Types Of
Coaching Certifications

Now that we’ve talked about both sides of the “should I get a coaching certification?” question, we’ll get into various elements you need to think about if you are seriously considering online certifications.

First things first…

When it comes to coaching certification programs, such as a life coach certification, there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” situation.

The truth is, there’s a ton of coaching certifications and programs that claim to be the “best” in the industry, but the reality is most of these programs fall way short.

They fail to equip coaches with the tools, techniques, and skills they need in order to become extraordinary coaches.

So, when you’re ready to choose a certification program, it’s absolutely critical that you give yourself enough time and space to consider the benefits and drawbacks of these programs.

Just about every single coaching certification program out there can be categorized into 2 overarching types of certifications:



There are strengths behind both types of certifications and you need to know how to tell the difference between the two so you can pick an option that’s right for you.

Coach-oriented programs are generally designed to support a professional coach in a formal setting.

At the core, many coach-oriented certifications are designed around “what” a coach does during a session. This often means student coaches are taught to follow specific rules and structures based on traditional coaching methods. They mostly focus on coaching through asking questions, and do not encourage offering counseling, consulting, or advice in a client session.

Client-oriented programs are geared toward… you guessed it… the client!

This type of program is designed to guide coaches to work with a wide spectrum of clients in their zone of genius. Client-oriented coaching programs give students the skills they need to customize coaching tools and techniques so they can maximize results for every single client they work with. 

So, if you happen to be an Executive Coach, you can work with brand, new CEOs and also experienced CEOs who’ve been doing what they do for years or even decades. 

Client-oriented programs are designed around “how” a coach works with a client and usually includes a business-based segment so student coaches can reach their goals as a coach and as a business owner.

Keep in mind that these categories are general guidelines that work for most certification programs and there are some programs that are both client and coach-oriented.

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The following questions will help you find clarity on the different types of certifications, and how to choose which program is right for you at this time in your coaching journey.

What would feel like a great foundational platform for your coaching work… a certification program that’s based on rules or something that’s a lot more flexible?
(note: coach-oriented programs are based on rules, whereas client-oriented programs are usually more flexible)

Would you like to have business insights, guidance, and strategies around starting and growing a professional coaching business?
(note: if your answer is yes, look for client-oriented certification programs. Coach-oriented programs are less likely to provide any business training.)

 Do you like the idea of experimenting with coaching tools and techniques in your client sessions or finding new ways to work with established coaching techniques?
(note: if your answer is yes, look for client-oriented certification programs. Coach-oriented programs tend to teach and follow coaching techniques that are proven and effective, yet not flexible to experimentation.)


What Are
Accredited Coaching
Certification Programs?

At the time of this writing, just about any coach can create his or her own certification program from the ground up and many experienced coaches do.

How this works is these established coaches share their principles, philosophies, and some of their coaching techniques with a large audience of brand new coaches or coaches who want to expand their knowledge.

Then these experienced coaches invite people to join their certification program to learn their unique coaching methodology which is usually based on hundreds of hours of work they’ve done with real-world clients.

These types of certifications are generally not accredited.

Accredited programs have been approved by a recognized authority in the coaching industry.

One of the most popular coaching authorities in the world is the International Coaching Federation or ICF and it’s often considered to be the gold standard for formal, professional coaching.

Other global coaching bodies include the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) and the Continuing Coach Education (CCE).

Benefits of accredited certification program

One of the best things about choosing an accredited certification program is that potential clients who are thinking about working with you know that they are connecting with a trained coach. In other words, an accredited coaching certification can boost your credibility.

Another benefit is that many accredited certification programs offer additional support such as a community of professional coaches you can turn to if you have a question or feel stuck in your work with clients. 

Accredited certification programs are also known to be formal in their delivery and teaching materials and, if this is something that’s important to you, an accredited program might just be the right fit. 

Plus, the coaching tools and techniques you’ll come across in most accredited programs have been tested-and-proven to benefit clients.

Downside of accredited certification program

The following questions will help you find clarity on whether an accredited certification program is right for you.


If you’re a new coach or if you’re thinking about becoming a coach, is it important to you to start working with clients as soon as possible?
(note: if your answer is yes, an accredited program might not be a good fit at this time)


 Is being part of an international community of professional coaches a major priority for you?
 (note: if your answer is yes, look for an accredited program that offers additional support with a global community of trained coaches. You can also look for respected online coaching courses that include a community experience.)


Do you want to begin working with paying clients right away?
(note: if your answer is yes, you can look for an accredited program that allows you to charge for all your client coaching hours. Alternatively, sign up for a recommended and respected coaching program where student coaches can immediately implement what they learn in paid coaching sessions.)