Best Life Coaching Certification Programs of 2021
The Life coaching industry is growing rapidly and with it so are the number of certification programs. In this article we review the best life coaching programs of 2021 (based on recommendations from certified coaches) and make suggestions on which programs are ideal for whom.
For example, some programs specialize in certain life coaching sub-niches (health and wellness, relationships, etc.) while others are all-around, some are more spiritual in nature while others are more pragmatic or business focused.
In this review we offer in-depth information on the top seven life coaching certification programs recommended by our community of coaches. This list is intentionally selective vs exhaustive. With that in mind, here are our top picks by category, followed by our in-depth recommendations of each program.
Best By Category:
- Best all-around coaching program: Co-active Training Institute (CTI)
- Best program with a focus on professionals: The Hudson Institute
- Best supplemental program for already certified or practicing coaches: Brene Brown, Dare to Lead
- Best program for heart-based coaches: New Ventures West
- Best program to explore relationship coaching: Wayfinder
The Cost of Different Life Coaching Programs
Read below for our full rankings of Coaching Certification Programs:
1. The Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)
CTI is a worldwide coach training program, that teaches a range of executive coaching skills, with a focus on embodied coaching and general skills training.
-This includes $6,675 for five, 3-day courses (when bought together) and an additional $6,675 to complete Co-Active’s “Certification Program.”
-If CTI’s courses are bought individually the cost is $975 for “Fundamentals” and $1,745 for each additional course totaling $7,955).
-Training: 5-weekend workshops (Thursday-Sunday).
-Certification: 6-months, with regular pod meetings, 1-1’s with a coaching leader, additional assignments, and more.
Pros and Cons:
-Co-Active has been around for over 30 years and has a strong brand in both the corporate and non-corporate worlds.
-Co-Active is ICC approved so certification with Co-Active puts you will on the way to becoming an ICC certified coach.
-Co-Active’s weekend courses each feature two coaches, allowing you to see a wide range of coaches in action.
-CTI specializes in going from beginner to confident and competent at working with clients.
-In helping coaches hit the ground running, Co-Active specializes in how to show up as a coach, and focuses less on theories of human development/change.
-Not all CTI trainers are equal.
All CTI courses are exclusively virtual through the end of 2022.
2. New Ventures West
New Ventures West (NVW) is a program based in San Francisco that focuses on teaching new coaches how to embrace the heart, body, and mind of a coach, before learning key coaching skills.
Their program results in an “Integral Coaching Certification,” which reflects the programs focus on inside-out coaching.
$12,400 (for four 3-day sessions as well as course materials, direct coaching, pod-meetings, mentoring, and certification).
1-year (4 sessions, each 3-months apart with pod meetings, peer-based work, and more in between each module.
Pros and Cons:
-NVW has a strong brand among both corporate clients and coaches. It is seen as a top program for training new coaches.
-NVW puts a lot of emphasis on helping coaches develop and grow internally, meaning you will get both personal development and skills development in this program.
-NVW brings somatic-based work into their life coach certification program.
-James Flaherty, founder and senior facilitator at NVW, is one of the pioneers of the coaching industry and has been training coaches for decades.
-NVW in-person training sessions are almost exclusively available in San Francisco. Virtual certification is available broadly.
-With its focus on integration, NVW moves at a slower pace than CTI and other leading programs. Some argue this is best; however, many new coaches find their greatest weakness in meeting their client energetically which is less of an emphasis at NVW.
3. Conscious Leadership Group
Founded by Diana Chapman and Jim Dethmer, Conscious Leadership Group (CLG) is viewed as one of the premier executive coaching program, and the same tools are applicable for coaches with a focus on life coaching.
-“Introduction to CLG” costs $250 and (and is composed of four 90-minute courses).
-CLG’s “Coach Intensive” program costs $500 (and is 2-full days in length).
-CLG’s Coach Certification program costs $18,000 (and is a year-long program).
The “CLG Coach Certification program” is a year-long course taught by Diana Chapman and Jim Dethmer and is offered to 24 applicants/year.
This program is currently fully booked through 2022.
-Chapman and Dethmer are known for distilling complex coaching principles into precise concepts. CLG offers executive coaches powerful tools packaged in simple and universal models.
-CLG is trusted and respected by senior leaders and C-suite executives at a range of companies.
-The CLG certification program is small and exclusive, with hour of direct training from Jim and Diana.
-CLG integrates with other coaching modalities such as the Enneagram, team coaching, and more.
-Limited availability to get certified.
-The cost is higher than many other programs.
All of CLG’s courses are being offered online with the exception of certification (which is already booked through 2022).
Led by Dr. Martha Beck, a Harvard-educated social scientist and veteran life coach, Wayfinder offers a certification program that focuses on learning, mentorship and practice, and emphasizes building your coaching business.
-Early bird discounts up to $1,000
-This includes live training sessions, online classes, peer group meetings, and more. See the full schedule details here.
Pros and Cons
- Martha is a highly respected, veteran coach to learn from.
- Wayfinder follows a different schedule than most certification programs. Moving between training and practice (rather than weekend intensives) allows the program to dig deeper into some areas (such as coaching ethics and business building) than other programs on this list.
- Mentorship and feedback from a Wayfinder master coach.
- Not ICF approved. Additionally, this reflects how Wayfinder is viewed by one of coaching’s largest institutions.
- Greater focus on business building means less focus on coaching skills including the inner work of being a coach.
- Brand is not well known or established in the corporate world. Stronger for life coaching than executive coaching.
5. Institute for Professional Coaching (iPEC)
The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) offers one of the most comprehensive life coaching certification programs available. iPEC is one of the oldest coach certification programs and has a globally recognized brand.
9 months, consisting of 3 weekend modules (training sessions), 3-days each, separated by 3-months.
This is for iPECs, “Core Energy Certification,” their primary certfication.
Pros and Cons:
-Has global brand recognition.
-Over 15,000 coaches worldwide are certified through iPEC.
-iPEC is an ICF-approved program meaning that your course work can be used towards becoming an ICC, MCC, or PCC certified coach.
-iPEC offers specializations in areas such as sports performance, health and wellness, business leadership, couples coaching, and more.
-iPEC as one of the oldest coaching programs, lacks the brand appeal of newer more modern programs such as CTI, Conscious Leadership, and more.
-IPEC’s core program is a jack of all trades, master of none, which is ideal for some new coaches, but less ideal if you have a specific niche in mind.
6. International Coaching Federation (ICF)
The International Coaching Federation is life coaching’s governing body, so it goes without saying that this is an ethically-led program that teaches you the core skills you need to build a life coaching business.
80 hours with 30 hours of electives
Pros and Cons:
-A large coaching institution with training sessions in cities all around the world and a global alumni base and coach community.
-Highly experienced coach trainers, with a specialty in teaching and supporting new coaches.
-Globally recognized brand.
-Similar to iPEC, the ICF brand is not as “hot” or popular as some newer and more modern programs such as CTI, Conscious Leadership Group, and more.
7. Animas Coaching Certification
Animas is a UK-based life coaching program, that has moved fully to virtual courses, and offers a coaching approach they call “Transformational Coaching” with a focus on psychology, human needs, and integrating all parts of clients as a rudder towards life change and fulfillment.
5 modules, 2-days each, over 5 months
Pros and Cons:
- ICF Certified
- Positively reviewed program on the lower end of typical costs for certification programs.
- 2-day modules vs the 3-day modules offered by many other programs may be easier to attend for folks still working full-time jobs.
- A less well-known brand compared to other modern life coaching certification programs, particularly in the US, given Animas’ home-base is in the UK.
- 2-day modules, may be considered “light” relative to the depth of materials and inner work required to effectively become and build a practice as a life coach.
8. Calling in the One
Calling in the One is the last certification program we will highlight this year, and is included as an a less traditional option for people to consider, in particular if you are interested in relationship coaching and are a fan of Katherine Woodward Thomas’ books, including her book, “Calling in the One.”
Including a 5-day virtual workshop with Katherine, peer circles, live video trainings, classroom sessions, and more.
Pros and Cons:
- Katherine has built up the “Calling in the One” brand with her successful book, social media presence, and events, all of which support your work as a coach in the relationship coaching niche.
- The program is community-centric, with coach pods used throughout certification to give you a lasting community post-certification.
- Teaches both life coaching and business coaching techniques.
- Offered in 88-person cohorts, throughout the year, timing and availability is limited.
- Not ICF-certified and less “credible” than other life coaching programs when working with clients outside of relationship coaching.
Other Coaching Programs:
The above programs are the top life coaching programs we recommend; however, they are just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to what is available for life coaching certification or continuing education. Here are some additional programs we recommend you look into:
- Landmark Forum: Landmark is a program that people either love or hate. It uses a Socratic to push seminar attendees to achieve personal or professional breakthroughs. It can be a useful addition to your coaching skills especially if you are a Landmark devotee.
- Tony Robbins Coach Training: another classic coach training brand that is still relevant today. Tony Robbins Coaching focuses on results and can be used in a wide range of niches from health coaching, to sports coaching, and beyond.
- Nia Body and Somatic Coaching: Nia coaching focuses on getting in touch with one’s body. This is an interesting certification program to explore if somatic movement is something you are interested in.
- Health Coach Institute: Focused on the niche of health coaching, with 20,000+ graduates worldwide, this is a top program for health and life coaches.
- CoachU Core Essentials Program: This is a beginner or intermediate coaching certification program that is ICF approved and is offered at a reasonable price so ideal for new coaches or those looking to learn and bolster new skills.
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