What Is ICF Accreditation And How To Get Certified

ICF accreditation is the gold standard for professionally trained coaches around the world. It is also the only internationally recognised professional coaching accreditation.

ICF is the International Coach Federation. They are the largest organisation devoted to developing the coaching industry by setting high coaching standards, creating a global network of highly trained coaches and offering independent certification.

Note: While there are other coaching bodies out there that look very official, many of them are either too small or way too biased because behind the scenes they are actually run by coaching companies.

If you want to become a life coach, it’s a good idea to get your life coach training from an ICF certified program. Coaches who have ICF credentials belong to a self-regulating community of elite coaches who ensure accountability to their clients as well as the coaching industry overall.

Why Get An ICF Certification?

It gives your clients confidence that you have the coaching credentials to help them get results. It also allows you to be a recognised coach anywhere in the world. This means you can coach while you travel or coach via Skype to clients living anywhere in the world.

If you want to establish your coaching service, consider getting an ICF certification soon after your coach training. At least 20,000 coaches in the world have an ICF certification. These coaches stand for the very best in the industry.

The ICF accreditation is also the only internationally recognised professional coaching accreditation. By having an ICF coaching certification, business and life coaches have proven their knowledge, ability and dedication to professional and high ethical standards.

What this means for you as an ICF certified coach is more clients! In their eyes, you have reached a level of effectiveness in coaching that can help them to reach their goals in the fastest way possible.

Note: There are some coaching accreditations out there which look very official, but are actually websites that are set up and run by only one individual coaching company. To check this, Google the certification followed by the word “course” (eg. XYZ certification course) and if only one company shows up, that should ring alarm bells.

Why Get An ICF Certification image

The Three Standards Of ICF Coach Certification

The ICF gives coaches three levels of coach accreditations based upon coaching proficiency: the Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach and the Master Certified Coach. Every level has a significantly higher standard.

The ICF divides their coaching accreditations by the three important methods of competent coaching training. They are:

  • Live instruction
  • Live practice
  • Live feedback

These methods are used to determine the required hours needed to get certified for each ICF standard. If you are a newly trained coach, the entry-level of certification to achieve with the ICF is your Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credentials.

Clicking on that link will lead you to the ICF website where you will find all the ACC requirements by clicking on the ACC ACSTH Path.

ACC Paths image

Here are the steps and requirements needed to become an ICF certified life coach.

Step 1: Complete An ICF Certified Coaching Course

The best way to earn your ACC credential or any other ICF credential is through an ICF accredited coach training program. This is because you’ll be trained to become one of the best life coaches in the world using ICF-approved methods, and it’s the easiest path to become ICF certified since your hours will count towards the training requirement for your ICF credential.

To attain the entry-level ACC credential, the ICF will want at least 60 hours of coach-specific training through an ACTP (Accredited Coaching Training Program) or ACSTH (Approved Coaching Specific Training Hours) program.

Note: In case you’re wondering, Authentic Education’s Accelerated Coaching Certification course is an ACTP and an ACSTH program. We also meet the minimum requirement of 60 hours since we provide 72 hours of training.

Step 2 – Complete The Required Coaching Experience Hours

Coaching a client imageA minimum of 100 hours (75 hours paid) of coaching experience with at least eight clients following the start of your coach-specific training is required for an ACC credential. In addition, at least 25 of these hours must occur within the 18 months before applying for the credential.

The 100 hours of coaching experience is about you being the coach and practising your skills – not you being coached.

You must also fill up the ICF’s coaching log demonstrating the above hours of coaching experience. You will need to note down the names, the emails of clients and how many hours you have coached them for including start dates and end dates.

Here are the required hours needed to get certified for the higher levels of coaching accreditations.

Professional Certified Coach (PCC)

  • 125+ hours of live coaching instruction.
  • 500+ hours of live practise with coaching clients.

Master Certified Coach (MCC)

  • 200+ hours of live coaching instruction.
  • 2500+ hours of live practise with coaching clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions that we’ve received from our students about the required hours of coaching.

Q. I coach teenagers, are they counted as clients?

A. Yes, as long as some form of payment has been made (we assume by a parent).

Q. What are some ways that I can get to the minimum 100 hours (75 hours paid) of coaching experience with at least eight clients?

A. You may choose to do your 100 hours of coaching sessions with people you met at our coaching program that you connected with or previous students you know who are also doing their ICF accreditation.

If you have your own coaching clients, use them to get your hours up as you also need 75 hours to include some form of payment.

Some of our students have also put ads on Facebook, Gumtree, etc. to set up a free discovery session and then offer several paid sessions. Offer what you think is fair. You may do a lower cost to begin with so you can get your hours up for accreditation.

Q. The ICF mentions that we may be audited randomly. What happens during an audit?

A. The ICF would call a few people from your log and ask if they had coaching paid or free by you. As long as you fill in the ICF’s coaching log honestly, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Step 3 – Partner With A Mentor Coach

Mentoring a coach imageTo become an ICF certified life coach, whether it be for an ACC, PCC or MCC credential, you will need 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months, and this should be documented on your online application.

The 10 hours of mentoring directly relate to the time that the mentor coach is providing feedback to the mentee. It does not include the time spent listening to a coaching session.

Additionally, this requirement is in total. The applicant could receive mentoring from a variety of individuals or programs, however, they need to ensure that in total, they have received at least 10 hours over the course of a three month or a longer period of time.

It is also good to note that mentoring can be completed in a group format of no more than 10 participants. However, group mentoring can only make up 7 of the 10 required mentoring hours for an ICF credential.

Coach mentoring a menteeMentoring for the credentialing process will need to be completed by a coach who holds the same credential or higher than the one the student would be applying for. For example, if your mentor holds an ACC credential, he should only mentor those who are planning to apply for the ACC credential.

If the student applies for the PCC credential and received mentoring from a coach who only has an ACC credential, the time spent with them will not apply to the credentialing requirements.

Mentor coaching is done specifically for coaching on the student’s/participant’s coaching skills and must be based around the ICF Core Competencies.

We recommend you do a minimum of 80 hours of practise coaching before you contact a mentor coach.

You can contact the ICF to find a mentor coach. We can also provide one for our students.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about the mentoring process from our students.

Q: For mentor coaching hours on any ICF coach accreditation, is feedback on recorded coaching calls acceptable?

A: Yes, your mentor coach can provide feedback from a recorded coaching session and that will add to your mentor coaching hours.

Q: If I am the mentor and my mentee sends me a recording of one of their coaching sessions, and I provide feedback, will that count as one hour or however long the recording was of mentoring?

A: No, to clarify, if you are the mentor, the time you spend listening to the recording does not count.  The only time that would count as mentoring is the time you spend with the individual going over the feedback and coaching them on their coaching skills.

Step 4 – Take The ICF’s Assessment And Submit Your Requirements

Man looking for an ICF certified life coaching courseTo become an ICF approved life coach, you will need to display the correct knowledge and proficiency of the ICF coaching standards, core competencies and code of ethics. In order to do that, you will need to complete the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA).  FYI, this is not difficult.

You will also need to submit all the requirements needed which includes a performance evaluation – an audio recording and written transcript of one of your coaching sessions.

Next, you would need to pay the application fee. If you are not a member, we recommend you become a member first. It will be cheaper that way.

Then, upload a copy of your coaching certification from an ACTP or ACSTH life coaching program just like the one below.

Accelerated Coaching Certification certificate image

Once done, congratulations and good luck! The estimated timeline for review of an ACC application is 14 weeks.

Want ICF Accreditation? Consider The Accelerated Coaching Certification Program

Associate Certified Coach certificate sample

If you want to earn your ICF accreditation here in Australia, join our Accelerated Coaching Certification program. We are ICF certified as seen on coachfederation.org.

Many other coaching programs keep students on a treadmill of courses… always striving, never arriving. This coaching course empowers you with the core tools you need to make a difference and a living transforming people’s lives.

Our internationally recognised ICF coaching courses will make it possible for you to coach clients here in Australia and anywhere in the world.

We will equip you with everything you need to change people’s lives for the better, and we’ll teach you how to make a great living from it (one of the many reasons to become a coach!).

Join Our Accelerated Coaching Certification Program image

If you would like to learn more about our ICF accredited coach training program, click here.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to become a coach? If you’re curious about how to become an internationally certified, highly-paid coach, book a free personal assessment with one of our friendly Course Advisors today.

We can help you get crystal clear on building your own successful life coaching business in 90 days or less. Click here to book a time that suits you now.



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Ben is the Difference-Maker Mentor and Co-founder of Authentic Education. He is exquisite at inspiring people to share their message, make a difference in the world and live abundantly on purpose.

Ben has been featured in media such as the Today Show, Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post and News.com.au.