(Note: You can get all this material and much more in the free Independent Report on Coach Training and Certification).
Firstly note you do not need to be certified to begin coaching - in other words, you can - and many people do - begin coaching without certification. At the time of writing we know of no countries that require certification to practice as a coach. However, it does seem that some states in the US are making moves to regulate the profession.
But more on the need (or not) for certification later. Let's look firstly
at how the certification scene has developed in the coaching industry,
and your current options.
Schools vs Accrediting BodiesYou can be forgiven for getting confused. Who's the undisputed king of certification? No one - yet. Thomas Leonard began CoachU in the early 90's - and CoachU of course gave out their own certification. At that time - that was probably the best available.
Other schools began popping up and offering their special brand of certification. So which one to choose? But wait - the story's far from done.
Thomas was instrumental in creating the International Coach Federation, which - and this is important - does not train coaches. Nor are they affiliated with any school. This independence is important for the body committed to maintaining the gold standard for certification. (After all, if they were affiliated with a school, they might say "errr .the training School X provides is the standard; everyone must meet this to be ICF accredited".)
So - you have the ICF which doesn't train, and bunch of schools which do train. Some schools have the ICF rubber stamp so you can get both the school's certification and the ICF's certification (their course is called an ACTP). Some schools don't have the stamp but are close enough that you can still submit your training to the ICF at the end (called the Portfolio track to accreditation). And some (not many) still ignore the ICF.
Things got a little more complicated when Thomas Leonard (yes - his name pops up quite a bit, doesn't it?) created a second school called Coachville's School of Coaching, which didn't satisfy the ICF criteria. Why? His training doesn't have live interaction with trainers via telephone or in person, but rather relies on streaming audio over the internet. The bottom line is: you can't get ICF accreditation through Coachville.
Thomas's answer? Simple. He decided to get many more members than the
ICF, which would hopefully make it more important. In other words, he
decided to go around the very body he originally created; if his school
was the biggest in the world, perhaps people would ignore the fact that
it wasn't ICF accredited. Further, he created a new external accrediting
body and called it the IAC (initially ICA, but that clashed with the
school I was building at the time - isn't this all interesting?).
It's gotten even more interesting in the last few years with Universities jumping on the bandwagon. So now you can get a diploma or degree. And check this out - some Universities have applied for and received ICF accreditation. From now on when we mention "training schools", we'll include Universities in that category.
And finally, in some countries you may find government regulations
do impact the industry. For example, in Australia the Government offers
a workplace training certification. Some schools (e.g. The Life Coaching
Academy) have managed to meet the criteria to become what's called a
Registered Training Organisation (RTO), so they can now offer you what
is called Certificate IV Certification. In fact they say their program
is the only one in the world to currently have Government recognition.
If you're considering corporate work, check for the equivalent in your
country, as it might get you some bonus points with your prospective
Recognition of Prior Training