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How to Choose a Coaching Certification Program

Before jumping into a program, make sure you do your research first.

Coaching has exploded as a career in the past decade. While several types of coaching specialties have been around for a very long time, such as in sports, acting, singing and other physical-performance based fields, the last decade has seen the rise of the development coach. Life, career, success, leadership, executive and corporate coaches are now mainstream.

coaching words, touch screen

Coaching is an unregulated field at present, meaning you do not need a license or degree to practice, but there is a trend toward moving it into a more formal practice in the coming years. While that makes entry into the field available to anyone right now, it also means that you need to distinguish yourself as a professional in order for your practice to flourish. Certification is one path toward that goal.

Certification is currently the only path to ensure the continuation of the legitimacy of coaching as a professional field. Quite a few people have hung out their “coaching” sign, with no training or experience, resulting in very inadequate services and outcomes - which deeply harm the profession as a whole.

There are a few well-established coaching certification programs available, such as those offered by the International Federation of Coaches (IFC) and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC), and quite a few programmatic-based coaching programs, such as Tony Robbins Life Coaching program, Proctor Gallagher Institute, and hundreds more. While this may be the opportune time for you to consider coaching as a career, before you begin searching for a certification program, a little self-reflection might be a better first step.

Coaching is not an easy role to fulfill. It requires dedication and generosity, patience and persistence. Effective coaching requires the ability to listen to a lot of problems in the world without being personally affected by them. It means accepting people where they are, without judgment. It means managing your own biases, beliefs and psychological triggers. If that sounds like a good fit for you, then please know that coaching can also be extremely rewarding. Observing a person transforming into all that they can be is exhilarating!

coach questionnaire, coaching, life coach

In addition to considering the challenges listed above, it is important that you consider some basic traits that fit this field best, which include: a strong desire to support others, empathy, resiliency, patience, open-mindedness, emotional maturity, high morals, and general mental and emotional wellness.

Required skills that you can learn or strengthen through education or a good certification program include: understanding of basic psychology principles, active listening, time management, boundary-setting, intuition, knowledge of various well-being styles and modalities, ability to match a modality to a client, willingness to abide by ethical standards, self-leadership skills, public speaking, self-motivation, inspiring others and humbleness.

After reflection, if you feel you are a good fit for coaching, the next consideration is how you’ll coach. Do you want to be an entrepreneur, working as an independent contractor? Or perhaps you want to coach staff in a corporate setting. Or join an existing coaching company that provides services to individuals and corporations. Coaching is utilized at every level of supervision and management now, as well as by human resource professionals, providing another avenue to utilize your coaching certification. In some cases, however, a coaching certification program may not be the best avenue to pursue, such as in hospitals or universities, where a degree and license is a better fit for those types of organizations.

If you decide coaching certification is still your best pursuit, now you can consider which program to enroll in. If prestige and branding is your main priority, you’ll want to look at well-established programs and oversight entities. If that’s not your top priority, you can save a substantial amount of money and time by looking at programmatic-based certification programs. In these programs, you’ll want to focus first on the best fit for the type of coaching you want to facilitate. For example, if you want to specialize in career coaching, assisting people to succeed at work, look for programs that emphasize motivation and goal-setting. If you want to be a life coach, that’s a much broader field and you’ll need to compare several programs to see which style is the best fit for you. For example, some programs focus on how to hold people accountable and how to cheer them on to reach their goals. Others are more reflective and more intrinsically-based. Do your research online, but contact the organizations directly to ask specific questions as you continue to hone your list.

Once you have your top three to five programs identified, compare pricing and time commitment. It will do you no good to enroll in a program you can’t afford or where the time commitment is beyond what you can realistically achieve. You’ll just end up spending money without ever finishing the program.

Be cautious about going with the cheapest or fastest programs available as well. You need adequate training and support to successfully launch a career in coaching. Fly-by-night certification programs may give you a credential, but not the knowledge or support you’ll be grateful for as you begin seeing clients.

Finally, compare what services you’ll receive from the certifying organization beyond your certificate. Do they offer ongoing support? Do they offer additional training so that you can continue to develop your skills? Do they offer a referral service? Do they offer oversight services which helps assure clients that there is monitoring in place to ensure against unprofessional conduct?

This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but you’re worth the time and effort. Coaching is in high demand and we need professionals to fulfill the roles. Finding the best fit for your coaching certification is by far the most important first step you can take to ensure not only success, but personal fulfillment.

Teresa McKee, B.S.B.A., M.S., C.M.M.F is the CEO of Work2Live Productions. Her M.S. is in Psychology with an emphasis on Leadership Coaching Psychology. Work2Live conducts individual and group coaching, conflict mediation, leadership coaching and development, team development workshops and mindfulness training. Work2Live is launching the pilot of their Dynamic Coaching Certification Program for coaches in 2019. You can reach her at with any questions you have about a career in coaching or for more information.

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