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Today’s episode is inspired by a sticky question. Do you really need to be certified in order to say that you’re a professional coach?
It’s a sticky question because there are two camps — the yeas and nays — and both have strong opinions.
I say … whether you certify or not is your decision.
2 Types of Coach Certification
- Certifying through a coach training organization. You enroll, complete training and certify through a review process when training is complete.
- Independent certification such as through the International Coach Federation (ICF). You work towards it by completing requirements and paying an application fee. You’ll need a certain number of hours of paid coaching, completed training with an accredited organization, and being mentored by people who are certified at the master level.
To maintain or advance ICF certification you have to re-up every few years and also take continuing education courses. It’s a significant ongoing investment in time and money.
By the way, the ICF and other certifying bodies often change requirements for the various levels of certification. So, if you’re on route to certify, stay in touch with the requirements so you’re not blindsided by changes.
Independent certification helps to mature emerging fields and garner acceptance in the marketplace. ICF launched in 1995, when life coaching was a new concept, and now has a presence in 140 countries and over 30,000 members.
There is a segment of the coaching industry that will firmly say YES, that you must be certified to be considered a professional coach. I’ve softened on this over the years, which I’ll cover more later.
5 Main Reasons Proponents Give to Independently Certify
Reason #1 Coaches who certify are more likely to earn more and not drop out of the profession.
Reason #2 Certification distinguishes you from all the people who co-opt the term ‘coach’ but who have not been rigorously trained.
Reason #3 Maintaining certification requires you to stay in tune with best practices.
I’ll chime in here. Independent certification does not necessarily mean you’ll earn more.
Your income as a coach largely depends on your chosen target audience, how you charge for your offers and your ability to market and enroll.
Reason #4 The public will perceive you as being a more skilled coach if you’re certified.
Reason #5 Your clients will require it.
Credibility largely depends on how you conduct yourself. And most clients do not require or even know about certification.
In my 20 years in the industry, none of my potential or actual clients has ever asked me if I was certified.
And, I’ve checked recently with experienced coaches. We agree that for most niches the client does not require or even ask about certification.
The Bottom Line About Certifying As a Coach
If you go into the executive or leadership coaching track where you’ll provide services to people within corporations, coaches that are ICF certified or with another independent body are much more likely have a competitive edge. Organizations know to ask about it.
For many other tracks, niches and audiences, being certified is a non-issue.
So here’s what I tell my clients … why not work towards certification?
It will keep you on a professional path.
If your integrity tells you that to feel legitimate and be valuable to your clients you must maintain that certification, then keep doing that.
Independent certification again is a significant and a continuous investment of time and money so you want to plan for that.
Or, if you’re not going to go that route find other ways to walk a professional path that are just as legitimate.
See guys, it’s your business — you get to do what YOU think is right. Challenge yourself to higher levels of skill and integrity in your services as you grow your coaching business. Pay attention to client feedback and improve.