Originally published in August 2019, this article has been updated and expanded to provide additional references and resources.
Choosing the right life coach training program - it’s got to be one of the biggest decisions an aspiring coach can make. We all want the best. We also want something unique, a program that speaks to our soul. And hey, let's face it, it also needs to fit within our budget!
As you evaluate prospective coaching programs, the ultimate aim is to find one that provides everything you’ll need to be fully equipped for launch. Whether you’re making a career change, looking to incorporate coaching skills into your current job, or hoping to add coaching as a side-hustle, there’s a program out there for you.
But how do you know which one is right? A search of the International Coaching Federation’s accredited programs yields hundreds of results! With so many programs available, those just starting out may be left wondering what's most essential to look for in a coach training program.
While you may be eager to jump in and get your life coach training started, a little homework now will pay big dividends later on. If you don’t shop around, you might just end up investing big bucks in a program you’re unsatisfied with.
Want to find the best life coach training program for your unique situation? One that fits your learning objectives, professional goals, values, and personality? If so, read on!
Here’s what you should be screening for:
1. Well rounded life coach training curriculum
If you want to deliver consistent results as a coach, you need evidence-based training in many different modalities. Look for programs that support YOUR end goals and vision.
What do you want your practice to be? Is there a specific niche or specialization you’d like to concentrate on, or are you looking for a broad set of coaching skills? Does the curriculum offered provide the knowledge and tools you’ll need to succeed?
There are hundreds of 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 more. Some programs span years, while others give a taste of coaching over a single weekend. Be sure that the program you choose is robust enough to deliver the goods relative to your unique goals.
Consider also programs that include a diverse faculty. It’s possible to learn how to coach from just one or two people, but at JRNI we believe that there’s strength in numbers. There’s more than one right way to coach!
In our experience, coaching students benefit from hearing from instructors representing different specialties, perspectives, and walks of life. It broadens your mind to the possibilities, and gives you a wider range of connections from within the coaching industry.
There are many core competencies to becoming a coach. For most coaches, there’s more to the business than what happens in the client session. Look for programs that include business, marketing, and interpersonal skills in the curriculum.
A reputable program is invested in you, and will want to see you succeed after graduation. To that end, it should offer business opportunities, real world practice, and a strong alumni community. Becoming a life coach is not an overnight process -- it takes time, support, effort and practice to build up a clientele. You need a team behind you, rooting for you every step of the way.
What to ask:
What is taught during this training?
What will I have learned by the end of it?
How will I be prepared to work with clients?
Will I gain the practical knowledge and tools to launch my coaching practice?
2. Reasonable promises
Some life coaching programs make awfully big promises. You know what we mean… a six figure income in your first year. Effortless client acquisition. Everything you need to get started for just $49.95. Pay careful attention when it comes to such promises. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Examine each program you’re considering with an optimistic but critical eye. Does what’s being offered square up with the program price, and length of training? Do the promised outcomes represent a reasonable return for your investment? If what’s being offered sounds like too much to achieve over the course of one weekend, trust your gut. Life coach training is a long-term investment in yourself and your future. It’s not the place to cut corners!
What to ask:
Is what’s being offered realistic and achievable?
What will I come away from this program having learned?
What tangible opportunities will be available to me upon completing this program?
Is there evidence supporting what the program promises to deliver?
3. The best life coaching program for your lifestyle
Yes, your preferences are something that should be considered! 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 careers, families, and other commitments to juggle.
That said, many programs are demanding in terms of time and dedication required to complete them. So assess your lifestyle - how much time can you set aside for classes, homework, and practice sessions? Do you have a full-time job? Or maybe two jobs? Are you the parent of two young kids? Do you usually go out every weekend, socializing with friends?
These considerations may seem insignificant at first. But for most people, going back to school is a balancing act that requires some sacrifice. Here’s a checklist of factors to consider as you think about starting a coaching program.
What to ask:
When does the training take place? Where? How?
What is the weekly time commitment necessary to graduate?
Is there flexibility if you need to take an unexpected break?
4. Positive, independent testimonials
What is the student experience really like? Will you be prepared to coach at the end of it? What are alumni from this program actually doing with their training?
Ask a graduate!
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 shouldn’t stop there. You want to speak to a few people who’ve gone through the program. Investigate what their experience was like, and how they are using what they learned today.
It may sound strange, but not all coaching programs will provide you with usable tools. Find out if the programs that interest you walk the talk. Ask to speak to some graduates.
What some examples? Check out these reviews and alumni case studies for JRNI’s Coach Training program.
What to ask an alum:
What were you hoping to get from the program? Did it meet your expectations?
How did the training affect you as a whole person?
How did what you learned apply to what you’re doing today?
What ongoing support is available to you as an alumni of this program?
If you could do it again, would you still choose this training program?
5. Accreditation and certifications
Do you need credentialing? It all depends on what your professional goals are. Certification is the first step in your coaching journey. From there, you can consider credentialing as a possible next step if it’s relevant to what you want to do.
The biggest and most well known accrediting body for coaching is the International Coach Federation. The ICF is a global organization that performs a rigorous review process to make sure every coach and coaching program meets international standards. The ICF is quickly becoming the gold standard among coaches - it’s a meaningful point of distinction to attend an ICF accredited program.
Want to learn more about the difference between coaching accreditation, certification, and credentialing? Check out this article for all the nitty gritty details!.
What to ask:
What are the graduation requirements?
How does the certification work?
Is this program accredited by the ICF? If not, why not?
Do I need an ICF certification to practice in the area I’d like to specialize in?
6. Guidance and assistance for launching your practice
Here’s the question that’s top of mind for almost every coaching student: “How will I get clients after I graduate?” A good life coach training program should provide you with insight on ways to build your client base.
Of course, training is only the beginning. A life coaching certification will not automatically attract clients to your doorstep! You’ll need to do the hard work. And yes, it will take time.
At JRNI Coaching, we train our students in real world business skills to help make this process easier. We cover how to identify your target client, define your unique coaching niche, and make tactical plans for how to grow your business.
Not every program provides business and entrepreneurship training alongside learning how to be a coach. Consider your goals, and if this is something you need.
What to ask:
Do I plan to launch my own coaching business?
What expertise and experience do I have that prepares me to be an entrepreneur?
Where do I need to augment my existing knowledge?
What business development skills are taught in this program?
7. A community that will support you for the long haul
Coaching is not an overnight gambit! It takes time and grit to build and sustain a successful coaching practice. No matter where you are, there's always new things to learn and fresh opportunities to uncover. That’s why a close-knit coaching community is worth its weight in gold.
You'll need people alongside you through the good times and the bad, the triumphs and the struggles. Our families and friends may not always understand the details of what we're going through professionally, but our coaching community does.
Haven’t thought much about this one yet? Explore more of the benefits you’ll receive from a vibrant coaching community here.
At JRNI, we’ve graduated over 500 coaches who are committed to helping one another, collaborating, and succeeding together. As you consider programs, don’t overlook the value of the alumni network. Find a program that’s in it for the long haul. You deserve to graduate from a program that will be there for years to come. This community will serve as a touchstone for you as you grow your practice.
Ready to get started?
If you’ve been considering programs but haven’t found the one that’s right for you, we hope you’ll come explore with us. We offer two tracks toward coaching certification: JRNI Essentials and JRNI Signature. If you’d like to talk to someone about our programs, click here to schedule a call with one of our team members to get your questions answered and see how we can help you become an even bigger force for good.