Becoming an ICF certified coach

June 24, 2020

All the questions you’re likely to have

At Navgati, we have been running ICF accredited coach training programs for the last 8 years now and it’s been a richly rewarding experience for us to see trainee coaches grow in confidence and complete their International Coaching Federation certification requirements with ease. People do tend to have a lot of questions about the process so here’s a ready reckoner (all the source information is from the ICF website; any snarky comments are ours).

In answering these questions, we’re assuming that you already know what coaching is, what the value of training to be a coach is and what coaching certification can do for you. If you’d like any of the above questions answered, write to us; we’re friendly folks!

What are the different requirements for the ACC, PCC and MCC certifications?

They are three credentials offered by the International Coaching Federation; with increasing levels of requirements, both in terms of the training hours and the coaching practice you have to put in, as you move from the ACC to the MCC.

Coach specific training through an organisation approved by the ICF 60 hours 125 hours 200 hours
Mentor coaching (over a period of 3 months) 10 hours with an ACC coach who has renewed their credential atleast once; or with a PCC or MCC coach 10 hours with a PCC or MCC coach 10 hours with an MCC coach (cannot be the same as what was applied to an earlier credential)
Coaching experience 100 hours (atleast 70 paid, with atleast 8 clients) 500 hours (atleast 440 paid, with atleast 25 clients) 2500 hours (atleast 2200 paid, with atleast35 clients)
Coaching Knowledge Assessment (an online multiple choice question exam) Yes Yes (if not completed for the ACC) Yes (if not completed for the ACC)
Performance evaluation (if your coach training organization is certified under the ACSTH path – see next question) 1 recording of a coaching session with a transcript 2 recordings with transcripts 2 recordings with transcripts

What be the ACSTH and ACTP routes?

These are two alternate paths that the ICF offers organizations that want to be accredited by them. Say an organization like Navgati wants to get accreditation, we could

1. Apply via the ACTP route: The ICF needs a longer program (a minimum of 125 student contact hours) bundled with mentor coaching and a performance evaluation process that is run internally by the organization.
2. Apply via the ACSTH route: In this case, even shorter programs can be accredited without bundling mentor coaching and the performance evaluation is run by the ICF

So does it matter to you what route your training organization has taken to get their accreditation? Here are some points to consider:

  • The performance standards against which you are being evaluated for certification remain the same in both cases; the difference is that in the ACTP, your training organization does the evaluation and in the ACSTH, the ICF does it.
  • No potential client is ever going to ask which route was taken because the end certification is the same (there is only one ACC badge)
  • ACTP training programs do tend to be more expensive and require a larger commitment of your time (since you are finishing 125 hours at one go and you’re paying for the mentor coaching and the performance evaluation process). This is offset slightly by the fact that the ICF certification fee for ACTP programs is a little lower, however (around two hundred dollars lower at this time)
  • ACSTH programs are more of an a-la-carte approach, allowing you to invest as much time and money as you feel ready for at the time.

We’ve chosen to take the ACSTH route for both our ICF accredited programs so it’s clear what our preference is; you can decide depending on your goals for certification.

Do I need to complete my ACC before I apply for my PCC?

No. You do not need to be an ACC to apply for the PCC credential.

What do I need to prove that I have completed the training?

A certificate from the accredited organization. If you’re reading this and have not signed up yet, do check if the organization you are considering is listed on the ICF site as being accredited (

What is mentor coaching?

Mentor coaching simply put is someone coaching you on your coaching skills. You are the client for your mentor coach and the focus of the sessions is on increasing your capability as a coach. As a client, therefore, you could bring in general questions relating to your coaching (for example “Why do I find it difficult to hold my clients accountable from one session to another?”) or specific ones relating to clients that you are working with. You could also bring in recordings from your own coaching and have your mentor review and provide feedback.

The ICF allows for group mentor coaching hours to be a maximum of 7 out of the 10 required; provided the group size is not more than 10.

Can I have more than one mentor coach?

Yes, you can. On the online credential application, you will list the name of each Mentor Coach, the Mentor Coach email address, the credential level of the Mentor Coach, the start and end date of each mentoring relationship, and the number of hours of coaching from each mentor. You are not required to provide documentation from your Mentor Coach, but your Mentor Coach should be able to confirm that the mentoring took place.

Where do I find a mentor coach?

You can reach out to certified coaches in your network for mentor coaching (remember to read the requirements in the table above carefully) or ask your training organization to recommend mentors.

Remember the mentor coaching needs to be spread over a period of 3 months!

Can the supervision that happens as a part of the training program be counted as mentor coaching?

No. Those count towards your 60 hours of coach specific training and double counting is not allowed.

What can I log as coaching experience hours?

A client coaching hour is 60 minutes of actual coaching with a client who has hired the applicant as a coach. You can start logging your coaching hours from the beginning of your coach-specific training program (use the ICF format found here, scroll all the way down to the very bottom –

The ICF has clear rules about the percentage of paid coaching hours you’re required to have (refer to the ACC-PCC-MCC comparison above). Paid coaching is where you receive payment from the client; any amount is ok as is barter (peer coaching counts as paid coaching). Coaching that you do as part of your employment (except for coaching of direct reports) count as client coaching hours.

Essentially to count as a coaching hour, the agenda has to be set by the client and you must work with inquiry as the primary methodology in the conversation.

What do I need to provide to prove my coaching experience hours?

You need to have the log completed, with the name and contact details of the people you coached as well as the number of hours you coached them for. The ICF regularly conducts audits and if you are chosen for the audit, you will need to provide the contact information for your clients.

In case the organization your clients are working with does not allow sharing of contact information, you will need to provide the contact of one person in the organization and a letter on the company letterhead to certify the work you have done there. More details to be found here –

I do a lot of facilitation of training programs, can I count those as group coaching hours?

Nope, sorry. Training, teaching, mentor coaching and facilitating workshops cannot be counted as coaching hours. To qualify as group coaching, participants must set the agenda, and the session must be interactive (synchronous interaction between the coach and participants). Also, for those of you getting excited at the thought of doing one group coaching session of one hour with ten people and getting ten hours for your log in one fell swoop, you cannot multiply hours times participants in the group. If you coach 15 people for one hour, you can only count that as one hour of coaching, not 15 hours.

Can I count the coaching I have done in the coach training workshops towards my log?

No double counting allowed. Those hours count towards the 60 hours of your coach training (if ACC) and cannot be added to your coaching log.

What are the requirements for the performance evaluation recording?

You need a clearly audible recording of a 20-60 minute coaching session between you and a paid or probono client (for PCC and MCC, you need two recordings). This needs to be accompanied by a transcript. Click here for more information about the file extensions that are accepted, the nomenclature of the files etc.

Review your recording against the minimum skills the ICF is looking for at different levels (you can find them here; it’s a good idea to start recording all your conversations when you are about halfway done with the experience requirements. Playing back and reviewing your own coaching can be a very educative experience and it makes it easier to find a recording when you’re ready for certification.

Refer to this when getting your transcript ready; you will need to provide timestamps. (

How do I know when I’m ready to buy the ICF application?

Check if you have all of these

  • certificate(s) from your coach training organization
  • the email ID of your mentors
  • your coaching log (even though you don’t need to upload this)
  • your recordings and transcripts in the format specified

Click on the “apply now” button (bright blue). Here’s a helpful guide the ICF has created to guide people through the process.

Once you have uploaded everything you need to, you sit back and wait. Once they have reviewed your application, you will receive a link for the Coaching Knowledge Assessment (the CKA test). Finish that and you’re done! Congratulations.

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