ICF Certification: What Is it, How Much Does it Cost, and Is it Worth it?

The International Coach Federation, or ICF, is the leading professional organization for life coaches. The ICF aims to advance the profession and best practices through accreditation of educational and training programs and also through certifying coaches. Becoming a certified coach is valuable and worth the time and cost.

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Is Certification a Requirement for Coaching?

The primary argument for not earning a certification is that it isn’t required. It’s true that there are no official licensing requirements for coaches, but this shouldn’t be the only factor in your choice. Certification provides a lot of benefits. Most important, it communicates to clients that you are a knowledgeable, trained, and skilled professional.

Types of ICF Certification

The ICF offers three levels of certification:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC). This is the first level of certification. To earn the ACC, you must complete at least 60 hours of approved training and 100 hours of paid coaching experience. You must also pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA).
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC). To achieve the next level of certification, you need at least 125 hours of education, 500 hours of coaching experience, and a passing score on the CKA.
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC). The highest level of certification requires a minimum of 200 hours of training and 2,500 hours of coaching experience. You must also have 10+ hours of mentoring from an MCC and a performance evaluation. You need to be a PCC prior and pass the CKA.

How Much Does it Cost to Earn ICF Certification?

The cost of certification varies depending on the level. The ACC certification costs between $100 and $600 depending on the path you take. If you completed an accredited coaching program and are a member of the ICF, it costs just $100. For the portfolio path without membership, the cost is $600.

The PCC certification costs as little as $300 but as much as $875 if you are not a member and use a portfolio to earn the credential. There is only one path to earning the PCC, and it is $575 for members and $775 for non-members

The portfolio path costs more because the ICF must go through more documentation to certify an applicant. You would use the portfolio path only if you completed your training hours through a non-accredited program.

What Are the Prerequisites for Certification?

Regardless of the level and path, in order to earn ICF certification, you must complete some type of training and gain working experience as a coach.

The best way to prepare for certification is to find and complete an accredited coach training program. You can find schools that specifically train coaches and community colleges that offer life coach classes.

To ensure your program is approved, use the ICF search tool. The Education Search Service allows you to search by several factors: accreditation type, in-person or virtual, language, location, and coaching specialty.

Once you complete a program, you will need to work for at least 100 hours as a paid coach. You can do this on your own as a self-employed coach or seek employment with an existing company.

Is ICF Certification Worth it?

Although it requires an investment of time and money, earning ICF certification is definitely worthwhile. This is an unregulated industry, so holding a recognized and respected credential is essential if you want to be a successful professional.

ICF certification provides accountability for individuals and the industry as a whole. It shows clients that you are a legitimate and skilled coach. If you’re serious about this career, getting certified is not just worth it, it is a must.