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43 Best Coaching Certifications and How-to Pick



Coaching—boy, is it ever not just for football anymore. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a sector (or concept) that hasn’t spawned a coaching industry. Since the term “life coach” hit the cultural conversation in the 90s, we’ve seen a rise in all kinds of coaching niches. Career coaching, sure. Also: parenting coaches, executive function coaches, nutrition coaches, abundance and prosperity coaches, sexuality coaches, and menopause coaches. There are, in all seriousness, coaches who claim to be able to help you mediate your conflicts with people who are no longer living. 


I’m not here to weigh in on which kinds of coaching are and aren’t legit—if you feel you’d benefit from coaching in anything you’re very likely correct, and people have a vast array of pain points where third-party help can be sanity-saving. Sure, a psychotherapist can ideally also help you work through your grief situation and hopefully your gynecologist has useful things to say about navigating menopause, but coaches are different from therapists or doctors, and there are use cases for each. 


Where coaching can get tricky, though, is that it can be hard to know who’s “for real” in professions that have little official legitimization. You wouldn’t hire a lawyer who wasn’t licensed to practice law—and you wouldn’t hire a divorce attorney to handle a corporate merger or vice versa. Certificates, certifications and licenses help us understand the earned expertise of someone we might be hiring to help us with a high-stakes situation. 


So let’s say you’re interested in becoming a coach: what is certification, why is it important, and which ones are in the highest demand? 



What’s the difference between a certificate, a certification, and a license?

A license is a verification, generally issued by a government agency, that a professional is adequately trained to perform a particular occupation. Professions that require licensing in the US include law, medicine, cosmetology, architecture, and construction. 


A certification verifies that a professional has met a certain set of criteria for a skill or job as measured by a third-party assessing body. In many cases, certification might not be required to operate in your profession, but it serves as validation that you’ve passed an exam in your field. Examples of professions that require certification include paralegals, engineering technicians, insurance agents and solar installers. 


A certificate is slightly different from a certification, primarily in that certificates are usually granted by academic institutions. They verify that you’ve successfully completed relevant coursework in your field.  


The 5 most in-demand coaching certifications



Career Coaching Certifications

Career coaches are specialists in helping people find and develop their ideal career path. We help clients identify their ideal role, and then help them land the job they want. It’s a complex field that requires up-to-the-minute knowledge of the employment landscape, various career sectors, and how to market your skills and background in a way that makes recruiters take notice. 

At the International Association of Career Coaches, we offer three certifications for those looking to launch or grow their career coaching practice. 

  • SPCC: This certification gives you all the fundamentals to launch a career coaching practice—from helping clients identify their dream job to creating the assets that will help get them there.

  • SPRW: This certification is specific to resume writing. It’s a great skill for career coaches to develop, but some people choose to provide resume services as a standalone. 

  • MPCC: This certification recognizes coaches who have completed 1,650 additional hours of direct coaching, coaching preparation, thought leadership, and building up the career coaching community.  



Executive Coaching Certifications

Executive coaching is a professional development tool that helps high-achieving people who are in, or aspiring to, leadership positions within an organization. Individuals hire executive coaches, but oftentimes, so do corporations, who benefit from having management-tier employees develop better conflict management, critical thinking, problem-solving and other leadership skills. Executive coaches work one-on-one with clients or in group settings.

Here are some top recommended certifications if you’re interested in executive coaching certifications.



Wellness Coaching Certifications

If you’re drawn to wellness coaching, you’re not alone! It’s honestly very strange how divorced “wellness” can be from “medicine” in our culture, and a lot of confusion, anxiety and suffering can result. Wellness coaches help people achieve various health goals—physical and psychological—including weight management, exercise and strength, nutrition, and mindset adjustment. 

That said, this can be an especially delicate area for coaches since making ignorant mistakes (or, heaven forbid, willfully misleading people to sell something) can bite you harder than an angry pitbull. Do yourself and your prospective clients a favor and don’t leap into wellness coaching without serious education.

Here are some top recommended certifications if you’re interested in wellness coaching certifications.

Life Coaching Certification

One of my clients came to me after she’d been unemployed or underemployed for several years. At the end of our first session, I asked her why she’d waited so long to do this for herself. She narrowed her eyes and said “Don’t you dare come at me with ‘coach nonsense.’ This is not about my upper limiting beliefs or my self-esteem.” 


That client, as it turned out, had been taken for a manipulation joyride by a toxic (and not certified for what she was doing) life coach. This coach had upper-limiting-belief’ed my client out of $6,000 she didn’t have to spare. Of course, she was triggered by the phrasing of my question; she’d been subjected to months of public humiliation in a social media forum by someone who had turned guilt-tripping and blame-shifting into a seven-figure business. Unfortunately, that coach is not unique.


Life coaches benefit hugely from certification, in no small part because there’s a lot of subjective stuff involved, and certification can not only wise you up to the best practices of the profession but also offer you some protection from disgruntled clients. Indeed, the more thoroughly certified you are the less likely you are to have a disgruntled client, because your commitment to learning will inherently pay off. 


Here are some top recommended certifications if you’re interested in life coaching certifications:


Niche Coaching Certifications

Many coaches inhabit specialized and sometimes eccentric niches. They share many of the skills of a life coach (or career coach) but they feel they have something unique to contribute to specific inflection points when people benefit from a guide who can give them better-coping strategies, tools and support. These range from relationship coaching to divorce coaching, from grief coaching to positivity coaching. Any life event or situation you can think of that tends to create stress, personal blockages or conflicts—there’s very likely a coach for it.


Here are some top recommended niche coaching certifications:


ADHD Coaching Certifications

  • ADD Coach Academy: They offer the ADHD Coach Training Program, focusing on coaching individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Grief Coaching Certification:

Divorce Coaching Certification:

  • Certified Divorce Coach: This program offers a Certified Divorce Coach certification for coaches working with clients going through a divorce.

Relationship Coaching Certification:

Financial Coaching Certification:


Parenting and Family Coaching Certification:

Sports Coaching Certification:

Sales Coaching Certification:

  • Sales Gravy: Sales Gravy offers the Certified Sales Coach program for individuals interested in coaching sales professionals.


How do I pick the right certification?

Picking the right certification is critical to your success as a coach. Here are the top 6 things you need to consider:

  1. Is the certification from a reputable organization? 

  2. Is the course content being taught in a way that works for you? I.e. in person, online, async or on demand? 

  3. How long will it take to complete the course? 

  4. Will there be assignments/tests/quizes to help validate your learning? 

  5. Is the certification valid or recognized in the country/region where you are looking to set up your business? 

  6. Are cost and payment plans available? Will you be able to make a return on your investment? Will they ask you to pay membership fees to keep your certification valid?



How can you validate whether the certifying body is trustworthy?

The trustworthiness of a certificate is crucial because of the time, energy and money investment it represents. Here are a few ways you can determine if the certification is trustworthy:


Accreditation 

If your certification is accredited by a recognized accrediting body, you can be sure it is meeting standards set by that third party. This can include academic accrediting bodies or industry-specific accrediting bodies.


Reputation

Reviews, testimonials, and feedback from those who have earned a particular credential. Look at their site and also search professional forums. If the majority of people reporting on their certificate have a lot of negative things to say, it might be a red flag...


Requirements

The requirements to earn the certification are clearly spelled out and they make logical sense. Be careful—like really careful—of easy-to-obtain or “pay-to-certify” programs.


Curriculum

Review the content. Ensure it is aligned with the industry standards and practices.


Exam and assessment

How are you judged on knowledge acquisition? There might be one long test at the end, visual observation, submission of work or a transcript showing you’ve taken and passed all relevant coursework for the certificate.


Transparency

Reputable organizations are very open about their processes, fees and requirements. If you can’t easily obtain clear, concise, transparent information about how the certification process works, be careful.


Verification

Ensure that there is an easy way for companies and organizations to verify the existence of the certification and status. (Check out Credly as an example.)


Continuing Education

Does your certificate come with a continuing education requirement? Good! Trustworthy certifications require additional learning to stay current with evolving knowledge and practices.


Ethical standards

Do they have a code of conduct and a way to maintain the integrity of the cert process? They should. 


If you’re ready to pursue certification as a career coach and are interested in what the International Association of Career Coaches offers, let’s talk. 

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