How To Choose The Right Coach Training Program For You

coaching Apr 03, 2023
How To Choose The Right Coach Training Program For You

Bottom Line: You’ve decided you want to go through a formal coach training program (1) to become a coach AND/OR (2) to acquire coaching skills. Below are six variables to consider in order to select the coach training experience that is best for you. You will also find question prompts to use in your consultation conversations. 


*Disclaimer: You do not need formal training to be a coach. Currently (Jan 2023), the best (and worst) part about the coaching industry is that there are no regulations about who can call themselves a coach. What that means is that there are a lot of powerful and experienced coaches doing good work without a credential or coach training. It also means there are a lot of frauds with no formal training or experience.


My take:  “If you want to get good, train with the best”. Like any tested training structure, a formal or accredited training program offers a concentrated and specific training methodology that (ideally) expeditates your impact as a coach. There are tons of naturally gifted coaches, AND anyone can benefit from formal training so that they have an awareness of the ‘rules of the game’. From there, now you can break the rules knowing you’re deviating in service of a client or because it fits your style (ex. making recommendations or offering best practices instead of having the client generate them). And, all of this said with the caveat, I’m biased when it comes to favoring formal training :)


This one might seem basic… but as a coach, it’s my natural starting point :) Generally, I have seen people optin to professional training for one of three reasons: 

  1. Becoming a coach - Usually, these folks are focused on getting a credential, getting hired, and tracking hours with the intent to start a part-time or full-time coaching business during or after their program. 

  2. Leadership development - Ex. A person holds a senior leadership position and knows that coaching skills will help them lead more effectively. There is an adage that goes, “coaches lead… and leaders coach”. 

  3. Personal transformation - “We cannot go deeper with a client than we are willing to go as the coach”. Every trained coach will tell you that they walked out of their training a different person than they walked in. Playful warning: there is no unseeing what you learn about yourself and others as your practice tools and distinctions. 


Questions to consider: 

  • In this current moment, how do I see myself using coaching? Is coaching something I want to do as a full-time job, in tandem with another job (ex. internal coaching, facilitation, or talent development), a side hustle, or an interesting skillset I want to learn? 

  • What type of impact do I want to make? 

  • How many different types of people and organizations do I want to work with?



To start - and this is the most technical part so bear with me - we need to understand how the coaching industry is set up so you can make an informed decision about the investment you plan to make. 



The governing body that presides over the coaching industry is the International Coaching Federation (ICF for short). The ICF distinguishes between three different levels of coaches, each with their own level of experience, training, and competence (see Minimum Skill Requirements by Credential here). Here are the basics to be aware of plus a very necessary Star Wars analogy:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Completed 60 hours of coach-specific education and 100 hours of client coaching experience. 

    • For reference, ACCs are like Jedi Padawans. They’re solid Force-wielders! 

  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Completed 125 hours of coach-specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience. 

    • PCCs are like Jedi Knights. They have proficient use of the Force. 

  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Hold or have held a PCC Credential, completed 200 hours of coach-specific education and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience

    • MCCs are Jedi Masters. They’re on some next-level mastery and basically, walk around using Jedi Mind Tricks. 

Next up is the type of program that trains coaches for certification. Again, there are three levels to be aware of.



Level 1 Accreditation (formerly ACSTH) is for organizations that offer at least 60 coach-specific training hours, and it is designated as a pathway to the ACC credential. 

Level 2 Accreditation (formerly ACTP) is for organizations that offer at least 125 coach-specific training hours, and it is designated as a pathway to the PCC credential.

  • *Note: This is my recommendation ^^ this will get you what you need and ensure you have a powerful training experience. 

Level 3 Accreditation (a brand-new offering) is for organizations that offer at least 75 advanced contact learning hours, and it is designated as a pathway to the MCC credential. 


Already a Coach?  Consider….


Continuing Coach Education (CCE) is intended to serve as continuing education and professional development for the renewal of a credential – not as initial coach training or education. A CCE program may include advanced coach training that directly relates to or expands upon the ICF Core Competencies, and/or training in skills that contribute to the professional development of a coach.

  • *Note: If you’re already certified, check to see if the program offers CCE credits. You’ll need them to re-certify and/or get an advanced credential. 


You can find more information by visiting ICF Accreditations


Questions to consider: 

  • Is it important for me to even get a credential? Many coaches add their ACC/PCC/MCC to their titles, pointing to their advanced education. 

  • Is the program accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)? 

  • Does the program offer continuing education AFTER graduation of the program? Some programs have coach development options available post-graduation. 


Helpful Resources: 

You can search for ICF-Accredited Education Providers here


Like any industry, there are well-known experts, gurus, and leaders who have founded schools and programs around unique coaching methodologies. Whatever program you choose, look into who will be leading your training - you’ll be spending A LOT of time with them. Learning a new skill is challenging enough, it’s even more challenging when you are fighting an uphill personality battle with your primary trainer. 


Personally, I wanted to be trained by the best. So, I was looking to interact with PCC and MCC-level coaches. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Who will be leading the program? Do I want to learn from them? 

    • You should be able to find a video of the leader via a quick Google search. 

  • Are there trainers of color or diverse backgrounds that lead the program? 

    • For quick reference, the coaching industry is 68% female and 67.5% white (Zippia). If learning from a coach with a specific background is important to you, ask the program’s point of contact. 

  • Are the leaders accredited? 

  • What background, expertise, or experience do the leaders bring?

  • Would I like to emulate the work that the leaders are doing? In other words, do I look up to leaders as role models? If not, you’re in the wrong place.


Each program tends to have a lens they approach coaching through. To be clear… coaching… is coaching… is coaching. And all coaching is life coaching, regardless of what you call it. However, the lens the program instructs from is often a differentiator and attracts a specific type of participant. 


Here are a few examples of different coach training program lenses: 

  • Executive Leadership → Georgetown

  • Organizational Leadership → American

  • Ontological → Accomplishment Coaching


Questions to consider: 

  • Is there a specific lens or approach that the program focuses on?

    • In choosing my program, I intentionally chose a lens I had little experience with. I was looking to extend my range of language and thinking. 

  • What is the background or experience of a typical participant? 

  • Does the program serve a particular niche? (ex. HR professionals; entrepreneurs, C-Suite executives)



The way you learn best matters. Scout out programs that fit your learning preferences best. The list below details a couple of different variables: 


Questions to answer: 

  • How long is the program? What is the meeting cadence? Is it possible to take the program with my current job? 

    • I was looking for programs that were a minimum of 6 months. I wanted to integrate a new skill set, not just learn the buzzwords. 

  • Is the program delivered in person or virtually? 

    • Having participated in and led both, you can absolutely have a powerful experience over Zoom. AND, it is something to consider in choosing your experience after assessing your learning style during COVID. 

  • Does the program offer you a mentor coach? A mentor coach is someone who coaches you directly and is paired with you during the program to address questions and concerns as you go. Some programs include this in the program cost. Most do not. 

    • Personally, this was a HUGE factor in my decision. Having never had a coach before, I felt it was important to be a client as I was learning to coach. 

  • Is the program asynchronous or synchronous? In other words, does it happen live or via reading/video modules? 

  • What tools, frameworks, and distinctions does the program offer? What is their policy on licensing? 

    • Ideally, you’ll get to use all of the tools you learned directly with paying clients in your practice. 



Most Level 2 Accreditation program ranges between $10k-$20k+ depending on a number of features. Before going into your search, consider the budget you have allocated for training. 


Depending on the program, especially if it is linked to a university, you may be able to use your 529 Plan to expense this as an educational cost. Ask the program about this in your next informational interview. 


You may also consider enrolling your primary employer to subsidize the program. Offer to coach internally OR ask to be added to your company’s coaching roster as you progress through the program. They’ll end up making more money by being able to market and sell your new skillset. 


My take: The price should stress you slightly, but not sink you :) In other words, a bit of sticker shock is healthy. Why? Because behavior change is challenging and without something to disrupt our homeostasis, we risk investing in a program and staying exactly the same. Also, if growing your income is one of your goals, investing in a program that makes you financially uncomfortable could be your first breakthrough with money. 


Questions to consider: 

  • Is there business development support integrated into the program? 

    • There are legacy tales of select coaches paying for their program with the clients they generated during their training. 

  • Can I use my 529 Plan to cover program costs? 

    • This question is best directed at the coach training program admin and your financial advisor. 

  • Will my employer cover part/full costs of the program? 

    • Just ask :) the worse they can tell you is no. 



Below are a few additional notes and figures of the programs I am most familiar with. I also highly recommend checking out the video and Q&A from iPEC here.


Familiar Programs:

Prices, durations, and program structures are only estimates and may not reflect the most up-to-date. Please consult with each program directly for specific information. 

  • Accomplishment Coaching - 12 months. ~$18k. (My coaching program) Trains exceptional coaches. I’d put any graduate up against anyone and bet money they’d outcoach them. <That’s about as competitive as I get :)

  • Georgetown University - 8 months. ~$15k. Considered to be the holy grail for executive coaching. 

  • American University - 6 months - $13k. Focused on the organizational leadership lens. 

  • iPEC - Looks like 3 months. I have heard good things. 

  • Co-Active Coaching - They have different pathways for training. I know a few coaches that have trained here - they’re wonderful and powerful coaches. 

  • Life Coach School - 6 months. ~$20k. From the outside looking in, they have an interesting model. They have great folks that have come from here that do powerful work. 


Works Cited: 


Background of this Article

Personally - I have graduated from and trained within a coach training program. I have spoken to 100+ people about coach training programs. I’ve done my own research. I have applied and been accepted to three coach training programs. I have close friends and colleagues who have completed 10+ coach training programs. I LOVE coaching and I love this industry. This article is the aggregate of those conversations. I hope you find this valuable - happy coaching! 

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