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How to Become an ICF Certified Coach?

How to become an ICF-certified coach?

Dr. Paras
Dr. Paras
Mar 16, 2021
How to Become an ICF Certified Coach

How to become an ICF-certified coach? Before we delve into the details, there are things you need to know! Becoming a coach is a truly rewarding career profile if bringing a transformation to people’s lives inspires you in every way! 

Coaching is about being a change catalyst to motivate and partner with people and support them to find their own potential. 

Coaching requires an individual to firstly begin the transformation within. So, when you open the doors to your internal growth, you open the doors to view the world with a wider lens. 

However, unlike other industries, coaching has been an unregulated profession so far, without any specific degree in place. This poses problems for the coaching fraternity as well as clients who seek genuine service. 

We’ll explore this in detail further on in the blog.

Understanding Coaching as a Profession 

Coaches can opt to coach individuals or corporations in the following areas:

  1. Career Coaching
  2. Leadership Coaching
  3. Business Coaching
  4. Wellness Coaching
  5. Executive Coaching
  6. Sales Coaching
  7. Personal Coaching
  8. Relationship Coaching and many more!

A coach supports a client to improve themselves in all aspects. This brings massive changes in a client’s life as he/she develops the ability to perform to their highest potential in personal life, as well as their business, job, education, and more. 

This type of self-awareness is attained after intensive coaching sessions, so it’s quite natural for the requirement of the coach to be of the highest standards. 

A successful coach is one who is able to raise this awareness that touches a person’s most important areas in life and to enable them to identify the options they need to take. 

To be an ICF certified coach is often underlined and specified in the coaching profession. 

You may wonder, “How to become an ICF certified coach?” Or, “What are the steps required to be an ICF certified coach?”  Do you think the path is an arduous one? 

Before we answer the question, let’s understand the basics.

Do you want to be an ICF Certified Coach?

The world of coaching is driven by passion. And, before you understand the intricacies, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Do you love collaborating with people?
  2. Do you have a genuine desire to inspire, empower, transform?
  3. Do you want to support people to achieve their dreams?
  4. Do you feel you have a higher purpose in life?
  5. Do you think you are flexible to begin a transformation within?
  6. Are you ready to look at all areas of your own behaviors, examine them, and reframe thoughts?

If having an open mind creates a comfort level with your style of thinking, then you are on the right path to seek becoming an ICF certified coach. 

Importance of being an ICF certified coach

Let’s begin with understanding, what is ICF? Who are they? What are the requirements to become an ICF Certified Coach? Why should you select an ICF certified coaching course? 

Established over 25 years ago, the International Coaching Federation, popularly known as ICF sets the golden standard of coaching. As mentioned earlier, coaching was a profession that has been largely unregulated, especially due to companies offering coaching programs with dubious certifications. 

ICF sets the rules that ensure the professionals who turn into coaches are created after rigorous training, learning, awareness, and accountability towards the coaching industry. 

ICF mentions their commitment towards creating a professional self-governance model (mentioned on their site). The foundation drafted a set of rules, policies, ethics and core competences - all of which form the foundation to be certified by ICF.

Coaching programs such as the one by Matrrix that follow the standards for ICF certified coach training.

Does an ICF Certification Matter?

While there are many other certifications offered to ‘govern’ the profession of coaching, it’s interesting to note the bias behind them as they are run by a single body. Lesser known certifications by smaller companies are often run by institutes who want to promote their own coaching programs but have no credibility on an international platform. 

The International Coaching Federation is a self-regulating community of elite coaches who are working towards accountability in coaching towards clients and the coaching industry. 

They ensure the aspiring coaches who apply are also accountable towards following all the standards as outlined by the ICF.

So, is ICF Coaching worth it?

An ICF-certified coach is recognized and respected the world over. Having a coaching certification that is followed after your coaching program ensures you represent the best in the industry. 

Clients looking for a professional coach also show a preference towards a coach who displays an internationally-recognized credential, while knowing there is greater trust and professionalism in the process. 

It also displays how a coach has proven their ability while demonstrating their knowledge and displaying the right ethics - all important criteria for clients who want to hire the best in the industry.

ICF Coaching is definitely worth it! Because, the ICF certification itself opens the gateway for more clients. All the more important when you are beginning as an independent coach and are looking to scale up your career profile as well.

Let’s find out more on “How To Become An ICF Certified Coach?

Understanding the 3 Levels of the ICF certified coaching programs

The ICF offers 3 levels of coaching certifications. They are as follows:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC)
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC)

Every level has different measures of coaching proficiency. The ICF holds live instruction, live practice and live feedback as some of their criteria to be certified as per the set standards.

1. ACC Level

There are three paths that an individual can choose from for the ACC path. They are as follows:

ACC ACTP Path

ACC ACSTH Path

ACC Portfolio Path 

(There have been some modifications due to the COVID-19 impact and the same is displayed on their site.) 

a. ACC ACTP Path

The ICF outlines the need for the completion of an entire ICF Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) and the applicant needs to check the program’s approval as well. 

The professional needs to complete a minimum of 100 hours (70 paid hours) of coaching experience. 

The professional has to share details about work done with at least 8 clients that should occur at the start of the coach-specific training program. 

The ICF outlines 25 of these hours need to be held within 24 months from the time of the application submission for the ICF credential. 

Completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) is also a must. 

b. ACC ACSTH Path

An ICF associate certified coach requires at least 60 hours of coach-specific training through an ACTP or ACSTH program. It also requires 10 hours of Mentor Coaching (3 months) to be documented and submitted online. 

(Your mentor coach must be ACC and needs to have completed a full cycle of the credential through the renewal). The professional also needs to display 100 hours (70 paid hours) of coaching experience with 8 clients at least. 

The applicant also needs to submit an audio recording with a written transcript of a coach session. The file needs to be uploaded with the application. This file will be used for performance evaluation. 

The path also requires completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA)

c. ACC Portfolio Path

This is meant for those professionals who are counting Continuing Coach Education (CCE) units and/or non-approved training towards the individual’s training requirements, as defined on the ICF website. 

Requirements for these include 60 hours of coach-specific training. The applicant needs to display the details about the completion of a training program they have enrolled for that includes information around the ICF definition of coaching, Code of Ethics, and Core Competencies. 

An understanding of all is vital for coaching growth. It also needs to include a minimum of 100 hours (70 paid hours) with at least 8 clients. ICF outlines that 25 of these hours need to take place within the 24 months from date of submission of application. 

The applicant needs to submit an audio recording and a written transcript of the coaching session online. Once again, a completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) is required at this level. 

2) PCC Paths

a. PCC ACTP Path

The ICF highlights the applicant needs to complete an entire ICF Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP). This also requires a 500 hours (440 paid hours) which are minimum for the coaching experience with 25 clients. 

Around 50 of these hours need to occur within 24 months of the date of submission of application to apply for this credential. As is mentioned for other levels, this also requires completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA). 

b. PCC ACSTH Path

The individual needs at least 125 hours of coach-specific training through an ACTP or ACSTH program. It needs to include 10 hours of Mentor Coaching (3 months minimum) with 500 hours (440 paid hours) of coaching experience with 25 clients at least. 

The applicant needs to upload two audio recordings and written transcripts of the coaching sessions online. These are used for performance evaluation. The applicant also needs to complete the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA). 

c. PCC Portfolio Path

This is meant for professionals who are counting Continuing Coach Education (CCE) units and/or non-approved training towards one’s training requirements.

Their requirements include 125 hours of coach-specific training with performance evaluation. The applicant needs to demonstrate the completion of a training program that adheres to the ICF definition of coaching, Code of Ethics, and Core competencies. 

The applicant also needs 10 hours of Mentor Coaching (3 months at least) and the same needs to be documented in the online application. The applicant needs a minimum of  500 hours (440 paid hours) of coaching experience and the same needs to be documented. 

The ICF outlines at least 50 of these hours must occur 24 months prior to the submission of the application. Two audio recordings and written transcripts of the coaching sessions must be uploaded online for performance evaluation. 

The ICF requires a completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) to apply for this credential. 

The ICF certification ensures coaches adhere to ethics while reassuring clients of their ‘model of excellence’ 

3. MCC Path 

The Master Certified Coach level requires 200 hours of coach-specific training. This needs to include 10 hours of Mentor Coaching (minimum 3 months) with 2,500 hours (2,200 paid hours) and a coaching practice with 35 clients along with many other details as outlined on their site. 

The applicant needs to submit two audio recordings and written transcripts of the coaching sessions for a performance evaluation. The applicant also needs to hold (either currently or previously) a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Credential. 

The applicant also needs to complete the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) unless the applicant has previously passed when applying for ACC or PCC.

The preparation that you go through for all the levels for an ICF certified coach training will prepare you at the highest level to be a professional coach. Initiating a change in others may often be a challenging process and coaching programs that are accredited with the ICF offer the best level of training in the industry. 

All the levels outlined above require a strict adherence to the coaching standards as outlined by ICF. This includes the values, ethics, and core competencies that form the foundation of a professional, and a highly-skilled ICF certified coach.

Understanding ICF Ethics

The ICF has developed a definition and outlined their philosophies all related to coaching and aimed to define the standards at a global level. After all, with coaching gaining popularity in the recent number of years, and the profession being in demand with the need for Executive and Life Coaches going higher, a standard ethical practice is essential to govern the industry. 


Why does an ethical practice hold importance? 

It gives the client an assurance about the quality of coaches being certified. The ICF’s Ethical Conduct Review (ECR) has established a forum. Here, any individual can raise complaints against a breach of contract. 

The ICF Members and ICF Credential-holders provide a review process to investigate the complaints and respond to the statements while holding an unbiased view.

This step is essential to every client who approaches a coach. As coaching is in itself a profession that requires greater trust and intimacy to be built, the coach has to strictly adhere to the ethical practice. 

The ICF certification ensures coaches adhere to ethics while reassuring clients of their ‘model of excellence’. This in turn benefits professional coaches as they are served clients who want to work with the best in the industry thereby benefiting both parties at large. 

The ICF also outlines a Code of Ethics on their website. This gives assurance to the topmost clients who are willing to invest in professionals to resolve issues in their organizational workplace or for an individual requirement. 

ICF coaches are also preferred by the topmost entrepreneurs, those in the entertainment industry, CEOs, CXOs, and all at the highest rung of managerial positions.

Understanding ICF Core Competency

The ICF also outlines core competencies that lead to greater understanding about the skills and approaches needed to be a certified ICF coach. Coaching programs such as the one by Matrrix that follow the standards for ICF certified coach training, inculcate these skills in aspiring coaches. 

The competencies indicate the type of behavior to be maintained by the coach. This is an important level to be a professional coach and attract the best of clients. 

As defined by ICF, Coaching is referred to as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. 

The ICF updated the Core Competencies recently to release a concise version of the earlier 11 ICF Core Competencies. Currently, the competencies are divided into 4 main domains and the updated version was released in November 2019.

Click here to view more details on ICF Core Competencies. 

The ICF core competencies all indicate the levels of awareness that a coach needs to raise in himself/herself to ensure they offer world-class coaching. 

Example, a coach would need to be unbiased towards client stories. This means, the coach, as he/she listens intently, is aware and mindful about the information they are receiving and are being non-judgmental towards the process. 

The coach demonstrates listening skills while being detached to co-create a strong relationship based on trust. The coach also maintains agreement by ensuring details of the coaching practice are outlined effectively to clients. 

Most importantly, the coach is focused on cultivating learning and growth in the client, so that the transformation is initiated to make the client self-reliant with greater awareness. 

The ICF outlines how coaching is a partnership with the client, wherein there is awareness the client holds the solutions to their problems which makes coaching “client-centric”. The coach’s primary aim is to raise awareness in the client towards their thoughts, behavior, and actions. 

Coaching bodies who claim to offer any type of certification by hiding a personal agenda do not have a detailed outline as compared to the level of excellence displayed by the ICF. Nor are the certifications regulated by the type of governing bodies such as the ICF which have a set process. 

So, if you are still wondering how to become an ICF certified coach, we’ll share some more details related to the process. 

How to Become an ICF Certified Coach?


Firms such as Matrrix by ICF-certified and MCC level - Dr. Paras, offer ICF certified coaching programs that prepare you to apply for the ICF certification model. Dr. Paras is an internationally recognized coaching professional with years of experience to his credit. 

Having collaborated with clients worldwide, Dr. Paras brings his expertise along with fulfilling all the criteria as specified by ICF to offer ICF coach certification in India and abroad.

The process:

  • Sign up for an ICF approved coaching program
  • Begin with the ICF ACC/PCC Level, complete all the required number of training hours and other details as outlined by ICF.
  • Work with your mentor or coach to imbibe all the skills
  • Initiate the process of the ICF application.

If your application is accepted, you will need to answer an examination process. 

What Is ICF Accreditation?

ICF accreditation is the only internationally recognized one that identifies people who are trained to be professional coaches. They are also the largest in the world who define the coaching standards. 

The most safest way to achieve your ACC credential or the following ones (PCC, MCC) is to always choose an ICF accredited coach training program. When a coaching firm accredits their program through ICF, you are assured of the quality of the program, the program materials, as well as the overall procedure of the coaching process. 

For the coach who offers such a program, it also lends credibility to the firm while ensuring the program gets maximum exposure to connect with aspiring professionals.

Which Coaching Training Courses Should I Enroll In?

As an aspiring coach, it’s natural that you aim to invest your time and money with coaching institutes who offer genuine course materials to support you for the ICF application. Matrrix, is one of the premium coaching institutes led by Coach Dr. Paras. 

The firm offers programs for ACC/PCC/MCC levels and has supported 330+ students with coach training and mentoring till date. Matrrix offers coach training programs online as well as offline to support international students. ICF accredits only those programs that have delivered a high level of coach-specific training. 

This certifies the training program has met the standards after the ICF review process and the coaching firm also uses a curriculum that is defined as per the ICF Core Competencies, values, ethics, and other coaching practices.

One of the main goals of the accreditation process is to ensure that the Coach offering the program also displays the right set of qualities to impart training in coaching. Accreditation thus checks the following areas of the practising coach as well.

  • Completion of coach training
  • Whether the coach has undergone mentoring and supervision
  • Adherence to ICF ethics, values, competencies
  • Reflective logs, supervision log details
  • Observation of the ongoing training through continuous professional development (CPD)

It’s also essential for the course creator to undergo Coach Supervision at regular intervals. This supports a coach to develop clarity towards self and others while observing if they are able to remove all filters. 

How Do I Find An ICF Credential Coach?

Any person can claim to be a coach, and this might seem to be a cumbersome task for a person seeking an ICF credential coach. This also implies while choosing an appropriate ICF certified program or an ICF-certified coach where you also need to check the coach’s credibility (trainer of the program), training hours, and overall reputation of the coach and the firm. 

You can verify the coach’s credentials by viewing the directory such as this one. Dr. Paras is listed here with the basic details outlined for those seeking more information. You can also visit the ICF Mentor Coach Registry where you only need to enter the coach’s name and to check the ICF membership status and/or the ICF Credential status.

ICF Coach Certification Cost 

Investing in an ICF accredited program requires a thoughtful plan as this is an investment you won’t regret. To pursue the ICF accredited program requires you to firstly pay for the initial coaching program costs as well as pay the amount identified by ICF to apply for the credentialing process. 

The program cost for an ACC level may range from 4000-5000 USD. A PCC level may be priced at 6000-8000 USD. The ICF coaching program cost differs as per the chosen institute. Fix an appointment with Team Matrrix to know about the entire process. 

ICF certified coaching programs hold great value and offer a boost to one’s professional career. So, even if you are planning to coach independently or impart training to aspiring coaches, the credential ensures your returns on the investment made in the earlier stages are received with greater interest which you can capitalize year after year! 

So, if you are still confused and wondering how to become an ICF certified coach or are looking for ICF certified coaches in India, write to 

drparas@matrrix.in. You can also view Dr. Paras in action on his videos, read his blogs, or find him on LinkedIn.

Dr. Paras

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Paras  

ICF-certified (Master Certified Coach) and EMCC Master Practitioner and ESIA -Coach Supervisor Dr. Paras, and Co-Founder of Dr Paras Wellness Pvt. Ltd. with brand Matrrix has been focused towards initiating change and transformation in people. As a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner and Mindfulness Coach, he brings a fresh approach towards learning the psychology of one’s thinking and behavior patterns. In his 18 years’ journey, he has trained, coached and mentored over 1.5 lakh individuals while certifying over 240 coaches. The leadership development programs of Matrrix have honed over hundreds of professionals while resolving workplace issues and ensuring higher ROI for firms.

Dr. Paras uses the power of coaching, counseling and positive psychology frameworks to resolve organizational issues, manage internal conflicts, and accelerate business growth. His programs for professional certifications in NLP, Mindfulness, Counseling, Coaching, and more have solidified his name as a transformation coach. Dr. Paras is also the founder of the Iinner Universe Education Foundation that runs Tava-Mitram (not-for-profit) to improve emotional wellness. He is also an avid blogger and social media enthusiast who loves keeping in touch with his international audience.

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