Best Executive Coaching Certification Programs

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An executive coach is an individual whose role is to assist leaders in identifying their leadership strengths, building their organization and career whether as a corporate executive or business owner. Some executive coaches work within larger organizations as part of the human resource, professional development, or talent management teams where many executive coaches work solo as entrepreneurs helping business owners and corporate leaders maximize their strengths. 

We evaluated over 50 executive coach certification programs worldwide and found that the best executive coach certification provides you with executive coaching tools, best practice methodologies, practice and feedback, and instant credibility with your clients. Read on for our choices for the best executive coaching certification programs. 

Best Executive Coaching Certification Programs for 2021

Best Overall : Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership


Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership

Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership

Why We Chose It: The Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership (IECL) is well-recognized as an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) and is known for being affordable, offering online instructor-led courses via Zoom.

What We Like
  • ACTP-accredited instructor-led courses offered online

  • Study at your own pace

  • Fast-track program available

What We Don't Like
  • Requires an undergraduate degree or equivalent experience

  • IECL coaching services are primarily marketed to the Asia-Pacific region

  • Onsite events are based in Australia

IECL is designed for experienced coaches and individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The courses cost $1,000 to $4,000. However, IECL provides free virtual webinar events to learn more about coaching or to get feedback on executive coaching practices.

Once you become a student, you’ll have the benefit of a coaching network (IECL Academy) with access to communities of practice, alumni, and resources to support your executive coaching practice.

IECL Academy includes an e-learning software tracking system to manage your training progress for what’s completed and course activities yet to be done. You’ll participate in a peer group of co-learners, sharing feedback via online discussions. 

The IECL course and certification are available to executive coaches worldwide and it prepares the learner for ICF (International Coaching Federation) coach certification, one of the most recognized in the industry.

Runner-Up, Best Overall : Coach Training Alliance


Coach Training Alliance

Coach Training Alliance

Why We Chose It: Coach Training Alliance is our runner-up due to the variety of ICF coach certification programs available and you’ll find workshops that will prepare you to coach individuals and groups, start your own executive coaching business, or publish your first book.

What We Like
  • Instructor-led telecourse with weekly calls and mentoring over a six-month period

  • ACTP-accredited training meets ICF standards for certification

  • Includes business-building skills for those who wish to launch their own firm

What We Don't Like
  • Courses are graduate level, assuming students have an existing degree

  • Participants sign up for a fixed course timeframe, not self-paced

  • Entirely online with no onsite networking sessions available

The Advanced Executive Coach Certification prepares the learner for ICF certification. You’ll receive a free assessment to determine if you have what it takes to be an executive coach. In addition, the Coach Training Alliance offers free workshops, such as the Becoming a Coach workshop to learn more about the program before you enroll. It also offers The Certified Coach Program

The Coach Training Alliance costs about $3,500 for one of its six-month executive coaching workshops:

  • Executive Coaching Workshop
  • Advanced Executive Coach Certification
  • Executive Coach Master Class

Participants provide rave reviews, citing solid instructors and a positive learning environment.

Best for College Grads : College of Executive Coaching


College of Executive Coaching

 College of Executive Coaching

Why We Chose It: For educated, experienced, and senior professionals and business owners, the College of Executive Coaching provides a fast-track way to add the ICF’s PCC or BCC credential to your existing degree and certifications.

What We Like
  • Supports coaches in multiple disciplines, i.e., healthcare, internal coaching, psychology

  • Provides live workshops with experienced, engaged faculty

  • Offers value-added certifications such as EQ, Strengths and Supervision Certifications

What We Don't Like
  • Requires prior education at the BA level or higher

  • More expensive than some of the other programs

The College of Executive Coaching supports post-graduate students to obtain their ICF Professional Coach Certification (PCC) or Board Certified Coach (BCC) with a variety of options, including an intensive short course, a two-week online program, and multiple virtual course offerings. 

However, the certification program is pricey, costing just over $10,000, which can be paid in two installments. If you pay in full and register early, you can score a $1,600 discount.

The College of Executive Coaching was launched in 1999. Students like its focus on ethical standards and high-quality content taught by PhD-level instructors. Online company reviews are mostly positive, noting the powerful learning experiences and breadth of tools.

Best Low-Cost Option : The Academies Inc.


The Academies Inc.

 The Academies Inc.

Why We Chose It: The Academies is our best low-cost option due to its affordability, small classroom size, and online program that can be completed in eight to 12 weeks.

What We Like
  • Online program can be completed in a few hours a week using Zoom

  • You can obtain an executive coaching display certificate for as little as $1,500

  • One-on-one online training is available for those unable to attend scheduled sessions

What We Don't Like
  • More than one course is required to meet ICF prerequisites for ACC, PCC, or MCC

  • Live classes offered two hours a week at a fixed day and time

  • Online reviews are scarce and inconsistent

Courses through The Academies, LLC, range in price from $1,500 to $3,000 and can be paid in installments. However, until you click the link to enroll in the class, you are unable to see either the price or the schedule.

Classes are held once a week for two hours on Zoom, based on the instructors’ availability. The Academies also offers a coach search portal where clients can find you once you complete training and certification. Its Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach training results in a proprietary certificate as well as serves as 30-hours toward an ICF certified coach designation.

The Academies is based in the U.S. It was launched by Susan Britton, an ICF-certified Professional Certified Coach (CCC) and author of seven career books. In addition to the Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach program, it offers a Career Management Coach Certification and a Brain-Friendly Coach Certification program.

The Academies students rate it highly. Many of the online testimonials attest to the leadership of the CEO in addition to the quality of the executive coaching training programs, commenting on the customized approach, robust tools, and global focus.

Best for Non-Degreed Coaches : Co-Active Training Institute


Co-Active Training Institute

 Co-Active Training Institute

Why We Chose It: Co-Active Training Institute is more costly due to the requisite academic coursework and practice required, but may be faster and less costly than spending four to six years at a university.

What We Like
  • You can complete executive coach training in as little as four months

  • Virtual training is offered with weekly online sessions

  • The program content is accredited by the ICF

What We Don't Like
  • The full certification program requires a 25-week commitment

  • Co-Active is one of the more expensive executive coach certification programs

  • Live classes are only available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

If you don't have a college degree and are starting from scratch, you’ll appreciate the one-on-one certification and personalized feedback in addition to a professional network provided by Co-Active Training Institute. Those benefits may warrant the costs ranging from $6,900 to over $12,000 as you can complete the program while working or managing your coaching business.

Co-Active Training Institute requires you to work with a professional coach through their organization or a PCC or MCC certified by ICF. Paying for that one-hour-per-month coaching will increase your overall costs. College credits are available for those who wish to add executive coaching to an existing degree program.

Co-Active Training Institute receives slightly lower customer ratings than the other executive coaching programs listed; however, if you lack a college degree, it may be one of the few ICF accredited executive coaching programs available to you.

Best for Working Professionals : Center for Executive Coaching


Center for Executive Coaching

 Center for Executive Coaching

Why We Chose It: Center for Executive Coaching offers flexible learning options available to professionals regardless of where they live or work.

What We Like
  • Program can be completed in two to five months

  • Weekly webinars or go at your own pace with recorded webinar content

  • Distant learning available along with a proprietary textbook

What We Don't Like
  • ICF designation requires participation in live webinars and supervised coaching

  • Three-day fast-track events are currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic

  • Costly

The Center for Executive Coaching is best for working professionals, as you can earn your coaching certificate regardless of where you live or work. Those who have a master’s degree can fast-track their ICF designation. However, the prerequisites are flexible based on your work/life experience. A prior degree is not mandatory.

Depending on the training format you choose, you’ll pay between $5,000 and $7,500 for the coach training program. But, you’ll receive the Center for Executive Coaching proprietary systems, such as The Leadership Dashboard and KPIs, in addition to content required to achieve ICF certification.

Online reviews for the Center for Executive Coaching are top-notch, even on industry sites such as Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), where participants rate it highly,  touting the certification prep and practice and the professional instructors.

Once you enroll, you’ll have access to a member area with a just-in-time library and a variety of executive and leadership assessment tools to use in your coaching practice.

Best Academic Certification Program : Royal Roads University


Co-Active Training Institute

 Co-Active Training Institute

Why We Chose It: Royal Roads University’s Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching meets the ACTP requirements through the ICF. Graduates will receive their PCC hours as well as the Certified Executive Coach designation.

What We Like
  • Six-month accredited blended learning program

  • Transferrable credits can contribute to a master’s degree

  • Financial aid available

What We Don't Like
  • A separate application process is required to apply for ICF certification


  • Class enrollment is on an academic calendar year (April, August, January)

  • More expensive than many of the non-academic executive coaching programs

Enrollment into the graduate program at Royal Roads University, like all university programs, requires an existing degree. Costs for the entire program run between about $10,000 and $12,000 depending on whether you are a domestic or international student. 

Royal Roads University is in Canada, but credits are transferable and financial aid may be available. Royal Roads University is ranked in the top 15% worldwide. 

Although curriculum, timeframe, enrollment process, and certifications are similar to programs at U.S.-based schools like George Washington University or New York University, the cost for executive coach certification is much lower at Royal Roads University.

Best for Global Certification : Academy of Executive Coaching Limited


Academy of Executive Coaching Limited

 Academy of Executive Coaching Limited

Why We Chose It: The Academy of Executive Coaching Limited (AoEC) offers the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching as well as accreditation through three international coaching organizations including the International Coaching Federation (ICF), European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), and the Association for Coaching (AC).

What We Like
  • Course content is accredited by ICF, EMCC, and AC

  • Both in-person classroom (worldwide locations) and online virtual courses offered

  • Course can be completed in as little as four months

What We Don't Like
  • Requires degree or equivalent industry experience

  • While the training is accredited, the AoEC certificate is not globally recognized

  • Onsite courses require travel and lodging

The benefit of AoEC is that the certification is free and renewable and the training you receive is recognized by multiple accredited coach training organizations. The worldwide locations make this robust program available to student attendees in Poland, Ireland, Kenya, UAE, and the UK, as examples.

You can choose either classroom or online options and the cost of $6,000 is more affordable than attending a similar program at a university. Course participants rate the academy favorably,  noting the coaching models and balance between theory and practice.

AoEC was founded in 1999, has 14 locations globally, and has trained over 13,000 people worldwide. It provides its student alumni with a knowledge bank full of podcasts, videos, and best practice coaching tools.

Final Verdict

The best executive coach certification program is the one that helps you assess your coaching competency and provides hands-on feedback in addition to classroom content. Either proprietary programs, global accredited universities, or a franchise may be appropriate depending on your executive coaching goals. 

Prices and quality of executive coaching certification programs vary as widely as the certifications themselves. Some require you begin with a master’s degree whereas others are open to anyone with experience and interest. Make sure to choose a program that aligns with the accreditation requirements of a coaching organization serving your geographic area.

Compare Providers

Best Executive Coach Certification Programs
Program Category Cost/Timeframe
Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership Best Overall  $1,000-$4,000/self-paced
Coach Training Alliance Runner-Up, Best Overall $3,500/6 months
College of Executive Coaching Best for College Grads $10,000/3 days to 4 months
The Academies Inc. Best Low-Cost Option $1,500-$3,000/2-3 months
Co-Active Training Institute Best for Non-Degreed Coaches $6,900-$12,000/4-6 months
Center for Executive Coaching Best for Working Professionals  $5,000-$7,500/2-5 months
Royal Roads University Best Academic Certification Program $10,000-$12,000/6 months
Academy of Executive Coaching Limited Best for Global Certification $6,000/4-6 months

FAQs

What Is an Executive Coaching Certification Program? 

An executive coaching certification program provides you with the training and practical experience to achieve accredited certification through a coaching organization. It’s a certificate, like a degree or diploma, that proves you’ve completed the required training and possess the requisite executive coaching skills.

In general, an executive coaching certification program should provide:

  • Methodologies to help you assess executive and leadership skills and goals
  • Tools to maximize executive potential, like strategy and communication
  • Skills to track organizational progress and individual goal achievement
  • A professional mindset focused on listening and bringing out the best in others

There’s no one agency that establishes standards for executive coach certification or requires executive coaches to use a specific job title. Nonetheless, executive coach certification establishes your credibility as a business-savvy executive who can provide tools and insight to maximize leadership potential for individuals and organizations.

Do I Need to Get Certified as an Executive Coach?  

If you’re working as an executive coach within an organization, your employer will likely desire that you have certification, but not all clients will demand it. Most executive coaches are certified, although the certification criteria varies. Not all certifications are equally recognized.

Here’s a list of some common executive coach certification titles promoted by various organizations:

  • Board Certified Coach (BCC) through Center for Credentialing and Education
  • Professional Executive Coach (PCC) through ICF
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC) through ICF
  • EMCC Global Individual Accreditation (EIA) through EMCC
  • EMCC Global Supervision Individual Accreditation (ESIA) through EMCC
  • Certified Professional Coach (CPC)

If you wish to be an executive coach, having a bachelor’s degree and corporate or business experience helps. Executive coach certification builds upon your industry experience and education, assuring your employer and clients that you possess the skills and training they require. 

How Much Does an Executive Coaching Certification Program Cost? 

An executive coaching certification program costs from $1,000 to $20,000 or more, with the average being in the $3,000 to $5,000 range for those who already possess a degree. What contributes to higher-end costs are the extra training and coaching you’ll need if you don’t already have a degree. The more expensive programs provide you with the hands-on experience and education you need to meet the certification prerequisites.

Methodology

This list of best executive coach certification program providers was created by reviewing about 50 coaching organizations that specifically offered executive certification programs. To narrow down the list, we prioritized those accredited by coaching organizations in compliance with their robust standards. However, some of the proprietary executive coach training programs were so robust that they were added. 

We culled out any that were overpriced (some as high as $18,000 for a course) to provide you with affordable options.

We also omitted training programs in which details were hard to come by, or that required a hard-sell consultation to get information on the program. (That’s usually a sign that the program is overpriced.) Before finalizing the list we looked for online reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings, and attendees feedback, eliminating any that had poor ratings. Lastly, we added a franchise for those whose primary goal in obtaining executive coaching certification is to start a turnkey coaching business.

Article Sources

  1. SHRM Human Resource Vendor Directory. "Reviews For Center for Coaching Certification." Accessed Jan. 29, 2021.