Life coach certification programs prepare students to work as a certified life coach, helping clients find clarity and direction in their lives. The certification programs teach skills such as effective communication, problem-solving, and how to work with clients in different settings. Anyone can call themselves a life coach, but to use the title of certified life coach one must complete a life coach certification program.
The best life coach certification programs are accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and allow you to apply for ICF credentials upon completion. Top programs also cover all areas of life coaching, teach students valuable skills, and provide time to practice their skills and gain feedback from other professionals. We looked at programs available both online and in-person throughout the U.S. to develop this list of the best life coach certification programs.
The Best Life Coach Certification Programs of 2021
- Best Overall: Coach Training Alliance (CTA)
- Best for Career Change: Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)
- Best for In-Person: Coach U—Core Essentials Fast Track Program (CEFTP)
- Best for Short Timeline: Certified Life Coach Institute
- Best for Financial Coaching: ClientWise—Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program
Best Overall : Coach Training Alliance (CTA)
Why we chose it: Through its online and self-study options, Coach Training Alliance (CTA) prepares you to work with clients, offers education on the business side of coaching, and provides ongoing support through its intensive six-month program.
Prepares you for real-life coaching
Many different teaching styles
Need to claim your spot in advance
Must attend live sessions
Classes limited to 12 participants
CTA is a six-month program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and has certified over 10,000 coaches from 45 countries. Training takes place for five hours over 22 weeks and includes 12 group mentoring sessions, 10 “coach the coach” sessions, 60 to 90 minutes of weekly telesessions, a virtual classroom, and a private forum. You will earn a certificate upon completion.
You are expected to complete up to two hours a week of self-study work on topics such as coaching and communication skills as well as marketing and business skills including starting a home-based business and attracting clients. The program is designed to include real-life practice to help you feel confident and prepared when you start working with clients.
This affordable program is one of the least expensive options on our list, costing $3,547 for the six-month course. They offer a monthly payment option for those who prefer not to pay in full.
CTA was the 2020 Recipient of the Global Excellence Award for “Best Life Coach Training and Certification Provider,” is well-respected in the life coaching community, and it provides you with the requirements needed to obtain an ICF credential as a certified life coach.
Best for Career Change : Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)
Why we chose it: iPEC provides you with all the training and knowledge you need to start a new career as a certified life coach, including courses on how to run your own business and market yourself to clients.
Live learning modules
Library of resources
Program is not self-paced
Program can take seven to 12 months to complete
Expensive at $11,950
iPEC is a great choice if you want to start a home-based career as a certified life coach or you want a comprehensive program that will teach you everything you need to know to start working with clients. The iPEC coaching program is based on its unique Core Energy Coaching process and focuses on teaching clients to create choices in how they think and feel. At the end of the course, you will earn the title of Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and be ready to start working with clients.
Tuition includes access to their library of resources where you can find many tools and techniques to use with your clients as you help them on their journey. The live sessions occur at three-month intervals and allow you to learn directly from certified life coaches who teach you how to help your clients gain clarity, define goals, and discover solutions to their life problems. Unfortunately, there is no self-study option but all learning includes virtual classes and self-study material. They offer many opportunities to practice your coaching skills and participate in group coaching sessions.
The program also includes education around branding, marketing, and how to launch a coaching business. iPEC has been an ICF-accredited coach training program since 2002 and currently offers virtual live options with rolling start dates. It provides you with the requirements needed to apply for an ICF credential.
iPEC is one of the more expensive options on our list, costing $11,950 for the entire program. They offer a monthly payment plan and other tuition options such as splitting it up into three payments or applying for an iPEC loan.
Best for In-Person : Coach U—Core Essentials Fast Track Program (CEFTP)
Why we chose it: Coach U Core Essential Fast Track Program (CEFTP) offers a fast-track program designed to teach you everything you need to know over six days of live classes.
Six-day live intensive program
Includes everything required for ICF certification
Can retake courses for six months
Professional Essentials Program is separate
No business courses
If you have a challenging time with self-study courses, the CEFPT live program is a great choice to help you stay on track. It’s designed as a six-day intensive workshop to learn all the skills needed to become a life coach and start coaching clients or mentoring co-workers. Over the six days, you will learn all the fundamentals of working as a life coach. After that, you’ll have an additional six months to access weekly courses to review the material, take online exams, complete your 20 coaching hours, and receive guidance from Coach U faculty.
The CEFPT program covers topics such as ethics in coaching, guiding principles, coaching mindset, interview skills, practical application, and more. The focus is on building your skills as a coach and the courses are interactive and provide many opportunities to practice your skills on other students.
The CEFPT program costs $5,095 and various discounts are available such as an early bird discount or a discount for bundling with other programs. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge, you can also take the Professional Essentials Program after completion and both programs will cost $8,360 if bundled together. You can register online and programs start monthly.
Courses are usually offered in-person in various locations throughout the country, but due to COVID-19, they are currently only offered over Zoom. It is expected that they will return to in-person learning in the future.
The program is an ICF-accredited program and has many positive reviews online.
Best for Short Timeline : Certified Life Coach Institute
Why we chose it: You can get certified in three days through the Certified Life Coach Institute making it a good choice for those with limited time.
Get certified in three days
ICF accredited institution
Over 9,000 coaching alumni
Inexpensive compared to other programs
Classes fill quickly
Must complete both levels to get 65.8 accredited coach hours
Business modules are introductory and basic
If you’re looking to get certified quickly, Certified Life Coach Institute (CLCI) is designed to help you become certified as a life coach in just three days. They offer both level one and two courses and are readily available online. The coursework covers topics such as introduction to the ICF coaching model, questioning and interviewing skills, how to help clients establish goals, business basics, marketing tips as well as peer-to-peer coaching opportunities.
CLCI states that you are certified after the three-day level one course, but to join ICF as a professionally trained coach you must complete both level one and level two to obtain the required 60 hours of training.
CLCI has many positive reviews online and is less expensive than other life coaching programs, costing $995 for level one and $1,995 if you bundle levels one and two. Financing is available and there are various discounts offered.
Currently, all courses are offered over Zoom and you must register ahead of time to reserve your spot. You are provided a manual upon registration and all other learning is provided during the three-day course. There is no mention of continued support following the course like some other programs offer.
Best for Financial Coaching : ClientWise—Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program
Why we chose it: The ClientWise Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program is designed specifically for financial professionals who want to expand their skills into coaching and is ICF-accredited.
The only available ICF-accredited financial coaching program
Delivered over six months via teleclasses
Many opportunities to practice skills
Program is not self-paced
Limited information online regarding enrollment and pricing
The ClientWise Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program is a 60-hour program designed for financial professionals including financial advisors, brokers, asset managers, and insurance agents. It will teach you the skills you need to effectively coach others on financial matters. It has been offered through ClientWise since 2006 and is the only elite financial services coach program certified through the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Programs are hybrid and include both in-person and virtual sessions over six months. There is a two-day intensive workshop led by financial professional Ray Sclafani at the beginning and end of each program. You will also be expected to attend weekly 90-minute virtual sessions. The program focuses on building relationships with clients and improving communication to provide sound guidance when it comes to financial planning. Each module includes many opportunities to practice your coaching skills and learn from experienced professionals.
The website does not state how much the program costs or show upcoming start dates.
Overall, there are many life coaching certifications to choose from. All life coaching certification programs cover the basics of life coaching and teach their students how to become effective communicators and prepare them to work with clients. Some programs are unique in that they offer business-focused teaching or provide many peer-to-peer coaching opportunities to help develop your coaching skills.
Some programs are designed to get you certified in a short period of time while others are stretched over a six- to nine-month period.
|Life Coach Certification Program||Category||Cost|
|Coach Training Alliance (CTA)||Best Overall||$3,547|
|Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)||Best for Career Change||$11,950|
|Coach U—Core Essentials Fast Track Program (CEFTP)||Best for In-Person||$5,095|
|Certified Life Coach Institute||Best for Short Timeline||$995 for level 1, $1,995 for level 1 and 2|
|ClientWise—Certified Financial Services Coach Training Program||Best for Financial Coaching||Unpublished|
What Is a Life Coach Certification Program?
Life coach certification programs are courses and classes designed to give you the skills you need to be a certified life coach and start working with clients. Programs cover topics such as effective communication, relationship building, business development, and marketing, and will often walk you through the process of working with a client to help you gain practical experience.
The best programs to consider are accredited by the ICF and prepare you to apply for an ICF coaching credential. To be credentialed as an ICF Associate Certified Coach you must complete 60+ hours of training and log over 100 hours of coaching experience.
Who Should (or Shouldn’t) Get a Life Coach Certification?
If you are looking at starting a life coaching business, gaining employment as a life coach, or want to elevate your skills in your current profession, then a life coach certification is a good choice. Since these programs are intensive and often expensive, they are not appropriate for those who simply want to expand their knowledge of life coaching or have no intention of working with clients.
Do You Need a Certification to Work as a Life Coach?
No, there is no formal certification required to work as a life coach as it is not a licensed profession. Reputable life coaching certification programs are accredited by the ICF and prepare you with the requirements needed to earn an ICF credential. However, being certified can make you more attractive to both potential clients and employers.
How Much Do Life Coach Certification Programs Cost?
Life coach certification programs cost between $995 and $11,950 for the program. The price for a life coach certification program varies depending on factors like length, in-person or virtual classes, qualifications and experience of the instructor, and access to supplemental materials.
If you want to obtain your ICF credential, that will cost up to an additional $300 to apply.
What Are the Different Types of Life Coaches?
Life coaches often carve out their niche and establish themselves as professionals in a certain area of interest. Many coaches may specialize in areas such as career coaching or financial coaching but others may provide general life coaching services.
We evaluated more than eight in-person and online life coaching certification programs based on criteria including cost, how long they’ve been in business (at least 10 years), and online student reviews.
We also focused on ICF-accredited programs, as their rigorous standards ensure the program meets the requirements necessary to apply for an ICF credential upon completion. We also considered the cost and for those that were pricier, looked for discounts or payment plans.
All of our top choices are reasonably priced, offer flexibility in how classes are delivered, offer ICF accreditation, and have a solid reputation.