September 24, 2021


The Ultimate Guide on Coaching Accreditation

In 2019, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) reported that there were approximately 71,000 coach practitioners—a 33% increase since 2015. Others have suggested there are probably over 100,000 people providing coaching services worldwide. However not all of these individuals are trained accredited professional coaches. 

CoachHub’s Senior Behavioral Scientist, Liz Pavese, said that technology plays a major role in the industry’s growth. “Digital coaching helps get coaching to more people,” shared Pavese, “but it also simplifies the process for an organization to contract with coaches.” With traditional face-to-face coaching, it’s often difficult to find enough specialized coaches in a limited geographic region; That’s not a barrier with digital coaching.

As the industry grows, and coaching remains an unregulated sector, quality assurance is becoming a top priority for employers and employees. ICF reports that the majority of individuals and organizations that use coaching services, expect their coaches to be certified or credentialed—55% strongly agree.

What is a coaching accreditation? And why is it important?

What is a Coaching Accreditation?

Coaching accreditations are awarded to coach practitioners provided by professional bodies such as the ICF, EMCC Global and Association for Coaching. Accreditation, sometimes called credentialing, demonstrates that an individual coach “has the appropriate level of knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively in their practice.” Credentialing bodies establish best practices and codes of ethics that coaches commit to. By accrediting coach practitioners, credentialing organizations essentially say, “This professional completed our training and meets our industry standards.”

The specifics of each credentialing body differ, but in general, the qualification consists of competency frameworks, rigorous assessment processes, and core skills .To be awarded a coaching credential, a practitioner must fulfill all of the requirements of the accreditation which may include training programs, quantifiable coaching experience (e.g. 100 hours), knowledge assessments, and more.

Accreditation is valid for a limited number of years before a coach practitioner is required to renew their accreditation. Each renewal process includes its own set of requirements and an associated renewal fee.

The Value of a Coaching Accreditation

What makes one executive coach better than another? In a largely unregulated industry, a coaching qualification recognised by a professional body can help distinguish the best coaches from less-qualified practitioners. Accreditation is valuable for three main reasons: (1) The associated training can help cultivate better coaches; (2) Accreditation can inspire continuous development in practitioners, and (3) Membership in an organization can signal a coach’s commitment to high, ethical standards.

Coaching Quality
One study found that “…more coach training leads to not only a better self-perceived coaching quality but also a better other-perceived coaching-quality; moreover, more coach training positively affects quality control.” Researchers warn that experience does not shield a coach from their blind spots, but in general, coaches should be selected based on their level of training. Likewise, EMCC Global suggests that coaches benefit from accreditation because it provides buyers (i.e. organizations and coachees) with greater certainty of a coach’s competence and ability.

Professional development
A coaching credential also signifies a practitioner’s commitment to continuous learning and development. For instance, ICF Credentials must be renewed every three years, and in order to renew, coaches must participate in at least 40 hours of Continuing Coach Education (CCE). Likewise, EMCC’s individual accreditation must be renewed after five years. One of the purposes of the EIA renewal is to confirm that an applicant “attends to [their] own professional development.”

Ethical standards
Many credentialing bodies are committed to integrity and abide by a strict code of ethics. As part of ICF’s renewal process, each applicant must complete at least three hours in coaching ethics. Similarly, EMCC’s EIA renewal process requires applicants to provide confirmation that the mentor/coach abides by the EMCC Code of Ethics and Diversity and Inclusion Declaration.

Types of Coaching Accreditation

A single credentialing body like EMCC Global offers a wide range of accreditation options for individuals and programs, plus various levels of accreditation—ranging from Foundation to Master Practitioner. A practitioner with a Foundation-level certification is required to have core skills of mentoring/coaching, while a Master Practitioner is expected to create their own innovative, evidence-based approach complete with models, tools, and associated publications. All coaching certifications exist on a similar spectrum.

Major Coaching Organizations

All CoachHub coaches are members of one of these major coaching organizations: International Coaching Federation (ICF), European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), Association for Coaching (AC), European Coaching Association (ECA), or European Association for Supervision and Coaching (EASC).

International Coaching Federation (ICF)
Founded in 1995, ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The organization is dedicated to providing independent certification and offers three credentialing options: associate certified coach (ACC), professional certified coach (PCC), and master certified coach (MCC). As of July 2020, ICF has approximately 41,500 members.

European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC)
The EMCC, originally founded in the UK in 1992, “exists to develop, promote, and set the expectation of best practice in mentoring, coaching, and supervision globally.” EMCC Global accredits individuals practicing as professional mentors/coaches, along with mentoring/coaching services—ensuring that overarching training programs also meet EMCC’s industry standards. As of December 2021, EMCC has approximately 10,000 members, up from 6,000 members in 2018.

Association for Coaching (AC)
Established in 2002, the AC is dedicated to promoting best practices and raising awareness and standards of coaching worldwide. AC offers several accreditation options including coach, coaching supervisor, coach training, and coaching supervision training, along with courses aimed at teaching coaching skills to organizational leaders and managers. The AC has more than 7000 members.

European Coaching Association (ECA)
Founded in Germany in 1994, the ECA was the first professional association for coaching. The ECA sees coaching as client-centered and solution-, potential- and goal-oriented. Similar to other credentialing bodies, the ECA offers various license levels including basic, advanced, and expert. ECA licensure applies to a wide variety of coaches from Psychosocial to Sports to Business and Management Coaches.

European Association for Supervision and Coaching (EASC)
In 1994, the EASC was founded as a trade association for supervisors and coaches in Hanover, Germany. The organization is focused on quality assurance, enhancement, and application. Members receive rigorous training and commit to upholding a code of ethics. For instance, EASC believes that “Respect for our clients is the basis of our work relationship.” The EASC has approximately 630 members.

Other Leading Coaching Organizations
While the above list includes the top five coaching organizations associated with CoachHub Coaches, it is not a comprehensive directory. Other leading coaching organizations include the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership (IECL), Coach Training Alliance, Co-Active Training Institute, and more.

Why Coaching Certifications Matter

“Over the course of the last twenty years, we have seen a lot more research and practical application that really shows how coaching is one of the most effective interventions for proactive learning, growth, and development,” shared Pavese. “Coaching is one of the most impactful solutions because it’s hyper-personalized and tailored to an individual’s goals.”

Coaching can benefit businesses by enhancing employee well-being, strengthening engagement, improving relationships within a company, and increasing productivity, among many other positive results. Unfortunately, not all coach practitioners provide the same level of coaching. 

How can you identify a high-quality coach—one that’s going to help cultivate similar results?

Without coaching certifications, measuring the effectiveness of a coach is largely subjective. Can someone be an effective coach without an official coaching certification? Sure, but there’s also a risk that they’re unqualified. Beyond Coach accreditation, you can also assess a coach’s ability by analyzing their industry experience, reviewing their client feedback, reviewing their engagement in supervision and reflective practice and testimonials, and learning about the evidenced based  approaches which underpin their philosophy of coaching.

Without a coaching accreditation, it’s harder for individuals and organizations to distinguish top coaching professionals from less able  ones. Credentialing bodies provide assessment frameworks for coach practitioners to learn within and they establish standards to better ensure quality coaching. Coaching accreditation is an outward signifier that a coach possesses core competencies that help make them a more effective coach.


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