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.
What qualifications do you need to be a life coach?
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).
- A relevant degree
- Real-world work experience
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.
Is life coaching certification worth it?
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.
Types of life coach certification
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:
- Associated Certified Coach (ACC) – Over 60 education hours and 100 hours of coaching experience. You’ll also need to do ten hours of mentor coaching.
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Over 125 hours of education and 500 hours of experience.
- Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Over 200 hours of education and 2,500 hours of experience.
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.
Five life coaching certification programs
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:
- Nutrition coach
- Executive coach
- Life coach
- Fitness coach
- Career coach
- Relationship coach
- Family coach
- Finance coach
- Spiritual coach
- Mental health coach
- Leadership coach
Once you have a niche, you can research programs that suit your goals, skillset, and budget.
1. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching
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:
- Creative thinking
- Active listening
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.
- Cost: $13,395
- Duration: 320 training hours, 200 of which are ICF accredited.
- Type of certification: Certified Professional Coach (CPC), Energy Leadership™ Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP), and COR.E Dynamics™ Specialist, in one of four niches
- ICF certified: Yes
- Best for: Experienced coaches
2. Institute for Life Coach Training
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.
- Career development coaching
- Executive and business coaching
- Relationship coaching
- Wellness coaching
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.
- Cost: Starts at $1,500 – $7,800 (for the Professional Certified Coach program)
- Duration: 30 to 130 hours, depending on the program
- Type of certification: ACC or PCC equivalent
- ICF certified: Yes
3. Life Coach School
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.
- Cost: $21,000
- Duration: Seven months
- Type of certification: Proprietary
- ICF certified: Yes
4. Health Coach Institute
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.
- Cost: $5,450
- Duration: Six months
- Type of certification: Dual Health and Life Coach Certificate
- ICF certified: Yes
5. The CaPP Institute
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.
- Cost: Starts at $1,495
- Duration: Three days
- Type of certification: Certificate in Personal Development Coaching
- ICF certified: Yes
|Program||Cost||Duration||Focus/Who it’s best for|
|Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching||$13,395||320 hours||Someone who wants to focus on coaching full-time and is willing to invest a lot of time and money in their career.|
|Institute for Life Coach Training||$1,500||30 to 130 hours||Coaches who want a supportive network and mentors to call on even after the course ends.|
|Life Coach School||$21,000||Seven months||Those willing to spend more time and money for an intensive experience over a longer duration.|
|Health Coach Institute||$5,450||Six months||Coaches who want to focus on health and wellness rather than just general life coaching.|
|The CaPP Institute||$1,495||Three days||Beginners or returning professionals who want to get started quickly with a premade framework.|
How much does a life coach certification cost?
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.
How to choose a life coach certification program
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.
- Is the program accredited by a reputable organization like the ICF?
- What do reviews and testimonials reveal?
- Does the life coaching program’s curriculum meet your goals and objectives? Does the program align with your coaching specialty?
- Does the program include educational components such as reading, lectures, seminars, and field experiences?
- What kind of experience and qualifications do the instructors have? Based on this, will the program suit you?
- Does the program provide additional resources (i.e., networking, ongoing support, or in-person meet-ups)?
- What is the cost and time commitment? How much are you willing to invest in a life coaching program? Will it fit within your budget and lifestyle?
- What type of certification will you receive?
- What kind of follow-up or support will you get after?
Life coaching certification alternatives
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:
Leverage real-world experience
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.
Start coaching to build skills
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.