If you enjoy helping people to realize their full potential, you should consider a career as a life coach. Whether you want to start a business or add life coaching skills to your current position, getting started as a life coach is easy for anyone who has an interest.

Life coaching without certification

Life coaching is not regulated by any state or federal law in the United States. (This may be different for other countries so you may want to check if you are outside the U.S. A). It is important to note that life coach does not try to treat mental health conditions; that is done by mental health professionals who are licensed within their state. On the flip side, a life coach doesn’t need certification to start coaching clients.

Even though “Life coach” is listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics careers page, it is not an official BLS designation, and you don’t need a particular degree or educational background to qualify as a life coach. However, even though certification isn’t a requirement, it would be greatly beneficial to get certified. The International Coaching Federation is the gold standard in life coaching and it helps to ensure professionalism in the life coaching profession. ICF not only issues credentials to life coaches but also provides accreditation to training programs from various institutions.

A Non Business CertificationWhy you need certification as a life coach

Even though a lack of certification is not a hinderance to starting a life coaching business, you should aspire to obtain certification from an ICF accredited program from the very onset. Here are some of the advantages of getting certified.

   • Differentiate yourself

The lack of red tape in life coaching makes it a very attractive career option for many. With thousands of life coaches already practicing and many more joining the profession every year, becoming a certified coach is the best way to stand out in this ever-growing industry. As the saying goes, the difference between extraordinary and ordinary is the “extra.” Taking the extra effort to get certified will put you in a different class of life coaches, and make it easier for you to establish yourself as a professional.

   • Get professional training

You may be a natural when it comes to working with people but you still need to get professional training. One of the benefits of becoming certified is your exposure to some important skills that will help you to be a skilled life coach. Life coaching skills are built around the ICF’s core competencies, and include communication, active listening, financial accounting, and more. These will be part and parcel of the training you receive when doing your certification program. If you forego certification, you may not fully understand the difference between coaching, consulting, and counseling, which will affect your productivity and efficiency.

   • Networking

No individual is an island. It is always beneficial to connect with other certified life coaches. That is why every serious professional life coach is usually a member of a professional body. As your take your coach-specific training, you will meet with other coaches in your niche. You can learn from the other successful life coaches while at the same time helping those who are trying to get where you are already.

   • Be ready for the future

It would be unwise to assume that life coaching will remain unregulated forever. State and federal governments can decide at any time to create legislation to regulate the life coaching profession and when that happens, uncertified life coaches will be left on the sidelines. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry, so it is a good idea to get ahead of the regulation curve by getting your certification.

   • More clients

If you want to have more clients and earn more money in your life coaching profession, then graduating from an ICF accredited program with your certification is the best route to go. Certification tells your clients know that you are serious about your business and your professionalism. As a direct result, clients will trust you and will be happy to refer their friends and family, giving your business an enormous potential to grow organically.

How to become a certified coachHow to become a certified coach

To become a certified life coach, it is always best to graduate from an ICF accredited program, such as Aim Higher. Here are the steps to follow to become a certified life coach.

1. Choose your niche

Even though the ICF has specific core competencies that apply to all coaches, there are different life coaching niches that you can consider. How do you determine your niche? Think about what you are most passionate about, or where your knowledge and/or expertise lies. Niching down will help your clients see that you are an expert in a particular field, and in today’s life coaching world, people are seeking experts in specific niches. There countless niches to choose from such as aging, spirituality, business, work-life balance, marriage, and family, fitness, sports, etc.

2. Complete the coach-specific training

The purpose of the coach-specific training is to equip you with the skills you will need to be an effective life coach. When choosing your training program, make sure you go for a program that has been accredited by the ICF. This will not only ensure you get the best value but will also prepare you for the ICF credentialing process later on. You may want to find out if the trainers are credentialed by the ICF just to be sure you are being trained by teachers who know their stuff.

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3. Get your credential

Once you have completed an ICF accredited training program, you can pursue your ICF credentials as long as you meet the requirements for the credential you desire. The ICF has three different credentials each with a distinct set of requirements.

   • Associate Certified Coach – ACC

There are three paths to getting the ACC credential.

For path one, you need to have at least 60 hours of coach-specific training hours (ACSTH) through an accredited coach training program. You will also need to have at least 100 hours of coaching experience 70 of which should be paid hours from at least 8 clients, and at least 10 hours of mentor coaching. Also, at least 25 of the 100 hours should be within 24 months of submitting your application for the ACC credential. Once you have completed these, you can qualify to complete the ICF’s CKA, Coach Knowledge Assessment, exam.

For path two, you must complete an accredited coach training program (ACTP), with 125 hours of training. You will also need to have at least 100 hours of coaching experience and these hours must be from at least 8 different clients. This will qualify you to complete the CKA exam.
The third path is the ACC portfolio path. For this, you need 60 hours of coach-specific training backed up by documentation, along with 10 hours of mentor coaching. You also need to have at least 100 hours of coaching 70 of which should be paid hours and from not less than 8 clients.

Here is a detailed look at the ACC paths.

   • Professional Certified Coach – PCC

Just like the ACC, the PCC also has three distinct paths.
For the first path, you first need to complete the ICF accredited coach training program and also have a minimum of 500 hours of coaching experience. Of these hours, 440 must be paid hours from 25 different clients.

The second path is by completing 125 hours of coach-specific training from an accredited coach training program (ACTP) or approved coach-specific training hours (ACSTH). Additionally, you need to have 500 hours of coaching experience and 400 of these should be from 25 paying clients. You also need to have at least 10 hours of mentor coaching.

The third path is the PCC portfolio path where you must have 125 hours of coach-specific training with lots of documentation to demonstrate completion of the training program. You will also need to have at least 10 hours of mentor coaching. 500 hours of coaching experience, 440 of which must be paid hours are also required.

Here is detailed look at the PCC paths.

   • Master Certified Coach – MCC

The master certified coach is the highest credential issued by the International Coaching Federation and you can only apply for it after you have attained the PCC credential. Unlike the other two credentials, the MCC has only one application path. You must complete at least 200 hours of coach-specific training, with at least 10 hours of mentor coaching within three months of your application. You will also need to have at least 2,500 hours of coaching experience 2,200 of which need to be paid hours and they should be from not less than 35 clients.

Here is a detailed look at the MCC path.

Setup your coaching business4. Setup your business

Once you have attained your certification, you are ready to set up your business and start taking clients. You may want to start by setting up a business classification (e.g., LLC, Corporate, etc.). Setting up your business this way will give you legal protection as the business owner. Getting insurance is another great step to protect your business and your clients.

This fourth step is important for those who are looking to set up their coaching businesses. However, there are many employment opportunities within companies and organizations because the corporate world has woken up to the reality that employees are struggling to navigate the murky waters of change, and often need the services of a life coach.


You are not required by law to be certified for you to be a life coach. However, that does not mean you should neglect this vital step. As we have seen, there are many benefits to being certified. Even if you have begun your life coaching practice, it would greatly benefit you to find an ICF accredited program that meets your certification needs. The training will help you hone your skills and thereby improve your business and your bottom-line income.