Life Coach Training Programs

Life coaches provide guidance to their clients in an effort to shape positive outcomes. They help people enhance their careers, lose weight, improve family dynamics, find happiness and otherwise move away from conflict toward success. The related field of business coaches helps companies make more money by improving employee morale and performance. Some life coaches work in independent practices, while others find permanent berths in organizational settings. The International Coach Federation (ICF) estimates that there are around 47,500 coaches worldwide.

Coaches draw from psychology, sociology, economics and other disciplines as they guide their clients toward making the best choices. Life coaching has become increasingly significant in the private and business spheres in recent years. In its various manifestations, life coaching generates around a billion dollars annually. Those interested in becoming life coaches have many possible routes toward their goal. One of these is life coach training.

 AccreditationLife coach training is a largely unregulated industry. No licensing or certification is required to practice as a life coach anywhere in the country, and anyone who likes may describe himself as a life coach. However, the International Coach Federation (ICF), a professional organization of life coaches, acts as an informal accreditation body for many programs within the field. The ICF, which has more than 20,000 members, evaluates programs based on criteria such as number of hours dedicated to the training of coaches and the nature of the material used to audit their progress.

The particular accreditation from the ICF depends on the type of coaching program. The Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) identifies a full course in life coaching for beginners and intermediate practitioners, while the designation Approved Coach-Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) allows for a more limited scope of teaching. Continuing Coach Education (CCE) is granted to programs that provide professional enrichment for established life coaches.

Since certification is optional and licensing among life coaches is non-existent, ICF’s accreditation simply indicates that a program meets certain standards of instruction; it is in some ways a stamp of approval. For this reason, in an educational marketplace difficult to negotiate because of the abundance of choices, ICF accreditation appeals to many students.

 CertificationWhile no official certification is required to practice as a life coach, certification of different sorts is available from certain agencies. The ICF provides life coach certification for individuals by conferring the credentials of associate, professional and master certified coach. The particular credential depends on the nature of the applicant’s training, the hours of coaching he has logged and and the passing of an exam. If the prospective life coach has not completed an ICF-accredited program, his fitness for the credentials must be demonstrated through a portfolio. This portfolio includes evidence of training, demonstration of experience in coaching, a record of working with a mentor and an exam. The ICF has established a set of minimum standards for each credential level.

Other programs grant their own certifications; in many of these cases, paying for and completing the course earns the student a certification. Because of the lack of an industry-wide standard, many life coaches opt to do without certification of any kind. Until the field becomes more regulated, lack of certification does not necessarily represent a lack of quality. A program that grants a certification, however, can give the life coach some advantages. For instance, the certification notifies potential clients that the coach has dedicated time to the study of his work, and that he has satisfactorily met certain standards.

 Choosing a programFor those interested in a career as a life coach, the range of private and public options and the relatively unstructured nature of the field adds to the challenge of finding a suitable training program. Some well-known life coaches make much of their income through training other coaches, and solicit aggressively for students. On the other hand, small and local programs built on a more modest scale may lack an instructor with wide coaching experience.

Evaluating potential life coaching schools on the basis of a few fundamentals helps the potential student determine the quality of a program. First, ask successful life coaches how they suggest entering the field. They are in the best position to advise beginners about training. When you have decided on a potential program, consider the instructor’s client list. Look up his references, and ask about their experience with this coach. It is also worth investigating the certification for this program. Identify the source of the certification, and do research to determine if the certification suggests a quality program.

A large life coach program with a good reputation offers the advantage of a network of professional relationships. Similarly, a program accredited by the ICF or certified by a widely-recognized coaching organization confers credentials some clients perceive as valuable.

 Degree typesA student interested in a life coach program might find one through local universities or community colleges, or online, through professional coaches, distance learning or for-profit universities.

While advanced degrees in life coaching are rare, the University of Texas at Dallas offers a master’s of science degree in Organizational Behavior and Executive Coaching through its school of Management. The distance learning class requires 37 course hours of instruction.

Some online universities promote a bachelor’s degree in life coaching. The same knowledge can be acquired more cheaply and more efficiently through other means; the BS provides no more background in the field than does an associate’s degree or a certificate. A few community colleges offer two-year associate’s life coaching degrees through their business or psychology departments.

Certificates in life coaching are available through many traditional colleges and community colleges. Life coaching organizations also sponsor programs that, when completed, earn the student a certification. These multi-week courses may be presented in person or online.

There are other means of making a career as a life coach besides acquiring a certificate or degree. Many life coaches find success not through the completion of discipline-specific courses, but through their training in psychology, counseling, communications, business administration or other fields. A life coach degree or certification is not essential to a career as a life coach. However, programs designed to teach life coaching may help the student integrate his disparate areas of knowledge, improve his analytical skills and make the most of his interpersonal skills.

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