Coaching Blog

ICF Credential vs. IAC Life Coach Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

certified_coach_goldribbon.jpgI interviewed my friend and colleague, Donna Steinhorn, IAC MMC, ICF PCC, on the difference between ICF and IAC life coach certification in a recent live webinar. Unfortunately, the recording was no good, which is one of the of the many reasons that attending a webinar like this live is always your best option.

The feedback from coaches who attended the interview has been awesome. So I'm going to add a few highlights here, in case you missed it.

The two organizations, themselves, are of course, the ultimate authorities on what they do and they change their policies from time to time. So if you're looking for highly detailed info, visit their respective web sites. The ICF's is and the IAC's is

Donna has been deeply involved in coach training and certification for many years and is one of only a handful of coaches who have both ICF and IAC coach certifications, which is why I chose her for this interview ~ that, and the fact that Donna is fun to talk with.

Both Donna and I have been on the coach training and certification bandwagon for eternity (Donna is a member of SCM's Board of Advisers) - and we're both rebels, so we have a shared skepticism, as well as support of these two leading professional organizations and their respective credentialing processes.

We began our conversation by noting that there are limitations to both ICF and IAC coach certifications. Each has its own coaching competencies (or masteries, as the IAC calls theirs). Each definitely has its own coaching style, which you need to be able to demonstrate. Neither style encompasses every possible way to coach brilliantly; they're just doing the best they can.

So why are there two professional coaching organizations and certifications? Actually, there are zillions of them - some completely bogus - but these currently are the most well-known. Oddly, the same man, Thomas J. Leonard, the 'Father of Professional Coaching', founded both the IAC and ICF. Thomas founded the ICF in 1995 and later, the IAC in 2003, just before he passed away.

ICF credentialing, as it's called, emphasizes ICF coach training, mentoring and experience, as well as an online test and demonstration of coaching skill. Thomas sought to streamline the process of certification with the IAC, which emphasizes the results of coach training, mentoring and experience, rather than the documentation of it. This makes the IAC certification process a bit simpler, but it's by no means easier, because coaches need to demonstrate masterful coaching skills. Only about 25% of coaches who apply for IAC Coach Certification pass on the first try.

The ICF has three levels of coaching credentials: The Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC), The Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC), and the Master Credentialed Coach (MCC). The IAC currently has only one certification, the Certified Coach (IAC-CC), but from what I've observed, the level of coaching skill required by the IAC is roughly comparable to the ICF MCC. [UPDATE: the IAC eventually added another 'intermediate' level of certification, as well as a basic "practitioner" level. And the renamed their original certification the Master Masteries Coach.]

Finally, the ICF has two pathways for credentialing: The portfolio route allows you to get your coach training anywhere [UPDATE: This one is being eliminated in 2022] and the accreditation path requires you to study at an ICF accredited coach training school. The IAC doesn't require demonstration of coach training, just the results of it: masterful coaching skills. I know most IAC Certified Coaches and I believe all of them have had substantial coach training and/or mentor coaching. Donna says there may have been one coach who passed without being trained.

I asked Donna if there were any hidden costs to getting certified by either organization. She mentioned the mentor coaching requirement by the ICF, which would cost you about $350 - 400 per month, but Donna doesn't consider that a hidden cost, since all coaches need to have their own coaches at all times. Personally, I don't think anyone needs a coach every minute of their life, but coaches are foolish if they don't work with successful coaches of their own. I worked with two excellent coaches while I prepared for IAC Coach Certification.

What, in Donna's opinion, is the best benefit of getting certified? She considers the coach directory on the ICF website, which only lists ICF credentialed coaches, to be by far the best benefit, because it brings her a steady stream of potential clients. We agreed that the IAC would do well to offer such a benefit to its own membership.

Finally, which coaches need certification most? Donna says corporate coaches and perhaps executive coaches, since companies usually want to see credentials. She doesn't believe life coaches need to be certified, but I've seen anecdotal evidence that clients are screening life coaches more carefully than they used to. Even new life coaches are telling me that potential clients ask about training and certification.

Potential coaching clients are asking more questions than they used to about their coaches' backgrounds. Increasingly, they are looking for evidence-based coaching and neither the IAC's nor the ICF's certifications are based on peer-reviewed research.

School of Coaching Mastery has been accredited by the ICF and licensed by the IAC, but our Certified Positive Psychology Coach program now prepares coaches for the IAPPC's certification.

Why? Because modern coaching needs to be informed by research and this is the organization that reflects that.

So there you have the Readers Digest version of the ICF Credentialing vs. IAC Life Coach Certification interview.

Join a program that prepares you for evidence-based certfication. Get started with this FREE fact sheet:

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Topics: certification requirements, coach training, coaching clients, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, certified coaches, Donna Steinhorn, IAC, certified coach, coach credential, IAPPC

Life Coach Salary Rate: the Free Guide to How Much Coaches Make

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life Coach Salary Free eBookHave you ever wondered about life coach salary rates or how much money executive or business coaches make? Or are you setting up a coaching business and wonder how to set your own coaching fees? Or are you wondering if you should become a coach? If you said YES to any of these then you need to read the new information-packed FREE eBook: Life Coach Salary.

We took several of our most popular coaching blog posts and added the 'How to Set Your Coaching Fees' worksheet, previously only available to SCM students. Then we combined them into an information-rich free ebook. It's a quick read that will help you understand how much professional coaches make, how coaches set up their businesses for profitability and how to set your coaching fees with confidence.

Let's face it, confusion is the enemy of success. This free eBook can wipe out your confusion about coaching costs and help you take the next step toward becoming a successful life, business or executive coach.

You'll learn:

  • Worldwide trends in executive, business and life coaching
  • How much do executive, business and life coaches make?
  • How many clients does the average business, executive or life coach have?
  • Why every coach needs a steady paycheck
  • Why coaching costs so much
  • Why setting your fees too low can backfire for you and your clients
  • How to set your coaching fees so your clients get what they want and your coaching business is successful
I reference large-scale coaching surveys from the ICF and Sherpa Coaching, plus information on setting fees from three top mentor coaches, Donna Steinhorn, Barbra Sundquist and Mattison Grey.

If you want a full coaching practice, you can't afford not to read the FREE Life Coach Salary eBook:

Get the FREE Life Coach Salary eBook


Topics: business coach, coaching business, executive coach, coaching blog, mentor coach, become a coach, Free, Life Coaches, life coach salary, Mattison Grey, How to, Donna Steinhorn, Barbra Sundquist

IAC Coaching Masteries(TM)

Posted by Julia Stewart


As we get ready for the Certification Prep Intensive weekend that is coming up In NYC October 26-28, focus on the IAC Coaching Masteries is increasing, here at the School of Coaching Mastery (SCM).

SCM is the first and only full-service coach training school that prepares coaches for the prestigious IAC Certified Coach designation with the IAC Coaching MasteriesTM.

But that's not all SCM does. We're ready to roll out two new courses this Fall, "New Paradigms for Coaches" gets to the philosophy behind the coaching movement and "Intro to Spiral Dynamics Coaching" reveals the psychology behind people, values, culture and evolution. Great stuff!

Still preparing coaches for IAC Certification, the only certification by an independent not-for-profit organization that is based primarily on the quality of the coach's coaching (The only thing that really matters to coaching clients), is what gives SCM it's underlying structure and inspiration. Nothing is more exciting and humbling than witnessing new coaches blossom into masterful coaches. Masterful coaches are changing the world.

The IAC Coaching MasteriesTM are a higher level of coaching than is being taught almost any where else and what we've discovered, is that even new coaches can learn coaching at this higher level, when properly taught. No more struggling with mediocre skills that are hard to sell to a skeptical public. Coaches can learn what works quite quickly. That's great news for coaches and for the world!

If you're in the NYC area and would like an introduction to the IAC Coaching MasteriesTM, join us October 25th, one day before the Certification Prep Intensive for the one-day Masteries Intro Intensive. Prepare with the most sophisticated coaching model in the world and then spend a 2 1/2 day weekend with Master Instructor Donna Steinhorn, IAC-CC and me (Julia Stewart, IAC-CC, President of the School of Coaching Mastery) to prepare two recordings for submission to the IAC for Certification. You leave this program with two recordings that are ready to pass the rigorous Certification process, or you'll know exactly what you need to work on.

“Anyone who is committed to his or her own greatness should take this course. The profession will be enhanced immeasurably as a result and the way this would affect the world is awe-inspiring!”

- Kristi Arndt, PhD, IAC-CC,

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2007

Topics: School of Coaching Mastery, Donna Steinhorn, Julia Stewart, In-person coach training, certified coach

The Consummate Coach

Posted by Julia Stewart

This is a phrase that Donna Steinhorn and I came up with the other day and I've been thinking about it ever since. It has a nice ring, but what does it mean, really? What would make a coach a consummate coach? What accomplishments would such a coach have under his/her belt?

For that matter, what would constitute an "accomplished coach"? I like both of these phrases and think they might describe useful benchmarks for those of us who are committed to excellence. You know, there's the "being" aspect if excellence, but there's the "doing" part, too. I think benchmarks are useful in measuring how we're doing.

I think Consummate Coach includes Accomplished Coach, so I'm going to throw out some ideas for what I think it might mean to be accomplished. I'm curious if you agree.

I think an Accomplished Coach probably has graduated from a coach training school. Not just a short program, but a full accredited program. They usually take about two years. 

They probably have at least one coach certification.

They're experienced. But how experienced? Maybe they've coached 100 people, like the folks who take the experienced coach 

Or maybe we measure their experience in hours of coaching, like the ICF. Does it have to be 2500 hours? Does 500 hours make a coach accomplished?

What if it's both hours and # of people coached? 100/500?

Do they have a full practice? I think so. Or is it how much they make? Six figures (USD)?

Have they written a book? Become internationally famous? Appeared on Oprah? What other accomplishments do you think are important before you can call yourself an Accomplished Coach? What benchmarks (goals) have you currently created for yourself? Are there steps along the way?

How many of the above benchmarks have you already accomplished? Do you think of yourself as an accomplished coach?

OK, back to Consummate Coach then. What separates a Consummate Coach from a coach who is merely accomplished? I'm thinking we all can become accomplished coaches, but can we all be consummate coaches?

Perhaps Consummate Coach brings us back to the "being" state, again. It's a superlative state, but may not be as easy to measure. Perhaps we can't define it, but we know it when we see it? Hmm, I'm not sure.

What would distinguish a Consummate Coach from an Accomplished Coach? Do you know any coaches who you believe deserve to be called "consummate"? Who would they be? What do they have in common? Or are they uniquely different from one another?

That's what I want to talk in Tuesday's Confab. If you're not on the new mailing list, go to and register to receive announcements and bridgelines.

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2005

Topics: Coaching, coach, Donna Steinhorn

Constructive Dissatisfaction

Posted by Julia Stewart

Hey, I'm way overdue posting to this site. My apologies! A lot has happened, though, since my last post. Donna and I hosted our first ACE Live Event in NYC, which was a great success. Plus, I moved to Missouri. (Talk about a change of venue!) 

Some things are still the same, though: like my subscription to FastCompany. In a recent article, Michael Eskew, CEO of UPS mentioned the importance of "constructive dissatisfaction" in running a successful company. He says complacency is the enemy. You have to keep thinking you can do better.

That statement really resonated with me. It's where the Confab came from. I witnessed a lot of unhappy coaches - and in a business that's supposed to help clients have successful and fulfilling lives, unhappiness in the coaches, themselves, is not a good thing.

On the other hand, pretending things are great when they're not doesn't work either. I wanted to give a voice to coaches whether they were satified or not, but I wanted the conversation to be constructive. Negativity is a dead end.

Constructive dissatisfaction is a guiding principle for me at ACE. I'm thinking that a commitment to excellence needs to include a willingness to be dissatisfied even when things are going great.

It occurs to me that this may appear to be the opposite of recognizing perfection in every situation. Actually I think it's an essential subtext: Things are perfect and they can be even better. Essential, because otherwise we run the risk of Stepford Coaching: pretending (no, requiring) that things be hunky-dory all the time. That just keeps us comfortably stuck.

A word that stood out for me at the ACE event was: uncomfortable.When we discussed what coaching excellence was and what stops us from achieving it, coaches talked a lot about having to get out of their comfort zones. Excellence can be rigorous.

For me, the commitment to excellence at ACE includes four steps:

1. Constructive dissatisfaction
2. Creative intelligence
3. Commitment to solutions
4. As much hard work as it takes

This is guaranteed to move me out of my comfort zone with regularity. Come to think of it, moving from NYC to a small town in Missouri has done that, too! 

I'm curous to hear you thoughts in tomorrow's Confab.

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2005

Topics: Coaching, Donna Steinhorn, NYC

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