You’re serious about your career and want to do the right thing, so you may wonder, “Is getting an ICF credential worthwhile?”
This decision requires careful consideration because an ICF path is a real commitment of time and money. In this article, I’ll help you weigh the upsides and downsides to determine if pursuing an ICF credential is a good fit for you.
You may think I’m biased in favour of the ICF, and in most cases, that’s true. It is a valuable and worthwhile path, but it’s not for everyone.
So, let’s dive in and declutter this topic to help you make an informed decision.
Do you need an ICF credential to work as a coach? The short answer is no.
Coaching is mostly an unregulated industry, and there are no legal restrictions over using the word “coach” or the title itself.
Coaching is often closer to consulting rather than falling under medical or mental health professional standards and controls.
However, pursuing an ICF credential can be worthwhile if you are committed to your career and mastering your skills and value having recognized credentials and certifications.
What’s the downside of pursuing an ICF credential?
Earning an ICF credential requires a significant investment of time. You need to allocate time for the following:
- Studying, certifications, admin and logging of your coaching experience.
Each level of credential requires an increasing amount of coaching experience. For example, the top-level MCC credential asks for 2500 hours of coaching experience. However, if you are already on the path of being a professional coach, you may already be engaged in studying and coaching, which could minimize the impact of this downside.
Another potential downside is the financial investment. Pursuing an ICF credential involves expenses, including coach-specific training and education and the ICF credential application fees.
The most direct path to the credential is through an ACTP-accredited coach training program, which may come with a higher price tag compared to non-accredited programs. Additionally, there are costs associated with the actual credentialing process.
If you choose a portfolio or an approved coach-specific training path, the ICF will charge you more and require additional paperwork and proof of competencies than if you have an ACTP program behind you.
By completing an ACTP program, you can save money and time during the ICF credential process.
Once you have a credential, what’s next?
It’s also important to note that once you have a credential, you’ll be required to engage in continuing education and renew your credential periodically.
You will need to accumulate a certain number of Continued Coach Education (CCE) hours or credits to demonstrate your commitment to learning and developing as a coach.
There are various ways to obtain CCE hours. The ICF provides self-study courses on their platform, conferences and online webinars through ICF chapters worldwide, which often count towards CCE.
Re-attending any part of an ACTP program can also contribute to your CCE requirements.
Does an ICF credential restrict you as a coach?
While being an ICF credentialed coach means you are held to a certain code of ethics and standards, it doesn’t necessarily limit your ability to coach uniquely.
The ICF makes a conscious effort to create a balance between providing a framework for professional standards and allowing coaches the freedom to express their individual coaching styles and approaches.
The ICF recognizes the difference between coaching, therapy, teaching, mentoring, and other roles.
If you comply with the code of ethics and demonstrate your coaching competencies through performance evaluations, you have the flexibility to engage in various coaching roles.
Most coaches play multiple roles. They often blend coaching with other responsibilities, such as managerial or leadership roles. External coaches with their own businesses often incorporate consulting, mentoring or training into their practice.
While pure coaching adheres to ICF competency standards, coaches in the real world frequently shift between roles based on the needs of their clients.
Adapting and utilizing different approaches can enhance your communication, listening, and speaking skills as a coach.
Having said this, when you submit an ICF performance evaluation or complete their knowledge assessment (multiple choice), you cannot blend coaching with other modalities; you’ll need to give evidence of pure, no-advice coaching competencies.
Pursuing an ICF credential is not mandatory to work as a coach.
It can provide you with valuable recognition, credibility, and a competitive edge in the coaching industry. However, it requires a significant time and financial investment.
Assessing your goals, values, and commitment to continuous learning is essential before embarking on this path.
Deciding whether to pursue an ICF credential requires careful consideration of the:
- financial investment,
- ongoing education,
- and adherence to standards.
Evaluating how these factors align with your goals, aspirations, and the specific coaching market you wish to serve is essential.
By making an informed decision, you can determine if pursuing an ICF credential is the right path for you and your coaching career.
It’s important to understand the potential factors that may affect your decision.
One aspect to consider is whether certain areas of your coaching practice and education are already covered, which may reduce the significance of these factors for you.
Let’s explore the financial investment in pursuing an ICF credential, particularly aiming for ACC, PCC, and ultimately MCC.
This investment includes coach-specific training and education and the most direct path to the credential mountain, completing an ACTP-accredited coach training program.
Naturally, this path comes with a relevant price tag compared to some cheap, non-accredited coach training programs available. Additionally, there are costs associated with the actual credentialing process.
Choosing a portfolio path or an approved coach-specific training path with the ICF, the other two paths to climb the credentialing mountain, the ICF will charge you significantly more and require additional administration. This is because you may not have fulfilled some of the expected requirements within your ACTP-accredited coach training program, such as observed coaching sessions, performance evaluation, and mentor coaching hours.
One of the significant advantages of becoming a credentialed coach with the ICF is the transfer of credibility.
The ICF has built a strong reputation through extensive research and consultation with stakeholders, establishing gold standards for coaching at a professional and master level.
When you possess an ICF credential, you benefit from the industry’s trust and recognition, which can open doors and enhance your credibility.
It’s important to note that the value of an ICF credential may vary in different markets. While certain niche markets may not prioritize it as much, executive coaching and business coaching sectors, for example, tend to regard an ICF credential highly. In some cases, corporate and organizational clients may even require it.
Embarking on the journey of acquiring an ICF credential, starting from ACC, then PCC, and finally MCC, is a rigorous path that cultivates your skillsets and demonstrates your commitment to professional growth and excellence.
You are now being benchmarked at an international level.
You’re being asked to prove and demonstrate your competencies. This is where the industry is sifting through the sand, finding the gold. And if you are serious about this mastery path, know that a big part of it is challenging yourself to up your skills all the time.
Having an ICF credential with an ACC, PCC, or MCC next to your name means you’ve suddenly stepped into a community of professionals. You can look around at the ocean of coaches and spot other credentialed coaches. This means there’s an opportunity for networking, partnerships, referrals, and collaborations.
If you go onto platforms like LinkedIn and search for an ACC, PCC, or MCC coach, you will see how many coaches and the community you would automatically be involved in by having an ICF credential.
You’ve just made it possible to connect with people who may not have considered connecting with you without the ACC, PCC, or MCC next to your name.
The more the coaching industry matures and grows, the more discerning our clients are getting. It makes sense.
When your client is deciding whether to hire you or someone else to promote their services in the coaching space, your ICF credential could be the deciding factor.
Certainly, in the world of executive coaching and corporate organizational leadership coaching, the ICF credential carries a lot of weight and influence. Many corporate clients won’t even consider your services without you having an ICF credential.
Something you might not know about ICF competencies is that they’re plug-and-play. They’re the kinds of skills and competencies that you can insert into many other forms of communication, and they will enhance other roles like consulting, teaching, counselling, and more.
So even though many ICF credentialed coaches don’t offer only pure coaching without advice-giving, they often mix in other roles. Still, this competency skill set and these credentials enhance every other area of our career and all the other roles that we play in life.
Is having an ICF credential enough to succeed?
No. It’s going to make a substantial contribution to your career, confidence, credibility, and ability to attract clients. But it is not enough.
Most coaches don’t realize that they need other tools.
Coaches also need;
- Flexible, comprehensive toolboxes,
- And business-building and career-building skill sets.
That’s why choosing an ICF program that trains the ICF competencies and provides additional tools and resources is important.
When choosing an ICF program, make sure it ticks all the boxes of ACTP and that the trainers are well-qualified and credentialed at the PCC and MCC levels.
Additionally, ask the question, “What else am I getting?” Ensure you’re getting a comprehensive toolbox that will allow you to coach any niche, not just life, executive, or business coaching.
You want to have all those doors open and ensure you are also getting expert advice from coaches who have walked the path already and proven their success in building a practice, finding clients, and implementing systems beyond selling coaching hours.
By choosing a program that offers a comprehensive approach, mentorship, and guidance, you can break free of the limitations of simply selling coaching hours and create the freedom and abundant client-attracting practice you dream of.
This will afford you the ability to do the work you love, make the difference you want to make, and coach anyone anywhere in the world.
Remember, the decision to pursue an ICF credential is personal and ultimately depends on your circumstances and aspirations as a coach.
If you have any further questions or need more information, chat with us.
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You’ve been comparing coaching certification courses, but which one is best for you? We highly recommend an ICF accredited course like ours (still the most respected worldwide) but what else is important?
- If you’re looking for only theoretical academic courses—we’re not for you.
- If you’re want only surface to-do-list style coaching—we’re not for you.
- If you’re satisfied with generic everyone-offers-the-same—we’re not for you.
But if you’re interested in life-changing skills, coaching with depth and unique ready-to-coach processes that no one else is offering, we’re happy to talk. Book a call with our coaching career advisor Eryn Dawn.