification for that area versus a broader life coaching program.
When you’re ready to choose a life coaching program, you may find the number of available courses overwhelming. First, it’s helpful to narrow down your niche. Here are different types of life coaches:
Once you have a niche, you can research programs that suit your goals, skillset, and budget.
If you want a thorough life coaching program and don’t mind a higher price point, the Institute for Professional Excellence (iPEC) is a good choice. This program focuses on developing leadership qualities and core competencies, including:
The program also includes training on how to create coaching business plans and develop successful teams. The cost includes ongoing support, membership in an online community of other coaches, and monthly seminars from experts.
You’ll also receive three life coaching certifications in one program. As a result, the iPEC program is one of the most comprehensive, and also more expensive, options on the market. Therefore, it’s ideal for full-time, experienced coaches.
If you’ve been coaching for a few years and want to boost your credibility for higher-paying clients, it could be worth the investment.
The Institute for Life Coach Training (ILCT) has several programs and paths for different credentials and coaching specialties. It offers programs for the following coaching specialties.
At the end of the program, students receive a life coaching certificate and take the ICF exam. Pricing varies depending on the course you choose. ILCT is a good option for those who want to start small and take more courses from the same school later.
Life Coach School is a long-term, high-cost program for those serious about making a full-time career out of life coaching. Participants will learn to help others set meaningful goals, create actionable plans to achieve those goals and develop coaching skills.
The Life Coach School provides plenty of resources. The school offers ongoing support throughout the program via email, chat, or phone, and an active online coaching community.
Upon completion of the program, participants receive a certification from the Life Coach School.
The Health Coach Institute’s courses cover nutrition, lifestyle coaching, business development, and more. It’s best for those who want to become a health and wellness coach.
Courses from the Health Coach Institute are entirely online. Still, there are opportunities to connect with others in the program. The Institute gives students access to an online library and a private Facebook group.
Trustpilot users rate the company’s programs 4.8 out of 5 stars. The Health Coach Institute reports they have a community of 20,000 satisfied graduates.
One unique aspect of the certification program is addressing your self-limiting beliefs. Learning to do this personally will help you teach your own pupils to do the same.
Professional health coaches teach all Health Coach Institute courses. Parts of the program offer 1:1 instruction, so you can ask experts questions directly.
The CaPP Institute offers several programs, but the best choice for new coaches is its Coach Training Intensive program. Unlike other coaching certifications, this is a three-day, online workshop that teaches you how to change lives as a coach.
The program focuses on psychology and coaching theory. The end of the course focuses on business development. It includes a workshop where you’ll create a coaching business plan.
The Coach Training Intensive program is best for coaching beginners that want to start right away. It’s also a solid option for coaches who have been out of the market for a while and want a quick refresher course.
The cost of life coach certification programs depends on the program. Generally, accredited programs range from $1,400 to $25,000. Some unaccredited online courses may offer life coaching programs for less than $500. However, intensive courses and those accredited by the ICF cost more.
While these prices may seem high, they could be worth the investment compared to how much life coaches make. The average salary for life coaches is $62,500, but this figure will vary based on your niche, experience level, and overhead expenses. According to ICF, $244 is the average cost per coaching session.
Offering online coaching services with Teachable can keep costs down since you can easily scale and don’t need a physical location.
Given all the variables at play, choosing a life coach certification program can be challenging. Answering the questions below will help you decide which coaching program is right for you.
If you don’t think life coaching certification is right for you, don’t fret. Getting certified doesn’t guarantee a profitable coaching business—it’s optional. People care more about results than credentials.
Here are some alternatives for life coaching certification:
If you’ve worked as a personal trainer, nutritionist, therapist, or in another role related to the coaching vertical you’ve selected, put that to use. Talk about your experience when interviewing new clients and include information about your past in your marketing materials. Relevant work history may get you farther than a certification.
You can always learn by doing, and anyone can start coaching. In the beginning, you can take on two or three clients to build experience. As you gain new skills and confidence over time, you’ll be able to take on more clients or charge higher rates.
Most coaches get new clients through referrals. Request Google or social media reviews from your satisfied customers and ask them to pass your name along to anyone they know in the market for services like yours. Those testimonials will do more for your credibility than any certificate would.
Ultimately, whether to pursue life coach certification is a personal decision that you should base on your circumstances and goals. Weigh the pros and cons carefully to decide what’s best for you.
If you enroll in a life coach certification program, be sure it’s accredited. You should also run the numbers on the course cost and outline a plan for when you’ll break even in your coaching journey.
If you decide that certification isn’t right for you, draw on your experiences and seek referrals to help you build your business. You can start your coaching journey today without a life coaching certification. Teachable offers a free plan, where you can create one coaching product.
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