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How to Become a Certified Life Coach in 2024 (+Top Programs)

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Want to become a certified life coach?

Building a coaching business can be highly fulfilling and impactful. At the same time, you create more freedom and flexibility in your life.

But what qualifications do you need?

Read on to learn more! 

What credentials do you need to be a life coach?

What types of qualifications do you need as a life coach? 

First, let’s bust this myth. You do not need a certification to become a life coach.

Because the coaching industry is unregulated, anyone can become a life coach and most niches don’t require any qualifications at all. 

This doesn’t apply to every niche out there. For example, health coaching niches like nutrition coaching may require a certification or degree by law, spending on your state and where you work. 

But overall, you don’t need a certification to get started as a coach. Especially if you start your own business. 

The most important value indicator in coaching  

More importantly, the value of your coaching isn’t based on a certification. Instead, it’s about the results you help your clients get.

If you can help your clients get results without being certified, you don’t need a certification. 

Most of your clients certainly don’t care about certifications as long as you can guide them to achieve the goal they have. 

How to learn coaching without a certification

The most effective way to learn how to coach is to…coach. Offer a lower-priced package for your first few clients to build your life coaching skills.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Getting certified comes with a tradeoff. The time and money you spend on a certification could be spent on getting your first clients, developing your skills, and building your business. (And getting all those things you might be looking for in starting a coaching business – flexibility, being your own boss, and increasing your income.)

That said, are coaching certifications worth it at all? 

Depends on you and the niche you’re in. Executive and health coaches tend to need certifications more than other coaches, but ultimately, getting a certification comes down to what you want. 

But don’t feel like you HAVE to get one. A coaching certification is 100% optional. 

What is a life coach certification?

What is a coaching certification anyway? 

A coaching certification is an academic accreditation from a coaching association or university that recognizes you as a qualified professional coach. 

Who certifies you as a coach? 

There are many different coaching organizations out there. Some are tailored to specific niches. 

For example, you can get certified by the National Health and Wellness Board if you’re training to be a health coach. 

But for life coaches, the most well-known and credible coaching association is the International Coaching Federation (ICF). 

The ICF certifies hundreds of coaching courses all around the world. Because it comes the closest to being a regulatory body in the life coaching industry, ICF-accredited coaching programs tend to be more credible than others. 

To qualify as an ICF-accredited program, the course must follow the core competencies of coaching outlined by the International Coach Federation. 

Universities also tend to offer certification programs. Because these institutions know how to teach, getting certified by them can be a great way to increase your credibility. (But, your ultimate credibility comes from your coaching.)

Irrespective of where you decide to get certified, the way certification programs work is that you complete one or several courses. You might also need to complete a minimum number of coaching practice hours within a certain timeframe to get certified. 

Certification programs tend to last anywhere from a few months to up to a year. 

They do come with a cost, though. That’s what we’ll look at next. 

How much does a life coach certification cost?

The cost of a coaching certification program varies from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. On average, these programs tend to cost between $3K and $10K.

That’s the average – some programs cost more than $20K. Typically, the cost depends on the length of the course, the reputation of the school, and the amount of support you get during the program. 

Now you know what a coaching certification is, why you don’t necessarily need one, and the cost of a certification.

But do you need to be a licensed life coach? Let’s take a look. 

Do you need a business license as a life coach?

No, life coaches don’t need a license to start coaching. 

Why? Because life coaching is not therapy or counseling. Coaching isn’t a treatment and isn’t regulated by any governing body. So legally, anyone can coach.

However, things get more complicated when you look into different niches. Always check the specific regulations in your state for your particular niche, as there might be rules that apply to the services you offer.  

For instance, if you offer nutrition coaching, you need to be aware of the requirements for nutritionists in your state. 

With that, let’s find out how to choose a life coach certification program. 

How to choose the right coaching certification

Among all the life coaching certifications available, how do you choose the right one? 

Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

Do you want an ICF-accredited program? 

Do the ICF core competencies align with your preferred style of coaching? If yes, look for certification programs that are ICF-accredited.

What does the course curriculum include?

A good life coach certification balances coaching skills, psychology, and business skills. You might want to choose a program that’s catered to the type of coaching you do (such as career, health, or mindset coaching). 

What do reviews of the school or program say?

Testimonials are so important when choosing a certification program. Look at reviews and look at what people say on platforms like Reddit or Google. 

How much time can you give to studying?

Some certification programs are as short as three months. Others are as long as 18 months. The length also changes on whether you take a full-time or part-time course. 

If you have a full-time job, you probably want a self-paced online course so you can study in your spare time. Alternatively, there are intensive courses out there that will get you qualified in less than a year. Think about what will fit into your schedule and goals for starting your business. 

Does the course include coaching practice or mentoring?

Many certification programs include supervised coaching practice, which means that your teacher will watch you deliver a coaching session and provide feedback. Some programs include coach mentoring so you can ask an expert for advice on your coaching skills. Others have peer mentoring where you practice with other students of the program. 

With that, here are some of the top life coach certification programs to choose from. 

The best life coach certifications

Here’s a list of life coach certification programs to help you narrow down the list of potential programs. 

Disclaimer: I haven’t taken these programs myself. I’m recommending them based on good reviews and the reputation of the institution. 

iPEC Coach Training Experience

The iPEC Coach Training program is one of the highest-rated in the world. It’s an ICF-accredited course that offers three certifications in one program. 

You start learning the fundamentals of coaching. Then you progress to energy leadership and CORE energy coaching. Throughout, you’ll be supported by a mentor, success coach, and peer coaching. 

Duration: Between ten and twelve months to complete the course in full (total of 320 training hours)

Price: $13,395, if paid in full, installments are available

Coach Training EDU Life Coach Training

Coach Training EDU is another life coaching school that offers ICF-accredited courses. The basics coaching course will apply to any niche. But then you have the option to take specialized courses in academic coaching, executive coaching, life coaching, and wellness coaching. 

If you take the wellness route, you have the option to get an extra accreditation from the Health Board. The student groups are small and the program also offers business training. 

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Duration: Depends on the course you choose but a minimum of six months

Price: From $3,240 for a six-month course

Certified Life Coach Institute Coaching 101

Most coaching certifications take several months to a year to complete. But this ICF-accredited intensive course by the Certified Life Coach Institute is a three full-day program. 

During the live online course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of coaching with peer-to-peer coaching practice sessions. It’s a fully immersive training experience with the intent of making you a great coach. 

You don’t get as much practice or mentoring as with longer courses. But this program can be beneficial if you want a certification quickly. 

Duration: Three full days

Price: $995 for the foundational certification, $1,295 for the advanced certification, $1,995 for both

The Columbia Coaching Certification Program

If you want a university certification, the Columbia program is a great choice. It is a three-part certification focusing on front-end coaching, practice, and advanced coaching. This program is detailed and prioritizes coaching mastery.

 The practice portion of the program is seven to eight months long, so this program really highlights the practical coaching skills. 

Duration: One year

Price: $8,500

Next, let’s look at what it takes to start a life coaching business – which is key to growing your impact and creating a Freedom Business. 

How much do life coaches make? 

To figure out if a certification is even worth it, you need to know what the average life coach salary is. 

On average, life coaches make $244/hour.

The average monthly salary is $67,800 in North America and the average coach spends 11.9 hours a week working as a coach. 

Full-time coaches can make far more – many of my clients have built businesses that generate six, multiple six, or seven figures. 

A few of them include Emily, a career coach.

Screenshot of Cultivitae website

And Ruby, a relationship coach. 

Screenshot of Good gentleman website

How to become a certified life coach online

What steps do you need to take to become a life coach? Here’s how to create a business – not another job – that grows your impact and helps you create a life you love.

Define your niche

If I could go back in time and give my younger self any piece of advice, it would be:

Figure out your niche!

This applies to you, too. 

You see, “life coaching” isn’t a great niche. It’s not really a niche at all. 

To stand out in a saturated industry (which most industries are), you need a niche. It’s what makes your ideal clients think of YOU no matter how saturated your industry is. 

(And if you’re thinking…”But I don’t want to just do ONE thing,” you absolutely can. But start with a niche and then branch out.)

Here are some examples of niches in the coaching industry:  

  • Parenting coaching for parents with special needs children
  • Relationship coaching for online dating 
  • Career coaching for engineers 
  • Executive coaching for tech leaders 

To find the right niche for you, look at what experience you have and what the market (your ideal clients) want. I talk more about it here: 

Create a coaching package

The next step is to create your coaching offer. 

Keep things simple in the beginning. I recommend offering a three-month package with fortnightly or monthly coaching sessions for $500 per month – $1,500 in total.

Here’s why this formula works. 

First, three months is long enough to help your client create real results in their life. BUT it’s short enough to not be a huge commitment to you or the client. 

Second, $1,500 is a great starting price while you’re new to coaching. But it’s still a big enough investment for your client to take you seriously. 

Finally, fortnightly coaching sessions are the perfect sweet spot for creating change and giving your client the space to action the advice you give in each session. You can always offer in-between support via Voxer or WhatsApp in case your client has any questions or concerns. 

Once you get your first few clients at this rate, you can raise the price. You have huge earring potential once you build up your experience and testimonials. 

So that’s your coaching package. Let’s talk about selling it. 

Market your coaching business the smart way

Now you’re a certified coach, with a niche and a package. Here are some simple ways to market your business and book those first coaching clients: 

  • Your immediate network

    You’d be surprised at how many people want and need a coach. If you let your friends and family know that you’re a certified life coach, they will likely know someone who could use your services. Getting great feedback from a warm lead like this means you can easily get referred more clients in the future.
  • Social media

    Social media isn’t exactly “easy.” But it is a powerful and accessible way of marketing your new coaching business. Use the principles you learned as a certified coach to educate others and build a platform. With patience and consistency, you can grow a following that will buy your services. 
  • Podcasts

    There are so many podcasts out there for every possible niche. Podcasts are highly engaging and help you create relationships with a new audience fast. 

That’s how you build your life coaching business. For more, take a look at this short video on how to start coaching right away: 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) 

Can you get a life coach certification online? 

Yes, you can get a life coach certification online. Online training programs are just as credible as offline programs. Even prestigious universities often run their coaching courses online. Online programs also give you more flexibility. There are also more online programs so you have more choices. 

How long does it take to become a certified life coach? 

It takes anywhere from three months to two years to become a certified life coach, depending on the certification you choose. University courses tend to be longer. Certification programs from coaching schools can be as short as three months.

Next steps 

Now you know how to become a certified life coach. 

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

But figuring out these first steps is just the start to becoming a successful life coach. 

If you’re wondering what it takes to build a coaching business that’s aligned with your goals and dreams, get my guide on how to build a six-figure coaching business. 

Read more:

How Much Do Life Coaches Make? 

Here’s How to Build a Life Coaching Business

The Best Life Coach Online Courses

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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