Become a Certified Life Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Certified life coaches help clients achieve personal and professional objectives through a collaborative process of self-assessment, problem-solving and goal setting. A number of certifying organizations are available including the International Coach Federation (ICF). Requirements for life coach certification typically include a combination of formal training and experience.

Career Information

Certified life coaches are responsible for helping clients set and achieve goals, pursue new career opportunities and help them get back on track in life. The specific duties often depend on what a client needs or wants; coaches meet with them on a periodic or regular basis to discuss any problems that have arisen and to evaluate progress.

Since effective life coaching generally requires the coach to possess certain core competencies, prospective life coaches may choose to conduct an initial self-assessment to ensure life coaching is a compatible career. According to the ICF, these core competencies include active listening, strong verbal communication skills, genuine concern, creativity, problem-solving, goal setting and progress management.

According to, the median annual salary for life coaches was $54,205 as of December 2013. Entry-level coaches made between $23,193 and $38,527. O*NET Online reports that job positions for many types of counselors are expected to grow by 20 to 28% between 2010 and 2020.

Educational Requirements

A variety of life coaching training programs are available including graduate-level certificate programs. Subjects taught in life coaching programs may include cooperative communication, the coaching relationship, identifying limiting beliefs, decision-making, organizational behavior and professional ethics. The ICF publishes an online list of approved training programs (


Among the various certifications available, ICF certification is widely recognized. The ICF offers three levels of certification, including the Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and Master Certified Coach (MCC). Certification commonly requires a combination of training, coaching experience, examination and reference letters from qualified coaches.

Actual coaching experience is a key element of certification. The ICF, for example, requires coaches to complete and document anywhere from 100-2,500 hours of coaching, depending on the certification level. The majority of this must be paid coaching. This experience requirement may be satisfied through individual coaching, group coaching, internal coaching and coaching through a third-party organization. Coaching may be in-person, by telephone or through another type of voice-to-voice medium.

Continuing Education

Continuing education enables life coaches to enhance their professional growth and development. It also is a requirement for certification renewal. The ICF requires completion of 40 hours of approved continuing education every three years to maintain certification.

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