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How to Become a Certified Life Coach

Learn how to become a life coach and help others succeed

Do you dream of helping people realize their potential? Life coaches do just that, with many working as entrepreneurs helping people find success in an area of life. With the support of a life coach to cheer them on, keep them accountable, and transform their lives people can reach their potential. If you are the type of person who has compassion for others, is always eager to listen, can creatively solve problems, and takes genuine joy in seeing people succeed, then this could be the profession for you. You can become a life coach and learn how to make a difference in people’s lives.

If this sounds like something you could do, then you may want to find out how to become a life coach. It’s easier than ever to with life coach certification online programs available in different formats. Whether you are already working in a related field like counseling, or are coming from a different angle entirely—business, wellness, weight management, or another specialty—becoming a life coach is a great way to leverage the skills you already have and use them in a fulfilling career.

Counseling has some overlap with life coaching. Mental health counselors have specific training and often work within the healthcare field, while life coaches most often work independently and within various fields. Some people who start out as mental health counselors may add training to become life coaches, but many people from other fields will take a life coach certification online to start their career. Life coaches can help businesses, groups, or individuals. Some life coach schooling is very short, with just a few hours of classes, while other life coaching programs will give you a complete bachelor’s or master’s degree with life coach training as the focus.

With your life experience, your passions, and some training, your dream of being a life coach could be a reality quicker than you might think.

Becoming a Life Coach: Step by Step

  1. Consider a speciality
  2. Complete your education (if you aim to be certified, choose an accredited degree program)
  3. Apply for certification (optional)
  4. Set up your business to succeed

Step 1: Consider a Specialty

People from all walks of life, with many different skill sets, can get life coach training to use their interests and skills to help others. Many people come from a background where they worked with people, such as nursing, counseling, fitness training, or massage, but no matter your experience, there is a coaching niche that will allow you to help people become their best. There are many types of life coaches, so consider what people and topics you would like to work with:

  • Small business owners
  • Executives
  • Productivity and time management
  • Personal financial management
  • Career transitions and job search
  • Work/life balance
  • Academic success
  • Relationships and romantic success
  • Mothers
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Weight loss
  • Spirituality
  • Health, wellness, and fitness
  • Young adults
  • Aging

Step 2: Choose the Right Life Coach Education & Training

Look at the different trainings available so that you can choose the best life coach certification program for your needs. Some training programs are just 15 credits long, while others will be incorporated into a degree program. Consider what education you already have, and decide whether a certificate program would quickly get you into life coach jobs, or whether you would like to complete a degree like a bachelor’s or master’s degree to have that extra prestige.

To enter the profession of life coaching, getting some education and a certification is a great way to start. But in general, life coach requirements are not set in stone, so practically anyone can call themselves a life coach. However, to be successful, accredited life coach certification programs OR a degree program from a reputable school will give you not just the skills but the credential that will help clients have more trust in your professionalism. Think about it: would you hire someone you don’t know and who doesn’t have any special training to help you through a life transformation? If the person has a degree and certification, you would be more willing to trust them—and spend your money to hire them!

Many of the programs are available completely online. This makes it much more convenient for people who may live far from a school or who need to continue working while they get life coach training. Some programs have a hybrid format, meaning you can take part of your life coach schooling in person and part online. Since there is no regulation for this profession, it doesn’t matter if you take your classes online from a school in another state.

If you already have a degree, a certificate program may be all that you need to start a this new career. This is the shortest training, meaning that not only will you be able to complete the courses in a couple of months.

If you haven’t yet completed an undergraduate degree, it may make sense to get a bachelor’s degree, and if you have some college credits to transfer, that can make your path to the degree much quicker. A bachelor’s is a bigger investment, with the requirement to take 120 credits of courses over the course of three to four years, but you’ll graduate with an accredited degree in hand.

For those with a bachelor’s degree but who want a higher level of education and an extra credential, taking a master’s degree program is challenging but takes a relatively short amount of time, so may be worth the investment. Master’s are typically completed in less than a year, depending on your schedule.

The classes you will take will include courses specifically on the life coaching theory, but the topic will also include ideas from psychology and human development. Some programs will include lots of psychology training, cultural and social studies, ethical dimensions of coaching, and theories of personality. Entrepreneurship and business principles may also be useful, so if the program you choose doesn’t include this, you can find this training to go along with your coaching program. Graduate programs may also include research methods and a capstone project.

Consider costs—tuition for your education plus the cost to apply for certification, which can be from about $100 to $600. The training can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 or more for a full degree program. For a degree program, financial aid may be available, which can bring cost way down, plus you will be getting a valuable degree along with your professional training. You can certainly begin this career without the certification, but it can give you a career boost in the long run.

Best Life Coach Training Programs

Bachelor’s Degree

Liberty University — Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Life-Coaching

The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology – Life Coaching from Liberty University allows students to transfer in up to 75% of the 120 credits required for the degree, making this an especially appealing option for those who have completed some college. There are multiple start dates per year, and the 100% online classes are in an 8-week format, making this a very convenient way to get your BS and become a life coach. Courses include Advanced Skills in Life Coaching, Psychology & Christianity, and Behavior Modification. With affordable tuition, online textbooks included in tuition, and discounts for military students, Liberty offers life coach schooling that can give students a full foundation in psychology while they prepare for life coach jobs.

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Master’s Degree

Grand Canyon University — Master of Science in Psychology / Life Coaching

Grand Canyon University’s online MS in Psychology in Life Coaching offers a 36-credit program that will teach you how to become a life coach in a convenient format. Classes are 8 weeks long, students may transfer up to one third of the credits required for the degree, and a capstone project in included. With interesting classes that include Contemporary and Ethical Issues in Psychology, Individual Coaching, and Business and Organizational Coaching, the program offers a well-rounded curriculum for different types of life coaches. Admission requires a 2.8 undergraduate GPA, but those with a lower average may still be admitted with GMAT or GRE scores. To get your life coach certification from an accredited school, the GCU program is affordable and offers flexible classes.

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Indiana Wesleyan University — Master of Arts in Psychology / Life Coaching & Positive Psychology

The online MA in Psychology—Life Coaching & Positive Psychology from Indiana Wesleyan University is a great option for students who want their life coach training to include the popular modality of positive psychology from a Christian worldview. Courses in the 30-credit program include Foundations of Interviews & Interventions; Positive Psychology, Life Coaching, & Christian Formation; and Capstone in Psychology. With five different start dates per year and affordable online tuition, the MA from Indiana Wesleyan is one of the best life coach certification programs for student who seek convenience, upbeat curriculum, and preparation to become a life coach.

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Graduate Certificate

American Public University System — Graduate Certificate in Life Coaching

For those with a graduate degree, the American Public University online Graduate Certificate in Life Coaching offers a great way to get your life coach certification online. The program is 15 credits long, and will accept up to 6 transfer credits. Applicants can have a master’s or doctorate in counseling, or a counseling credential, or they can have a master’s degree in any one of the following subjects: business, management, social work, marriage and family therapy, psychology, medicine, health and wellness, education, or law. Courses in this program include Emotional Intelligence and Coaching Assessments, Coaching Groups and Teams, and Entrepreneurial Marketing. With low tuition, free online textbooks, and a special rate for military-affiliated students, the certificate program from APU offers a quick way to get the university’s Certified Professional Coach badge.

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Step 3: Life Coach Certification

This is an unregulated profession, meaning that you don’t need any specific training to call yourself a life coach. But getting a certification can give you the trustworthy seal of approval to help you market your services. Many schools offer their own certification, which can be convenience and save time.

However, the best life coach certifications will come from an outside accrediting agency. The most popular accrediting agency is the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which offers three different levels of certification.

Certification from the ICF requires training in coaching skills, ethics, and will have mentoring, session observation and a final exam. The program that you choose needs to be accredited by the ICF for you to apply to get certification. The ICF has three different levels of certification: Associate Certified Coach (60 hours of training and 100 hours of coaching,) Professional Certified Coach (125 hours of training and 500 hours of coaching,) or Master Certified Coach (200 hours of training and 2500 hours of coaching.) The cost of certification cost (between $100 to $600) is small compared to the cost of training.

You may feel that that your degree and other professional experience will be enough for you to start your business, but getting a certificate may be a good investment down the road. This profession is only about 25 years old and the credentialing will continue to evolve, so you may want to stay up on the developments, get continuing education, and consider different levels of certification during your career.

Step 4: Build a Career as a Life Coach

When you are ready to start your business, you will need to do all the same things any small business would do. Your business can just be your name, or you can pick a name for it. You may need a business license from your state or city. Since you are likely going to be working for yourself, you may not need all the trappings of larger small businesses, but a business plan, even a simple one, can help you organize how you are going to get your life coaching career off the ground. In addition, research your business insurance options and make sure you have liability waivers in place to protect you legally.

Marketing will be the next step for your business. Making a website, getting business cards, looking for referrals from other local small businesses, and considering advertising online or locally are all things to think about. Will you offer virtual coaching? In that case, a website and online marketing are a must. Do you want to work with people locally? Then consider you options for marketing in your area. Marketing is how you will bring in clients, so get creative and be persistent.

Working within another business as a life coach is possible, and some places that may have a need for life coaches include health and wellness practices, tutoring centers, business education institutions, consulting companies, transitional living facilities, colleges, spas, and more. The value of the profession is in the success that life coaches can help their clients attain, and this concept is being incorporated into all different types of businesses. You may want to consider working for another company rather than being an entrepreneur.

Life Coach Salary

If you have a drive to succeed, then you can become the person who will help others to succeed too. For most people to build a career in this field, it will take entrepreneurial spirit, great people skills, and lots of marketing to make it work. However, there are also many jobs in residential care and treatment facilities, at nonprofits, and in educational or training programs for those who don’t want to go it alone in business. Running your own business can be lonely, but it can also be a place where you thrive if you have the temperament that helps you connect to clients and colleagues. Working for an organization gives you less freedom to shape your future, but can provide a stable salary for those who don’t like the idea of being out on their own.

Life coaching can make a great part time addition to another career, or it can be a full time career itself. Salary ranges from $28k to $265k per year, according to Payscale. Depending on where you live, you could make from an average of $45,688 in Florida to $63,089 in Massachusetts, according to ZipRecruiter, with the national average being $59,630. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t collect information on the profession of life coaching as a whole, but instead counts them among other categories of workers like rehabilitation counselors, education counselors, and personal care and service workers. But the profession seems to be gaining ground as more people see the value of individual or group coaching in different areas of business and personal life.

If you’re looking for a salary on the higher end of the scale, you will need to get good at marketing, hone your coaching skills, and network with other professionals to get clients who will pay you well for your services. Beginning this career depends on where you are coming from in your life, and your experience in any business or field can add to your marketability. The personal connection you form with coaching clients will come from on your people skills, and you will continue to develop professionally as you practice in this rewarding career.

Start Your Career as a Life Coach Today

With so many different types of life coaches, there are many ways for you to make a difference in people’s lives while enjoying a rewarding career. Because requirements are in the eye of the beholder, with some training and your personal talents, you could easily begin and establish yourself in this career.

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