Certification and accreditation in coaching

Accreditation in Coaching

Coaching has gained fast traction in the last few years. Because of this, anyone can claim to be a coach despite a lack of the required accreditation or certification. When selecting a coach, it is important you look for certain accreditations and certifications to ensure you receive the best quality of service from your coach. However, it is important to keep in mind that while accreditations and certifications are important they are just the base foundation of a coach. The quality of your coach will also depend on the experience they carry with them.

 Difference between accreditation and certification

It is also important to note the difference between accreditation and certification. Certification is verification related to products, processes, systems or persons. Accreditation is verification related to the demonstration of capability to carry out specific tasks. By definition, accreditation is one step higher than certification.  A typical example found across the world is in education. Students receive their degree, which is a form of certification, through universities that have been accredited to offer these qualifications. Coaching programs and coach accreditations are done by bodies like ICF, IAPC&M, etc. 

 But, there are so many different accreditations and certifications out there, how do you know which one is the right one for your coaching journey?

This article intends to help you learn the most important accreditations you should look out for when selecting a coach.

The ICF Accreditation

The International Coaching Federation is the gold standard for coaching in the coaching world. The Associate Certified Coach (ACC) is the first level towards becoming a professionally credentialed ICF coach. Through 60 hours of coach training, 10 hours of mentor coaching, 100 hours of coaching experience and the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA), which is an entry level test coaches must take to understand their knowledge and skill level of coaching; the coaches gain experience about work and personal life. Coaching at this level takes a linear and one-dimensional problem-solving approach, where the discovery part of the session is minimal. The coach’s questions are geared toward solving issues set by the client as quickly as possible. For example, if a client has trouble handling conflict in his workplace, then his ACC-certified coach focuses on helping him learn conflict management strategies to improve his conflict-handling capabilities. 

The second level of the ICF Accreditation is the Professional Certified Coach (PCC), where coaches learn to master advanced coaching skills. The ICF PCC credential is a highly recognized coaching certification for coaches around the globe. With 125 hours of coach training, 10 hours of mentor coaching, 500 hours of coaching experience, and the Coach Knowledge Assessment, the course helps coaches master the art and science of coaching and blend coaching into their current professional roles and become an internal coach for their company. The certification helps you hone in a strong acumen and skills to coach clients on a deeper level to bring drastic changes in their lives. The coach engages in some, but not a complete partnership with the client to develop goals and plans. The coach will generally help the client integrate new awareness as it pertains to a particular situation. For example, if an executive leader is having trouble managing his anger with his peers then the coach can take him through a journey of self-discovery where he can understand his personality traits, strengths, weaknesses and the reasons for his anger; following which, the coach will teach him anger management techniques to ensure he does not have anger outbursts at work. 

The third and highest level of ICF accreditation is the Master Certified Coach (MCC). This is the most prestigious level of certification a coach can achieve within the ICF. An MCC coach is a seasoned, experienced, and highly skilled professional in identifying the client’s problems and offering reflections. The MCC coach will primarily focus on who the client is, which in turn helps them get to the root of the problem and figure out why it exists. Attending to the ‘who’ content of the client helps distinguish the MCC skill level coaching. With over 200 hours of ICF-approved coach training, 2500 hours of client coaching experience, 10 hours of extensive work with a Mentor coach, and a performance evaluation makes the coaching journey with the client rich, authentic, and fulfilling. For example, after repeated failure the CEO of a company finds himself feeling lost, demotivated, and discouraged. When he comes to his MCC coach he learns how to gain clarity on who he is, what his aspirations are, and what he wants to achieve in his company, and thus helps him formulate the steps to achieve his dreams. As such, the MCC coach looks deeper into who the CEO is in order to help him discover what he wants to achieve in life. The coach and client create goals and plans that fit the client’s goals, learning styles, and pace of wanted or necessary movement.

The CFI Accreditation

The Coaching Foundation India is another popular accreditation sought by coaches. The CFI’s Post Graduate Programme in Executive Coaching (PGPEC) is rated as India’s most respected, rigorous, and sought-after coaching certification program for coaches. The PGPEC creates high-caliber executive coaches who can coach CEOs and other senior leaders, uphold the spirit of the CFI coaching competency model, which consists of five interconnected competency themes (as seen in the figure below) and twenty-two competencies. All coach education programmes are designed around these competencies and thus build a sustainable coaching practice. 

CFI competency framework


After the 12-month program that includes learning events, supervised internships, continuous assessments and feedback, coaches will gain confidence to engage in coaching sessions.

Besides this the CFI offers the Leader As a Coach (LAC) and Manger As a Coach (MAC) programs to aspiring coaches. The Leader as Coach course implements certification programs in client organisations to create an internal group of coaches from among their leaders by ensuring that the selected leaders have the ability to demonstrate coaching orientation in their leadership style, establish healthy relationships with employees, provide consistent feedback, assist employees in smooth transitions to new roles, etc. 

The Manager as Coach course implements coaching at the managerial level (typically middle management positions) in organisations through which it enhances their managerial effectiveness. The program aims at familiarizing managers with the skills and know-how to demonstrate the managerial and coaching behaviours that will give them the language set to practice coaching orientation in their daily work and through the new coaching style enhance team performance and development. 

The Marshall Goldsmith Accreditation

The Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach Certification helps coaches learn and apply a proven process for leaders to use effective behaviour change. This process includes the following steps:
Step 1-  Defining a leadership goal that is important to the leader and the organisation.
Step 2- Each Stakeholder is asked either by the coach, or the leader to actively participate in the leader’s improvement on an ongoing basis.
Step 3-  The Leader and the Coach collaborate to put together an action plan based on the input provided by the Stakeholders.
Step 4 – During a brief 3 to 5 minute check-in the Leader asks the Stakeholder for feedback on the prior 30 days and any suggestions moving forward for the next 30 days.
Step 5-  Half way through, and the end of the assignment, a formal mini-survey is conducted with the Stakeholders to assess the progress made on the development goal chosen by the Leader. The survey is conducted in order to validate the improvement made by the Leader and to measure the change in Stakeholder perception.The skills learned during this course include Behavioural Goal Setting; Behavioural Rehearsal; Stakeholder-Based Action Planning; After Action Assessments; Behavioural Reinforcement; and Story Telling.


The EMCC Accreditation

The EMCC Global accredits individuals, training programmes and organisations. The EMCC Global Individual Accreditation (EIA) is an internationally recognised accreditation that demonstrates that an individual practicing as a professional coach has knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively in their practice. The EIA sets very high standards for coaching and is recognised as a quality coach accreditation in the marketplace. These standards include: 

  • Setting high standards in assessment criteria
  • Measuring ability against their evidence-based competence framework
  • Using reliable and rigorous assessment processes
  • Demanding a professional, reflective approach
  • Ensuring a commitment to continuing development.



Sita Ravinatula

Sita Ravinatula