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How to Become a Life Coach - Job Information

Have you ever considered becoming a life coach? Many people don’t even know what a life coach is, or what they do. A life coach is not the same as a mental health therapist. Life coaches motivate clients to change something about their lives or their situations, usually for the better. Mental health therapists, on the other hand, diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

The life coaching profession is growing. According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), a life coach credentialing organization, in 1999, only 200 coaches around the world held certification from them. By 2021, the number of worldwide ICF-certified life coaches is 34,000! As the world changes more quickly and in more ways, people, too, are looking to keep up with those changes, and many of them are turning to life coaches for help.

Life coaches can help clients in both their personal and professional lives. Read on to discover what a life coach does and how you can become a life coach.

Job Duties of a Life Coach

Life coaches carry a variety of responsibilities and job duties, based upon their target audience and the setting in which they work. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Assessing clients to determine their personal goals
  • Working with clients to draw up plans to reach those goals
  • Help clients to take consistent, productive action on those plans to achieve these goals
  • Helping clients to identify and eliminate obstacles or setbacks to their goals
  • Helping clients to discard habits and mindsets that hold them back from accomplishing their goals
  • Motivating clients
  • Help clients overcome their resistance to change

Life coaching sessions typically last for 30 to 90 minutes. They may occur in-person, by phone, or online through tele-visits or video chats.
Life coaches are not mental health therapists, and are not considered clinicians. They therefore cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions. They are also not required to have formal education or follow health privacy (HIPAA) laws.

Skills and Personality Traits a Life Coach Should Have

Certain types of people are more suited to become a life coach than others. If you possess the following skills and personality traits, life coaching could be a good fit for you:

  • Curiosity
  • Good listening skills
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Skilled at interviewing and questioning others
  • Care and love for helping others
  • Intuition
  • Ambition
  • Good at motivating others
  • Good at self-marketing

Education for Life Coaches

As mentioned before, education is not mandated for life coaches. However, having the right training is a must if you want to become a life coach. A survey of professional coaches found that the number one obstacle that life coaches face is untrained individuals calling themselves coaches.

As of 2020, there are over 1000 life coaching training programs available both in-person and online. Some of these lead to certification through internationally-recognized organizations. The two best-known life coaching credentialing organizations are the above-mentioned ICF and the other main credentialing organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
Such life coaching training programs can cost up to $12,000, and may last for up to a year, so advance planning for your life coaching education is a must.

International Coach Federation (ICF)

The ICF requires 60 hours of training for the Associate Certified Coach (ACC), 125 training hours for the Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and 200 training hours for the Master Certified Coach (MCC).

Many programs are offered through ICF- coaching-specific institutions (in-person or online), while others are offered through colleges or universities. If you choose to become certified through a college or university program, you will also likely earn a degree or certificate, which can look good on your resume when marketing yourself as a life coach later on.
Universities that offer ICF-specific life coaching education include, but are not limited to:

Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE)

The CCE has different educational requirements, tailored to one’s degree status. There are many ways to fulfill the educational requirement to become a Board Certified Coach (BCC). You may have a bachelor’s degree in any field, a graduate degree in one of the social or behavioral sciences, or be a National Certified Counselor or State-Licensed Counselor, and with the right combination of experience, you may be eligible for their credential.

Experience for Life Coaches

Before you can earn credentials as a life coach, you must also have experience in life coaching.
The ICF credential of Associate Certified Coach (ACC) requires 100 hours of coaching experience with at least eight clients after you begin coaching training. Seventy of these hours must be paid. The Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential requires 500 hours’ coaching experience with at least 25 clients. Fifth of those hours must occur in the 24 months before submitting the credentialing application. The Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential requires 2500 hours of coaching experience, 2200 of which must be paid, with at least 35 clients.

The CCE has varying experience requirements based upon your degree status. With a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in any field, you must have 2500 hours of experience over a period of five years in order to become a Board Certified Coach (BCC).  

Certification for Life Coaches

No state or national certification is available for life coaches. As mentioned above, there are two major life coach credentialing organizations, the ICF and the CCE. The ICF is the better-known credentialing organization, but the CCE is also highly respected.

The ICF was started in 1995 by Thomas Leonard. Its purposes were to help support coaches in a new profession and to set standards of ethics and practice to help the coaching profession grow and become more legitimate. There are three types of training/accreditation under the ICF:

  • Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP): training that covers ICF’s core competencies and includes mentor coaching, observed coaching sessions and a final exam
  • Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH): must be at least 60 hours long in order to receive a credential
  • Continuing Coach Education – this is offered to existing coaches who want to renew credential (required every three years)

The CCE notes that its certification demonstrates to the public that a life coach has met training and education requirements, passed an examination, gained the necessary experience, has professional peer references, is accountable to an enforceable ethics code, and is committed to continuing education. The CCE requires Board Certified Coaches to complete 70 continuing education hours every five years.

Specialty Certification for Life Coaches

In addition to the educational and experiential requirements listed above for each credentialing organization, there are also specialty designations under the credentials.
The ICF offers a variety of specialty certifications, depending upon where you receive your training. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Non-Profit Leadership Coach
  • Technology Leadership Coach
  • Healthcare Leadership Coach
  • Career Development Coach
  • Christian Coach
  • Relationship Coach
  • Wellness Coach

The CCE offers specialty designations that emphasize the following areas of expertise:

  • Executive/Corporate/Business/Leadership Coach
  • Health and Wellness Coach
  • Career Coach
  • Personal/Life Coach

Some clients will choose a credentialed coach rather than a non-credentialed one. Earning those credentials tells clients that you are trained to the utmost standards of the profession and have the necessary experience to help them to change their lives.  

Life Coaching Niches and Target Audiences

As noted above, life coaches may generalize, or may specialize in certain areas, working with a certain population. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Young adults
  • Single mothers
  • Executives
  • Small business owners
  • Health and wellness
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Career/career transitions
  • Productivity/performance
  • Spirituality

Settings in Which Life Coaches Work

Life coaches may work in a variety of settings. A life coach’s job location is highly dependent upon their specialization. Settings life coaches may work in include:

  • Private practice/office
  • Corporations
  • Health and wellness organizations
  • Residential care/treatment facilities
  • Community organizations
  • Church-led organizations
  • Academia
  • Consulting/freelancing/contracting out to various businesses and organizations

Salaries for Life Coaches

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data on life coaches and their salaries. Life coaches are instead grouped among counselors and personal care and service workers. The 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study found that there were 17,500 coaches working in North America in 2015, earning an average annual wage of $61,900. By 2019, that salary had increased to $62,500 per year.

Job Outlook for Life Coaches

As the BLS does not maintain data on life coaches, the outlook for the future of life coaches is unknown. However, coaching community Coach Pony says that the future of life coaching jobs is positive, and that the demand for life coaches is expected to continue to grow. More and more companies are employing executive and leadership life coaches to boost employee retention and productivity as they see the benefit of coaching to their bottom line. Those who are looking to change careers also are turning to life coaches, hoping that their work with life coaches will pay off in a new job or better salary. Job-sharing, the COVID-19 pandemic and working from home has all changed the way we work, inspiring many people to consult with life coaches to navigate these changes and make the most of them.

Parents, too, are hiring life coaches to help reduce the amount of time their children spend in front of screens. Baby boomers are hiring life coaches to navigate uncertain futures. Health-conscious people who want to take charge of their wellness are turning to life coaches for motivation to reach their goals. People in relationships, or looking for relationships, are also taking advantage of life coaches to help them to accomplish their goals.

In short, there couldn’t be a better time to become a life coach, no matter what your motivation or desired specialization!

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