How To Identify The Best ICF Accredited Coaching Program

June 17, 2020
Life Coaching

As life coaching makes its way into the mainstream, more and more people are not only hiring a coach, but considering what it might take to become a coach themselves. Gone are the days when this field was considered murky and dubious. Today the industry is strongly trusted, with many successful executives and public figures openly sharing how working with a coach has helped them achieve their goals.

Part of what has helped to elevate the coaching profession is the International Coaching Federation (ICF). But what is ICF accreditation? As an unaffiliated nonprofit organization, the ICF is dedicated to overseeing the emerging field of professional coaching and they make recommendations on selecting a training program. Because of it, people have a safety net against fake programs and practitioners who simply don’t know what they’re doing. (JRNI Coaching has been ICF accredited for years and offers a pathway to getting your ACC ICF Credential as well!)

With so many training programs out there, how do you identify the best ICF accredited coaching program for you? If you’re on a journey to become a life coach, here are some factors to consider.

How To Identify The Best ICF Accredited Coaching Program

Do Your Homework

Okay, this may seem obvious but we’re going to highlight it anyway. You’d be surprised by just how many people sign up for a coaching program without first shopping around.  These programs, and especially finding the best ICF accredited coaching program can be a large investment, so research is important. Devote enough time up front to searching for a program that meets your interests, schedule, and personality. This is the fun part! Research, take down notes, bookmark important pages. Imagine yourself in the programs you see described. What does it feel like?

As you explore, keep in mind that there is a fine line between doing your homework and over-researching. It’s good to know the difference between due diligence and procrastination. Sometimes, it’s easy to say you’re researching when really, deep inside you DO know what you want… but something is holding you back. Most often that “something” is fear. 

The first step to becoming the coach you want to be is to enroll in a good program. Too many people stall out right here and never take another step toward making their intention a reality. What sets a good life coach apart is that they know when to contemplate, and when it’s time to act!

Talk To Other Coaches

Talking to practitioners in the field can be illuminating.  A good coaching program will connect you with alumni so you can ask about their experience. There are also many coaching groups on social media platforms like Facebook. Join a few groups and get involved in the conversations. Ask about the ICF accredited coaching program others enrolled in or graduated from, and what training they would recommend. 

Follow coaches you admire in the fields you are interested in. Watch what they are doing, and find out how they got there.  Ask questions even when you think it’s a no-brainer. There’s nothing wrong with it!

Remember your objective in talking to other coaches - it’s to have a better understanding of various coaching programs, and their reputations. When asking questions about training on social media, you may encounter people offering you cheap programs or coaching services. Nothing wrong with that! Just look into each offer carefully before signing up. There are also many coaches willing to help and point newcomers to the field in the right direction.

A word on free labor. When we send a direct message asking for recommendations or insight from successful coaches, or schedule a free discovery call to “pick their brain” on how to become a coach ourselves, we need to bear in mind that responding to those inquiries takes time. If you wish to go deeper than a brief email exchange or alumni interview, this is a service you may need to pay for. Too often, aspiring coaches request a roadmap from successful coaches on “how they got where they are.” If you want more personalized support to achieve your goals, hiring a business coach could be a wise investment!

Check The Instructors' Credentials

Once you’ve identified a short list of the ICF accredited coaching programs that fit you best, it’s time to check the credentials of the trainers. Yes, instructors within the program should be certified -- not just the program itself! Dig into the website and see if there’s a page dedicated to the instructors. Check if the trainers and coaches have a worthwhile background. If their educational background is readily available, especially the courses they have taken, that’s also helpful information to have. While not every successful coach needs to be ICF certified, all trainers should have reputable credentials and real world expertise in the subjects they teach. 

Is Mentoring Included? Find Out!

The value of mentoring and support for new coaches cannot be overstated. This is an often overlooked, but essential ingredient for any strong coaching program. Most offer some form of one-on-one mentoring. But how this is provided can differ widely. Some have mentoring packaged in with the life coach training program, while others include it as an optional add-on, which means you will need to pay for it separately. It’s great to have one-on-one mentoring both during and after your training. Working with clients can be tricky at times, and having a seasoned coach to debrief sessions with will accelerate your professional growth. A comprehensive ICF accredited coaching program that includes some kind of mentoring or access to ongoing support is what you’re looking for, especially if you’re considering a life coaching certification online.

Be Wary of Overpromising

The coaching industry may be booming, but that doesn’t mean everything you see out there is the real deal. Chances are you will stumble across programs that promise too much and charge too little. Coaching Certification for $49? It’s out there. And you’ll get what you pay for! 

When a program or a coach promises you so much that you feel like it’s too good to be true, take a step back and assess. Trust your intuition and take a closer look at testimonials and the word of graduates of the program.

There’s a program that is right for just about any budget. Comprehensive programs will include live instruction, personal support, and practice hour requirements in order to get certified. Expect tuition for a quality program to run anywhere from $2,500 - $12,000. 


Getting a coaching certification requires a lot of effort. Aside from understanding how to identify the best program for you, you’ll also want to make sure you have enough time for it. Believe it or not, so many aspiring coaches miss this. They enroll in a program only to realize they can’t juggle their existing priorities to dedicate enough time for it. Before you enroll, make sure you understand the time commitment and are in a place in your life where you can maximize the investment. It will require enough time dedicated to classes, homework, practice sessions, and personal reflection. 

Consider the Cost

Another aspect people often miss is the financial one. Are you truly able to afford the celebrity coaching program you’ve fallen in love with? Will you be working full time while enrolled in the program? If so, will the time you dedicate to becoming a coach affect your salary and productivity? 

Putting together the program tuition is one important factor. Most coaching programs offer payment plans to help make the investment fit into your budget. The costs do not end here, however. It’s not just about how much your chosen program will cost. You’ll also want to consider the downstream effects: how shifting your focus to coaching may impact your existing work, and income. What are the startup costs once you get certified? Will you be affiliating with an existing coaching platform, or creating your own? What are the costs of running a solo coaching practice? Thinking through how you plan to implement and use your new coaching skills is an important part of the equation.

Think about Your Lifestyle

Finally, consider who YOU are! While most ICF accredited coaching programs have the same skeleton, they each have very different “personalities”. This is evidenced in the way they structure the program, who their instructors are, and the alumni community that develops around the program.  Some are flexible and accessible for people who are working full time, with classes offered on nights and weekends like the JRNI Coaching Intensive. Others assume this will be your primary focus, or may require participation at in-person weeklong or weekend intensives. 

Consider the kind of lifestyle you have. Does it align with the programs you are attracted to? Does the program fit with your personality and values? Do you like the instructors? Because if not, perhaps it’s wise to look for another program, one that fits you perfectly. 

There are many to choose from so take your time. Post-graduation, the alumni network can be a tremendous resource as you step into coaching as a profession. Make sure the program you are considering attracts the kind of people you’d want to hang out with and learn from over the long haul. 

As you consider the pathways to becoming a life coach, don’t just ask “How do I get certified?” Ask “Does this program fit who I am, and who I am hoping to become?”

Ready to join an ICF accredited program with qualified instructors, an incredible community and plenty of support as you become a coach? Join The JRNI Coaching Intensive!

[Free Guide] 6 Steps to Start Coaching Today

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