Do coaches need ICF accreditation is a question that crops up every now and then in the Coach The Life Coach Facebook Group?
As I am sure you know, coaching is entirely unregulated.
There’s no governing body and you cannot be struck off.
As such, the ICF is somewhat of a paper tiger.
By that, I mean the ICF (International Coaching Federation) has no legal parameters they have to adhere to.
That isn’t the situation with being a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Board Certified Doctor, or an Attorney who has passed the bar.
All of those organizations have real teeth and serious clout.
They can make your life misery and cut your career very short if you step over the line.
Of course, the ICF has a code of ethics, which we should applaud, that it wants its members to adhere to.
But that’s not the same as being a governmentally regulated industry.
All sorts of industries and private business have their own code of ethics, but unless they are rigorously enforced it’s largely window dressing.
Yes, the ICF can indeed revoke your membership in the highly unlikely event they catch you being a very naughty coach, but they cannot stop you from coaching.
Do Coaches Need ICF Accreditation To Attract More Clients?
Walk down any high street and ask 100 people what they think the acronym ICF stands for.
My guess is, one person will know.
She will be a coach.
I have been coaching full time for over 16 years and do you know how many times I have been asked if I had ICF accreditation?
And that person hired me even though I said I didn’t.
The reality is, as coaches we get asked about our qualifications far less than we imagine we will be when we get underway.
That doesn’t mean formal training isn’t important, I have had a lot and it demonstrates a commitment to learning in new coaches.
It’s just that there is something more crucial when talking with potential clients if you want them to hire you.
And that’s connection.
It doesn’t matter how much training you have had if you cannot build rapport and connect with potential clients.
I’m not suggesting that having the ICF badge can’t be beneficial.
But. I am saying it’s nothing like as beneficial as you being able to relate to potential clients in a way that puts them at ease and helps them trust you.
You’re going to struggle to find
When You Probably Do Need ICF Accreditation
Let me do a 180-degree pivot here and say there is a situation where I would advise you to take the ICF route.
That’s executive and some business coaching.
If you want to coach in the corporate sector you’re probably going to need that badge.
In such situations, you’re probably going to be dealing with HR departments in the early stages.
And trust me, I worked with HR departments for a number of years and they will want to see the certificates and proof of skill.
The Human Resource department is there to mitigate risk and any potential liability.
As such, they have a tendency of playing things safe.
They don’t want to roll the dice on somebody who sounds credible but has nothing to back it up with.
Especially when they have somebody sporting the MCC (Master Certified Coach) moniker applying for the same position/opportunity.
If that is your target market then do your due diligence and take a look at the ICF.
In Summary – Do Coaches Need ICF Accreditation?
You’re going to be needing at least $5k and probably closer to $10k to get training from an ICF accredited organization.
And there is no guarantee that the standard of training will be any better than if you signed up with a non-accredited company.
You’re also going to need about 18-months.
If both of those restraints pose no problem and ensuring it doesn’t mean you’re left with no marketing budget, and cannot afford to hire your own coach, then it’s worth considering.
But, it’s by no means a necessity to be ICF accredited and be a successful life coach in 2021.
I have been a full-time coach since 2005 and I have done fine.
And there are a LOT of high profile coaches who are effective and who haven’t gone through the ICF.
The ICF has done, and continues to do, some good work.
They promote coaching and keep the standard as high as possible within their limitations.
However, unless coaching ever becomes regulated (and I highly doubt that will ever happen), they are by no means the only show in town.
If you can afford the ICF, go for it, but don’t be under any illusion that it means that much in the grand scheme of things.
If you can’t, then look for the best training you can find to fit your budget.
Just don’t look for the cheapest on sites like Udemy and Teachable, because it’s probably the cheapest for a reason.