Survey says: “YES!” And in a big way, too. 

Anyone can say, “I’m a coach.” But an ICF credential sets a coach apart. 

An ICF credential says you’re working with a professional coach who has met stringent education and experience requirements and who has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the coaching competencies that set the standard in the profession. 

Just as the International Coaching Federation (ICF) sets the gold standard of professional coaching, an ICF credential is the gold standard of professional certification in coaching. An ICF credential means a coach has met specific standards and requirements designed to develop and refine coaching skills. It shows a coach’s dedication to upholding strong principles of ethical behavior in coaching. And it shows clients and peers alike that a coach is committed to the coaching industry, and to continued development as a coaching professional. 

ICF offers three credentials, corresponding with the quantity of education and experience required to earn it. The credentials are:  

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC) 
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC)  
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC)  

Not surprisingly, earning an ICF credential is a rigorous process that is based on five key components: 

  1. Education — An ICF-credentialed coach has completed coach-specific education aligned with the ICF definition of coaching, ICF Core Competencies, and the ICF Code of Ethics, ideally through an ICF-accredited education provider. 
  1. Experience — Applicants for ICF credentials must meet designated experience requirements for eligibility, ranging from 100 to 2,500+ hours spent coaching and 8 to 35+ clients, depending on the credential level. 
  1. Mentor Coaching — Applicants must partner with a mentor coach holding a valid ICF credential to complete additional requirement hours of mentor coaching and strengthen skills within the ICF Core Competencies. 
  1. Performance Evaluation — Every successful applicant for an ICF credential must pass a performance evaluation by trained ICF assessors to measure their coaching skills against ICF standards. 
  1. Examination — Finally, all ICF credential-holders pass a written final exam, testing their understanding of and ability to apply the ICF definition of coaching, ICF Core Competencies, and ICF Code of Ethics to 81 different situational judgment scenarios. 

And while the pursuit of excellence for ICF-credentialed coaches starts with initial education, it doesn’t end there. An ICF credential must be renewed every three years with a specific number of Continuing Coach Education credit to ensure that credentialed coach practitioners continue their learning and development over the course of their coaching career. Plus, all ICF credential-holders are bound by the ICF Code of Ethics, even when doing so involves making difficult decisions. This is part of ICF’s mission to protect and serve coaching consumers.  

While a coach doesn’t need to be an expert in your field or industry to coach you, they do need to be an expert in the coaching process. And that’s the most important reason to seek a coach who has earned an ICF credential. 

It’s also the likely reason nearly two-thirds of 2022 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study respondents who had previously participated in a coaching relationship (65%) said their coach held a certification or credential from an organization like ICF — compared with fewer than one-fifth (18%) whose coach did not hold a credential. And the respondents who worked with a credentialed coach were also more positive about the outcome. More than half of respondents who said their coach held a credential (55%) reported being “very satisfied” with their coaching experience, compared with only about a quarter of respondents whose coach did not hold a credential (27%). 

In the same study, even respondents who had never participated in a coaching relationship — but who were aware of coaching and would consider hiring a coach — said it was important for a coach to hold a credential (78% important vs. 4% not important). 

Coaching can be a transformational experience. It’s important to find a true professional, exercising due diligence in your search to ensure the coach you select is appropriately educated and adheres to the highest ethical standards. Looking for a coach with an ICF credential helps make that search easier. And to help you with this process, ICF developed the Credentialed Coach Finder, a free and searchable directory with listings for thousands of qualified, ICF-credentialed coaches worldwide.  

With 83% of coaching clients saying it’s “important” or “very important” that their coach holds a certification or credential, that’s a powerful sign pointing toward an ICF credential as a gold standard you can rely on to find a coach that can help you transform your life.