Become a Certified Life Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Feb 27, 2019

Certified life coaches help clients achieve personal and professional objectives through a collaborative process of self-assessment, problem-solving and goal setting. Requirements for life coach certification typically include a combination of formal training and experience.

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  • 0:00 Becoming a Life Coach
  • 0:51 Step 1: Self-Assessment
  • 1:15 Step 2: Training Program
  • 1:58 Step 3: Coaching Hours
  • 2:33 Step 4: Continuing Education

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Becoming a Life Coach

Training Required Completion of a certified life coach training program
Certification Required; available from the International Coach Federation and others
Experience 100-2,500 hours of coaching, depending on the level of certification sought
Key Skills Communication, compassion, problem-solving, goal-setting, progress management, and people skills; creativity
Salary $45,318 (2016 median salary for life coaches)

Sources: International Coach Federation,

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.

Life coaches are required to complete a certified life coach training program, which are available through organizations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF). Prospective life coaches may log 100 to 2,500 hours of coaching, depending on the level of certification sought. Key skills for life coaches include communication, compassion, people skills, creativity, problem-solving, goal-setting and progress management. In January 2016, reported that the annual median salary for life coaches was $45,318.

Step 1: 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 ICF, these core competencies include active listening, strong verbal communication skills, genuine concern, creativity, problem solving, goal setting and progress management.

Step 2: Training Program

The second step towards becoming a life coach is to 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: Coaching Hours

The third step toward becoming a certified life coach is to complete the 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 to 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: Continuing Education

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

Here's a 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.

The steps toward becoming a certified life coach include conducting an initial self-assessment, completing an accredited coach training program, completing the required coaching hours and continuing education.

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