The Best Life Coaching Programs to Get 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 a life coach training certification isn’t a legal requirement for life coaches, it can help build your life coaching business. As the life coaching industry continues to grow, becoming licensed could make the difference between landing top clients and simply missing the mark. 

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

Back when life coaching was first conceived, only a handful of life coach training programs 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 industry in recent years, and there are now hundreds of ICF-accredited training programs that meet the standards set out by the organization. Nice, right? 

However, whether you’re a true newbie or a seasoned coach looking to boost your coaching skills, attempting to sift through the number of coaching training options available can feel 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 life coaching journey, we’ve compiled a handy list of the best life coaching programs currently available. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we introduce you to the best in the biz!

In this article, you’ll learn…

What is a Life Coach Training Program?

The Benefits of Studying With an Accredited Institute

How Do You Choose Between the Best Life Coaching Programs?

Best Accredited Life Coach Training Programs

1. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC)

2. Coach U

3. Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)

4. Coach Training Alliance

5. The Certified Life Coach Institute

Are there any free online training programs?

What is a Life Coach Training Program?

Coaching training programs are run by educational institutions or private companies and provide you with the tools you need to become a life coach.

Life coach training offers theoretical course content and training about coaching techniques alongside practical tasks to apply what you learn. Many coaching schools will offer a mentor coach for ongoing support throughout the course to help you prepare for real-world coaching practice.

Some schools offer in-person training and group sessions, while others only offer online courses.

Once you complete a life coach program, you’ll receive a life coach certification, giving you the credentials you need to start a coaching business.

There’s no life coaching license required in this field, and certifications are not compulsory to become a successful life coach. However, following an accredited program can give you core competencies and credibility in a very unregulated industry.

The Benefits of Studying With an Accredited Institute

Choosing the right training provider for your life coaching studies may very well turn out to be a lifetime investment. Going for an accredited life coaching certification might cost you more, but it can significantly impact your career trajectory in the long run.

Accreditation by reputable organizations adds a layer of credibility to your certification and ensures that you receive quality education. Here are the key benefits of opting for an accredited coaching certification program.

  • Gold Standard Recognition: Accreditation from esteemed organizations, such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), serves as a mark of excellence in the coaching industry. It establishes that the training program meets stringent standards of quality and professionalism.
  • Global Opportunities: An accredited certification holds weight not just locally but on a global scale. Clients and employers worldwide recognize the value of ICF-certified coaching programs, broadening your opportunities for international coaching engagements.
  • Access to a Robust Curriculum: Accredited programs often adhere to comprehensive and up-to-date curricula. This ensures you receive a well-rounded education, covering essential coaching competencies, ethical considerations, and industry trends.
  • Quality Instructors and Mentors: Accredited programs usually boast experienced and highly qualified instructors. Learning from seasoned professionals in the coaching field enhances your understanding of practical applications and real-world scenarios.
  • Rigorous Evaluation Processes: Accredited programs undergo rigorous evaluation processes that assess their curriculum, faculty qualifications, and overall effectiveness. This means that high standards are guaranteed, and those hefty tuition fees won’t go wasted.
  • ICF Membership and Resources: Many accredited programs offer the added benefit of eligibility for ICF membership. Becoming a member of this globally recognized coaching community gives you access to resources, networking opportunities, and a platform for continuous professional development.
  • Client Trust and Confidence: Clients often seek coaches with accredited certifications to guarantee competence and professionalism. An accredited certification can instill trust in your clients and set you apart in an increasingly competitive field.
  • Commitment to Ethical Standards: Accredited programs go beyond lectures and emphasize ethical guidelines. After all, it’s not your coaching methodology that makes a difference but how you use it too…
  • Getting More Industry Support: Accredited programs often have strong connections within the coaching industry. This support can translate into enhanced post-certification opportunities, including mentorship programs, job placements, or collaborations with experienced coaches.

How Do You Choose Between the Best Life Coaching Programs?

Before diving in head-first, we thought we’d outline some important aspects to consider before settling on a life coach certification program.

If getting your coaching training from a certified life coach institute is crucial for you, pay attention to whether the school you choose has legitimate credentials.

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.

Here are 5 factors to consider when picking the best life coach certification for you.

1. The credentials that life coach certification programs provide

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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.

What does ICF accreditation mean? The ICF is a non-profit organization and the largest group of professional coaches in the world. It is known as an institute for professional excellence and is the voice of the coaching community worldwide.

Coaches accredited by the ICF can become ICF members, which gives them access to resources, a community of coaches, and continuing professional development. Becoming an ICF member shows you are committed to professional excellence in coaching.

If you’re going to become a certified coach, you’ll want to do your training at a certified life coach institute that bears the seal of approval from the Gold Standard in coaching. ICF-accredited training programs are considered to be the best of the best. It’s as simple as that!

So if credentials are the most important thing for you, check whether your coaching program has the International Coaching Federation accreditation.

2. 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 coaching training programs that operate remotely, we highly recommend choosing one that has face-to-face learning or a mixed-delivery option. Distance learning is beneficial for coaches who can’t commute, but it can prove tricky for students who struggle to learn without any interactive activities in person.

If mixed delivery doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you could go for a full face-to-face course. If you need active encouragement and peer support and can afford to splash the cash on a program with in-person classes, 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 mixed delivery has advantages and disadvantages, 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 in 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. 

Think about your learning style and what suits you best. An online life coach certification could be perfect for you if you learn best through lectures and reading. If you struggle to stay engaged, perhaps other programs offering one-to-one sessions and more interactive learning methods with fellow students will suit you more.

When you choose your certification provider, they will usually outline the curriculum upfront for both in-person and online life coaching courses, which can help your decision.

3. The niche of your life coach certification

If you’re looking to become a life coach in a specific area, it’s worth shopping for more specialized programs from a certified life coach institute.

For example, if you’ve already decided that your coaching niche is fitness and health coaching, then you’re better off getting certified by an organization that has an excellent reputation in that niche. A great option for that is the Health Coach Institute. If you want to coach business leaders, assess whether your chosen coaching school specializes in business.

Choosing a niche for your training program is a great idea if you want to make it big as a life coach. If you’re even remotely unsure about your coaching niche (or you want to offer more holistic services), we’d recommend focusing on a general coach certificate first. Starting out with a life coaching course and then specializing in a specific niche will help you decide whether or not the coaching life is really for you. Slow and steady wins the race, after all!

4. The length of the life coach certification program

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 program length of a life coach certification program should always be considered.

Ask yourself how much time you can realistically commit to self-study before you choose your program.

Most life coach certification programs take between 6 months and a year to complete, and not everyone can commit to getting certified.

Though you could take an online program that can have you certified in as little as 3 months, those opportunities usually build upon a more comprehensive program — or simply don’t provide you with the tools you’ll need to thrive within the coaching business.

While an online course will give you a solid foundation of knowledge, a longer comprehensive coaching program will give you the confidence, skills, and coaching experience you need to be a great coach in the long run.

5. The cost of your coaching certification

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

Though we all wish that the best things in life are free, life coach certification 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 become a certified professional coach, you should consider the cost an investment (and a poor investment is unlikely to bring you juicy rewards!).

On the flip side, the program cost for a life coaching course can be extremely expensive. Though we can’t argue with their great results, the extra cost of some courses is just financially out of reach for many coaches. 

So, when considering the best life coach program for you, be sure to be realistic about your financial situation and the type of life coach certificate you can afford.

Best Accredited Life Coach Training Programs

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

We believe it’s always best to do your own research before deciding on a coaching certification. To get you started, here’s the list of the best life coaching programs you can look up.

1. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC)

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Best life coach certification for: Credentials and easy accessibility

Cost: $13,395

Time required: 7-9 months (over 400 teaching hours)

To start with a bang, let’s check out the well-known certified life coach institute: the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC)

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

Another major item for your ‘pro’ column is that the IPEC runs many in-person events designed to inspire and energize coaches. Be prepared to work on your goal-setting and personal development in a like-minded community of coaching students!

If that wasn’t enough to sway you, the comprehensive program includes nearly 400 hours of formal training to become a certified life coach. With role-play exercises, writing, simulations, and top-tier teaching here, you’re likely to walk away from a program at the IPEC feeling inspired to launch your practice.

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

2. Coach U

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Best life coach certification for: Flexible dates & schedules, studying at your own pace, balancing study with a full-time job

Cost: Between $99 and $11,190

Time required: They have various options between a 6-day fast-track intensive course and a 15-month self-paced course

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

Considered one of the “OG” coaching programs, Coach U’s Core Essentials Program is a 77-hour program that will certify you to International Coaching Federation standards.

Though Coach U Core Essentials is nowhere near as comprehensive as the IPEC’s course, you can complete it within a shorter timeframe. However, you will still need to allocate a minimum of 6 months to complete the course fully, so keep that in mind.

What’s good about this program is that it’s self-paced, and you can pick and choose just how much coaching training you do. Though the basic program provides 77 hours of training, you can enroll in elective courses to advance your life coaching skills.

This life coach certification is great for someone looking for a career change who doesn’t necessarily have the time to commit full-time to becoming a professional certified coach. You can lead a dual life and self-study while continuing to work at your current job. Or perhaps you’re not looking for a new career and to start a coaching business but want to learn the core coaching competencies to incorporate into your current role.

Also, as the Core Essentials Program is almost entirely online, you can take it from anywhere in the world.

Not sure whether you want to start your life coaching journey and invest a lot of money in a course yet? Coach U also offers taster courses to give you an idea of what studying with them is like. You may decide to use the taster course for your own personal growth, or you can use the credits you earn towards Coach U certification programs in the future. It’s a top pick if you want to get a taste and some hands-on experience before you decide to make a full-blown career change.

3. Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)

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Best life coach certification for: A fully comprehensive program run by coaches

Cost: $1,099 – $16,800

Time required: Between 3 days and 10 months

Another great accredited coach training program is the one offered by the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI).

Fun fact: The guys who founded the CTI are pioneer life coaches, so they have a high level of experience in the industry. The coaches at CTI tend to bring in their own methods quite a bit, which is hardly surprising. I mean, they HAVE been running their programs for over 20 years, so if it’s the lived 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, you can’t go wrong with the CTI. With an extensive number of graduates and a great global reputation, your certification will surely hold up. What’s more, the CTI was the very first school to receive an ICF certification, and the institute’s founders had a large say in how ICF was shaped. Cool, huh?

There are 3 phases to the CTI courses:

  • Fundamentals
  • Intermediate
  • Coach Certification Program

You can’t move on to the next level without completing the previous one.

Again, this course isn’t cheap and will run you up to $6,499 if you take the full Advanced Coaching Certification program. Though it’s expensive, the coaches here are well-respected, leading names in the field, and that level of know-how is bound to come at a price.

You can also take individual courses of the programs if you want to learn the ICF core competencies and save a bit on the overall cost by going for one of their bundles or taking the program online.

4. Coach Training Alliance

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Best life coach certification for: Business development and getting business savvy about the coaching industry

Cost: $3,897

Time required: 6 months

The next life coach certification program on our list of best life coach training programs 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 than the business side of coaching, then this should be your first port of call.

These guys cover the business skills needed for coaching in its entirety so you’ll be in the perfect position to market yourself following the coaching certification program. The marketing skills you’ll learn in the course will help you feel ready to start a thriving coaching business.

You’ll take live classes online and follow a self-paced curriculum. Small classes make the training more personal as you get the chance to interact with other students. The course involves 60-90 minutes of classes and 2-5 hours of self-study every week for 6 months.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, this is one of the most reasonable life coaching certification programs available when it comes to the moolah. Poised to set you back just $3,897, this is the lowest-cost life coach certification that is still internationally regarded.

5. The Certified Life Coach Institute

best life coaching programs

Best for: Affordable, fast-track program

Cost: $995-$1995

Time required: 3 days

This program was voted as the “Best Choice for Life Coach Certification” in 2022 by Life Coaching Today, as well as one of the “Best Online Life Coach Certification Programs” by Business Insider.

The course is ICF-approved and only takes 3 days. You can use their life coach certifications anywhere in the world and learn skills in any niche or for any profession.

While the Certified Life Coach Institute makes bold claims about the 10,000 coaches they’ve trained, it’s hard to believe you can get the coaching skills required for professional excellence in just 3 days.

So, who is this life coach certification for? Those short on time and curious about life coaching and business coaching but not yet ready to invest thousands of dollars into a year-long program.

New coaches who want to learn as much as possible without making too much of a time commitment can definitely benefit from this intensive program. You also get lifetime access to the coaching community when you sign up for courses with this coaching institute.

Since this is an ICF-accredited program, it can make a great entry point into the world of online coaching. The life coaching certificate from the Certified Life Coaching Institute is a lot more affordable than other courses mentioned on this list. Prices start at $995.

Are there any free online training programs?

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

Though you won’t become an ICF associate certified coach 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 who’s having a bad week!

You can also check out more affordable programs on sites like Coursera and Udemy, where you can find life coaching certification programs for free or for a few hundred dollars.

While you won’t receive professional certification by completing these courses, the coaching schools on these platforms provide insightful knowledge. These lower-cost courses are also great if you’re curious about life coaching but aren’t yet ready to invest in one of the more expensive programs. You can also use these platforms to find more niche courses, such as online programs in health coaching or wellness coaching.

Making that crucial decision about life coach certifications…

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

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

With the right amount of patience and grit, any of the life coach certification programs above can help you become a competent coach, ready to start your own business and help others grow.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2023 and has since been updated for accuracy.

By Grace Roberts
November 29, 2023

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