Why Get a Coaching Credential?

A Blog Post by Chad Hall

Of all the questions I get as a coach trainer, perhaps none is more straightforward than the one that adorns this post’s title.  I often hear even seasoned and successful coaches ponder whether or not to pursue a coaching credential.  Earning a worthwhile credential takes work, so is it it worth it?  Here are some things to consider.

Internal Confidence

Earning a coaching credential helps you know you can coach.

Anyone may coach; there are no standards you have to meet or hurdles you have to cross before you can legitimately call yourself a coach.  The downside of this reality is that many coaches aren’t sure they are very good at coaching and therefore they resist approaching clients or putting themselves out there as coaches.

I recall one coaching student who was really a quite good coach from day one. She was humble, a great listener, able to ask questions that provoked discovery and she just instinctively knew how to hold a conversation.  After a few classes, she was even better.  But even as she improved, she was reluctant to coach outside of class or with her “guinea pig” friends who willingly let her practice her coaching.  However, once she earned her first credential (the CCLC from CAM), she felt she had permission to go for it.  And, boy, did she ever go for it.  She boldly sought new clients and was eager to use her “legitimate” coaching ability with anyone who could benefit.  That’s often the kind of difference having a coaching credential can make.

Meanwhile, other coaches think they can coach better than they actually can.  I work with far more coaches whose confidence is too low versus too high, but there are some coaches whose confidence has outpaced their ability.  For these coaches, credentialing serves as a kind of reality check and helps them see areas where they could improve. 

External Credibility

The other big reason to earn a coaching credential is that it gives you credibility with those you coach (or hope to coach).  “Why should I trust you?” is a reasonable question anyone would ask of a professional. Professional credentials such as a medical license for a doctor or ASE certification for an auto mechanic signal to the world that this person is trained and qualified to do what she does for a living.  Credentials provide a kind of shortcut for the consumer in validating a basic level of competency (of course you’d want to know more about your doctor than just the fact that he has his medical license, but you probably don’t want a doctor who isn’t licensed).

Because coaching is still an infant profession, there isn’t much consumer knowledge about the field and its accompanying certifications.  Obviously the ICF (International Coach Federation) is the main credentialing organization, but the truth is that most consumers have to get a bit of an education on what the ICF is and what an ACC, PCC or MCC really signifies.

Often a coach certification from a trusted name (a seminary, university or recognized ministry organization) will provide as much credibility as the particular certificate.  Also, a certificate that matches the industry in which one wants to coach is helpful.  For example, when I went to work as an internal coach at the software company SAS, they wanted to know I was an ICF certified coach at the PCC level.  But when a friend of mine applied to serve as a coach with a missions agency, they didn’t know anything about ICF and wondered if he had a coach certification from a ministry or seminary (fortunately, he had earned his Certificate in Transformational Coaching from Western Seminary).  So be sure your credential(s) matches your coaching clientele.

Who Doesn’t Need a Credential?

Some coaches don’t really benefit all that much from earning a credential.  They have an appropriate level of confidence and they have earned credibility in other ways such as through their reputation or experience.  I know of one coach who works exclusively with real estate agents and even though he is a well-trained coach with more than enough hours to be a PCC, he’s opted to not get a credential because he has more business than he can handle and knows the only value he’d get from a credential would be the internal sense of accomplishment that comes from setting a goal and reaching it.

If you’re considering the path toward credentialing, ask yourself:

  • How would this credential affect my confidence?
  • What measure of credibility would the certificate provide?
  • What are additional ways I can gain confidence and credibility?
  • Are confidence and credibility holding me back in any way? If so, how?
  • What credential would my clientele find most credible?
  • What other factors are pushing me toward /pulling me away from credentialing?