Several months ago, someone I know asked me “what does it mean that you are a certified coach and does your certification even mean anything?” Initially, I was taken aback by these questions, and I could have gotten defensive. It occurred to me that perhaps this person just didn’t understand, and it was my place to educate her. In fact, in the 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study, those surveyed said that they felt the number one obstacle to the coaching profession was “untrained individuals who call themselves coaches.”

I see ads on Facebook and Instagram all of the time saying: “Get certified in coaching here” “Want to be a Life Coach for only $197” “Become a certified coach in as little as five days”.  I even saw an advertisement that initially seemed like a coach referral service, but upon further investigation and review of the website, it was just an ad for a “certified coach training school.”  It seems really easy to set up and call yourself a life coach.  I didn’t want to go this route because I felt that if I was going to be a coach, I needed to have credibility and be taken seriously. 

My professional coaching journey started when I decided to change careers and become a coach.  Since I have always held academics in high regard, I wanted to go to a coach training program that is affiliated with a university.  I found the program at the University of Miami and I decided to go there due to its proximity to where I live.  The program took approximately two years to complete and is on par with any masters’ degree level curriculum.  There was eleven months of coursework; the remainder of the program was doing all of the post coursework requirements including, required paid coaching hours, mentor coaching, supervisor coaching, and passing an exam.  Upon completion of the program, I became a Certified Professional Coach.

However, to me that wasn’t enough.  I wanted more credibility.  I wanted to become an ICF Credentialed Coach.  The International Coaching Federation (ICF) which was founded in 1995 is the world’s leading organization that strives to advance the coaching profession.  The ICF sets high standards, provides certification, and provides a worldwide network of trained professionals.  As of May, 2020, the ICF has 39,352 members in 143 countries. There are currently 29,194 coaches in 130 countries who hold one of three ICF Credentials.  In November of 2019, I received my ICF Credential, joining that group of 29,000 people.  As an ICF Credential holder, I am bound by a Code of Ethics and Core Competencies.  I am also required to do continuing education, and hold myself to the highest of coaching standards. 

It really would have been easy for me to hang out a shingle and say, “I’m a life coach”, but that would not have resonated with my values.  In fact, I don’t even consider myself a life coach.  I consider myself a Professional Coach or an ICF Coach.  I love what I have learned on my coaching journey.  I am also grateful that I am an ICF Credentialed Coach and I love that I have an entire organization behind me to support me in my professional coaching career.

To answer the question above, yes, I am very proud of my certification and it does mean something.  It means a lot.  The ICF not only provides certification and credentials to individuals, it also certifies coach training schools, including the University of Miami, and it certifies all continuing education resources.

Working with an ICF Coach means that you are not working with someone who is out of a job and calls themselves a life coach.  Working with an ICF Coach means that you are working with someone who is professionally trained, has ethics, and meets the highest standards of the profession.