The Difference Between ICF Credential And ICF Membership

icf membership

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is a professional organisation which offers a multitude of services to professional coaches. Two of these services are the credentials and the membership. Participants of our coach training programmes often ask about the difference between the two. In this article, we will talk about what they are so you can choose which one is for you.


  • The ICF credential and the ICF membership are not compulsory to practice as a coach.
  • Being an ICF member is not mandatory to apply and receive an ICF credential.
  • One can become a member of the ICF without applying for an ICF credential.


The ICF offers 3 levels of credential for coaches, which we have covered in this article. As the biggest professional coaching organisation in the world, the ICF ACC, PCC and MCC credential are seen by many in the industry and beyond as the gold standard of coaching. They are not the only coaching credentials (EMCC is another great accrediting body for coaches) but they certainly are the most popular.

It should be renewed every 3 years.

Benefits of the ICF credential:

  • Display an ICF badge which validates a rigorous coach training and a satisfactory level of coaching,
  • Show your profile on the ICF Coach Finder (the ICF coach registry),
  • Apply for coaching companies who tend to hire credentialed coaches,
  • Join a local ICF chapter to meet coaches in your city/country.


The ICF membership is a different process with different requirements and benefits.

To join the ICF, a coach needs to meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Hold an ICF ACC, PCC or MCC credential,
  • Have completed a coach specific training of at least 60 hours,
  • Currently be enrolled in an ICF-accredited training of at least 60 hours.

More on eligibility on the ICF website.

The ICF membership is renewed every year and has a different fee structure from the credential.

Benefits of the ICF membership:

  • Display an ICF member badge,
  • Access to the Member toolkit,
  • Discount on accreditation fees,
  • Eligibility to ICF partners’ discounts,
  • Ability to join communities of practice,
  • Access to free or discounted CPD resources (webinars, etc.),
  • Access to the Reciprocal Peer Coaching Program,
  • Access to the Research Portal.


If you want to connect with other coaches and focus on your professional development, the ICF membership can enable you to do that quite easily at a reduced cost. It enables you to access free webinars, events and trainings on the ICF website, and it allows you to show your affiliation to the ICF with the badge before you have received your ACC.

On the other hand, the ICF credential is an important stamp that many coaches seek for additional credibility and work opportunities.

You can reflect on what would support your practice and what you would need at this very moment. It can always change in the future so you will still be able to opt for one or the other (or both) at any point in time.


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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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