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Wendy Buckingham  /  Creator, Life Coaching Professionally

10 Questions To Find The Best Life Coaching Training Program For You

Page Summary

Finding the best life coaching training program for you can be challenging. Make sure the training you enrol in covers all you need to become a credible, professional coach with these 10 questions

FYI: I may receive commissions at no cost to you. Please see my affiliate disclosure for more.

What type of life coaching training do YOU need?

New life coach training schools are popping up all the time. Some are very good, others, not so much!

Unfortunately, many of the courses offering life coach certification are marketed really well with flashy brochures, impressive websites and unrealistic promises. So, before you enrol, there is some serious research to be done so you don't end up disappointed and waste your money.

The following information will get you started.

Two children experimenting in a science lab to demonstrate researching a life coach training.

One size does not fit all when it comes to life coaching training and certification. This is because you may have particular interests and needs that one school can deliver well, but another cannot. 

For example if you are interesting in working with employees or finding work as an executive coach within a large business, you may find you need to enrol in a separate business or corporate coaching course as an add-on, if the basic training of your choice does not offer this. Better to check out this component before you enrol!

I believe that no matter how much life experience you have in a particular area, it doesn't mean you have the skills or qualifications  to call yourself a coach, without sound coach-specific training.

Conversely, you don't need to have been divorced to be a good coach for divorcees, although your experience may be a plus. A good training should equip you to coach a client on any issue.

Do you already have a relevant degree?

If you already hold a degree or diploma in psychology, social work or counselling it's worth checking university courses on offer.  Many universities now have an add-on life coaching course that can be taken by graduates. 

Why I don't promote or sell particular trainings

The reason I do not promote any particular school on this website is so I can provide you with independent advice. When researching, keep in mind that many "guides to finding the best life coach training and certification programs"  that come up on a Google search are, in fact, compiled as a marketing tool by a particular life coaching school! They use clever marketing techniques to make the 'Guide" look independent even though it is actually a lead generation process.

Why Choose An Accredited Life Coaching Training Program?

Life coaching trainings that have been accredited by an independent life coaching association such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF) are one way of making sure you get the education you need to become a true life coaching professional.

This is true even if you are just adding coaching to a related qualification you already have, such as psychology or counselling. Here's why.... 

  • The hours studied will count towards your coach specific training requirements if and when you apply for credentialing through an independent life coaching association that is also an independent accreditation body. (Credentialing is what coaches who reach a certain level of proficiency and coaching experience can can choose to apply for from some of the independent coaching associations such as the ICF or the IAPCM. . Being credentialed as a coach is a step above certification.)
  • You may find it easier to get employment as a coach if you can show you trained through a course accredited by a well recognised independent association, even if you are not personally yet credentialed.  
  • If and when coaching becomes a regulated profession, it will matter that the life coaching training you have taken is credibly accredited.

Note: It's worth checking that the training that is advertised by a coaching school as being accredited  still meets the standards and content criteria of the association that accredited it. Otherwise you could end up enrolling in a training that no longer meets the standards required. A quick call or email to the accrediting body such as the ICF, will reassure you. 

Accreditation is for an individual course, not the whole life coaching school

Accreditation by an independent organisation is given to the individual life coaching program, not as a blanket recognition to a particular coaching school. Each individual course, whatever the focus, needs to be submitted individually for accreditation.

Don't just take a schools' word for it that their course is accredited. Always check with the association the school tell you their accreditation is from and what the requirements for accreditation are.

I recently did a check of claims from an online course that it was accredited by a certain association only to discover that this was not so.

Online Coaching Training Courses 

More and more aspiring coaches are looking for life coaching training they can take online.

Many of the larger and well known life coaching training schools offer remote or online training to accommodate students who can't get to face to face classes. I did my training with CoachU this way through 200 hours of "tele-classes" and it was exactly the same as their face to face training. 

But if the training is only being offered online or on YouTube you need to be even more thorough with your research if you are to avoid wasting your money on a poor training.  

Unfortunately there are a lot courses offering online life coach certification that cost little but may be worthless as a professional credential. In particular be wary of very brief courses. I came across one claiming  that after two days you would be certified to practice as a life coach - REALLY!

Life coaching is not something you can learn how to deliver in a couple of days! 

So ask for specifics about the course content. Look for genuine testimonials and online reviews and, if you can find them, even contact some of the previous students or post in a coaching forum on social media. 

Learn from this aspiring coach's experience

This really makes the point about research. A new coach recently contacted me worried about the fact that the online life coaching training she had enrolled in, whilst informative and affordable, did not provide any opportunities for actual practicing her coaching.

One of the problems with some online trainings is that they have a format that doesn't offer interaction between students to practice on each other. In fact, I’ve heard many online trainings are simply videos that don’t even offer interaction with the teacher of the course to ask questions and get clarification. The training is simply a data dump of information about coaching and certification is gained by just completing the modules or through written assessments.

Having interaction with your teacher and other new coaches is, I believe, a necessary part of gaining confidence and feeling ready to take on paying clients. 

And if you have trouble making personal contact and getting an answer to your questions from the promoters of an online life coach training  – caveat emptor.

10 Questions To Make The Best Life Coaching Training Choice

Getting clear on what you need from your life coaching training by asking lots of questions will save you from disappointment and making an expensive mistake. These 10 questions are a starting point and you may think of more. If you do, please follow this link and let me know by adding them to the other comments at the bottom of the page.

1. How well qualified are the life coach trainers?

Is the head trainer of the school an experienced, certified, life coach with a credential from an independent coaching industry association? If so, which one?

Words on whiteboard. Who, when, how, where, what, why with a question mark in the middle

The rest of the instructors need the same scrutiny: 

  • What qualifications, certification and experience do they have?
  • How long have they been coaching?
  • Do they hold a credential from an independent coaching association

Unfortunately the profession is becoming littered with people who profess to teach life coaching but have not taken any coach specific training themselves and do not really understand the competencies and parameters of professional life coaching.

2. Is the life coaching training program accredited with an independent association?

As I said above, remember that it is the specific life coaching course, not the life coaching school that is accredited. One certification training on offer by the school may be accredited, another may not.

So it's worth checking out the course with the independent association the school tells you it is accredited with.

You can find a list of independent coaching associations in the related pages section at the bottom of this page. I also recommend that as a new coach, you consider joining one, because they often have great resources to help you in your coaching and practice building.

If you are looking at another association that is not on the list, you may need to check out their credentials too! Unfortunately, some can be "made up" associations that are actually life coaching schools!

Of course there are also some good trainings that are not accredited, but accreditation is your safeguard.

3. Does the school offer online life coaching training?

You may not find it convenient to travel to face to face life coaching classes, so ask if the school provides remote training. By this I mean tuition online by telephone, email or Skype/Zoom conference calls.

If online life coach certification is offered, be especially careful and ask lots of questions and get references from past students.

There are some excellent coaching schools offering distance learning  However, it is very easy to make a school look good on a website but the certification offered may not be that valid in the professional coaching world. 

And do be sure to read more about choosing a training that is offered online, just above. It could help prevent you from wasting your money and experiencing disappointment. 

4.  What coaching tools are provided for your use?

Ask what coaching aids the school includes with the course. These would be things such as processes to use, scripts to follow and administration help.

Ask to see a sample of one - any one - so you can see how it is presented and whether it has substance. 

More than once, I have been contacted by a student of a life coaching school and asked if I would share with them some of my coaching materials and guidelines that lead to success.

Apparently the instructors had set this task for them as part of their training! Wow! That's lazy teaching and not a sign of a competent life coaching school. 

The best life coaching trainings will include a full range of materials from coaching processes, to business building strategies and templates. 

However if you find you need more than the coaching tools provided, have a look at the huge range offered by The Coaching Tools Company. They are authentic and very useful and will really save you time and money.  While you are there I suggest you join their email list as they provide excellent ongoing resources to use.

Banner for the Coaching Tools Company online store.

5. Do they advise and help on building your life coaching practice?

If you need this and they do, find out how specifically. Ask if there is a specific module on the subject.

The best schools and colleges that offer life coaching certification programs invariably include modules that will help you, at least, get started with the business side of building your coaching practice. So ask if there are aids to help a coach get started such as templates for agreements, invoices, evaluations, marketing materials and so on.

There are now several software programs available for the business building side of coaching, but they are expensive, so before you invest, check out what is included . In the beginning when you may only have a few clients, consider if you really need to invest in one. 

6. Is there support after you gain your certification?

Despite all your passion, excitement and education, it can still be scary when you first start coaching. So ask what follow up support they offer the graduates to help them when they actually start coaching.

For instance, some schools have an internal mentoring or supervision program for new graduates. This can be a really valuable inclusion if it is important to you.

If they have something similar, ask how it works and the cost, if any. Of course, you can always employ a supervisor or mentor coach separately if this is not available from the school. You can find more about  coaching supervision and mentoring here.

7. Does the course have the right coaching focus for you?

Obviously, all coaching courses are not the same. So always ask to have a look at the syllabus and what it includes.

Make sure it has the coaching focus/philosophy that is going to work for you and the niche you want to specialise in. For example, is it personal development, business, health, executive or corporate coaching focused?

If you are already clear on the coaching environment you want to work in – say small business - check if the course syllabus includes modules that educate and relate to this. 

8. Understand the financial commitment - all of it!

What is the total cost of the course and options for payment? Are there any extras such as sitting for their graduation and certification test?

Are there payment terms available? Is there a loading for paying by instalment or credit cards?

As with any major purchases there can be hidden costs, so make sure you ask the question about every aspect of the course.

9.  Can you get your money back?

If you find the course is simply not what you thought it would be despite all your research, can you get your money back and within what time frame of starting the training?

One coach I spoke to was very glad she decided to pay by instalments rather than everything upfront. When she discovered what was offered was not what she experienced in the teaching, it was easier for her to opt out before the next payment was due.

And, if for some unforeseen reason such as health or family, you cannot complete the course, what are their policies around deferring or refunding all or a portion of the cost? Or continuing at a later stage? Get any assurances in writing.

10. What does it take to graduate?

What is required to graduate from, or to be certified by, your school? If the coach training certification just means completing the course with no assessment or testing, then it is not really of much value.

To qualify for certification, the life coaching training needs to include some credible evaluation of your skills before certification is granted, either through assessments during the course or with a test at the end.

So there you have it. As you can see there is a lot to research, know and ask before you make that decision to enrol. There is no real "best" coaching training program.  The "best" one is the one that fits your needs and criteria and has all the ingredients that will kick-start your coaching career.

Banner for the Coaching Tools Company online store.

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Created and written by Wendy Buckingham, Class One Productions P/L. Sydney

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