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How To Get Certified As A Life Coach

In this step-by-step guide, we walk you through the life coach certification process. Includes what it costs, how long it takes, and return on investment.

Over the years, we’ve talked to a lot of people who are thinking about entering the coaching industry. And if you’re reading this, you probably have a lot of the same questions that they did! Questions like:

Let’s start with that last question first! 

Do you need to be certified to be a life coach?

Short answer? No, you don’t. 

But we would recommend it, and here’s why: 

Coaching is an unregulated industry. While the International Coaching Federation (ICF) represents the gold standard for coaching ethics and best practices, there is no universal credentialing process.

If anyone can do it, why invest in training? 

A reputable coach training program will prepare you to deliver meaningful results for your clients. You’ll gain broad exposure to coaching frameworks, interventions, methodologies, and techniques. You'll also “learn by doing,” with ample practice coaching opportunities to test it all out.

Ready to explore how it works? This step by step guide will walk you through it!

How to Become a Certified Life Coach 

1. Understand your options

If you’re new to the field of coaching, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all the specialized terms you’ve likely come across already. When it comes to understanding the coaching industry bona-fides, and what level of training is right for you, here’s the ones you most need to know. 

  • Certification. A certificate is awarded by the coach training company that you study with. Graduation requirements are determined by the company itself, and the certificate confirms that you completed their program. Some programs are ICF accredited, others are not. We’ll talk more about why this might matter to you in a bit.
  • Accreditation Programs and institutions get accredited, not people. In other words, you don’t earn an accreditation, your coach training company does. So when we say “Lumia is an ICF-accredited program”, what that means is that our curriculum has been quality checked by the International Coach Federation and has met their high standards. 
  • Credentialing. A credential is awarded when you complete an advanced, third party examination to prove your level of knowledge in the field of coaching. Credentials are awarded to life coaches by the International Coaching Federation. There are three levels: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC). To get credentialed, you’ll need to complete an ICF accredited program, log a certain number of coaching hours, and sit for an exam. More details on the process and requirements can be found here

Want to learn more? Check out: What Certification Do You Need To Be A Life Coach?

2. Discover your interests

To succeed as a coach, you’ll need to figure out what problems your ideal client hopes to solve, and know how you are uniquely positioned to help them meet those goals. For many, the most direct path to achieving this is by narrowing down to one or two specialties for your coaching business. 

If you already have an idea of what you’d like to do, great! Be sure that you incorporate those interests as you review what type(s) of training and certification you may need. If you want to do relationship coaching, for example, it might not be best to choose a training program that is geared toward corporate coaching! 

If you’re not sure what you’d like to do yet, don’t panic. It’s OK to come into coaching without any specific niche in mind. Many coach certification programs are designed to help you explore this out once you’re in training. 

Want to learn about emerging opportunities in the coaching industry? Check out:

3. Decide what level of training you need

Certification is the first step in your coaching journey. Some coach training programs also include preparation for ICF credentialing as part of the curriculum, but many do not. 

A lot of aspiring coaches opt to take this one step at a time, getting certified and practicing as a coach first, and leaving credentialing as a possible next step down the road. 

We believe that not every coach needs to be credentialed. Here’s some factors to consider when making that determination:

  • If you want to work with executives, or in business-oriented specialties, it can be useful to have your ACC, PCC or MCC credential. ICF credentials open additional doors for corporate work, and are recognized as the gold standard for coaching. 
  • As more life coaches enter the marketplace, credentialing may be a good way for you to stand out. 

If you are interested in life coach certification to up-level your existing skills, or to work with clients outside the corporate sector, you may not need to invest the extra time and expense of earning the ICF credential. It’s all about deciding what works best for you, and the coaching practice you hope to build.

Want more info? Explore: Why Become An ICF Certified Coach?

4. Research your options

As you investigate professional coach certification programs, here’s what we recommend looking at:


There are hundreds of coaching modalities and techniques you can potentially gain exposure to. A good curriculum will include how to work with clients, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, strengths-based approaches, the art of asking questions, and LOTS of coaching practice. Be sure that the program you choose is robust enough to deliver the goods relative to your personal goals.

Lifestyle Fit

Some programs span years, while others give a taste of coaching over a single weekend. With so many programs out there, it’s possible to find one that fits your specifications and needs. Many coaching programs are flexible, offering online classes on nights and weekends for those who have an existing career, families, or other commitments to juggle. 

Real World Application

To make this a viable career, there’s more to it than just learning how to coach! Look for professional programs that include business, sales, marketing, and interpersonal skills in the curriculum. A reputable program will want to see you succeed after graduation. To that end, it should offer business opportunities, the chance to practice your skills, and a strong alumni community to support your development and growth.


It’s one thing to read a program’s marketing materials, visit their website, attend a webinar, or talk to someone in admissions. These are all important steps, but you may also want to talk to some graduates. A good program will be happy to hook you up. As you speak to alumni, ask what their experience was like, and how they are using what they learned. Find out if the programs that interest you really deliver!

Begin to compare with: Why Choose Lumia Life Coach Training?

5. Consider your budget

Coaching certifications are offered both online and in person. Costs can range from $2,500 - $20,000. Each program has a signature style and unique way of teaching participants. Training programs vary in length and depth, and their costs usually reflect that as well! Many people wonder if this investment will pay off, and it’s a fair question. The answer is individual, so it’s important to really know your goals and financial considerations as you weigh the options.

For more on this topic, read How Much Does It Cost to Become A Life Coach?

Need strategies for asking your employer to help cover the cost? Dig into our guide How To Ask Your Company to Pay for Life Coach Training

Curious about your potential ROI? Don’t miss the Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries, and our three part podcast series “Can I Make it As A Coach?” with Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux.

6. Take the leap!

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s this: life doesn’t always go to plan. 

If you dream of doing something other than what you’re up to right now, it’s time to get going. We sometimes forget that we don’t control the clock. But what we do have control over is our choices. 

Want life to be different? You have to do it differently!

There’s no such thing as the perfect time. Besides, perfection is overrated. Or as Lumia co-founder John Kim likes to tell our coaching students: “You’ve got to build the bus as you’re driving it.”

Ready to Get Started?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and leave your mark on the world and you’d like some partners in the process, come join our revolution! Explore the Lumia Life Coach Training program today.

Lumia Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

[Free Guide] 6 Steps to Start Coaching Today

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Lumia is accredited by the ICF as a Level 2 Pathway Program. Want to learn more about the ICF credential requirements? Click here for further details.