Subscribe for FREE: Learn About Coaching

Your email:

Follow Us

The Coaching Blog

If you're a professional Business or Life Coach or you're interested in becoming one, the SCM Coaching Blog covers topics you may want to know about: How to Become a Business or Life Coach, Grow a Successful Coaching Business, Get Coach Training and/or Business and Life Coach Certification, Become a Coaching Master and Evolve Your Life and Business. 

Subscribe above and/or explore by tag, month or article popularity, below.

Browse by Tag

Top Career-Jobs Sites Living-Well blog

Coaching Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Can Coaching Be Wrecked By Cheap Coach Training Schools?

Subscribe for free in the upper right corner ~
Coach Training

 If you're reading this article then, obviously, you spend time online reading about coaching.

And if that's the case, then you must have noticed all those ads  that promise that you'll be a master certified coach in two days or 16 hours, or whatever. Sometimes, they also advertise their tuition, which is cheap, cheap, cheap.

You can imagine how those schools are regarded by real professional coaches. Mark Joyella (@CoachReporter), who writes for the Coaching Commons, tweeted about them (I'm paraphrasing), 'Sure and next weekend you can become a brain surgeon!'

I'm thinking those ads mainly appeal three types of people. Those who:

1. Think they already know how to coach (a.k.a. arrogant)

2. Are only interested in coaching for the money (a.k.a. greedy)

3. Are clueless (a.k.a. gullible)

Those who're attracted to us don't fit those descriptions, so I never considered weekend coach training schools our competition. 

But I reconsidered that when I heard that one of my most respected competitors, Barbra Sundquist, is closing her 'Become a Certified Coach' school at the end of this year [12-11-09 Update: Barbra isn't going out of business, but simply closing the doors of this particular program. See Barbra's comments in the comments section, below.]. Barbra cited a number of reasons, including rising competition from cheap, highly advertised, schools. That got me thinking...

What if the proliferation of bogus coach training schools drives out most or all of the legitimate schools?  Where does that leave the profession of coaching? Will the majority of coaches then be unskilled or disreputable? Will the reputation of coaching drop to the point that real professional coaches quit?

I'm not trying to be an alarmist here. You can't prevent a potential problem if you're not willing to look at it. Coaching has enjoyed incredible freedom in the past 20 years. But the success and freedom of coaching has sometimes attracted people with the wrong motivations.

I admit, 2009 has been a challenging year for School of Coaching Mastery, as well. Several of our students didn't pay their bills. But that forced me to consider just how committed I am to coach training and I realized that if it came down to choosing between my home or my school, I'd give up the house!

So I'm in it for the long haul. But what about you? If you're committed to coaching, then you're probably just as disturbed as I am about the proliferation of schools and coaches who don't cast a good light on this profession.

What do you think needs to be done about it? Do coaching organizations like the IAC and ICF have a responsibility to do anything? Do they even have the authority to do anything? Or do coaches themselves need to take more responsibility for the image of the profession?

There's lots of hang-wringing going on in private forums, but coaching is about action. Do you need to take action?

Please post your views on this in the area below and if coaching is a really important issue for you, please also share this article with the social sharing tools, above. 

Become a master coach and get the life and business you really want.


Hi Julia, 
Coaching is indeed very important to me or I wouldn't be here. I also wouldn't be there, as in SCM as a student. I don't know that I need to take any specific action right now about this situation, but I am taking a stand by being a student at SCM, being a member of IAC and continuing to learn more about what masterful, skilled and highly professional coaching looks and feels like. That's the best I can do for now!! Perhaps in the future, the path for further action will be come more clear to me. Thanks for a great article and challenge!!
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:42 AM by Lael Johnson
Thanks Lael - Students like you give me faith in coaching!
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:54 AM by Julia Stewart
I am disgusted to think of anyone feeling they have been properly trained as a Professional Life Coach in only 1 or 2 weekends. My coaching program was 6 months long - had books to read, research to do, and reports to write. We had to practice coaching in between classes. We had to coach in front of the class and be critiqued. Our prof listened in (with agreement from the person being coached) on calls to see how we were doing and to offer advice as needed. It was a lot of work. When I graduated after 6 months I felt as if I was a "baby coach." I still needed a lot of practice and joined Julie Stewarts - Coach 100. This helped. It has now been almost 6 years and I still have much to learn. Two or 3 weekends????? Awuful! This is why maybe we do need some kind of legal certification. I am sure they cannot be certified by the national associations with so little training.  
My 2 cents worth. Judith
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:22 PM by Judith Auslander
If "good" schools are going out of business are they really that good? Maybe they need to learn how to market better or run a more efficient business?  
Do you really know for sure that "cheap training" isn't as good as more expensive training? Can you prove it? There are a lot of people offering coaching that haven't had ANY training. Isn't it better to get some low cost training into their hands than none at all? Maybe the problem is with coaching schools charging too much? 
Or maybe there isn't a problem at all and everything is just as it should be.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:26 PM by Christian Mickelsen
Thanks to you both for your completely different view points. 
Christian, your questions beg more questions, for me: Do you know if coaches trained for a weekend can coach as effectively as those who trained for 6 months or longer? How could we measure that? The problem is that nobody is measuring it and that dilutes the image of coaching, if not the actual effectiveness. 
IAC Certification seems like an obvious possibility, since they don't require ANY coach training to certify. Just passage of demonstrated mastery. If everyone sat for IAC certification, there would be your 'proof'.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 1:16 PM by Julia Stewart
Hm, it seems like there are some points we all agree on. 
It's not really cheap vs expensive training. Or, a short vs long program. It's really about how well coaches serve their clients.  
I think there are certainly talented coaches out there who will do well with any training (or none). But for most of us mere humans, it does take time and dedication to become truly masterful. So I guess I lean this way: quality training over some length of time is probably best in service to coach, client, and world. And that is unlikely to be cheap. :)
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 2:42 PM by Elizabeth Nofziger
Nice points, Elizabeth ~
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 2:49 PM by Julia Stewart
Great article, all great comments -continued awareness building of the direct, tangible benefits of hiring professionally trained coaches by ICF, IAC & professional coaches themselves in more media & advertising platforms will help shake out those not truly qualified. Educate and inform buying purchasers to ask the right questions when hiring a coach OR training.  
This industry, while new and evolving, has yet to get more "lobbyists" to advocate. Oprah would be my choice. Regulation by state has been bandied about before so that apples can be compared to apples...I am not in favor of more regulation by govt. agencies, however, that may be one way to weed out the arrogant, greedy and gullible and those feeding off them.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 4:51 PM by Jennifer Weggeman
I feel that there are great coaches that have no formal training and there are horrible coaches that have extensive training. To make broad generalizations about the value of something I have not experienced is something I try to avoid.  
Compare the value of the training to the targeted student. As I have learned over the course of my life it is not the words that are written in the books I have in my library, nor the words spoken by instructors of courses I have taken that make me wise. It is my application of that information that assures my learning.  
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 5:21 PM by Sean Mc Carthy
I think this train has already left the station.  
The term Coaching is already wrecked. It has been wrecked not only by weekend training schools, cheap or expensive, but also by famous gurus of all types who sell "coaching", internet marketers who claim to be coaches, business professionals who are laid off and decide to become coaches, consultants that profess they also have coaching services, the list goes on and on. These types of situations serve to degrade the word coaching, and consequently the general public has a large mis-understanding of what coaching really is. Hell, coaching has been wrecked by large part by coaches themselves. Those e-Books they are selling for $19, $29, $39, the "coaching" videos and sorry but even direct marketing business that sell "coaching" for a small amount, and finally coaches that don't charge a professional amount for a professional service.  
All of these factors are conspiring or have conspired to turn coaching into a commodity. If this is not OK with us than the only way to save ourselves as professional coaches is to provide a high value customized product and charge what it is worth. As Elizabeth mentioned quality over quantity. We are doing it to ourselves, the call is coming from inside the house, and we have to stop it. Our only chance to get back on track is to resist turning our valuable service into a commodity and sell high value, results based services that people will pay for because they work. To do this we have to stop relying on marketing and start selling.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:26 PM by Mattison Grey
Great views, everyone ~ 
Mattison, I think you may have hit the nail on the head: 'commoditizing' is the issue. When we package coaching 'because this is what they'll buy', instead of what will work, we're degrading coaching. My beef with the cheap-o schools is that instead of giving people what they need, they give people what they want to buy and call it 'good enough'.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:49 PM by Julia Stewart
I agree with Mattison - people who are desperate (lost their job, think coaching will be their savior, etc.) are the types that are attracted to the 'quick fix.' Unfortunately, they are the ones who really don't end up 'coaching' and truly serving the clients. 
The good news - call me an unrealistic optimist - is that those people will not retain clients because their knowledge is scant and they are missing critical skills. 
Perhaps now more than ever before, it's time for ICF and IAC to take a strong stand and let the world know that there is a reason why 'real' credentials are offered aside from adhering to a Code of Ethics. Since they have the potential for a stronger voice than any one individual, maybe we (coaches, legitimate trainers and mentors) need to let them know that they need to take a stand on behalf of the coaching industry. Unfortunately, it may be getting closer to the time of regulation.
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:20 PM by Marion Franklin
Julia, as always you raise good points in a frank manner. 
Before I weigh in with my two cents, I'd like to make a clarification: 
I'm not "going out of business" as one of your commenters remarked. I'm closing the coach training part of my business because I want more time for other projects. If I wanted to continue my coach training program I could certainly do so by doing more marketing.  
Regarding the question of whether "cheap" (maybe we could call them "inexpensive" instead) coach training programs are ruining the coaching profession, I say no. Competition is good!  
I think people seeking coach training are pretty smart, and they generally do a lot of research before deciding on a program. If they decide that a weekend program suits their needs at this time, I think that's fine as long as they understand the limitations of what they are getting. Specifically, they are getting a short program that gives either an overview of the profession, or a small part of the training they would get in a full-length program (because you simply cannot present an indepth coach training program in a weekend).  
The bottom line for me is that competition in the marketplace usually means more choice and lower prices for consumers, and I like that. It's then up to the consumer to do their research and make a fully-informed choice. 
Posted @ Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:30 PM by Barbra Sundquist
It's interesting to look at the history of medicine and what was considered legitimate and what was considered quackery before the medical community banded together to define healing. The AMA then formed with a basic code of ethics and minimal standards for medical education in 1847. Medicine was labeled as fraud, among other things, and still today questions abound about the validity of the profession. This may surprise some people, as we are a culture entrenched in the belief of medicine, but without valid questioning of the profession, it could not grow and evolve and meet the needs of the people it serves. 
The question you've raised, Julia, is a good one, and my personal views on this are clouded because I want the profession to thrive and be all it can be without coaching "quackery" confusing things. 
The IAC and ICF work to promote professional coaching, as do the coaches who provide the means to sustainable, positive change that is the hallmark of masterful coaching. I believe coaching, as do those who understand the power of transformation, will ultimately be defined by the coaches who persevere despite the difficulties that a new and burgeoning profession endures. 
The term "coaching" will come up against accusations of quackery as long as there is profit to be made, since profiteers don't always supply you with the most beneficial goods. It is up to all of us who believe in coaching to be vigilant about how we present ourselves as coaches and resist the temptation to be embarrassed or discouraged by public misconception. 
As with any profession, it takes professionals willing to promote the best of what it has to offer. With coaching, it's changing lives in profound ways that would not be accomplished without it.  
Sure, there are people casually throwing the term "coaching" around, which can either threaten to water it down, or provide us the opportunity to explain that that is exactly why coaching mastery is, now more than ever, crucial for the people it serves. 
Posted @ Friday, December 11, 2009 12:16 AM by Natalie Tucker Miller, IAC-CC
Thanks everyone ~ 
Barbra - I didn't mean to give the impression you were going out of business and I've added an update in the article that spells that out and invites people to read your comments. 
This article was spurred in part by marketing messages I've seen that promise stuff like, 'You could be a certified professional coach in a couple of days.' 
I suspect we may be turning a corner. There seems to be more fear and desperation out there than money in many corners. Frightened people are easy to mislead, even if they are normally intelligent.  
Meanwhile, coaching continues to grow virtually unchecked. Could a coaching bubble be forming? Could questionable certifications and training programs be signals that some of the growth is artificial and we could be moving toward a burst? If so, that will effect us all.  
I'm all for competition and I don't want government regulation. But the mortgage industry said competition and self regulation was all it needed a couple of years ago. I think all of us as individuals and as members of organizations need to take responsibility and make a strong stand - not against any one school, but FOR quality. We need to spell out on our sites, in our blogs, and in our seminars what to look for in quality coaching. Otherwise, we may be as irresponsible as people in the financial industry who sat by as mortgage companies sold loans to people they knew couldn't pay them back. 
Competition is good in many ways, but passively sitting by when we suspect shady stuff is happening, is not so good. 
Posted @ Friday, December 11, 2009 10:10 AM by Julia Stewart
"Competition is good in many ways, but passively sitting by when we suspect shady stuff is happening, is not so good." 
Good point and well said, Julia.
Posted @ Friday, December 11, 2009 12:56 PM by Barbra Sundquist
As the incoming president of the IAC, and the founder of a still-developing coach training program, I'm learning a lot from this thread. Thanks! I agree with Barbara Sundquist's comments. Long or short, expensive or inexpensive, are not the issues. We want quality coaching that serves our clients well. How people prepare themselves as coaches is not as important as the integrity and impact of our work as coaches. The IAC,, seeks to recognize and elevate that quality through our certification process, and we welcome all attempts to promote research as well as life-long learning in the profession.
Posted @ Tuesday, December 15, 2009 9:36 AM by Bob Tschannen-Moran
Thanks for commenting, Bob. What role can you see the IAC playing in this?
Posted @ Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:50 AM by Julia Stewart
As a prospective coach investigating the possibility of entering the profession, I would like to give my perspective. I have looked at the cheap schools and the expensive schools. From $600 to a high of $8367. Quite a disparity. I just graduated with a degree in psychology and I am now taking classes in a graduate program for counseling. Very expensive and will take 7 years. So when I hear someone write that they resent people who train cheap and go into coaching, when they have trained for 6 months and paid a high tuition, I have to laugh. 6 months training makes you a professional? I have taken 2 masters classes that cost $3000. I am sure I could take one of the cheap coach courses and learn a system and do a better job with my educational background than most who enroll in the higher cost coach programs. Some of the contributors to this forum hit the nail on the head. There are people who are naturally gifted who could easily receive minimal training and excel at coaching, and there are a lot of people paying large amounts of money who will never be an effective coach. Training isn't always the issue. As for certification, it is a joke. The clients could care less. The certification organizations are money makers. They are self-appointed and have no authority to enforce any rules or code of ethics. Lets face it, there are a lot of people out there looking to change careers and life coaching is sold by every training program as a can't miss opportunity. The sky is the limit. They will even train you to market your business. I am going to pursue life coaching instead of counseling because it has the potential to make a lot more money and you don't have all the overhead of a counseling practice. I will still help people who need emotional help pro bono, but I get started in life coaching so much cheaper and in a much shorter time frame. It can also be done part time. Every training program is developed to make money. Lets face it. Everyone wants to make money. So I don't think anyone who paid 3 or 4 thousand dollars and took 6 months of 4 or 5 hours a week to become a "professional" should be resentful of someone who spends $600 and calls themselves a professional. From my perspective of attending a real accredited college and spending $40,000 to date, $600 or $8000 doesn't really seem that far apart. From what I have found so far, people seem to think they will get more by paying more. What if they all have the same information? I am sure there are people who make great coaches without spending a dime on training.
Posted @ Monday, January 04, 2010 6:27 PM by D. Eylander
Thanks for your comments. They carry much more weight when you use your full name.  
A couple of comments here state that coach certification organizations are just in it for the money and they have no authority.  
Actually, the 2 primary certifiers of coaches, the IAC and the ICF, are both not-for-profit. Their certifications are very difficult to achieve and they have the authority of thousands of professional coaches behind them.  
What's more, if you want to ever be hired as a coach by a corporation, coaching firm, or coach training company, you may be out of luck if you're not certified by the IAC or ICF, because savvy purchasers of coaching require proof that you know what you're doing.  
There are for-profit companies that are basically selling certifications and those are a joke. Unfortunately, that casts suspicion on all other certifications.  
That's why School of Coaching Mastery not only encourages our students to get IAC Certification, we pay their certification fee to the IAC. It's better for their reputations and ours that they get a recognized coach certification and we're willing to pay for that.  
The best coach training schools care about their students and the industry and are helping to move both forward.
Posted @ Thursday, March 25, 2010 10:17 AM by Julia Stewart
Until there are legal parameters which stipulate formal liscencing requirements of coaches, very little can be done regarding the coaching programs in questions. Having said that however, I do not believe that cost nor the length of a particular program will ultimately decide a person's ability to coach or their ultimate success as a coach. True coaches are authentic and gifted and they share a genuine concern for their clients....those who view this practice otherwise will certainly not attract or sustain success in this feild. I don't critisize or judge the more affordable programs and I personally do not believe that a tuition fee of 5 grand will make me a better coach. Maybe a longer program will require me to read more theory and analyse "best practices" but will it make me a better coach? Probably not...and if you call that arrogant ok..I've been a professional for over 21 years. I have obtained 2 university degrees and have a wealth of life experience behind me. I have been "coaching" individuals all of my life. I really don't feel I need to spend another small fortune to be "qualified" as a life coach. I am not de-valuing the more exxpensive programs but I think there are other factors to consider. I'm sure Oprah would agree.:)
Posted @ Monday, April 12, 2010 1:00 PM by Kim Wells
Thanks Kim - I don't know about Oprah, but I agree with most of what you say. Certainly reading about coaching theory or analyzing 'best practices' will not make anyone a great coach. And 21 years of coaching experience would pretty much exempt you from coach training. Although all the university training and experience in some other field will not necessarily prepare you for coaching, at all. 
And then there's that professional vs. entrepreneur thing that hinders coaching success. Pro coaches will resonate with this; entrepreneur-only coaches will not:
Posted @ Monday, April 12, 2010 1:38 PM by Julia Stewart
I was looking for "accredited coach training programs" and came across this 10-month old blog. I am new in the coaching industry, and serious about the career. All the comments are very helpful to me and I would like to thank everyone for their inputs, most especially you Julia for bringing it up the table for discussion. The discerning coach-to-be will be skeptical about the less-expensive training programs if he is serious about the career. For the serious coach-to-be, anything less than a genuine commitment to help others improve their lives/career is not enough. And with this commitment, the serious coach-to-be will exercise "due diligence" in finding the right and quality training program. For those coaches who did not undergo training programs and are successful in their careers, congratulations. For those "newbies" like me, listen to both sides; the advocates of a good (maybe expensive) training programs vs the "successful" non-trained, but natural coaching professionals. And simply make your choice. Good luck to us.
Posted @ Sunday, September 26, 2010 8:38 PM by accredited coach training programs
Points well taken. Thanks for weighing in.
Posted @ Sunday, September 26, 2010 10:25 PM by Julia Stewart
1: Is long or expensive always means a good training ?  
2:Is there any formal/informal repository which tells that these are good programs ?  
What ICF is doing against mill of the run schools ?  
3: Still I wonder about the coaching programs ,which lasts 5 or 6 working days & still cost me a fortune ....  
Cost is one deterring factor for many aspirants , 
4. would love to see some comparative study...
Posted @ Tuesday, September 28, 2010 10:00 PM by santosh
Comments have been closed for this article.