The Best Life Coaching Programs That Will Have You Certified In 12 Months Or Less

So, you’ve decided to become a certified life coach

Firstly, we’d like to congratulate you, as becoming certified is no mean feat! Though certification isn’t a legal requirement for life coaches, it can certainly help when building your business. In fact, as the life coaching industry continues to grow, becoming licensed could make the difference between landing top clients and simply missing the mark. 

So, if you want a piece of the action, be sure to keep reading!

Back when coaching was first conceived, there were only a handful of training programs which promised to whip aspiring coaches into shape. 

Ah, how times have changed! 

You’ll be pleased to know that life coaching has become a huge business in recent years, and there are now hundreds of ICF-accredited programs that meet the standards set out by the organization. Nice, right? 

However, whether you’re a true newbie or a seasoned coach who’s looking to brush up on your skills, attempting to sift through the number of programs available can feel totally overwhelming. Even the most competent coaches have found themselves shouting at their screens: “there are just too many options out there!”

Good news: you don’t need to spend hours on google to find a great certification program!

To help you out on your journey, we’ve compiled a handy list of the best life coaching programs currently available. So, sit back, relax, and grab a strong cup of coffee as we introduce you to the best in the biz! 

How should I choose a coaching program?

Now, before we dive in head-first, we thought we’d outline some important aspects to consider before settling on a program. Everyone learns in different ways, so the last thing you’ll want is to find yourself stuck in a coaching program that just isn’t for you.


When it comes to the value of a program’s credentials, this one’s basic – it’s either going to be accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) or it’s not.

If you’re going to get certified you’ll want to pick a program that bears the seal of approval from the Gold Standard in coaching. It’s as simple as that!

Teaching methods and location

Another important thing to think about when you’re checking out coaching programs is how the course itself is taught. 

Though there are programs that operate remotely, we highly recommend choosing one that has face-to-face learning or a mixed-delivery option. Though distance learning is great for coaches who can’t commute, it can prove tricky for students who struggle to learn without any in-person activities. 

If mixed-delivery doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you could go for a full face-to-face course. If you’re someone that needs active encouragement and can afford to splash the cash on a program, then this could be a great option!

If you’re a true believer in the ‘Goldilocks’ method, then a program offering a mixture of the two will probably be just right. Though there are advantages and disadvantages to mixed-delivery, we find that you’ll get a good level of input while having the independence to explore. A win-win we’d say!

In addition to the teaching methods offered on a coaching program, you’ll want to think about location. For obvious reasons, you won’t want to haul yourself across the country to get certified. 


If you’re looking to become a life coach in a specific area, then it’s worth shopping around for more specialist programs. If you’ve already decided that you want to focus on health and fitness for example, you’re better off getting certified by an organization that has an excellent reputation for that niche.

Choosing a niche is a great idea if you’re looking to make it big as a life coach. If you’re even remotely unsure though, we’d recommend focusing on a general coaching certification first. Slow and steady wins the race after all!


Now, we’ve all got our stuff. 

Whether you’re fresh out of college or are trying to find your feet as a new parent, the length of a life coaching program should always be considered. Most life coaching programs take between 6 and 12 months to complete, and not everyone can commit that length of time to getting certified.

Though there are programs that can have you certified in as little as 3 months, anything under that is unlikely to provide you with the tools you’ll need to thrive within the life coaching industry.


Finally, we might as well address the elephant in the room. 

Though we all wish that the best things in life were free, coaching programs do come at a cost. You can find extremely cheap courses online, but these probably won’t set you up with the right tools to really get you started. When you’re getting certified, you should think of the cost as an investment (and a poor investment is unlikely to bring you juicy rewards!).

On the flip side, some courses can be eye-wateringly expensive. Though we can’t argue with their great results, some courses are just financially out of reach for many coaches. 

So, when you’re considering the best life coaching program for you, be sure to be realistic about your own financial situation.

Accredited Life Coaching Programs

Now that we’ve covered all that, why don’t we check out some of the best institutions out there? As each coaching program has a different philosophy and approach, what works for one person may not necessarily be the right fit for another. 

We believe that it’s always best to do your research and then go with your gut!

Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC)

To start us off with a bang, let’s check out the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). As you may have guessed from its name, this is truly one of the best options in the world for certification.

What’s great about the IPEC is that their programs are offered in the US, Canada, the UK, and parts of the EU. So, if you’re outside the US and are looking for the best of the best, with the IPEC, you’re set.

Another major item for your ‘pro’ column is that the IPEC runs tons of in-person events that are designed to inspire and energize coaches. So, prepare to be hyped up on a daily basis with these guys!

If that wasn’t enough to sway you, there are nearly 400 hours of training to complete. With role-play exercises, writing, simulations, and top-tier teaching on offer here, you’re unlikely to walk away from a program at the IPEC feeling uninspired.

However, although we rate the IPEC highly, they’re one of the most expensive coaching programs out there. Their reputation is faultless, but their current rates are $11,950 for a 7 to 9-month course, which is pretty steep.


If you’re looking to go old-school, then CoachU is the program for you. 

Considered to be one of the “OG” coaching programs, CoachU’s Core Essentials Program is a 77-hour program that will certify you to the ICF’s standards. Though it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as the IPEC’s course, you’ll be able to complete it within a shorter timeframe. However, you will still need to allocate a minimum of 6 months to the program to complete it in full, so keep that in mind.

What’s good about this program is that you can pick and choose just how much training you do. Though the basic program provides 77 hours of training, you can choose to enroll in further courses to advance the skills that you have learned in the initial program. 

Also, as this course is based almost entirely online, you’re able to take it from anywhere in the world.

Coach Training Institute (CTI)

Another great life coaching program is the one offered by the Coach Training Institute (CTI).

Fun fact –  the guys that founded the CTI are pioneer life coaches themselves, so have huge levels of experience between them. Though the coaches at CTI tend to utilize their own methods quite a bit, this is hardly surprising. I mean, they HAVE been running their programs for over 20 years, so if it’s experience that you’re after, then these guys should be your go-to. 

If it ain’t broke…

In short, if you’re looking to join the big leagues, then you really can’t go wrong with the CTI. With an extensive number of graduates and a great global reputation, your certification is sure to hold up. What’s more, the CTI was the very first school to receive an ICF certification and the founders of the institute had a large say in the creation of the ICF. Cool, huh?

Again, this course isn’t cheap and will run you between $10,000-$12,000. Though it’s expensive, the coaches here are leading names in the field and that level of know-how is bound to come at a price.

Coach Training Alliance

The final life coaching program on our list is the one offered by the Coach Training Alliance.

If you’re looking to start your own coaching business and have less of an interest in the academic side of things, then this should be your first port of call. As these guys cover the business side of coaching in its entirety, you’ll be in the perfect position to market yourself as an independent business, following certification. 

If that wasn’t convincing enough, this is one of the most reasonable life coaching programs available when it comes to the moolah. Poised to set you back just over $3,000, this is the lowest-cost life coach certification that is still internationally regarded.

Are there any free online life coaching courses?

Times are tough, so it’s understandable that up-and-coming life coaches are looking for some free content. 

Though you won’t become ICF certified with a free coaching course, there is a good deal of useful information on blogs and coaching websites that can be incredibly useful. I mean, just look at Paperbell’s very own blog as an example!

Our best recommendation is to regularly peruse the blogs of your favorite coaches and organizations. Often, they’ll drop little nuggets of wisdom that you can use to stoke the fires of your own business. Just remember to drop them a comment of thanks if you successfully use their methods in your own work. After all, it’s nice to be nice, and praise can be super validating for any coach that’s having a bad week!

Making that crucial decision…

Though it can feel overwhelming, choosing the best life coaching program for you is an important step to get right.

The most important thing to do when narrowing down your options is to weigh up the criteria that we’ve touched on. From there, you can decide which institution’s methods work best with your personal goals as a coach.

Regardless of the path you choose, just remember that any great life coaching program will give you the confidence with which to get going. With the right amount of patience and grit, any of the programs above are sure to create a competent coach who’s ready to seize any challenge waiting on the other side!

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By Team Paperbell
October 19, 2020

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