8 Best ICF Coaching Certification Programs and Courses

Coaching ICF Certification

Coaching is for everyone, and that means that there are more coaches than ever before, and more uncertainty in what makes a good coach.

This is where certifications come in. Certifications are handy as it be used to quickly identify who has the qualifications to perform a particular job. They’re not foolproof, of course, but they give us a shorthand for understanding and talking about who is qualified.

Before you begin, we recommend starting Quenza’s 1 month trial for $1. Quenza’s suite of easy-to-use online coaching tools will help you support others with original, engaging programs, packages, and solutions, so that you can develop others more effectively.

What are Coaching ICF Certifications?

When a profession is relatively new, it is ripe with opportunity. People who are interested in the field will find ample room to stake their claim, to carve out their niche, and to contribute to the growing body of knowledge and practice.

This makes for an exciting time for those just breaking into the field, but it also makes for some uncertainty around qualifications. If a profession is new, who is to say what constitutes a “good” professional? Who is qualified, and how is that determined?

While coaching has been around for about as long as humans have been around, it’s only recently that it found an expanded purpose and an expanded audience. Suddenly, coaching isn’t just for the elite few, and it’s not just for athletes or executives.

In the world of coaching, no certifications are more well-known and well-respected than the International Coaching Federation (ICF) certifications.

In the world of coaching, no certifications are more well-known and well-respected than the International Coaching Federation (ICF) certifications.

The ICF was established over 25 years ago as a membership organization for trained professional coaches, and they offer several levels of certification to interested and experienced coaches.

When you hold a certification from ICF, you are showing potential clients and any other interested individuals that you have put in the time and effort to become skilled at your craft.

There are three credentials to highlight your level of skill and experience, with varying requirements:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential: minimum of 60 hours of coach-specific training, 100 hours of client coaching experience, 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months.
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential: minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training, 500 hours of client coaching experience, 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months.
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential: minimum of 200 hours of coach-specific training, 2,500 hours of coaching experience with at least 35 clients, 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months.

How Does ICF Accreditation Work?

As you can see from the descriptions above, each credential carries certain requirements regarding training and experience.

There are other requirements as well, including passing a knowledge assessment and a performance assessment.

When you hold a certification from ICF, you are showing potential clients and any other interested individuals that you have put in the time and effort to become skilled at your craft.

The ICF credential is issued by “a self-regulating group of elite coaches who provide accountability to clients and the coaching profession as a whole.”[1]

In other words, the ICF is not a detached body of administrators, but a group of highly regarded coaches who work hard to uphold the integrity of the profession. When you apply for and receive an ICF credential, you become a part of this group.

To apply for an ACC credential (the lowest level of ICF accreditation), you will need to:

  1. Complete an ICF-accredited Coaching Training Program (ACTP) or receive at least 60 Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH).
  2. Receive at least 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months, from an ACC who has completed a full cycle of the credential through renewal, a PCC, or an MCC in good standing.
  3. Provide documentation of at least 100 hours (at least 70 paid) of coaching experience with at least 8 clients; at least 25 of these hours must have occurred in the 24 months prior to submitting the application.
  4. Provide an audio recording and written transcript of a coaching session for performance evaluation (if using ACSTH for application).
  5. Complete the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA).

For the PCC and MCC credentials, the requirements are stepped up appropriately (e.g., 125 training hours and 500 hours coaching experience for PCC, 200 training hours and 2,500 hours coaching experience for MCC).

3 Best ICF Coaching Programs and Courses

To meet the training hours requirements, there are many courses and programs to choose from.

You can search outside of the ICF, but using the ICF’s training program search service (TPSS) is a great way to find coach training that passes the rigorous ICF review process. When you find training through the TPSS, you know that the curriculum aligns with the ICF definition of coaching, Core Competencies, and Code of Ethics.

If you’re looking for ICF-accredited, in-person or hybrid training (may be temporarily offered in an all-virtual format due to COVID) to become a highly trained and experienced coach, consider these 3 options:

  1. Coaching for Personal and Professional Mastery from Newfield Network: this premier 8-month program will give you the foundations you need to learn the Newfield ontological approach to coaching; it includes 125 student contact hours, personal coaching and mentor coaching, and performance evaluations.
  2. CoachRICE Certification from Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders: this professional 4-month program offers 80 hours of coach-specific training and prepares participants to apply for the ACC credential.
  3. Leadership Coaching for Organizational Well-Being from George Mason University: this 5-month course was developed by the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and prepares the applicant to make positive change in team and organizational culture.

5 Online Coaching Certification Programs

If you’re looking for all-online coaching certification programs, you’re in luck; there are tons of options available with a wide range of schedules, hours, and fees!

Here are a few of the best ICF-accredited online coaching programs:

  1. Coach School – Certified Professional Coach program (82 ACSTH hours, see the link for fees)
  2. iNLP – Life Coach Certification Training program (150-225 hours, see the link for fees)
  3. Life Purpose InstituteLife Coach Certification program (60 hours, see the link for fees)
  4. ADD Coach Academy – Basic ADHD & Life Coach Training Certification Program (109 hours, see the link for fees)
  5. Coacharya – Coaching Foundation program (60 hours, see the link for fees)

Best Software and App For Coaches

Quenza ICF Coaching Programs
Professional coaching software like Quenza can help you start, run, and grow your professional coaching practice.

Of course, your learning and development aren’t over once you’ve completed a course or certification program. You will still have much to learn, both about coaching as a profession and about how to best run a coaching practice that works for you.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make as a coach setting up your own independent practice (or expanding/improving upon your existing practice) is on the kind of digital tools you use to run your practice.

Just like coaching training options, there are tons of options available for software and apps. You can find many reliable platforms to help you with billing and invoicing, reaching potential clients, scheduling, organizing notes and documentation, and more.

However, there is only one platform that offers a robust set of tools to help you actually deliver your coaching services to your clients with lots of room for customization and growth: Quenza.

7 Unique Features Included In Quenza

Quenza offers a suite of features to help you boost the efficiency and effectiveness of your coaching practice.

Quenza Chat Coaching ICF Certification
Quenza’s coaching tools include HIPAA-compliant instant client messaging so that you can reach out to clients quickly and conveniently throughout your programs (Pictured: Quenza Chat).

Included in these features are:

  1. The Activity Builder: this drag-and-drop tool allows you to create customized activities to send to your clients. Use it to create coaching worksheets, assessments, forms, quizzes, exercises, and more.
  2. The Expansion Library of Activities: if you want to cut down on your time and effort spent putting together activities, look no further than Quenza’s library of science-based and evidence-backed activities; you can use them as-is or adapt them to fit your clients’ needs.
  3. The Pathway Builder: with your created and/or adapted activities in hand, you can build thoughtful activity pathways for your clients to work through your content on a pre-determined schedule. You can create multiple pathways for different groups or types of clients.
  4. The Client App: with the Quenza app, your clients are within reach all the time, no matter where they are. Send them notifications and reminders, chat with them, and keep them on track.
  5. The Client Profile: the client profile feature helps you stay organized and keeps all relevant information in one place—including your notes!
  6. The Quenza Chat: this feature allows you to quickly and conveniently reach out to clients and keep all your digital communication in one place.
  7. Client Groups: with this feature, you can put together groups of clients for easy access when sending activities or pathways to individuals on the same team.

While there are many software and app options to assist you in running your coaching practice, there are none that offer this helpful suite of features. With these tools, you can take your coaching practice to the next level.

Final Thoughts

To become a successful and effective coach, there are lots of things to consider; however, your certifications and your tools are two of the most important things to think about.

Hopefully, this piece has given you a good idea of why they matter and the options available to you. Check out blog for more information on running a successful independent coaching practice, with lots of other tips, guides and suggestions.

To deliver unique, personalized e-coaching under your practice brand, don’t forget to start your $1 Quenza trial.

Quenza contains all the tools you need to share engaging programs, packages, and courses easily online, while running your coaching business from any connected device.


About the author

Courtney is currently working as a healthcare workforce researcher for the state of California and is a regular contributor to the Quenza blog. She has a passion for taking research findings and translating them into concise, actionable packages of information that anyone can understand and implement.


  1. MW Magda Walczak

    Thank you for including Coacharya in your list. We really appreciate it! The program you mentioned, Coaching Foundation, is best for coaches who don’t have their ICF credentials yet. In addition to training towards ACC, we also offer pathways to PCC, MCC and EMCC to coaches at all levels of experience. We look forward to seeing you in class soon!
    – Magda, CEO, Coacharya.com

  2. KP Kimberly Patton

    Looking for life coaching school options

    1. CM Catherine Moore

      Hi Kimberly, here are a few nice options for you to consider: https://quenza.com/blog/life-coaching-certifications/#ftoc-heading-4

  3. S Sara

    I really want to know about neurolinguistic program course

  4. SM Sweedal Mathew

    Want the details about the ICF ACC certification and mentoring

  5. SC Sharon Chimwaza

    I want to enroll and start immediately. How can l connect?

    1. CM Catherine Moore

      Hi Sharon,
      Which course are you interested in?
      We’ve tried to include a link to each institution/program, but you might need to contact the institution if you can’t what you’re looking for on their site.
      Hope this helps!

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