Career Coaching: A Guide to Becoming a Coach

October 19, 2022
Minute Read
Woman in a blue blazer coaching another individual in a red sweater


This is Part 2 in our two-part coaching series, which looks at best practices for finding a coach as well as connecting with the credentials to become a coach.

With the coaching industry growing to nearly $2 billion in the U.S., there is a glut of coaches across the country. There is also a lack of information on how to gain the skills, credentials, and knowledge to help you differentiate yourself from others as you start your own coaching practice.

How Do I Become a Coach?

The coaching industry is not regulated, so anyone can become a coach without experience. That is not to say coaches must have a specific credential—many skilled coaches have a wealth of knowledge from their own research and work experiences. In fact, in most organizations looking for coaches, they are actually looking for individuals who have experience coaching in a similar industry and a clear coaching methodology to guide their practice (Kauffman, Harvard Business Review).

But, if you are just starting out, you need a solid foundation, and the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the foremost certifying organization. They not only do extensive research in the field of coaching, but they have also built standardized pathways to recognize credentials.

They have three credentials based on training and experience level:

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

If you are seeking a credential in the field, they can be earned through proven work experience or specific training programs.

What Coaching Training Program Should I Choose?

In general, if you are seeking a coaching training program, make sure it will get you to a recognized credential. The ICF will recognize these programs as an Accredited Coaching Training Program (ACTP).

If you are starting from scratch, this would mean that in order to get the ACC certification, you will need:

A certified coaching program will require between 4-12 months on average of work. By the completion of the program, you should have received the 60 hours of in-classroom training and guidance or assistance on getting the 100 hours of coaching experience.

Looking for Programs

These certified programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are $10,000+ and are sponsored by universities. Others are held as retreats with multiple, multi-day commitments.

When looking for the program that is best for you, keep in mind the below.

Make sure the program is accredited.

The ICF website lets you search your region and find all the ACTP programs in your area.

Look for a program that fits your schedule.

There are many options available, but it is important to think about what works for you. Some programs are all virtual; others have both in-classroom and online components. Find the one that makes the most sense for your learning style.

Think about what you want to do with your credential.

Coaching is a competitive landscape. Think about what coaching program most interests you and would provide the strongest foundation for your practice. Strozzi is a multifaceted program, focused on the body and movement and is the foremost somatic intelligence program available. Other programs may offer a strong foundation, and then you can pursue a certificate program, like those from The Neuroleadership Institute, which provides a more science, brain-based approach to soft skills development. Think about developing focused skills that will help you stand out and align with your interests.

Do your research.

Match is everything—make sure to look into any program you are interested in, regardless of whether the sponsor is Northwestern University or a small LLC out of Idaho. Check reviews and reach out to the program leaders on LinkedIn or other media—they are often very happy to help!

Pro-tip: You can also find someone who has gone through the program who is not necessarily listed on the site.You can often do this from LinkedIn searches or even just Google searching it since some people put it in theirbiographies. This way, you get an unbiased opinion.

Program Options in Chicago

As a Chicago-based company, we have to look out for our own. Check out the below programs in our area if you are interested in upskilling into coaching.

  • Northwestern University: The university offers a very comprehensive program for coaching. It is modularized, so you can split up the learning in multiple segments to fit your schedule. At the end of the learning process, you not only earn a certificate, but it sets you up for access to ICF credentials as well.
  • Coacharya: This is an online program, but it has responsive, helpful contacts on the ground in Chicago. The program also provides the learning necessary to get an ACC credential and offers a mix of Eastern and Western methodology as part of its curriculum.
  • Work Life Destinations: While this program is not actually local, the modularized structure allows flexibility. The in-person sessions are held in Maryland, but you can complete the different sections of the program leading to the ACC in a way that fits your schedule.
  • Accomplishment Coaching: Accomplishment Coaching is a community of ontologically trained coaches and leaders. Their special brand of coach training combines Excellence and Rigor with Love and Being. Their graduates form a dynamic community of coaches that provide coaching services for individuals and organizations worldwide.


Becoming a coach requires dedication, perseveration, and commitment. If you have questions or comments about the process, do not hesitate to reach out.

We also offer a variety of coaching offerings if you are looking for a coach to help you on your own journey. Contact us at

Check out Part 1 of this series if you are interested in how to find a coach.

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