Coach Credentialing, Certification and Accreditation
ICF is arguably the best-known and far-reaching Coach regulatory organization in the world.
As ‘guardians of the profession’, ICF is committed to upholding the professionalism of Coaching.
To this end, it has established credentialing and certification processes.
Credentialing is important to any profession: it validates the client will be getting a certain standard of coaching. ICF has 3 Credentials (see sidebar). In order to achieve an ICF credential, the applicant must demonstrate his/her level of knowledge of the ICF Core Competencies (12 competencies that govern ‘good’ coaching).
This is done by sending ICF recordings of the applicant coaching a client for 20-45 minutes. This recording is assessed against standards for that particular level of credential, and the coach might pass or fail.
Why are credentials important to you? Because most businesses, the government, and other organizations rely on these credentials when hiring coaches. As a professional, you want to demonstrate to potential clients that you are serious about your work, and have the backing of ICF to prove it.
Certification is the process whereby Accredited Coach Training Programs (ACTPs - see below) do the work that ICF normally does to ensure a coach is coaching at the PCC level. Only ACTPs can give out certifications that are recognized by ICF to streamline the credentialing process. An ACTP Certification program will be at least 125 hours of coach education and includes 10 hours of mentoring plus passing two assessments of a PCC level recording. Certificate programs are typically more rigorous than other coach education programs, preparing the student to have the confidence and skills necessary to establish their coaching business upon graduation.
The alternative to Certification is to take classes from a program that offers Accredited Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH). You will need at least 60 hours of coach education to attain your first credential. You can take the hours from a variety of sources, but it is a good idea to take the bulk of them from the same place.
Why is Certification important to you? Because with an ACTP certification, attaining an ICF credential becomes much easier. Once certified coaches meet the coaching hours and the number of clients requirements for the ACC or PCC credential, they need only send in their Certificate, attest to the number of hours and clients, and take the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) exam (if it hasn’t already been taken) to apply for the credential.
Note that you don’t need a Certification to attain a credential! It just makes it easier. If you get your coach education hours from an ACSTH or other sources, in order to attain your credential you will need to get an additional 10 hours of mentoring plus send in one or two (ACC or PCC) recordings to be assessed by ICF. If you fail the assessment(s) you can try again in 3 months.
Accreditation in Coaching Accreditation means different things for different coach regulatory organizations. For ICF it means approving coach training programs to offer different levels of training.
To indicate the extent of the coach training program, ICF offers three different levels of ICF accreditation: ACTP, ACSTH and CCE:
ACTP (Accredited Coach Training Programs) are ‘all inclusive’ programs that offer full coach training at the PCC level. Students who complete all the certification requirements of an ACTP program receive a certificate that is accepted by ICF as proof that training requirements are met at the PCC Level. This certificate, along with validation of required experience hours, number of clients, and passing the Coach Knowledge Assessment exam is all that is required to apply for the PCC. Requirements to be accredited by ICF as an ACTP are:
Minimum 125 hours coach-specific training
At least 80 percent of all training delivered in synchronous learning activities
At least 80 of all training hours are focused on the ICF Core Competencies & ICF Code of Ethics
Minimum of 6 observed-coaching sessions with an experienced coach
Comprehensive final exam that evaluates a student’s coaching competency at the PCC level
Director of Training is an MCC or PCC
ACSTH (Approved Coach Specific Training Hours) approved courses are ‘a la carte’ training programs which may not provide the full start-to-finish coach training program. Graduates using ACSTH training for credentialing must use the ACSTH Application which includes assessment of 1 or 2 recordings, 10 hours of mentor coaching, and passing the Coach Knowledge Assessment exam to qualify for a credential. Requirements to be accredited by ICF as an ACTP include:
Minimum of 30 hours of coach specific training
At least 80 percent of all training delivered in synchronous activities
At least 80 percent of all training delivered on the ICF Core Competencies & ICF Code of Ethics
CCE (Continuing Coach Education) are separate training modules for supplemental or advanced training. Providers may provide a certificate, but it can only be used to prove hours of training. Graduates using CCE training for initial credentialing must use the Portfolio Application path which includes assessment of 1 or 2 recordings, 10 hours of mentor coaching, and passing the Coach Knowledge Assessment exam to qualify for a credential. CCE providers must have their classes approved by ICF in order to display the ICF CCE logo.