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The Best ICF Accredited Coaching Programs

Last updated on February 24, 2024

Life coaching is an industry that is constantly evolving and expanding. So, how can you make your coaching practice reputable, credible, and enticing? One effective way of gaining recognition is earning an ICF-accredited certification.

If you’d like to know which are the best ICF-accredited coaching programs, you are in the right place! We’ll share the top accredited certifications in different life coaching niches and explain the advantages of ICF accreditation. 

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What Is an ICF Coach Certification Program?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the largest non-profit coaching association in the world and the most recognized accrediting entity in the coaching world. They provide independent certifications that indicate that a coach has met the professional standards and competencies set forth by the ICF. ICF signifies the gold standard of professional coaching in the life coaching industry. 

The ICF offers three certification levels to its members, each with its own requirements:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC)
    • 60+ hours of ICF-approved training
    • 100+ hours of client coaching experience
    • 10 hours of mentor coaching
    • Performance evaluation
    • Application fee ($175 for ICF members; $325 for non-members)
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
    • 125+ hours of ICF-approved training
    • 500+ hours of client coaching experience with clients
    • 10 hours of mentor coaching
    • Performance evaluation 
    • Application fee ($375 for ICF members and $525 for non-members)
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC)
    • 200+ hours of ICF-approved training
    • 2,500+ hours of client coaching experience
    • 10 hours of mentor coaching
    • Performance evaluation
    • Application fee ($657 for ICF members and $825 for non-members)

Benefits of ICF Coaching Certification Programs

There is no governing body that requires ICF certification or any certification to work as a coaching professional. So, why does this matter then?

As the largest global association for professionally trained coaches, ICF lends instant credibility to its members. With ICF certification, it will be easier for you to establish your status as a professional coach among clients and fellow coaches. 

The certification also signifies to prospective clients that you have dedicated significant time and effort to becoming a skilled coach. Besides the credibility, through the training and provided resources, you will gain skills, knowledge, and comprehension of the coaching standards to succeed in your coaching career.

How to Choose an ICF-Accredited Coaching Program

ICF-accredited certification isn’t the only path to professional coaching. But if you want to add the “golden standard” to your coaching credentials, the following factors can help you find the best one for you. 

Type of Life Coaching

Do you want to specialize in general life coaching, or a specific segment of life coaching? Life coaches with interest in identifying their practice as belonging to a niche can save both time and money if they enroll in a specialized program that is ICF accredited. However, if you’ve set your sights on a niche program that isn’t ICF accredited, you can earn that certification and gain ICF accreditation through a general ICF life coaching program.

Cost

ICF certification programs often tend to cost more than certifications that aren’t ICF accredited. The simple explanation behind the price discrepancy is the training with a mentor that ICF demands. Searching for ICF-accredited life coaching programs online can give you a broader range of options, including more affordable certifications. 

Program Length

Earning ICF accreditation takes time, especially because of the hours of coaching experience you need to accumulate. But, coaching hours aside, the program’s structure also plays a big part. Accredited certification programs can be self-paced or have fixed schedules. This can also make a big difference while you’re weighing the pros and cons if you have a set goal for your practice or a busy schedule.  

Best ICF-Approved Coach Training Programs

Let’s take a look at the best ICF-approved programs for general life coaching and popular life coaching specialties. 

Best ICF Life Coach Certification: Coach Training Alliance

Coach Training Alliance is our top pick for the overall best life coaching certification program for many reasons. First of all, it offers a comprehensive curriculum and a dynamic combination of group mentoring, self-study, and observation and critique. 

What stands out with CTA compared to other ICF life coaching courses is the inclusion of detailed business-focused content. They not only cover the subject of coaching skills and tools, but also how to build a profitable business, attract clients, and other essentials for business growth. 

CTA doesn’t offer just a general life coaching course, but also a variety of niche training, such as transition coaching, wellness coaching, group coaching, and more. 

Read our review of CTA to learn more about what makes them superior to other popular choices. 

  • Course Length: 6 months
  • Program Cost: $3,747 (Payable in full or in 3, 7, or 9 parts)
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Best ICF Health Coach Certification: Health Coach Institute

Health coaching programs are often accredited by health and wellness accrediting institutions, but not ICF. The Health & Life Coach program by Health Coach Institute is among those that do offer ICF certification to its health coaching graduates. This is a dual certification for both health and life coaching. You can learn at your own pace, but you have 12 months to finish the program.

The health aspect of the curriculum covers the topics of holistic nutrition for coaches and habit change coaching methods. You will also dive into life coaching, launching your coaching career, and personal growth.

  • Course Length: 6-12 months
  • Program Cost: $5,450
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Note: If you end up deciding ICF accreditation isn’t a must for your health coach certification and want something that’s easier on your wallet, check out Transformation Academy’s Master Wellness Life Coach certification or their Health and Nutrition Life Coach certification. 

Best ICF Spiritual Life Coach Certification: Life Purpose Institute

The pressure of daily life has inspired people to seek peace in spirituality. What this means for spirituality coaches is that their services are more needed than ever. If spiritual coaching is your passion, you can become an expert and earn ICF-accredited certification with Life Purpose Institute’s Spiritual Coach Certification program.  

This program will teach you how to tap into your own spirituality, provide you with spiritual coaching tools, and give you practical coaching guidance and ready-made materials. Their “business-in-a-box” teaching strategy features templates, marketing samples, worksheets, and forms that you can use in your business. They also offer something unique and invaluable— ongoing support with marketing even after the training.

If you’d like to get a taste of their teaching approach, you can apply for a free consultation or free class.

  • Course Length: 3-month program; 6-month program; 5-day intensives with four 2-hour follow-up classes
  • Program Cost: $2,500
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Note: Want to explore the many non-ICF options for spiritual life coach training? Check out our review of the top programs, including our number one pick, Natural Wellness Academy.

Best ICF Mindfulness Coach Certification: Mindfulness Coaching School

Mindfulness Coaching School’s learning comes in levels. The Level 1 Coach is the ACC program and is a prerequisite for Level 2. Level 2, or the ICF Level 2 Coach (PCC) program, is your gateway to ICF certification. Once you complete this level, accumulate 100 hours of coaching clients, write a reflection paper, and pass the live performance evaluation, you will have in your hands the Mindfulness, Wellness, and Somatic Coach Certification. 

Throughout the learning journey, Mindfulness Coaching School introduces you to the essential coaching skills, intricacies of the coaching business, and how to successfully coach clients in the fields of mindfulness, wellness, and somatic life coaching

If your interest in mindfulness is narrowed down to neuro mindfulness coach certification, we suggest you check out the iNLP certification program and read our iNLP review

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $5,800 – Level 1 tuition; $9,355 – Level 2 and certification; plus potential additional costs: fees associated with ICF’s credentialing process, books and materials for classes, and personal coaching sessions
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Note: If you decide to exchange ICF accreditation for saving quite a few bucks on your training expenses, Transformation Academy offers a top-notch and affordable certification in Mindfulness Coaching.

Best ICF Relationship Coach Certification: Relationship Coaching Institute

There’s no surprise that the world’s largest relationship coaching organization obtains ICF accreditation. You can become an ICF-accredited relationship coach with the help of the Relationship Coaching Institute’s program.

The advantage of this course is that its modules address both coaching for singles and coaching for couples. You can easily market yourself as an expert in one of these sub-areas of relationship coaching after obtaining certification.

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $3,997 enrollment fee + $79 per month membership fee for access to all courses + $125 application fee for certification for Certified Relationship Coach for Couples (CRCC) or Certified Relationship Coach for Singles (CRCS)
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Best ICF Career Coach Certification

Do you want to get your career coach ICF accreditation? We suggest the World Coach Institute and its flexible self-paced course. The learning material includes textbooks, webinars, quizzes, and coaching sessions with peers, which makes the program engaging and informative. 

You may notice that they have 2 coaching paths, but for ICF-approved coach training hours, you’ll need to choose the second path consisting of CPC Teleclass (CPC-300) and the self-study CCC Add-on (CCC-203). 

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $5,000
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

As a close runner-up, Coach Training Alliance’s Career Coach training is a great option for coaches just starting out. Read more about it and the many other training programs (both ICF- and non-ICF-accredited) in our round-up article on career coaching.

Best ICF Jungian Life Coach Certification

For a completely different and innovative approach to life coaching, consider the CreativeMind program. Their Jungian Life Coach Certification brings together Jungian theory, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. The theory is based on science and tangible evidence, but there’s also a spiritual aspect for a holistic approach.

CreativeMind logo
CreativeMind – Jungian Life Coach Certification

We love that this program isn’t just a course you enroll in, go through lessons, and finish. It is an experience. It lasts for a whole year, and it completely immerses you in their philosophy. You won’t just work on your coaching skills, developing a business, and mastering the proprietary CreativeMind Method, but you’ll spend time on personal transformation in one-on-one sessions.

  • Course Length: 1 year
  • Program Cost: $16,997
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Conclusion 

ICF accreditation isn’t a requirement for professional coaching, and it doesn’t matter in terms of becoming a certified coach. However, ICF accreditation does matter if you want reputable credentials to empower your marketing strategy and ensure that your training follows the highest coaching standards. 

Whether you’re aiming for general life coaching education and accreditation, or training that’s niche specific, we hope that our list will help you find what you need. If you decide you’re open to non-ICF training, or you just want to see what other options are out there, see our full list of the best life coach certification programs.

Take the Coach Certification Quiz

Need help choosing a coach training and certification program? We created this short quiz to help you find the best program for you.

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