There are many, many different coaching certificate programs and ways to obtain life coach certification, each with their own list of criteria. So to properly answer your question I’m going to focus on the two most widely known and respected coaching organizations - the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the International Association of Coaching (IAC).
The IAC certification requires passing a series of written and oral exams demonstrating coaching proficiency. The ICF certification is based on the amount of education completed, mentoring and the accumulation of paid coaching hours. ICFprovides the option of getting your coach training anywhere you want by choosing the portfolio route, or you can choose the accreditation path which requires you to study at an ICF accredited coach training school.
The ICF certification is more widely recognized because they have been in existence longer. The IAC certification is a popular option with coaches who already have a high level of related experience since they will only have to take the exams and can skip any additional schooling to obtain their life coach certification.
If you decide to go with the ICF certification program there are three levels of credentialing. The first and most basic is the Associate Certified Coach (ACC), which requires that you complete an ACTP as well as a minimum of 100 documented hours of coaching experience. The second level is the Professional Certified Coach (PCC), requiring completion of an ACTP, 750 hours of coaching experience with a minimum of 25 clients.
The highest level of certification is the Master Certified Coach--for this credential, in addition to an ACTP you must have completed 2,500 hours of coaching experience and have no less than 35 clients. In addition to these requirements, you will need to have completed at least 10 hours of work with a mentor coach.
While there are no legal requirements to become a life coach, having a life coach certification demonstrates commitment to the profession and places you in a far better position to succeed in this competitive field.