If your car breaks down, you call a mechanic; when your heating fails, you contact an engineer, but what do you do if your life is no longer working out?
That’s when a coach can help. After all, coaching offers individuals, and teams support to understand their circumstances, overcome their problems, and progress towards their goals and dreams.
A coach works with clients to regain control of their confidence, relationships, careers, and even their lives. They can help transform people’s wellbeing. And happier, more balanced, and fulfilled individuals thrive within the family, workplace, and as members of society.
But what about coaches themselves, who are they?
Perhaps friends, family, and colleagues already turn to you with their problems, or your career needs a reboot, and you are excited by the idea of working with others to transform their lives.
How then do you become a coach? After all, a quick search online returns a dazzling array of courses and qualifications.
This article can help. We have identified a selection of the best coaching courses available to either introduce you to coaching or start your journey towards accreditation and positively impacting people’s lives.
Before you read on, you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This article contains:
What is a Coaching Course?
What is coaching?
A coach helps individuals and teams reach their goals in multiple areas of their lives (Cox, Bachkirova, & Clutterbuck, 2018):
- Life coaching helps to enhance an individual’s wellbeing, focussing on personal goals.
- Workplace coaching supports employees with learning and growing their career, and is performed within the work setting, often by supervisors and managers.
- Executive coaching helps clients with senior management responsibility to set goals and improve their own and their organization’s performance.
Coaching requires expertise to assist the client in transforming their thinking, work, knowledge, or life, offering support by:
- Talking through their situation
- Discussing and understanding their beliefs, attitudes, and core values
- Helping to set, and break down, goals for transformation
- Overcoming barriers
- Maintaining motivation and commitment.
The International Coaching Federation, a leading global organization of trained coaching professionals, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Or, put more simply, coaching can help individuals reach their goals and achieve their dreams by assisting them to manage their life. Along the way, the individual becomes happier, more balanced, increasingly fulfilled, and ultimately “more successful members of society” (Cazier & Green, 2016).
What does a coach do?
A coach helps clients to improve their lives, their relationships, and their ability to perform in business, education, or at home. It’s a reflective learning process facilitated by dialogue. The individual or team arrives at the coaching process, having, so far, failed to find solutions to the challenges they face.
That’s where the coach comes in. They work with the client to find a better approach to the difficulties they encounter.
According to Marion Franklin in The HeART of Laser-Focused Coaching, the coaching process typically breaks down into three steps:
- Identify the beliefs, ideas, and thoughts that are stopping your client from getting what they want.
- Work with them to shift their perspective to one where they feel good about who they are, and can move on.
- Help them use their strengths to reach their full potential and feel fulfilled.
Coaching works by identifying where a client is now, where they want to get to, and understanding the steps required to close the gaps.
How do you become a coach?
To help someone become more self-aware, reach a decision, or create balance in their lives, is no easy task. Indeed, the coach is likely to be dealing directly, or indirectly, with the most crucial areas of a person’s life: their career, family, finances, and wellbeing.
To be that person requires an excellent understanding of the processes involved in coaching and mentoring, and the best approaches to help—rather than harm—people.
While anyone can work as a coach, increasingly, clients are favoring those with appropriate qualifications.
A great place to start on the journey to becoming a professional is to find a course that provides the right training, certification, and accreditation, offering the coaching tools necessary, along with confidence—for the coach and client—in the process of coaching.
Who offers accreditation?
The following three international bodies bring consistency in qualifications and accreditation to the practice of coaching, and offer clients confidence in the quality of service they are likely to receive:
1. International Coach Federation (ICF)
ICF coaches form part of a worldwide network of professionals. They are required to meet exacting training and practice standards.
2. The Association for Coaching (AC)
The Association for Coaching is a not-for-profit organization promoting best practices in coaching worldwide.
Their member directory offers support for either a coach looking to connect or find AC accredited training, or an individual wishing to find a coach.
3. European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)
EMCC promotes best practices in mentoring, coaching, and supervision across Europe and beyond.
Their global directory can be used to search for EMCC members, coaches, and supervisors, and EMCC global award offers worldwide coach accreditation.
How does a coach become accredited?
The above three international bodies have formed a shared vision for coach accreditation and the development path to becoming a professional coach, using the following learning approaches:
- Face-to-face and online training
- Coach competencies developed through practical experience
- Ongoing training through continuous professional development (CPD) and reflective practice
- Ongoing supervision and mentor coaching
- Accreditation based on training, exams, and hours practiced.
The overall goal for accreditation is to ensure that practitioners are credible, fit for practice, and have standing and visibility in a busy marketplace.
Accreditation is awarded according to the depth and breadth of coaching skills and experience achieved by the coach, including:
- Hours of coaching experience
- Coach training completed
- CPD completed
- Supervision received
- Adherence to ethics and compliance requirements
- Written and observed assessments
- Oral interviews and case studies
- Reflective and supervisor logs
Following an assessment, coaches are rated in ascending order, as follows:
|Coach Levels of Accreditation|
|Practitioner/ Practiced Coach|
|Senior Practitioner Coach|
What do you learn on a coaching course?
Accredited training covers essential competencies as outlined by the governing bodies (AC, EMCC, and ICF), including:
- Ethics and professional development
- Establishing and managing the coaching agreement
- Developing the coaching relationship
- Coaching presence
- Effective communication skills that enable learning
- Facilitates the design of outcomes, actions, and ongoing learning
EMCC set out their continuous professional development in their CPD guide.
What to consider when choosing a coaching course?
There are several points to consider when choosing from a crowded marketplace of coaching courses:
- Does the training align with your core values and beliefs?
- What form does the training take? One-to-one or group, online or in-person?
- What qualifications and accreditations does it provide?
- Does the training cover specialties that you would like to focus on? For example:
- Sports performance
- How does the training provider support you after training? For example, is mentoring available, or can they help you set up a business plan?
- Is the financial commitment acceptable? Both in terms of training and ongoing costs?
Consider whether it is more appropriate to begin with a shorter course, and a reduced financial outlay, to understand if this is the right area for you.
5 Best Coaching Courses
Coaching must be approached with professionalism to ensure appropriate coaching skills for the job.
You will be working with people who need your support, guidance, and trust—some of whom may be in vulnerable positions—and both client and coach require appropriate protection and a clear understanding of the boundaries and expectations.
The following five training providers offer accredited courses in coaching; although there are many others available:
1. College of Executive Coaching
The College of Executive Coaching provides flexible, entirely online courses, using virtual classroom training, supported by one-on-one learning labs for those seeking to become an ICF-accredited coach.
Courses are scheduled throughout the year, offering general or more specialized coach training, for example:
- ICF-Accredited Coach Training Certification
- Positive Psychology Wellness and Wellbeing Coaching Certification
- Strengths Coaching Certification
2. TPC Leadership
TPC Leadership is a provider of global education in the theory and practice of coaching, whether for a future career or as an additional skill in a current job.
Training is currently offered as a virtual learning experience.
The ICF-accredited Transformational Leadership Coaching course is for leaders and managers, consultants, and HR professionals wanting to integrate high-quality coaching into the modern business environment.
3. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)
The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) holds courses in multiple locations around the world—with virtual training an option—providing an extensive training and tools package to become an ICF Accredited Coach.
Training is available in all aspects of coaching, from bringing your vision for a coaching business to fruition, to providing specialist learning in life coaching, HR, and leadership.
Their free guide explains in detail their course content and approach.
4. Coach Training Alliance (CTA)
The Coach Training Alliance (CTA) offers US-based ICF-accredited training in life coaching, professional coaching, and personal coaching.
They have, so far, taken over ten thousand coaches through their life, personal, and professional coach training and provide certified, on-site and remote, coach training throughout the year.
5. Coach U
Coach U offers in-person training around the world to become an Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), or Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Also, a virtual training program is available to be completed at your own pace from any location.
Top 7 Online Courses
Remote, self-guided learning is an ideal way to progress your plans to become a coach while balancing other life commitments.
Online training is available from many providers around the world, and includes webinars, virtual classrooms, readings materials, and ongoing exams, leading to accreditation.
Check out the following selection:
1. Association for Coaching (AC)
AC membership gives access to a variety of training courses and tools, including:
Collaborative conversations with masters
Collaborative conversations with masters aim at developing you as a coach, growing your practice, and engaging with the broader coaching community.
It includes webinars on multiple topics, including The Art of Team Coaching, Effective Leadership Behaviors, and Coaching Leaders.
Meet the Supervisor: New Perspectives on Supervision
This course is an introduction to multiple supervisory styles and disciplines, including medical, performance, and leadership.
Live Coaching Demo Program
This program provides recordings of webinars showing live coaching sessions in action, including the use of metaphors, mapping motivation, and coaching with clear language.
2. Fowler International Academy of Professional Coaching
The Fowler Academy offers professional coach training and certification and includes a fast-track to achieving Certified Professional Coach Credentials with only 20 hours of training.
All training is available online through virtual home study classes, live online virtual classrooms, and individual one-to-one sessions.
A useful video guide is available on their home page to explain the coach certifications available.
3. Institute for Life Coach Training
The Institute for Life Coach Training provides ICF-certified training courses in all aspects of coaching.
Two paths of study are available: the credential path, for those looking for generalized training leading to coaching credentials, and the specialist route, for areas of particular interest, for example, career development, Christian, executive and business, life, relationship, and wellness coaching.
They offer a full schedule of courses that take place throughout the year.
4. World Coach Institute
World Coach Institute is a provider of Foundational ICF, and BCC Approved Coach Training Teleclasses to students around the world.
Foundational training is available at different speeds: including 8-week and intensive 6-day teleclasses, or downloadable for self-paced study.
5. iNLP Center
The iNLP Center is a provider of 100% online training in Life Coaching, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Hypnosis.
ICF-accredited trainers focus on real-world applications via a flexible 24/7 learning platform.
They provide ICF-approved mentoring and the chance to earn performance hours.
Life Coaching Online Training
The breadth, depth, and subjects covered in Life Coach training varies greatly, as does pricing, and accreditation.
Explore the following course options before you buy, and consider whether the level of commitment—both financial and time—is appropriate.
Consider whether the course forms part of a career change or to gain insight into what life coaching is and how it may help you?
Udemy offers a wide range of training for life coaching, many at reduced prices.
The courses typically incorporate a balance of videos, worksheets, and exercises available for download. Many of which include sections on how to help clients:
- Structure coaching sessions
- Set achievable goals
- Manage negative emotions and beliefs
- Find meaning in their lives
- Transform their lives
Some of the more popular courses include:
- Life Coaching Certificate Course (Beginner to Advanced)
- Professional Life Coach Certification & Guide (Accredited)
- Life Purpose Life Coach Certification (Accredited)
2. Animas Life Coach Training
Animas Life Coach Training provides live, fully interactive online sessions to explore life coaching, and their teaching includes:
- Understanding coaching
- Levels of coaching
- Qualities of a great coach
- Your vision for coaching
3. Coach Transformation Academy
Coach Transformation Academy offers ICF-accredited life coach training to help people in both their personal and professional lives. While global, there are plenty of online options to support professionals training to become transformational coaches.
Some Free Online Options
There are plenty of shorter courses available that give an introduction to coaching or focus on a particular coaching environment, some of which are freely available.
Use them to build a picture of what coaching is about before choosing your long-term training provider and progressing your career as a coach.
Check out the following free courses, all available online:
- A live online webinar from The Coaching Academy
- Animas Introduction To Transformational Coaching
- Oxford Home Study’s Life Coaching (short course)
- Udemy’s Become a Paid Life Coach Online
- Life Coach Training is available from the Life Coach Training Institute.
A Look at Life Coaching University Courses
There are several options for taking your interest in life coaching further and becoming qualified at universities around the world.
There are coaching degrees, and post-graduate courses, which include topics such as: an introduction to coaching, leadership, coaching dynamics, communication building, organization, and analytical skills, to support client success in many diverse areas, including business, sports, social work, or personal development.
University courses include:
United States of America
- Bachelor of Science in Coaching – Liberty University
- Conversations That Inspire: Coaching Learning, Leadership, and Change – (short course offered through Coursera) Case Western Reserve University
- Master of Education in Educational, School and Counseling Psychology with an Emphasis in Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership – University of Missouri
- Undergraduate Certificate in Coaching – Institute of Continuing Education (University of Cambridge)
- MSc in Coaching & Behavioural Change – Henley Business School (University of Reading)
- MSc Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology – University of East London
- Coaching – University of Athens
- MBA Master in Coaching and Business Management – ISEB – Instituto Superior Europeo de Barcelona
- Applied Psychology (Positive and Coaching Psychology) MA – University College Cork
A Take-Home Message
Our lives don’t often break, but we do sometimes need support in understanding and overcoming difficulties, in recognizing new opportunities, and reaching our goals.
A coach can provide focus—both in work and outside—and improve performance.
If you enjoy working with people, you could be that person that helps transform the lives of others by improving how they handle the situation they find themselves in.
There are plenty of options to begin and develop expertise as a coach. Online, in person, or a combination of both, coaching courses can be short and intense or over a more extended period. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand the commitments—costs and time—and the skills, competencies, and accreditation provided.
If you wish to learn more about life coaching, what it involves, and the skills required, check out the courses within this article. There are ones that suit every mode of study and financial investment. Also, consider whether follow-up support is available, including a community of professionals who can offer encouragement and guidance as you begin your new career.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 300 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.
- Cazier, J. A., & Green, J. A. (2016). Life Coach: Using Big Data and Analytics to Facilitate the Attainment of Life Goals. 2016 49th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS).
- Cox, E., Bachkirova, T., & Clutterbuck, D. (2018). The complete handbook of coaching. Los Angeles: SAGE.
- Franklin, M. (2019). The HeART of Laser-Focused Coaching: A revolutionary approach to masterful coaching. Wilmington, DE: Thomas Noble Books.