Coaching Certificates, Certification, and Courses

The availability of coaching certificates and certifications from coach training programs outside of academic credit settings has grown significantly. These organizations each promote their brand of approved coach training, which identifies and teaches what they identify as critical skills for success with the coaching process. At completion of the full program, that organization’s certificate/certification is awarded to the trainee, who has paid (typically) thousands of training dollars to the organization or to their training partners.

A number of these non-degree training programs offer good information. The organizations strive to serve the needs of those without a coaching background or related academic degree as well as trainees who want to build coaching skills and add credentials through a certificate or certification program.

Individual courses in coaching are also available. Practicing professionals who are already skilled and experienced in coaching often enroll in those continuing education courses as interested without the unnecessary cost of expensive certificate based programs.

Understanding the Maze of Coach Qualifications

Working through the maze of coach qualifications makes 4 things clear:

1. Without regulation through licensing, anyone can call themselves a ‘coach’ and offer ‘coaching’.

2. Consequently, many who call themselves a ‘coach’ are untrained, unskilled, inexperienced, and do not ‘coach’ effectively.

3. Many who coach are skilled and experienced and do ‘coach’ effectively—-but are not certified as ‘coaches’ nor do they call themselves ‘coaches’.

4. Skills for coaching are also taught outside of training identified as ‘coach specific’ training.

Confusing? We think so.

Do You Need a Subject Matter Expert (SME)?

This brings up additional questions for choosing your coach. Do you need or want a ‘subject matter expert’ (SME) who coaches? Or will a skilled and experienced coach (not necessarily a SME) work well with you because you have a ‘fit’? Consider all the credentials before you decide. Either choice can be excellent depending on your needs.

If your coaching goals are more interpersonal, personal or relationship oriented, then a coach with a mental health background and degrees (marriage & family therapist, social worker, counselor, or psychologist) may be your most appropriate choice. A coach with a business background and degrees may serve your needs better if your goals are primarily business based. But backgrounds and coaching specialties also vary within the professions.

Certified educators and other professionals can have coaching skills and may be excellent choices depending on your coaching goals. Similarly, if you have weight loss, fitness, or nutrition goals, you may want a coach who is also a qualified health and wellness practitioner.


Be sure to research ANY coach FULLY before you choose.