To Be Or Not To Be Credentialed?

Some of the most notable questions we receive from our students who are on their coach-education journey, are “Will acquiring an International Coach Federation (ICF) credential really make a difference in my coaching career?” It is a legitimate question, worthy of exploration. One might also ask, “Why obtain a coaching credential when a license in this profession is not required by law?” Again, this is another great question, and based upon our experiences here at The International Coaching Group, Inc., dba Coaching Out of the Box®, we believe the following adequately and thoughtfully answers these questions for all aspiring and current coaches – especially those who are committed to the profession.


According to the 2020 ICF Global Coaching Study, a survey conducted by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)revealed the following:
  • Clients expect coaches to be certified or credentialed coaches, 77% of them. This is up from an ICF-commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC)
  • survey in 2007 where only 52% of coaches reported that their coaching clients expect the coach they hire to be credentialed.
  • According to 83% of coaching clients, it’s crucial for coaches to be credentialed.
  • A coach with credentials is more likely to be recommended than without a credential.

To the consumer, credentials may take the place of licensure in a non-regulated industry, especially since coaches often work directly for or subcontract with companies who have or are developing, a “coaching culture” among their teams. In fact, many companies will hire only ICF-credentialed coaches to work as trainers and coaches. Credentialing portrays to these clients the importance that you, as a coach, have placed on investing in your professional development.

With the statistics stated above, it is important for coaches to differentiate themselves from their coaching peers. One very important way of doing this is to take accredited coaching courses, obtain coach certifications and become credentialed. Let’s take a look at what accreditation, certification, and credential are:


Generally speaking, accreditation is a declaration by a third party that a company has proven its ability to perform specific responsibilities and activities. For example, in coaching what this means is that a coach education program has undergone rigorous external inspection and quality testing by a leading or governing body, such as The International Coaching Federation (ICF). Coaching Out of the Box®’s 5.5.5 Coaching Skills Training Program™ is one example as it aligns with the ICF’s Core competencies, Definition of Coaching, and Code of Ethics, all of which are used to map the curriculum, and the faculty, testing, and learning procedures and were evaluated by the ICF. While having two very distinct meanings, oftentimes the terms certification and accreditation are used interchangeably. The reason perhaps is that both accreditation and certification are forms of third-party attestation.


As discussed above, sometimes, the terms certification and accreditation are used interchangeably; however, the two terms have very distinct meanings. Similar to accreditation, certification is a voluntary process and one that is widely accepted because it shows that you have been found to possess the knowledge and abilities necessary and acquired such knowledge by an accredited coach education provider, to work as a coach. Typically, an individual will receive a certificate upon successful completion of a coach education program. It is important to point out that there is no regulatory authority that stipulates that one must pass a test or obtain a certain degree to work as a coach, but obtaining a certification from a reputable organization such as the ICF increases your credibility – especially if you are just starting your coaching business. One of the most well-known professional coaching qualifications is offered by the ICF. Their initiatives center on:
  • Enhancing the teaching knowledge and abilities of coaches
  • Adherence to the highest moral and professional standards


This brings me to our third and final term: Credential. What is Credentialing? In the coaching world, an International Coaching Federation ACC, PCC or MCC credential denotes a degree of coaching expertise and experience. Credentialed coaches have met the qualifying requirements of the ICF which include the following criteria:
  • Coach Education Hours
  • Coach Experience
  • Mentor Coaching
  • Performance Evaluation
  • Credentialing Exam
Acquiring your ICF credentials represents to your clients, colleagues, peers, and prospects that you have committed to providing the best experience possible so that they may reach their full potential in every coaching exchange. An ICF coach credential also elevates the trust your clients have in you and the belief in your integrity because you have gone through a rigorous process of learning and training to support a coaching practice that adheres to and aligns with the unwavering ICF Code of Ethics and Core Competencies.
The coaching profession continues to grow. More coaches are becoming credentialed as a means of creating an industry standard of excellence and creating a key differentiator in their business marketing to attract quality clients, charge more, and validate their coaching knowledge and expertise. Consumers are savvier, so expect that they will ask whether you are an accredited coach? a certified coach? or a credentialed coach? We hope your answer to all of these is a resounding “Yes”.
For more conversation and insight, reach out to an Enrolment Coach:

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