How to Become a Coach (Executive, Life, etc.)

Magda Walczak  •  Oct 1, 2020  •  20 min read

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How to Become a Coach (Executive, Life, etc.)

When we updated the Coacharya website a while back, I had a look at other coach training programs around the world. I wanted to see what’s out there so that whatever we launched on our website can improve upon the status quo. What started as an exercise in expanding my own coaching programs knowledge turned into a whole bunch of confusion and frustration. Sure, the super basics are easy. For example:

Q: How do I become a certified business coach?

A: These are the basic steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Ask yourself if coaching is right for you.
  2. Get coach training through an accredited training program.
  3. Achieve the required number of coaching experience hours.
  4. Partner with a mentor coach.
  5. Demonstrate appropriate understanding and mastery of coaching techniques, ethics and core competencies.

And that’s about where simplicity ends.

In my research quest, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of someone who wants to get into coaching, or a coach with basic credentials who wants to continue their studies. As such, I had a bunch of questions I wanted answered, such as:

  • Do I need to get accredited to be a coach?
  • What accreditation types are there?
  • How much does it cost to complete training?
  • How do I find a mentor coach?
  • What does training consist of?
  • Can I do my coach training online?
  • How long does it take to become a coach?

And that was just the beginning. About 30 minutes into the exercise, my hair started to turn gray. 90 minutes in, I felt like I unlearned what I knew about coach training to date because the information out there is so confusing. Surely, there’s a better way!

Presenting: The Guide To Becoming a Coach

Below, you’ll find answers to questions I thought that you may have if you’re thinking of becoming a professional coach. This page will be a living document so that as we hear more of your questions, we can add them here. It’s a Coach Training FAQ of sorts. In some questions, I did explain how Coacharya fits in because we are, after all, an accredited provider of coach training. Anyways, I hope you find this post useful. (And if you’re ready to start your training, please get in touch! We have lots of programs coming up.)

>>> Are there questions you want answered? Add them in comments below or contact us. We’d love to hear from you and help you along your coach training journey. As I receive your questions, I’ll incorporate them into this guide. The last update was in October 2020.

Onwards to our Become a Coach guide!

First thing’s first…

What is Coacharya and why are you qualified to answer all these coach training questions?

Coacharya is an accredited provider of coach training programs. In fact, we’re accredited by 3 major international coaching bodies: ICF, EMCC and CCE. (You can read more about these bodies in a subsequent question.) We’ve even won Coach of the Year from EMCC a couple years back and another one for contributing to the growth of coaching around the world.

We’ve trained well over 1000 professional coaches, including over 50 Master coaches (MCC), more than any other coach training institute on the planet. Our Founder, Ram, is an ICF MCC Master coach himself credentialed with all three major bodies, and has worked with executives from 30+ Fortune 100 companies. He contributed a ton to this blog and reviewed all information. If you’d like to train with Ram and our other trainers, please get in touch.

Do I need to get certified to be a coach?

No, but you should be. Regulations do not require you to be certified to be a professional coach. Not yet, at least. However, market dynamics may soon force you to. And frankly, it’s good for you. Corporations like to hire people who have professional certifications. In fact, it’s something that clients commonly ask for. 

Professional coaching certification by reputed internationally recognized coach training agencies are highly recommended for the following reasons:

  • Most corporate clients expect you to be certified for executive coaching. They may not have in-depth knowledge of the various certification options, but they want to know that their coach is legitimate. In Europe, EMCC credentials are sought after. For US government contracts, credentials are often a requirement. Most international corporations will demand a PCC credential from ICF before considering a coach for their team or executives.
  • You learn a lot in coach training that actually helps you be a good coach. It’s one thing to have years of experience and industry knowledge, but there’s a whole complementary set of skills you need to coach another person. Coach training is practical and useful, not just theoretical. 
  • There are a lot of people out there who claim executive experience and provide “mentoring.” Coaching is not the same as giving advice. It is about creating awareness with the belief that the client has the answers.
  • Becoming certified sends a signal that you’re a pro. In every profession, be it legal, accountancy or engineering, whether regulated by the Governments or not, knowledgeable users would like to see the practitioners to be professionally trained and certified. Coaching should be no exception. That’s why we already think it’s a good idea, but believe it will be a “must” in the near future.

How much work experience do I need to become a coach?

Technically, there are no hard requirements, but it’s generally recommended that you have a minimum 10 years of corporate experience. The idea is that you have developed some people management skills before you start your coach training.

That being said, we believe that anyone, from any walk of life and experience, can become a coach. In fact, we started our Youth Leadership Program to show that age is not a factor in acquiring and using coaching skills.

What is the difference between Approved and Accredited programs, Credentialed Programs and Certified Programs?

It seems that the credentialing bodies use different terms to mean the same thing. That is, Accreditation, Credentialing and Certification mean the same thing for all coaching bodies, except ICF.

For ICF credentials, the trainer can be approved (ACSTH) or accredited (ACTP), depending upon the rigor of training structure in the program they offer. To add to complexity, ICF also recognises a portfolio route, in which learner can acquire coaching skills through trainers not approved or accredited by ICF.

In the EMCC world, coaches are accredited and you receive an accreditation. You can apply for accreditation directly through EMCC, but if you complete even part of your training at Coacharya, you’ll be eligible to apply via Fast Track. This means lower application fees and Coacharya collecting and evaluating all your application materials.

The ICF paths are quite confusing. You can find them outlined here. The best thing is to talk to someone who’s been through the process, like our Founder Ram. This isn’t just a shameless plug – Ram has trained, coached and mentored many people and loves introducing new learners into the coaching world. Please get in touch with us to speak to Ram or to one of our other PCC or MCC credentialed trainers, regardless of whether you’re thinking about training with us. We’re here to help.

btw, Coacharya is accredited by ICF, EMCC and CCE.

What certification types are there?

Fasten your seatbelts – this is a doozy!

Actually, it’s too much content to fit into a blog post. We put up a page with a comparison table for you. It contains all credential levels from ICF, EMCC and CCE and how they compare to each other. While we do our best to keep this up to date, it’s possible that we missed something so please always check with the credentialing body itself. Thanks!

In case you wanted to train towards certification with us, you can find information on coach training programs here. Depending on your location or goals, we may recommend a slightly different approach as to what coaching credential you may pursue. Quite a few of our learners choose to do 2 or even 3 credentials, since our programs prepare them for all of them.

Become an Executive or Life Coach

Join our coach training program to prepare for your professional coaching credentials. Our programs are accredited by ICF, EMCC and CCE.

What are the requirements for becoming a certified coach?

Just as with the previous question, it’s too big a list to put here. Please take a look at our coaching organizations comparison page to see the various options side by side. Or, see the individual requirements for ICF, EMCC and CCE (BCC).

In general, these may be desired requirements from the coaching body:

  • Synchronous classroom training hours with a qualified facilitator covering coaching competencies, including practicing coaching, mentoring, discussion etc.
  • Asynchronous learning outside classroom through exercises, reading, viewing etc evidenced by assignments submitted to trainer
  • Real-life coaching hours with regular clients
  • Evaluation of live or recorded coaching at the required level of competence
  • Reflections on learning
  • Examination, online or live (here’s a bit of background on ICF’s exam)

At Coacharya, we aim to prepare you as best as possible for the credentialing process. Our training programs include mentorship and feedback on recorded sessions as well as numerous opportunities to learn outside the structured program, such as our weekly coaching webinars.

Who’s considered a “client” when it comes to logging coaching hours?

Coaching people who pay you as well as coaching people pro bono both count as coaching hours. Coaching groups of less than 15 people also counts towards coaching hours. Coaching people within your organization (as in, your coworkers) also counts as “paid” coaching, but coaching your direct reports does not.

Here are some more details on ICF’s view of this.

Input your email below to download a coaching hours log template to keep track of your coaching experience. Please note that the page will refresh and it’ll download the template to your device when you do this. Scroll down to this same spot to continue reading. Thanks :).

  • Email

Why does every coach training program sound different?

There is no standardization as to program structure. There’s no one overarching organization that sets standards in the coaching world. The various coaching bodies specify their requirements and depending on what level of training a coaching institute wants to provide, they structure and name their programs accordingly. Unfortunately, this makes it very hard to compare programs to each other (we tried).

Additionally, coach training institutes like to use unique sounding names in order to differentiate themselves, which makes programs even harder to tell apart. (Word to the wise – always read the fine print and ask about trainer qualifications. There are many companies out there that sound confusing on purpose…)

Even though we can’t decipher all the coach training programs out there, what we can do is tell you how Coacharya’s programs work.

  • If you want a basic certification such as ICF ACC, you should complete our Coacharya Coaching Foundation program. It’s 60 hours of content and it will prep you for that first level of coach certification. You may also qualify for accreditation with EMCC, depending on your prior experience. Just let us know you’re interested in that option when you join.
  • Advanced Coaching is for coaches who already have their Basic credential (such as ICF ACC) wishing to qualify for ICF PCC, EMCC SP, CCE BCC and similar credentials. Coaches who complete Coaching Foundation can continue straight to Advanced if they want.
  • Coacharya Mastery is for experienced certified coaches as well as for senior professionals in their field who want to achieve the highest level of certification in coaching such as ICF MCC and EMCC Master Practitioner. In addition to covering mastery in coaching, we also cover mastery in mentoring, mastery in supervision and mastery in team coaching. We believe that a learner should not pay multiple times for these skills in different programs and instead provide an integrated experience.
  • Electives are 30-hour courses that can be used by coaches on any level as part of their requirements for EMCC or ICF credentials or as part of their continuing education towards credential renewal. We’ve partnered with some of the most inspirational coaches on the planet to deliver these programs.

Btw, you don’t need to do things in order. That is, you don’t have to do your ACC in order to do your PCC. If you want to commit to PCC right away, you can. It just means you have to take the appropriate number of hours of training, which will be more than if you followed a sequential order. Anecdotally, many of our learners opt for PCC as their first coaching credential, skipping ACC. MCC requires that you have your PCC so you can’t skip that one.

What is ICF?

ICF is a globally recognized, independent credentialing program for coach practitioners. Among the credentials out there, ICF’s are known around the globe and accepted as a high standard of coaching competence.

ICF Credentials are awarded to professional coaches who have met stringent education and experience requirements and have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the coaching competencies that set the standard in the profession. Coacharya is accredited by ICF.

You can read more about ICF here.

What is ACTP?

ACTP stands for Accredited Coach Training Program. It’s relevant to coaching credentials obtained through ICF.

An ICF Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) is an all-inclusive coach training program, the completion of which allows the learner to apply for their coaching accreditation with the International Coach Federation (ICF) through the ACTP route (there are multiple routes).

An ACTP includes a minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training, including comprehensive instruction around the ICF Core CompetenciesCode of Ethics and the ICF definition of coaching. This type of program also includes Mentor Coaching, observed coaching sessions and a comprehensive final exam that evaluates a student’s coaching competency.

What is ACSTH?

ACSTH stands for Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH). It’s another path to coaching credentials from ICF.

The ACSTH programs are approved on an hour-by-hour basis and may or may not be a full coach training program, depending on the number of student contact hours. Students who complete all of their training hours through an ACSTH may apply for an ICF Credential via the ACSTH path.

Our ICF page includes comparison tables of all the different paths you can take.

What is CCE?

CCE means Continuing Coach Education. It’s another term that’s technically part of the ICF vernacular, but it’s used in more generic terms as well.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) approves Continuing Coach Education (CCE) activities, which are intended as advanced training to those wishing to acquire new learning and/or those who are renewing their ICF credential. Thousands of ICF Credential Coaches renew their credential every three years, so getting your training program approved for CCE units opens your training to more coaches. For example, one requirement for credential renewal is 40 hours of CCE.

Coacharya provides regular free webinars, which qualify as CCE units. You can see all our upcoming events here.

How much does it cost to complete coach training?

You should expect to pay $4000-$6000 USD for your basic/foundational certification training from a reputed trainer, and that training should include mentoring. Advanced and Mastery training would be higher than that range per course.

As addressed in a previous question, program descriptions can be quite confusing so it’s hard to even state an average dollar amount. The cheapest training we’ve found was about $2000, but it was unclear what it covered. The most expensive was $15,000 + travel and materials (this was an in-person program only) for PCC-level training.

ICF accredited (ACTP) trainers are mandated to provide 10 hours of mentoring (including 3 hours of individual mentoring) as part of their program. This must take place over at least 3 months. ACTP trainers must have at least PCC credentialed coaches as trainers or facilitators. These requirements aren’t that clearly laid out for approved (ACSTH) trainers. Several training institutes out there do not provide mentoring (likely because it’s expensive to do), and use uncredentialed trainers, who are cheaper. Point is, make sure you understand what you are paying for when you sign up for a coach training program.

If you’re interested in Coacharya’s programs, please send us a quick email to get pricing or ping us on chat on the lower right of your screen. We’re very happy to share it, but we don’t list it here as it can change from time to time and this post isn’t always updated on time.

What should I look for in a coach training program?

  1. Make sure that the company is accredited by the coaching body you want get certified or credentialed from (ICF, CCE, EMCC, ACUK). Just go to your chosen coaching body’s website and use their search to find the company. Their profiles will state if they are in good standing.
  2. Understand what’s covered in their program and how much it costs. You want to make sure that the training you complete meets the requirements of the coaching body.
  3. Ask about their mentor coaches and make sure they will be available to work with you, that the mentorship is included in your program, and that they’re actually experienced coaches.
  4. Ask about continuing education – once you complete your credential, you’ll need to participate in ongoing learning to retain it.

By the way, Coacharya is currently accredited by ICF, CCE and EMCC. You can find information on our coach training programs here and see the curriculum of our programs here. Our mentor coach is Ram, all of our trainers are PCC or MCC, and we have an ongoing free program (as well as additional paid ones, if you prefer) to help coaches renew their certifications. And you can always find out any additional information by getting in touch with us.

How do I find a mentor coach?

Though there is a paid mentor registry on ICF website, any credentialed coach in good standing is considered a mentor coach. You can verify coach status on the credentialing body websites.

All of Coacharya coach training programs include mentoring.

What does coach training consist of?

Coach training includes classroom training (via Zoom) on coaching competencies with a live trainer coach, with at least the same credentials you are training for. For best results look for a trainer that’s one level higher than the credential you’re looking for.

All accredited programs will cover core coaching competencies, but look for programs with topics that add value to coaching executive leaders. These may include intensive self-discovery, psychological interventions, neurobiological studies, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), appreciative inquiry, etc. – even spirituality!

You can learn what sets Coacharya programs apart here.

Can I do my coach training online?

Yes! At Coacharya, virtual training via Zoom has been the primary delivery mode for the last five years. We love the flexibility it offers and we find that it anchors concepts better than multi-day workshop options. Each class with us is three hours and it meets on the same day and time each week.

Please take a look at our upcoming courses here.

How long does it take to become a coach?

Classroom hours are fixed by the credential provider so there’s no set timeframe there. For instance, PCC programs are 125 hours, which could be covered in weekly classroom sessions that are 3 hours long, or in an intensive program over a few days.

Given the delivery mode, these may take between 6 to 12 months, including completing assignments and peer coaching. Acquiring coaching hours needed for credentialing depends on how committed learner is. For example, for PCC, 500 hours are required by ICF, which may take 2 years to complete.

There are some requirements about the minimum amount of time a training program takes, so for ACC, 4-6 months is a good timeframe. For PCC, 10-18 months is a good time “budget.”

You should check the specific requirements for each credentialing body to get an idea of timeframes (ICF, EMCC, CCE(BCC)).

Do I have to renew once I’m certified?

Yes, ICF mandates renewal every 3 years with Continuing Coaching Education hours, as do others. Once again, here’s our handy comparison table.

To be continued…

Are there questions you want answered? Add them in the comments below or contact us. We’d love to hear from you and help you along your coach training journey. As I receive your questions, I’ll incorporate them into this guide.

ICF Core Coaching Competencies

What are the required coaching skills identified by ICF and how do they compare against those identified by other organisations?

Watch “What is coaching and how do I become a coach?”

We recently recorded a webinar with a panel of Coacharya coaches. We talked about their individual journeys and paths people take towards becoming coaches. If you’re thinking about becoming a coach, the video is worth watching. You can watch below or the video is slow to load, please go directly to YouTube:

And here’s a 2 minute explainer of what coaching actually is at the very basic level. It’s a good place to start if this blog post is a bit too overwhelming. 🙂

Train towards coaching credentials online

Our coach training programs are very flexible - and available online! Spend just 3 hours a week to earn your ACC in around 5 months. See what makes Coacharya stand out.

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Magda Walczak


Magda Walczak is CEO of Coacharya and author of Saylor's tale, a children's book. She's passionate about animal rights, women's equity and living sustainably.


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