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Be a Personal Development Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a personal development coach. Learn about the education and training requirements, as well as the experience you'll need to advance your career in the field of life coaching. View article »

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  • 0:01 Personal Development Coach
  • 0:27 Career Skills & Information
  • 1:14 Get an Education
  • 3:44 Get Trained
  • 4:30 Get Certified

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Personal Development Coach

Personal development coaching, or life coaching, covers a broad range of categories. They include addressing issues that affect educational progress, such as those related to Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as issues that influence personal and company growth, such as the need for conflict resolution. Personal development coaches work collaboratively with clients to set and attain goals as well as to address day-to-day challenges.

Career Skills and Information

Degree Level None; certificate, bachelor's, and master's available
Degree Field Business, marketing, psychology, management and leadership, personal and life coaching, organizational and executive coaching, master class in coaching
Certification Voluntary but recommended; options include Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach and Master Certified Coach, Credentialed Coach Pathway Training Program and Certified Professional Coach
Experience Varies; 100-2,500 hours for some certification programs
Key Skills Concentration-specific but includes ability to meet ethical guidelines and professional standards; active listening, direct communication, establishing trust, goal-setting and progress monitoring skills; continuing education expected
Salary $23,750 to $255,400 (2016 median range for personal development or life coaches)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Franklin University, International Coach Federation, New York University, inviteCHANGE

Key skills common to all personal development coaches include those related to active listening, direct communication, goal-setting and progress monitoring. Personal development coaches should also have the ability to establish trust and meet ethical guidelines and professional standards. Select clients might be quite challenging to coach, and this profession may require a great deal of patience and empathy. According to Payscale.com in July 2016, personal development or life coaches earned a median hourly wage of $11.42 to $122.79, which translates to $23,750 to $255,400 a year based on a 40-hour work week.

Get an Education

While personal development coaches do not always need a degree, earning one may assist with developing a professional specialization and reputation. Relevant programs at the certificate, bachelor's, or master's degree level may include business, executive, and organizational coaching; management and leadership; marketing psychology; or personal and life coaching. Some courses may available in traditional school settings through teleconferences, or Web-based learning platforms.

A few joint certificate programs are offered through ICF affiliates such as inviteCHANGE. The Certified Professional Coach program is designed for participants who plan to work with under-represented communities in the social justice area. One of the benefits of this program is that it includes an applied learning experience during which participants work closely with a faculty advisor in the field.

Training programs tend to include coursework and practical experience in group coaching, motivational techniques, organizational strategies, and instructional leadership. Participants usually work with certified life coach mentors and are able to complete training hours that may count toward International Coach Federation (ICF) certification requirements.

Success Tips:

Obtain a college degree. Some employers, such as colleges or universities that offer coaching services to their students, may require an undergraduate and/or graduate degree from an accredited institution. In some cases, this requirement may be waived.

Minor in management and leadership. Some colleges and universities offer minors in management and leadership. These tend to include capstone courses such as performance and leadership, organizational behavior, and change culture.

Attend campus training sessions. If you're currently in college, be sure to explore opportunities for free training sessions to assist with gaining practical experience.

Search for online training programs. If your current schedule or location makes it difficult to attend a traditional face-to-face program, some institutions provide online certificate programs.

Explore coaching certificate programs. Some colleges and universities offer coaching certificate programs. These usually consist of a series of courses in coaching fundamentals, electives, and a practicum to gain relevant experience. Other options include personal and life coaching as well as organizational and executive coaching.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Adult Development and Aging
  • Child Care Management
  • Child Care Services
  • Child Development
  • Community Organization and Advocacy
  • Family and Community Services
  • Family Systems
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Social Work
  • Youth Services

Get Trained

Personal development coaches may not need a degree, but training and certification are recommended to establish expertise and to develop a client base. Aspiring coaches can receive training through certificate programs offered by a variety of schools, some of which are accredited by the ICF.

Success Tips:

Review company resources and benefits. Contact your current employer's Human Resources Department to determine if they have in-house training or tuition reimbursement programs.

Take free webinars. Organizations such as inviteCHANGE, an ICF affiliate, offer a free webinar series. In addition to providing opportunities for personal and professional development, these programs prepare prospective coaches to enter certified training programs.

Get Certified

Certification allows personal development coaches to attach a professional credential to their names. It is also recommended by the ICF to establish standards. The ICF offers three levels of credentials: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC). and Master Certified Coach (MCC). All levels have minimum coaching hour requirements and client bases. An ACC, for example, must have 100 hours coaching experience and eight clients, while a MCC must have 2,500 hours coaching experience and 35 clients.

Another organization that provides professional coach certification is inviteCHANGE. It provides professional coach certification as well as continuing education opportunities. Its professional coach certification program, for example, consists of five core courses as well as electives and field experience. Coursework includes topics such as developing an authentic and professional presence, transformative coaching, and coaching mastery.

After completing the CCP program, inviteCHANGE's Credentialed Coach Pathway Training Program (CCP) is another option. This 60-hour program is designed to assist coaches who are pursuing an ICF credential and provides preparation for the ICF Portfolio Credential application exam. In addition to web-based course hours, this program includes individual and group mentoring sessions. Since an integral aspect of personal development coaching is lifelong learning, inviteCHANGE also provides advanced continuing education coursework.

Success Tips:

Choose a specialty. According to ICF, life coaches can specialize in:

  • Career and educational development
  • Creativity enhancement
  • Financial planning
  • Health and fitness
  • Leadership
  • Relationship counseling
  • Spiritual growth
  • Therapeutic coaching

Other areas of focus include executive and corporate coaching.

Market your services. Life coaches can market their services through blogs, websites, live seminars, teleconferences, private sessions, or web-based learning platforms. Some coaches specialize in providing workshops and retreats for companies and corporations.

Join a professional organization. It isn't mandatory to belong to a professional organization such as ICF; however, organizational membership tends to increase your networking and professional development opportunities.

Join a professional expertise group. The ICF provides information on communities of practice engaged in similar areas of expertise. These include members who are dedicated to educational resources, conflict management, energy work, human resources development, intercultural, and global executive work. Some communities are geared toward specific languages, such as Japanese and Spanish.


If you're still interested in becoming a personal development coach, a college degree in a relevant area and a professional certification from an International Coach Federation (ICF) affiliate will help you acquire the background and credentials you need to enter the field, where you may earn anywhere from $11.42 -$122.79 an hour.

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