Do I Need ICF Accreditation To Be A Coach?

I’m not sure there is a question I get asked from people inquiring about the Coach the Life Coach course than, ‘Do you have ICF accreditation?”

The simple answer in, ‘No we don’t and it’s doubtful we ever will have’, but that doesn’t say why we haven’t and in all probability, won’t go down that path.

As I am sure you know Life Coaching is entirely unregulated in (as far as I am aware) every country on the planet.

There is no governing body, you cannot be struck off and nobody this side of a psychiatrist with a court order can stop you practicing as a coach.

As such, any accreditation is self accreditation.

By that I mean the ICF (International Coach Federation) are self appointed in exactly the same way as myself and Karl are self appointed when we choose to certify coaches.

Of course the ICF and has a code of conduct which all nice and cosy, but we have a code of conduct here at Coach the Life Coach.

It’s called our core values!

Yes they can take revoke your membership in the highly unlikely event they catch you being a very naughty coach, but they cannot stop you coaching.

Do You Want ICF Accreditation To Attract More Clients?

Walk down any high street and ask 100 people what they think the acronym ICF stands for.

My guess is one person will know, and she will be a coach.

I have been coaching full time for over a decade and do you know how many times I have been asked if I had ICF accreditation?


And that person hired me even though I said I didn’t.

The reality is, as coaches we get asked about our qualifications far less than we imagine we will be when we get underway.

That doesn’t mean formal training isn’t important, I have had a LOT, and now I give a lot. Just that there is something more crucial when talking with potential clients if you want them to hire you.

And that’s connection.

It doesn’t matter how much training you have had if you cannot build rapport and connect with potential clients.

I’m not suggesting that having the ICF badge can’t be beneficial, just not as beneficial as you being able to relate to potential clients in a way that puts them at ease and helps them trust you.

When You Probably Do Need ICF Accreditation

Let me do a 180 here and say there is a situation where I would advise you to take the ICF route and that is Executive and some Business Coaching.

If you want to coach in the corporate sector with businesses of more than say, 100 employees, you’re probably going to need that badge.

In such situations you are almost certainly going to be dealing with HR in the early stages and they will take qualifications far more seriously than the average person looking to hire a Life Coach.

I spent a number of years selling into HR departments both HR solutions and payroll solutions and they’re not the easiest to deal with.

For the large part HR people are trained to minimize risk and potential liability and as such have a tendency of playing things safe.

They don’t want to roll the dice on an English Life Coach who last wore a suit for business 12 years ago, swears a lot and has a strange accent no matter how much experience he has.

Especially when they have somebody sporting the MCC (Master Certified Coach) moniker applying for the same position.

If that is your target market then do your due diligence and check out the ICF.

Why We Won’t Go ICF

You may be wondering why, if there are now downsides to being ICF accredited (and to the best of my knowledge there aren’t) we don’t become affiliated.

There are three primary reasons.

1. Cost

For the level of training and ongoing support we offer, we are relatively inexpensive. If we were ICF we would have to double our costs and then some. That would price a lot of potential great coaches out of taking training.

Also, we almost certainly wouldn’t get people taking the course who just want coaching skills for other reasons such as making them better managers, running their own business etc that we get now.

2. Time

It takes about 18 months to achieve PCC (Professional Certified Coach) status.

It took me 7 months to get certified and that is close to what the average person taking Coach the Life Coach is gaining certification in.

It is possible to do it in 4 months with us, but that is a stretch without any previous experience.

I’m confident that if somebody works hard and is serious about coaching that they do not need to take 18 months before they can get out there and help people.

I have seen the contrary happen far too many times to buy into that erroneous belief.

Equally I have worked with too many coaches who had done an ICF course and who still didn’t feel equipped to work with paying clients. And in a couple of cases, rightly so.

3. Flexibility

ICF adhere’s to the co-active coaching model, and if you represent them, so must you.

That’s not such a bad thing as it is unequivocally the best way to coach.

But it’s not the only way.

Co-active coaching is my default mode and it makes up the core of our course, but we teach other stuff too.

When the co-active approach doesn’t work it’s nice to know that there are other options open to you to help you help your clients.

In Summary

This post is in no way bashing on the ICF, they have done, and continue to do, some great work to promote coaching and keep the standard of coaching as high as possible within their limitations.

They are a not for profit organization which I think is important when you’re asking other training companies and general public to trust you.

But unless coaching ever becomes regulated (and I highly doubt that, and even if it did they would have to grandfather current coaches in) they are by no means the only show in town.

It may be the most expensive show, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to love it and that it’s right for you.

I know some people disagree with my opinions on this topic and that’s fine, I respect y our opinion.

If you’re one of them please feel free to comment. In fact comment anyway and let’s start a dialogue.