Which coach training certification is best?

You decide you want to become a coach - woohoo!

But as soon as you start looking into getting certified, you quickly realise there are HUNDREDS of options out there.

What’s the difference between all the coach training programs? Which one is best? How should you pick a coach training school?

It’s important to get all the answers to this before you go out there and start training. Coach certification programs can cost over $10,000 and take 2-3 years to complete. So we want to make sure you know what to look for before you invest your precious time and money!

So today we’re going to look at the different coach certifications options out there. We’ll break down and compare the options, so you can pick the best one for you.

The 3 Main Certifications

There are 3 main coach certifying bodies out there - International Coach Federation (ICF), Meta-Coach Foundation (MCF) and the International Coach Guild (ICG).

Each of these organisations provide different levels of certification. Let’s take a look at what these are.

International Coach Federation (ICF)

There are 3 certifications you can achieve with ICF - Associate, Professional and Master Certified Coach.  Below is a snapshot of the requirements at each level.


  • The differences between the 3 levels are the number of training hours you’ve undertaken and coaching experience you’ve had. All pathways also require you to complete a Coach Knowledge Assessment and a performance evaluation of 1-2 of your coaching sessions.
  • Your coaching sessions are evaluated against the ICF core competencies. In October 2019, ICF updated these competencies. There are now 8 competencies across 4 categories. You are assessed on these competencies at a pass/fail level.
  • If you want to get certified by ICF, currently there are over 400 organisations around the world that offer an ICF training program.

Meta-Coach Foundation (MCF)

MCF also has 3 levels of credentials - Associate, Professional, and Master Certified Meta-Coach. Again the difference between these 3 are the number of training hours you’ve undertaken and coaching experience you’ve had. Below is a snapshot of the requirements at each level.


  • All pathways require you to have a coaching session assessed. You are benchmarked across 29 coaching specific skills, and must achieve a 2.5 out of 3.5 on these skills to achieve base level of certification.
  • Currently MCF operates in 52 countries around the world.

International Coach Guild (ICG)

ICG has 4 Levels of Credentials - Certified, Advanced, Master and Professional Coach. Each level differs in the number of training hours, client references and written essay assessments required. Below is a snapshot of the requirements at each level.


  • Similar to ICF and MCF, you must also have a coaching session assessed. 
  • With ICG, the assessment is across 15 competencies. You are assessed at a pass/fail level, so no benchmarking score is required.
  • Currently there is only one organisation that offers an ICG training program.

Pros and Cons - ICF vs MCF vs ICG

Now that we’ve had a quick overview, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of each certification.


International Coach Federation (ICF)


  • Internationally recognised
  • Over 400+ organisations and growing each year, so it’ll be easy for you to find a training organisation
  • You are only assessed on 8 competencies and they are not benchmarked - so it’ll be easier for you to pass and achieve certification
  • Only 60 hours of training required for the base certification (Associate Coach), which is the lowest out of all 3 certification bodies - so you can achieve certification quicker.



  • Requires 70 hours of paid coaching experience to achieve the base certification (Associate Coach). It might be difficult for you to get paid coaching clients when you haven’t achieved certification yet.
  • Training programs are less comprehensive, compared to MCF. This makes certification easier, but not so great for your skill development.
  • You cannot achieve MCF or ICG certification with ICF training


Meta-Coach Foundation (MCF)


  • Internationally recognised
  • No paid coaching experience required for the base level of certification (Associate Meta-Coach). So if you want to achieve certification before you start getting paid clients - this would be a great option.
  • Training is very comprehensive. It includes and goes above ICF training, so you can apply for ICF certification, with MCF training 



  • Requires you to be assessed on 29 coaching skills and meet a benchmark level of 2.5 out of 3.5 for the base level of certification. This means it’s harder to meet certification, however great for developing your skills.
  • Website is outdated and difficult to navigate to look for a training organisation or information on the certification


International Coach Guild (ICG)


  • Requires only 70 hours of training hours, comparable to ICF and far less than MCF
  • Assessed on 15 competencies, on a pass/fail level so easier to meet benchmark than MCF


  • Only 1 organisation where you can be certified, so not very accessible for training
  • Not as well known internationally as ICF and MCF
  • Requires 350 hours of paid coaching experience, which might be difficult if you’re just starting out as a coach
  • You cannot achieve MCF or ICF certification with ICG training

Conclusion - The Verdict

Now that we’ve had a look at the 3 certifying bodies, and the pros and cons for each - which certification should you choose?

Drumroll please…

We recommend you pick either the International Coach Federation (ICF) or Meta-Coach Foundation (MCF).

We wouldn’t go with ICG because they are not as internationally recognised as the other two, have less training organisations available and you cannot achieve ICF or MCF certification with your ICG training.

Instead, if you’re looking to get quickly certified, learn some basic coaching skills and can easily get some paid coaching experience to meet certification - ICF would be the way to go. 

However, if you want more comprehensive skills - which would help you feel more confident with your clients and achieve better results - go with MCF. 

MCF train and benchmark you on a more comprehensive set of coaching skills, so you know you’ll be getting solid coach training. You can also achieve ICF certification, with your MCF training. Plus, you can get certified before you get paid clients, which is what most new coaches want before they start their business.

Now I would love to hear from you...which coach training certification did you pick or are you considering? Leave a comment below.


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