How Long Does it Take to Become a Life Coach?

Many life coaches start their businesses from home one client at a time.
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Life coaching is largely a self-regulated industry. The leading organizations within the industry hold themselves and life coaches worldwide to ever-increasing standards, and the public has grown to expect higher quality. As of 2013, though, in the U.S., you can consider yourself a life coach by just deciding to become one and taking clients. Accredited programs, however, can certify you as a professional with coach-specific training and a minimum of 100 hours of coaching experience.

A Fulfilling Occupation

    You may already be a magnet for advice-seekers and people who want your input as they try to improve themselves and reach for their goals. Life coach specialties can range from personal endeavors, such as parenting, fitness, relationships or spirituality, to professional pursuits, such as leadership development, small-business operation and career mastery. The pay is good. In 2012, in North America, the average fee for a one-hour coaching session was $214, with the majority of coaching engagements lasting four to six months, according to the 2012 Global Coaching Study by the International Coach Federation, the industry’s main credentialing body.

Clients Need Assurance

    The demand keeps climbing for life coaches with more behind them than just a website and the words “life coach” on their business cards. According to a 2010 study by the International Coach Federation, 84 percent of life coach clients want their coaches to have some type of certification. The ICF has accredited more than 200 various programs around the world in which coaches receive training, mentoring and testing in personal, executive or group life coaching. Some programs can last as long as seven months.

Investing in Professionalism

    The ICF's minimum training program puts you through 60 hours of coach training and 10 hours with a mentor to build you as a professional. You then need 100 hours of experience coaching actual clients before earning certification. Many training programs demand more. For example, in more than a dozen U.S. cities, Canada and the U.K., the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching offers an ICF-accredited training program that requires more than 320 hours of training. The ICF itself offers advanced certifications requiring as many as 200 hours of coach-specific instruction.

College Helps Too

    An academic degree related to a life coach’s specialty can boost credibility, perhaps more so than a certified coach credential. For example, while no specific life coaching degree is available, having a business administration degree could open doors if your coaching specialty is executive leadership or entrepreneurship. Similarly, a social work degree could add credibility to a specialty in family or relationships. Nearly 62 percent of working coaches in the U.S. hold a four-year degree or higher, according to the ICF's 2012 Global Coaching Study. While coaching certification can reassure clients that your peers have approved your expertise, college degrees might carry more clout in clients’ minds. So, whether it takes a few more semesters or a few more years to get some letters after your name, the time and effort could help you when becoming a life coach.

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