How To Get An ICF Credential

Whether you want to become a professional coach, or have been coaching for many years, you have probably looked into getting a credential. The coaching industry is unregulated, in the sense that anyone can call themselves a “coach” – even people who are not trained or who aren’t even practicing coaching.

Professional bodies like the International Coaching Federation (ICF) set the much needed standards for the coaching profession, whether it is about defining what coaching is and isn’t, the coaching skills and behaviours to master as a practitioner, or the ethical code to follow.

Getting a credential is not mandatory, but we highly recommend it to easily show clients and companies the seriousness of your approach. In this article, we are going to talk about how to get an ICF accreditation.

First, what ICF CREDENTIAL should you go for?

We won’t go into too much details about the three different levels of ICF accreditation. For more information, you can check this other article

We can assume that if you searched for this article, you are starting to get familiar with the ICF framework. You probably haven’t completed a training already, or you may have but you are unsure about next steps. Many coaches – if not all – start with the first level credential, Associate Certified Coach (ACC), and work their way up from there. You may be tempted to aim for a higher level credential if you have more experience, but it is not necessarily the best option. ACC is more accessible than PCC, and it is very well recognised and valued in the industry.

We are going to focus here on how to get an ACC accreditation.

Pick your training (very) wisely

Completing a coach training is mandatory for an ICF credential. Depending on the training you choose, the criteria for the ICF credential will vary. 

Choose a Level 1 accredited training if you can

The best way to go through the process of an ICF accreditation (and by best we mean easiest, fastest, and most certain) is by completing an ICF ACTP-accredited training. These trainings are all-inclusive programmes which offer start-to-finish training. The standards are very high, and you need to successfully pass the final evaluation assessment; but once you get your ACTP-accredited training certificate, you do not have to pass any performance evaluation with the ICF. These trainings are often over 125 hours, so they will enable you to also apply to PCC one day. The downside is that these programmes tend to be more expensive and require a longer time commitment from the start. But if you can afford it (both in terms of money and time), they are worth it.

The next best thing: ACSTH-accredited training

If investing so much time and money in your coach training is not something you can or want to do at this point, the next best thing is to complete an ACSTH-accredited training. These programmes are usually shorter than ACTP programmes and may not focus as much on advanced coaching techniques, but their quality is still recognised and approved by the ICF. Make sure the ACSTH programme you pick includes 10 hours of Mentor Coaching so you do not have pay for those at a later stage (they are a requirement for the ACC accreditation but are not always part of an ACSTH training).

With an ACSTH certificate, you will need to submit the audio recording and transcript of a coaching session at ACC level for your credential application. This means the success of your application is not certain and largely depends on what the ICF assessor thinks of your session based on the ACC standards. That is why it is important that you look into our next tip.

Practice, practice, practice

To apply for your ACC, you need at least 100 hours of coaching practice from the first day of your ACTP or ACSTH coach training. Coaching is an art that needs to be practiced in order to be perfected. Seek to coach as many people as possible on various topics so you get confident and improve your skills. 

We published an article on how to get the first 100 hours of coaching hours if you are interested.

Get familiar with ICF standardS

If you have to submit a recording for your application (when you complete an ACSTH training), you will need to understand what is expected of that recording. The ICF is very transparent about their standards. They shared the minimum skills required for ACC on their website. Read those a few times to evaluate where your strengths and potential areas of development are. Use these standards as a compass to guide your practice, but remember that they are not the only way to coach. They just show you the criteria used to assess your recording.

Another important element of the ICF framework is their Code of Ethics. One of the main things that will be assessed, in the recording but also in the credentialing exam, is your understanding of coaching ethics. Integrating the ideas of the Code of Ethics to your practice will not only protect you, your clients and the coaching profession, but it will also show in your ICF application.

Record your sessions and listen back to them

Listening to your own sessions is an opportunity to observe your coaching skills as if you were a peer, and not solely base your judgement on your post-session memory or impression. Use the ACC markers as reference when listening to recordings, like an ICF assessor would. Don’t expect or try to hit all markers in a 30-minute session, that is simply not realistic. The goal is to showcase your ability to tap into all 8 ICF Core Coaching Competencies to support your client’s agenda.

Work with a Mentor Coach

Getting support is crucial for coaches who aim for an ICF accreditation. If you have the opportunity, working with a Mentor Coach who is also an experienced ICF-credentialed coach can be a great way of improving your coaching skills. Check our article on Mentor Coaching for more information.

Prepare for the ICF Credentialing Exam

The final step of the credentialing process is to take the ICF credentialing exam. The exam features 170 scenario-based questions which assess the coach’s ability to apply the ICF Core Coaching Competencies. To prepare for this exam it is essential to review the ICF Updated Core Competencies, as well as the Code of Ethics.


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International Coaching Federation. (2022). ACC Paths. Link:


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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