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Certification Needed to Have a Private Practice as a Life Coach

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Life coaches are service industry professionals dedicated to helping people live their best lives. This usually includes working with clients to develop awareness about where they are, identifying where they would like to be and creating strategies to overcome obstacles and reach goals. Life coaching certification helps validate that a coach has received professional-level training, and is required to apply for credentials with the International Coach Federation, which is the global leader in coaching.

Private Practice

Although life coaching certification is not required to set up a private practice, it may offer benefits that are worth the investment. Non-certified life coaches may be overlooked by potential clients who will only work with certified coaches. Having a successful private practice requires having ongoing clientele, and a new life coach may want the certification to help authenticate his coaching skills and attract clients.

How to Get Certified

Life coaching certification can be acquired by completing a coach training program. There are numerous training programs offered globally that vary in their content and graduation requirements. The International Coach Federation provides a list of Accredited Coach Training Programs, or ACTP, that are aligned with ICF's coaching standards and code of ethics. Life coaches that are interested in acquiring credentialed status with ICF will want to look for an ACTP. If a coach is not interested in obtaining ICF credentials, then she is free to choose any coaching program of interest.

ICF Accredited Programs

ICF-accredited programs will share a number of characteristics. They will offer 125 hours or more of coach-specific training, they will teach ICF's core competencies and code of ethics, and there will be a minimum of six observed coaching sessions with an experienced coach. Students will take a final exam that tests their coaching competencies, and programs offered in the U.S. and Canada will have a director of training holding the Master Certified Coach credential.

Choosing a Coach Certification Program

There are many factors to consider when choosing a program. Some colleges and universities offer life coaching certifications, such as New York University. Coach-specific schools like the International Coach Academy specialize in coaching. Some schools teach on campus, while others offer distance-learning education. Tuition and graduation requirements also vary among schools. It is important for a life coach to determine his goals, research the coaching industry and compare a variety of coach certification programs prior to making a decision.


Rachel Cates, a professional life coach, has been writing since 2001. She contributes blogs for Ultimate Vision Life Coaching and has written for "The M'Powerment Hour" and "Washington Spark" newspapers. Cates has a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast communications from Temple University.