So you want to become an executive coach — but you’re getting overwhelmed with all the conflicting information about programs and certifications.
Yes, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of executive coaching programs to choose from. But we’ve done the hard part of sifting through them to find the best executive coaching certification programs to help you make your decision!
Do You Need an Executive Coach Certification?
If you want to become an executive coach, getting an executive coaching certification is one of the best ways to add credibility and authority.
But does that mean you need a certification to start a career or a business as an executive coach? No.
Before you can begin taking executive coaching clients, what you’ll need will depend on your background!
You’ll struggle without a certification if you don’t have any coaching skills — or have little to no experience working in a corporate or executive setting.
But if you’ve worked as a C-level executive for 10+ years and have coached junior employees throughout your career, you may have what it takes to start taking clients immediately.
With that said, even an experienced and skilled executive coach can benefit from getting certified. An official certification is more than just a credential you can add to your website or social media bio!
For instance, you’ll learn:
- Coaching exercises to help your clients achieve breakthroughs faster
- Coaching styles and coaching models to see what works best for you
- Approaches to building a business as an executive coach
- Effective communication strategies for executives
- Leadership styles and models, and strategies for developing leadership skills in others
- Methods to enhance emotional intelligence in executives and help them manage their emotions in high-pressure situations
- Techniques for managing and resolving conflicts within (executive) teams
- Assessment tools and strategies to improve performance
- Ways to adapt coaching approaches to different organizational cultures
- Frameworks to conduct effective coaching sessions and provide constructive feedback to executives.
Plus, being part of a coaching program before you receive your certification can help you build your network. You never know when your new biz bestie could become the source for your next client!
Types of Executive Coaching Certification Programs
Not every executive coaching program available online is the same!
Keep in mind that there are three “levels” of certification — but levels aren’t the same as program types! The three levels of credentials you can get are:
- Associated Certified Coach (ACC)
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
- Master Certified Coach (MCC)
All types of executive coaching programs can help you obtain one of the above. The difference is that the PCC and MCC require significantly more hours of coaching education and experience!
Let’s cover the main types of programs available for certification with the ICF.
1. Accredited Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH)
With an ACSTH program, you will receive education on how to coach. However, it doesn’t include the other elements you need to become certified, such as:
- 10 hours of Mentor Coaching
- Recorded coaching sessions to evaluate your performance
- Hands-on coaching experience
You can enroll in a program if you’re interested in the curriculum. But you’ll have to get your hours of mentor coaching and fill out your ICF coaching log separately.
2. Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP)
A program that’s accredited as an ACTP is the most comprehensive executive coaching education you can get!
Not only will you get at least 60 hours of coaching education, but you’ll also receive your mentor coaching and performance evaluation. Many programs also help you get your coaching hours in, although you’ll likely still need to get some hours on your own.
3. Continuing Coach Education (CCE)
Also known as the Portfolio path, a CCE coaching program can get 60 hours of coaching education without choosing an accredited program.
Some programs are accredited but are still considered Continuing Coach Education. But if your program isn’t accredited, you can still submit documentation to prove the curriculum meets ICF standards.
In addition to submitting the curriculum, you’ll also need to complete your 10 mentor coaching hours and performance evaluation separately.
Best Executive Coaching Certification Programs
Have you decided that getting certified is the best path forward for you? Awesome! To help you along your path, we’ve curated the best executive coaching certification programs available today.
According to Co-Active’s website, 50% of all trained coaches took one of their programs.
Not only have they trained over 145,000 coaches, but they’ve also trained employees and executives working in over a third of Fortune 100 companies.
So, if you’re looking for executive and leadership coaching training programs that know their way around the corporate world, look no further.
In the Co-Active coach training program, you’ll learn how to:
- Leverage “coaching moments” to create deeper connections with your clients.
- Cultivate trust and inspire your clients to take bold action.
- Provide a safe environment for your clients to be themselves and trust their intuition.
- Help your clients transcend limitations.
- Understand your impact on other people and the world around you.
This training program is split into three separate courses. To get started, you can learn more about the first course, Co-Active Fundamentals of Coaching.
Costs: $1,099 to $16,800 depending on the level of certification.
IPEC promises to not only help you master coaching techniques but also to help you reach your own personal potential.
When you take the IPEC Coach Training Experience, you’ll receive over 320 training hours, including 200 ICF-accredited training hours. You’ll also get 3 separate certifications from IPEC itself! Those are:
- Certified Professional Coach (CPC)
- Energy Leadership™ Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP)
- COR.E Dynamics™ Specialist, in one of four niches
IPEC separates its executive coaching program into 4 phases:
- Phase 1: Undergraduate training
- Phase 2: Graduate-level specialized training (where you can specialize as an executive coach)
- Phase 3: Integration into your daily life and career
- Phase 4: In this alternative to Phase 3, you’ll start your own coaching business!
You also get 6 sessions with a dedicated Mentor Coach, which will help you get the 10 hours you need to complete your certification.
Costs: $13,395 paid in full. Monthly and yearly installment plans are also available.
CoachU offers a certification for executive coaching that focuses on helping you develop foundational skills for your practice.
Their program works in two phases:
- Phase 1: Core essentials
- Phase 2: Professional essentials (for certified coaches only)
You’ll receive 78 hours of training that you can complete over 8 months. But you can also take a fast-track, which condenses 78 hours into a 6-day intensive and pre-and post-event course.
Not only will you learn core skills and proprietary coaching models, but you’ll also learn how to position your coaching business and create sustainable coaching packages.
Costs: $6,095 for each phase or $11,190 for the full program.
The name says it all — the Center for Executive Coaching is one of the best organizations for people who want to specialize in executive coaching!
With this ICF-accredited executive life coach certification, you’ll learn all the foundational skills you could get with other programs. However, since it’s oriented toward executive coaches, you’ll also receive additional education, such as:
- Business coaching methodology
- Results-focused leadership and executive coaching solutions
- Career coaching methodology
- A PowerPoint deck full of leadership development solutions
- 20+ hours of Business Development webinars plus business development guides
Their goal is to equip you with much more than academic or theoretical knowledge. They want every graduate of their program to have practical and measurable ways to get results for executives, managers, and other leaders.
They’ll also train you to facilitate, assess, train, advise, or consult your clients if you want to do that!
Costs: $7,500 ($7,350 upfront or ten monthly installments of $750)
The WCI offers several certification programs. So when you take their Certified Executive Leadership Coach (CELC) program, you’ll get two certifications in one!
You’ll become both a Certified Executive Coach (CEC) and a Certified Professional Coach (CPC). And if you move forward with your ICF certification, that’s a third credential you can add to your portfolio.
In this executive coaching program, you’ll learn:
- Essential coaching communication skills
- Coaching applications for a variety of scenarios
- Core coaching competencies
- Business and career development
- Tools and assessments to help your clients
You’ll have three paths to choose from with the WCI. Keep in mind that the Certified Executive Coach (CEC) program is a niche add-on, which means it’ll take longer than doing only the Certified Professional Coach (CPC) program.
Costs: $975-$3247 depending on your training path and cohort.
Yes — you can go to college to study certified executive coaching!
Brown University has partnered with ACT Leadership to offer its Leadership and Performance Coaching Certification Program.
This is an 8-month program that you can take 100% virtually or as a hybrid of online and in-person. Not only will you get your certificate from Brown University and ACT leadership, but you’ll also be able to take the ACSTH pathway with the ICF.
If you prefer a college experience, this is a great option.
Costs: $10,495 for virtual and $11,495 for hybrid.
How Much Does an Executive Coaching Certification Cost?
The dreaded money question — how much will you spend to become a certified executive coach?
First, you’ll need to pay for the program itself. Executive coaching programs vary from $7,000 to $13,000, depending on which organization you choose. Foundational or introductory coaching certification programs are available at around $1000.
However, if you want to get certified with the ICF, you’ll also need to pay for your application.
Here’s the breakdown of the application costs for all three program types:
- ACSTH path: $375 for ICF members and $525 for non-members
- ACTP path: $175 for ICF members and $325 for non-members
- Portfolio path: $475 for ICF members and $625 for non-members
There are also installment plans available at the ICF to break up your payment.
How to Choose the Right Executive Coaching Certification Program
Above, we’ve listed some of the most respected and extensive executive coaching certification programs. Experienced industry professionals run them and are widely recognized in the coaching industry.
Besides costs, there are a few other things you can consider to decide which one to sign up for.
- Read through their curriculum: Consider what focus areas the certification is built around and whether it’s aligned with your future business goals.
- Choose between online and offline: Many programs are available online, in-person, or hybrid.
- Evaluate the pros and cons of different paths: These training organizations offer various accreditation paths depending on how important these credentials are for you.
- Follow your own learning style: Pre-recorded training materials give you more flexibility, while interactive classes provide a more immersive learning experience.
Completing an executive coaching certification program can be an amazing investment in your career that pays off for many decades. Make sure your final selection aligns with your resources and your long-term career vision.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2023 and has since been updated for accuracy.