How to Become a Business Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a business coach. Research the job description and the education and certification requirements and find out how to start a career as a business coach.

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Should I Become a Business Coach?

Business coaches develop methods for increasing an employee's productivity, which benefits both the employee and employer. Much like a sports coach, the business coach observes and assesses an employee's capabilities and business environment before creating procedures and practices to improve performance.

Business coaches spend the majority of their time in office settings. Some business coaches are able to work full-time, but because many are self-employed and work with various clients, there may be some lapse between contracts. There are few physical demands associated with this career, nor are there many risks of injury or illness. For self-employed business coaches, building a client base can be very stressful.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No established degree level; some have advanced degrees
Experience Varies; one certification program requires a minimum of 100 hours of professional coaching experience
Certification and Licensing Voluntary certification is available through professional associations; licensing is not required

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Society for Organizational and Industrial Psychology Inc., International Coach Federation, New York Times

Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Business coaches may have degrees in business, human resources, or organizational psychology and may also hold a coaching certification. However, coaches aren't legally required to be licensed, so there is no general standard for coach education. As a result, employer requirements vary, and many coaches are self-employed. Since business coaching involves the study of human behavior, students may pursue different avenues at all degree levels.

One path that can lead to a career in business coaching would be a degree in industrial and organizational psychology. This branch of psychology examines human behavior within work settings, which is particularly relevant to business coaching. Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs offer industrial and organizational psychology as a concentration.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

To qualify for most credentials, business coaches need to get relevant work experience in the field. This may be measured in hours or years. Knowing what it feels like to work in a business organization helps the prospective coach identify with and understand future client needs.

It is helpful to participate in professional association activities. Professional associations frequently offer training opportunities that may include coaching and worker motivation skills. Participating in these opportunities provides aspiring coaches with important skills and information that they can use in their future careers.

Step 3: Get Coaching Training

Professional coaching organizations often provide or approve coaching training programs. These programs may incorporate formal studies with opportunities for supervised practice. The length and breadth of these programs vary according to the standards of the coaching organization that administers or approves them.

Step 4: Earn Certification

After completing training, an individual can earn certification by meeting other requirements, which often include producing evidence of coaching experience and, at some levels, passing a written examination. Other requirements may include obtaining letters of reference and submitting a recorded coaching session.

To really get the most out of your certification, complete continuing education requirements. Some certification organizations require coaches to complete continuing education hours as a condition of certification renewal. Certified coaches should make note of when their credential is up for renewal so they can be sure to complete continuing education ahead of time.

To recap, with an undergraduate degree and experience along with voluntary certification, a business coach has the knowledge necessary to develop methods for increasing an employee's productivity, which benefits both the employee and the employer.

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