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.

Should I Become a Life Coach?

Certified life coaches work with clients to identify areas for growth, both professionally and personally. Through regular meetings, life coaches help assess their clients' progress towards meeting their goals.

Career Requirements

Training Required Completion of a certified life coach training program
Certification Professional certifications through organizations such as the International Coach Federation
Experience 100-2,500 hours of coaching, depending on the level of certification sought
Key Skills Communication, compassion and people skills, creativity, problem-solving, goal-setting and progress management
Salary $44,754 annual median salary (July 2015)

Sources: International Coach Federation,

Step 1: Conduct a Self-Assessment

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 International Coach Federation, these core competencies include active listening, strong verbal communication skills, genuine concern, creativity, problem-solving, goal setting and progress management.

Step 2: Complete an Accredited Coach Training Program

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. Subjects taught in life coaching programs may include cooperative communication, the coaching relationship, identifying limiting beliefs, decision-making, organizational behavior and professional ethics.

Step 3: Complete Required Coaching Hours

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.

Step 4: Seek Continuing Education Options

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.

Success Tip:

  • Consider attending graduate school. An advanced degree is not required for life coaches, but gaining additional education in a graduate-level program could help coaches hone their skills and increase their marketability.

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