How to Become an Executive Coach: Definitive Guide

by | Mar 2, 2021

So you want to become an executive coach or a business coach? Excellent! You’re in the right place. Not all coaching programs and coaching paths are created equal so it’s important to do your research. When you make a big decision like potentially changing your career to executive coaching, you’ll have many more questions than what’s covered in this blog post. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions on requirements for becoming a coach.

In this article, we’ll explore many common questions we’ve received from people like you, who are exploring how to become an executive coach, such as:

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

This article is an Executive 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 (executive, life, and everything in between). 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.

Let us dive into our complete guide on becoming an Executive coach.

First thing’s first… What is coaching? You’d be surprised at how often it’s confused with similar interventions. Take a look at these super short explainer videos to give you a quick overview of what coaching is, how it compares to mentoring, etc. and why systemic coaching is a phrase you’ll hear a lot in the future.



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

Coacharya is an accredited provider of coach training programs. In fact, we’re accredited by 3 major international coaching bodies: ICFEMCC and CCE. (You can read more about these bodies in a subsequent question.) We’ve trained well over 1000 professional coaches, including over 50 Master coaches (MCC), more than any other coach training institute. We’ve worked with executives from 30+ Fortune 100 companies and we provide many free resources for coaches around the world. In addition to coach training, we work with many corporates on group coaching, executive coaching and team coaching programs.

Do I need to get certified to become executive coach?

No, you don’t need to get certified in order to become executive coach, but you should. 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 coaches who have professional certifications. In fact, it’s something that we increasingly see clients 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. Executive 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.

Also Read: Executive coaching vs leadership coaching

How much work experience do I need to become an executive coach?

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

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

Credentialing bodies use different terms to mean essentially the same thing… except when they don’t. You’ll see credentialing, accreditation and certification used on all the major bodies’ websites.

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 can be quite confusing. You can find them outlined here one by one. If that blog post doesn’t help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team with your question. We’ve helped many coaches to reach their coaching credentials and we can be here for you, regardless of whether you’re thinking about training with us. Get in touch.

What executive coaching certification types are there?

Answering that question is simply too much content to fit into this particular 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.

In case you’re looking for executive coaching certification, please consider Coacharya. 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 executive 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). We also have a detailed list of requirements for getting your ACC or PCC from ICF via the various paths they offer.

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

Synchronous (as in attending live) classroom training hours with a qualified facilitator covering coaching competencies, including practicing coaching, mentoring, discussion etc.
Asynchronous (as in studying on your own time) learning outside classroom through exercises, reading, viewing etc evidenced by assignments submitted to trainer
Real-life coaching hours with actual 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 :).

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 Competencies, Code 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?

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.
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.
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.
Ask about continuing education – once you complete your credential, you’ll need to participate in ongoing learning to retain it.

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 so you won’t need to look for a mentor if you train with us.

Also, if you’re currently looking for a mentor, reach out to our team and we can suggest someone.

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. And here you’ll find information on elective programs if you want to specialize your coaching.

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 to keep in mind. For PCC, 10-18 months is a good time to “budget.”

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 renew your coaching credential, there are requirements as to continuing education you must complete. We offer weekly webinars for free to help coaches fulfill those requirements.

Journey of Becoming an Executive Coach – A Checklist

There’s a lot to digest in this article, but there’s a simple version, too. Click on this link or the image below to open a downloadable PDF checklist you can use for the basic steps. And for specific requirements, check out this blog post that outlines requirements for all the ACC and PCC paths.

Journey of Becoming a Coach

ICF Core Coaching Competencies

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



Smita Raghum
Smita Raghum


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