Paths to ICF Credentials – Requirements for ACC and PCC

Magda Walczak  •  Apr 27, 2022  •  17 min read

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Paths to ICF Credentials – Requirements for ACC and PCC

Let’s be honest… Figuring out requirements for ICF credentials isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. With multiple credential levels, via multiple paths and with multiple requirements, it can be daunting.

In this post, we will try to break down requirements for common ICF coaching credentials into plain language. To be clear, this is not an official guide, nor is it exhaustive. What we’re outlining here are the most common situations that apply to most people. As with all things ICF, the source of truth is their website. We’re here to help in any way we can :).

Here’s what you’ll find in this blog post:

  1. Glossary of terms and jargon used in this post
  2. Portfolio paths to ICF credentials
  3. Common paths to ACC
  4. Common paths to PCC, if it’s your first credential
  5. Common paths to PCC, if you already have your ACC
  6. ACTP vs ACSTH

SUPER IMPORTANT – You have to apply for your ICF coaching credentials yourself. Training providers don’t do it for you. Training providers can’t guarantee that you will get your credential. If you come across one that promises to get the ICF credential for you, run. Accredited programs are an important first component of your journey to ICF credentials. Their purpose is to educate and prepare you to be a good coach. Once you get your certificate of completion, you make the application to ICF yourself.

EMCC – European Mentoring and Coaching Council – functions a bit differently (and we’ll do a separate blog on that one). You can apply for coaching accreditation with them directly, or you can do it with some coach training providers. Coacharya is one of those. We have an EQA – European Quality Award – which means that EMCC entrusts us to evaluate coaches and recommend what level accreditation EMCC should award them.

Glossary of terms and jargon used in this post

ACSTH – This stands for Approved Coach Specific Training Hours and in the context of this article, it refers to programs that ICF has approved as coach training. This means that while ICF will accept this training for your application for ACC or PCC, they will give you an additional requirement, namely, you need to submit a coaching session recording and transcript for evaluation. This may not sound like a big deal and for ACC, it isn’t. But for PCC, since the standard of coaching required is much higher, your recording may be rejected by ICF more easily and you’ll never even know what you did wrong. We normally advise our learners to go for their ACC via ACSTH and PCC via ACTP.

Even if a training program is accredited at the ACTP level (like Coacharya is), if you don’t complete the full program that constitutes ACTP in ICF’s eyes (see next definition), the coaching school can only award you an ACSTH level certificate, even though the school is accredited at ACTP level.

ACTP – Accredited Coach Training Program, the top level, “all-inclusive” accreditation standard from ICF for coach training institutes. Coacharya is accredited on this level. If you complete an ACTP program, you are eligible to apply for your ACC or PCC, depending on the number of coaching practice hours you also have. It means that when you apply, you don’t submit a coaching session recording because your ACTP training school has already done the evaluation of your coaching ability. An ACTP program has to be at least 125 hours in length and includes a robust evaluation process (at Coacharya we call that last bit Mentored Evaluation).

Coaching Hours – Literally the hours of coaching that you do with your clients. ICF requires that you complete a specific number of hours depending on the credential you’re applying for. They have rules around what counts and what doesn’t, so please review those before you start logging.

Mentoring – ICF has a set of coaching competencies. You learn how to apply those coaching competencies when you join an accredited coach training program. As you practice coaching with your peers in class or when you submit actual coaching conversations with your clients for evaluation, you will get feedback from your mentor on how well you’re using all the individual coaching competencies. Depending on the mentor you’re working with, you’ll get even more food for thought, but at the very least mentoring a coach should focus on coaching competencies.

CKA or Coaching Knowledge Assessment – It’s a test you take the first time you apply for a credential with ICF. Right now it’s a 3-hour open-book test, but ICF announced that they will be updating this to a proctored (monitored) format in mid-2022.

Coaching Session Recording – Literally a recording of an actual coaching session you do with a real client. It should be 20-60 mins long and it’s used to evaluate how well you understand and apply ICF coaching competencies. Depending on the path you take to credentials, you may or may not have to submit this to ICF when you apply.

Check out this blog post for more definitions of terms and acronyms in coaching.

Portfolio paths to ICF credentials

All of ICF coaching credentials – ACC, PCC and MCC – can be achieved via the portfolio path. It means that you can take a bunch of different courses accredited at CCE (continuing coach education) or ACSTH level, and “put them together” for a custom application. You’ll have to meet the training hours and other requirements, but this means you don’t have to take one course with one trainer.

This can be a bit of a pain in the proverbial because you’re required to provide robust documentation for all the training you submit. Essentially, the burden of proof whether something counts as coach training is on you. If this is the route you want to go, you should definitely consult ICF for details. We will not go into any more details on the portfolio path because it’s literally different for every person.

When ICF moves to its new structure by January 2023 (they’re transitioning bits and pieces throughout 2022), the portfolio path will no longer be avaialble. So if this is a path you’re considering, act fast.

Common paths to ACC

The following paths are valid for all of 2022. Once changes to ICF structure take effect, we will update this blog post.

ACC via ACSTH

This is the most common path to ACC coaching credentials. To apply for ACC via ACSTH you:

  1. Complete 60 hours of ACSTH level training – This means your training program must be accredited at either ACSTH or ACTP. Please double check this.
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring – Please check if your training includes this – many institutes don’t; Coacharya 100% does. It usually means 7 hours of group mentoring during the course of the program, in class, and 3 hours of one-on-one mentoring based on your coaching conversation recordings.
  3. Log 100 hours of coaching practice – You can see what counts + download a template for your log here, and find clients via CoachIntro.
  4. Prepare a coaching session recording and transcript that passes ACC level coaching – This can be one of the recordings you got mentored on when you did your coach training.
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website – You can find the application here. This can only be done directly with ICF.
  6. Once your recording is evaluated and your application is accepted by ICF, you must pass the Coaching Knowledge Assessment (here’s a free practice test). ICF will email you a link and you can take the test within a timeframe that they indicate to you.

It may sound a bit daunting to have to submit a coaching recording for evaluation, but at the ACC level, the bar is set at very attainable levels so don’t fret.

ACC via ACTP

If ACC via ACSTH is fairly straightforward, why would you go for the ACTP path instead? The short answer is that you actually want your PCC but you don’t have enough coaching practice hours yet. Since you don’t want to wait, you’re going to use your ACTP certificate to get your ACC and when you do get the required coaching hours, you’ll “upgrade” to PCC.

The other reason you may want to apply for ACC via ACTP is that you’re afraid of your coaching recording being rejected. I encourage you to do some self-coaching on that particular fear. If you’ve successfully completed your training and mentoring, you should be in good shape to apply for ACC via ACSTH.

To apply for ACC via ACTP, you’ll need to:

  1. Complete 125 hours of ACTP level training, which includes a robust evaluation process – This means your coach training institute needs to be accredited at the ACTP level. Please double-check this.
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring – Please check if your training includes this – many institutes don’t; Coacharya 100% does. It usually means 7 hours of group mentoring during the course of the program, in class, and 3 hours of one-on-one mentoring based on your coaching conversation recordings. Since you’re applying via ACTP, you’ll have additional mentoring during the mentored evaluation process.
  3. Log 100 hours of coaching practice (you can see what counts + download a template for your log here, and find clients via CoachIntro)
  4. You DO NOT need to submit a coaching session recording and transcript to ICF because your ACTP trainer would have already evaluated this portion
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website (the application is here) – You must do this on the ICF website.
  6. Once your application is accepted by ICF, you must pass the Coaching Knowledge Assessment (here’s a free practice test). ICF will email you a link and you can take the test within a timeframe that they indicate to you.

Common paths to PCC, if it’s your first credential

PCC via ACSTH

This path to PCC coaching credentials means that you have to submit a coaching conversation recording to ICF. Not a big deal, right? Kinda. The criteria for evaluating your recording are not published. Yes, in theory you just need to evidence ICF coaching competencies, but ICF does not publish their assessor guides. That means your recordings may be rejected by ICF for various reasons, most of the time leaving the coach confused and disappointed. Since you need to evidence quite a few more PCC Markers at PCC level, it’s much harder to pass this scrutiny than when you apply for ACC via ACSTH.

In general, when someone applies for ACC, we recommend they do just the 60 hours of training and apply via ACSTH. If people choose PCC, we normally recommend the ACTP path.

To apply for PCC via ACSTH you:

  1. Complete 125 hours of ACSTH level training (or ACTP level training, but you don’t do the mentored evaluation portion)
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring
  3. Log 500 hours of coaching practice
  4. Prepare a coaching session recording and transcript that passes PCC level coaching
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website – You can find the application here. This can only be done directly with ICF.
  6. Once your application and recording are accepted, you will be emailed a link to take the Coaching Knowledge Assessment, which you must pass (here’s a free practice test).

At Coacharya, we have confidence that if you train to PCC with us you should pass the PCC-level scrutiny when applying via ACSTH, but it really is luck of the draw as to how your accessor at ICF evaluates you. We definitely recommend the ACTP path to our PCC learners.

PCC via ACTP

When applying for PCC via ACTP, at the end of your program, you go through a rigorous mentoring and evaluation process (that’s why we call this Mentored Evaluation). Your mentor works with you until you’re consistently coaching at a solid PCC level. Once your mentor has that confidence – and once you complete all other requirements of the course – you’ll get your ACTP certificate. Since the mentor is an ICF-trained accessor, she signs off on your skills to ICF. That means there’s no need for you to submit a coaching session recording to ICF when you apply for your PCC via ACTP. You would have already fulfilled that requirement with your coach training institute.

T0 apply for PCC via ACTP, you’ll need to:

  1. Complete 125 hours of ACTP level training, which includes a robust evaluation process – Please double check that your trainer is ACTP.
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring
  3. Log 500 hours of coaching practice
  4. You DO NOT need to submit a coaching session recording and transcript because your ACTP trainer would have already evaluated this portion
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website – You can find the application here. This can only be done directly with ICF.
  6. Once your application and recording are accepted, you will be emailed a link to take the Coaching Knowledge Assessment, which you must pass (here’s a free practice test).

At Coacharya, Mentored Evaluation is technically composed of 10 hours of group and individual mentoring, but we work with you until you’re ready. It’s important to us that all coaches meet this high standard and when they do, we all benefit – the coach, their clients and Coacharya.

Common paths to PCC, if you already have your ACC or previous ICF-accredited coach training

PCC via ACSTH (ACC to PCC Bridge)

If you already have your ACC or you have at least 60 hours of ACSTH-level coach training, the following are required for you to apply for PCC via ACSTH:

  1. Complete an additional 65 hours of ACSTH level training (or ACTP level training, but you don’t do the mentored evaluation portion)*
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring
  3. Log 500 hours of coaching practice
  4. Prepare a coaching session recording and transcript that passes PCC level coaching
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website – You can find the application here. This can only be done directly with ICF.
  6. If you already have your ACC, you don’t need to take the Coaching Knowledge Assessment again.

*At Coacharya, you can complete a 65-hour Advanced Coaching course or two 30-hour coaching electives. It’s a way to customize your path to PCC.

PCC via ACTP (ACC to PCC Bridge)

If you already have your ACC or you have at least 60 hours of ACSTH-level coach training, the following are required for you to apply for PCC via ACTP you:

  1. Complete an additional 65 hours of ACTP level training, which includes a robust evaluation process* – Your institute must be accredited at ACTP level and you must let them know that you’re enrolling for a bridge program only.
  2. Get 10 hours of mentoring
  3. Log 500 hours of coaching practice
  4. You DO NOT need to submit a coaching session recording and transcript because your ACTP trainer would have already evaluated this portion
  5. Purchase and fill out the application on the ICF website – You can find the application here. This can only be done directly with ICF.
  6. If you already have your ACC, you don’t need to take the Coaching Knowledge Assessment again.

*At Coacharya, you can complete a 65-hour Advanced Coaching course or two 30-hour coaching electives. It’s a way to customize your path to PCC. Once you finish one of those options, you’d enroll in our capstone course, Mentored Evaluation, which is a required part of the ACTP path.

ACTP vs ACSTH

As you may have noticed, on the surface, it seems that ACSTH and ACTP routes to credentials are super similar and lead to the same coaching credentials, but ACTP has more requirements. Why would you ever choose ACTP, then?

It’s good to consider the following reasons for the ACTP path as you make your decision, especially if you’re going for your PCC.

  1. Applying via ACTP path at ICF removes the anxiety of doing recordings and transcripts. As you’ll soon find out, coach training is quite demanding and once you’re finished with your requirements you still have the pressure of evaluation. A lot of people value the peace of mind that ACTP path gives them.
  2. If you don’t pass your coaching conversation recording, your training school Evaluator can give you another chance… and another… as our Mentor and Evaluator, Cindy, does! We can’t speak to how other schools do it, but Coacharya will work with you until you pass our Mentored Evaluation. There’s no limit as to how many conversations you submit. We want you to succeed and for some people that takes longer than others.
  3. ACTP may save you money in the end. The ACTP application fee is lower than the ACSTH fee. Also, if you don’t pass on your first try, there’s a $150 fee each time you resubmit via ACSTH path. Moreover, if you don’t pass, you may actually need to find a mentor again so that your subsequent recording has a higher chance of being accepted. That’s another cost.
  4. Mentoring is included in ACTP so you don’t have to pay separately for mentoring like you may have to do with an ACSTH program. ACTP mentors will pass you once you’re hitting 80% core competencies in your coaching conversations so you leave the process more confident and competent. To be clear, all Coacharya programs include mentoring. We mention this point since you may be reading this post and decide to train somewhere else, that may not include mentoring. Always double-check this.
  5. When you apply via ACTP, your certificate takes about two weeks to receive. The wait via ACSTH is much longer since the evaluation process takes time.
  6. At Coacharya, we mentor using mastery-level standards. In a sense, when you train with us, ACTP becomes a stepping stone to a future MCC credential.

ICF is undergoing lots of changes in 2022, which will impact what you read in this article. We will keep this up to date as changes take effect. They’ve already been announced, but in the spirit of keeping this article as easy to understand as possible, we didn’t include them. Instead, we focused on the paths you’d take if you start your coach training in the near future. We hope that this is helpful. Obviously, we’d love for you to train with us, but we wish you luck on your coaching journey wherever you choose to go.

If you have any questions about applying for your ACC or PCC, please leave us a comment or contact us. We’re here to help.

Please note that we are an ACTP-level accredited coach training provider. We are accredited by ICF, but we are not ICF. We will always do our best to help you, but there may be cases where we will refer you to ICF directly. Just a heads up so you’re not frustrated if our answer is sometimes “I don’t know.” 🙂

Magda Walczak

Magda

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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