Once considered obscure and esoteric, life coaching has finally made it to the mainstream. More and more people are seeking out life coaches to help guide them through their life's toughest decisions. Whether you are going through a career change, having trouble balancing your work and personal life, or just want to feel more confident, any major improvement you want to make could be made easier and more authentically if tackled alongside a trusted life coach.
Not only has life coaching become more mainstream, it has fully grown up as a profession. While the life coach of the past was simply anyone skilled at giving advice and connecting with a person's deeper motivations, today's life coaches are full-time professionals who are highly qualified to coach others in their area of specialization. In other words, if you want to be a successful life coach in today's world, not only do you have to work well with people, you need to get certified.
Now that you know you want to become a certified life coach, where do you start? Finding the best life coach certification programs isn't as easy as it might sound. It turns out there are thousands of programs out there and they aren't all created equal!
Check out these three steps explaining how life coach certification works and how to find the program that is right for you:
Step 1: Do Your Homework
Like a college degree, earning your life coaching certification is the best way to become an expert at your craft. Also like a college degree, it's going to cost you some money so choose your program wisely.
To give you an idea of what to expect, most respected coaching certification programs will charge upwards of $5,000, and many will even charge $10,000 or more for a complete certification course. Given that your earning potential as a life coach is upwards of $100,000 a year, this isn't a huge deal if you play your cards right. Before you cough up $5,000 of your hard-earned money, it's best to understand the industry inside and out. You definitely don't want to rush headfirst into this career, pay hefty sums for your certificate, and then decide it just isn't for you.
Before you pay another company to give you an education, you've got to educate yourself.
The most popular and widely-respected book on the art of life coaching is Walks of Life, written by Jill M. Fratto, a certified life coach with the National Coach Academy. It's the most comprehensive book on the market for anyone looking to start their career as a life coach and it has helped thousands of young coaches get started in this field. Check it out and do some detailed online searches so you know what you are getting yourself into.
Step 2: How to Find Legitimate Training Programs
When it comes time for you to start your own life coaching business, you'll discover that it's easier than ever to start a company. The downside to this fact is that the same holds true for a lot of so-called "life coach training programs" out there. Anyone with a website and a few business cards can start one, and it's your job to separate the real from the fake.
Luckily, you have help. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is an organization whose sole purpose is to promote the advancement of the life coaching industry around the world. For over 10 years, the ICF has developed rigorous standards that all schools must follow in order to receive their prestigious accreditation. These programs are called Accredited Coach Training Programs, or ACTPs, and there are hundreds of ACTPs to choose from all over the world, each with their different areas of specialization and methods of training.
ICF accreditation is quickly becoming the gold standard for all life coach certification programs. When looking for the perfect coaching program that fits your needs, be sure you only choose programs that are ICF accredited.
Step 3: Choosing a Program That Fits Your Lifestyle and Interests
While all ACTPs must live up to ICF standards, the methods of delivery and areas of specialization will differ between programs.
For example, the Georgetown University Center for Continuing and Professional Education focuses primarily on leadership coaching, and only offers in-person training. In other words, you physically have to be in Washington D.C. in order to take their course. On the other hand, Academic Life Coaching in Portland, Oregon specializes in coaching for students and teens, and offers all of their coaching online via video-conferencing. Anyone in the world, regardless of their physical location, can be a student at ALC.
Both of these programs are ICF-accredited and both are taught by world-class life coaches, but they differ in practically every other dimension. While some may like the convenience of ALC's remote training, others may prefer the intimate, face-to-face environment that Georgetown offers. Likewise, some coaches are business-oriented and have a passion for bringing the best out of CEOs and high level managers. Others may feel a connection with the younger generation and derive fulfillment from helping them find direction and purpose. As a life coach, not only will you be focusing in on your client's deepest motivations, you'll need to dig deep within yourself and decide what segment of the population you enjoy working with most.
As is the case with most entrepreneurial ventures, it helps to specialize. No one wants to speak with a generalist; everyone wants someone who they think uniquely understands their particular situation in life. Whether you enjoy speaking with seniors or have a passion for helping busy professionals find balance in their lives, specializing in the coaching area that you're most passionate about is an excellent first step in creating your own personal brand.
As the world around us becomes more complex and the personal relationships we maintain get harder to manage, the need for professional life coaches becomes greater with each passing day. Everyone longs for a profitable career that they feel passionate about, and becoming a life coach is one of those few professions that can offer both.
Before you go out and find the life coach certification program that suits you best, take a few days to understand what life coaching is (and what life coaching is not), understand the programs, and most of all, gain a deeper understanding of what you want out of this career.
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