Become a Certified Life Coach

For a career that involves working with and helping people, that is rewarding and different every day, that will challenge you and require dedication, organization and commitment, consider life coaching. Learn everything you can about this career before taking the plunge into work that is both meaningful and challenging.

We Train Life Coaches offers full information on requirements by state, and listings of the best schools where you can study life coaching.

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Everything You Need to Know to Become a Life Coach

When choosing a career, it’s important to understand how to match your skills and interests to meaningful work. You also need to know what a job entails, how to get there, salary expectations and more.

To make the best career choice, you need all the information. Choose your state to get started and find programs near you:

What Does a Life Coach Do?

A life coach in the most general terms is someone who helps clients set and meet goals in order to improve their lives. They do this by focusing on a process of change, using guidance, leadership and motivation to help clients realize their full potential.

More specifically, they help people lose weight, eat a more healthful diet, reach fitness goals, achieve career milestones or change careers, manage stress, improve spirituality and many other things. Life coaches may offer general coaching or specialize in certain areas: families, relationships, health, spirituality or careers, for example.

You may work as a life coach with individuals or with groups. Some coaches work on a freelance basis or start their own small coaching business, while others are hired by coaching companies or corporations that offer coaching as a benefit for employees. You can work full-time as a life coach or do it part-time with another career or in retirement.  

A Life Coach is Not a Therapist

A lot of what life coaches do may seem similar to the work of therapists, but there are crucial differences. Therapists have an education in psychology and are trained and licensed to provide professional counseling and psychotherapy. A therapist helps a client address past experiences and current problematic behaviors and beliefs. They work with clients to change those destructive patterns and to cope with negative, painful feelings.

Life coaches are not mental health professionals. They motivate clients to go through a process of change to meet goals, but they are not trained to help them manage past trauma, mental illnesses or serious behavioral challenges.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a Life Coach?

A good life coaching program will teach you many of the skills needed to be a life coach: working with clients, setting goals, motivating people, leadership and organization. It also helps to have some of these natural traits when entering the career. Life coaches are generally:

  • Good communicators
  • Strong leaders
  • Organized
  • Self-motivated
  • Creative
  • Empathetic

What Education Do You Need to Be a Life Coach?

There are no government regulations of the life coaching industry. This means that you don’t have to have a specific type of education or any licensing or certification to begin working, but it is strongly recommended. The right education will teach you how to do this job well, and certification proves this to employers and clients.

You’ll find many schools that offer life coaching programs. Most of these are schools dedicated to life coaching, but some universities or community colleges may also have these programs. Because life coaching is unregulated, it’s important to choose a program that is approved by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the most widely-recognized and respected organization in the industry.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Life Coach?

Every educational program for life coaching is different, but most are one year long or shorter. Some are even condensed courses that take just a week of intensive learning to complete. You will earn a diploma or certificate through most programs, although you may be able to find a two-year associate’s degree program.  

Do Life Coaches Need a License?

You do not need a license to work as a life coach. This is one of the most important distinctions between life coaches and professional mental health providers. The latter are licensed therapists, counselors, social workers, or psychologists or psychiatrists. But life coaches, while they don’t have to be licensed, do benefit from becoming certified.

How Do I Become ICF Certified?

ICF certification is the gold standard for life coaches. It’s a good idea to work toward certification as the industry becomes more competitive. The ICF offers three levels of certification with different requirements:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC). The first level of certification is the minimum credential you should have starting out in this career. To be an ACC, you must have completed 60 or more hours of courses through an ICF-approved training program with at least 100 hours of work experience.
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC). The next level is PCC and requires 125 hours of coursework and 500 or more hours of coaching experience.
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC). To become an MCC, the highest level, you need 200 hours of training, 2,500 hours of work experience, performance evaluations and ten hours of mentor coaching. The mentor coach must be an MCC.

How Do Life Coaches Get Clients?

You may choose to work as an employee when you become a life coach, which means it will be your employer’s job to find clients. However, most life coaches work independently. In this case, you will be both a life coach and a small business owner.

Coaches find new clients through a variety of strategies: a website and social media platforms, networking opportunities, word of mouth, referrals from other coaches, and coordinating marketing and advertising. If you plan to start a small coaching business, you may want to take some courses in business, entrepreneurship and marketing.

How Much Do Life Coaches Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report regularly on life coaching statistics specifically, but most recently stated that they earned $61,900 on average in 2015. The actual earnings can vary significantly, depending on whether you work full-time or part-time, if you are self-employed or if you are an employee with a company. You can earn more with higher certification levels, years of experience and by working with executive clients.

The broad career category that the BLS uses that includes life coaching is reported to be growing at a rate of ten percent. This is faster than average job growth, so you can expect to find this a stable career with plenty of opportunities.

Life coaching is a great career choice for anyone just starting out in the working world but also for those who are looking for a part-time job they can be passionate about. It’s also great for retired workers hoping to find a second career. If you are interested in life coaching, start by enrolling in an approved educational program.