While a relatively new field, an increasing number of graduates are choosing to pursue a career as a life coach. Learn more about the training you'll need to be successful
The idea of self-improvement is not a new one, but the increased pressures of modern living - wanting to achieve at work and be happy at home, all while fulfilling personal goals - have turned life coaching into a multi-million pound industry.
What is a life coach?
A life coach helps individuals to become the best versions of themselves. They empower clients to make, meet and exceed professional and personal goals.
Not just about giving advice, life coaching involves building relationships with clients and supporting them to make positive changes in order to reach their full potential. Instead of fixing a client's problems, a life coach provides the tools necessary for the client to face and manage these challenges on their own.
Depending on the type of coaching your specialise in, be it career, relationship, personal development or health and wellbeing, you could work with individuals, groups or organisations.
While sharing similar elements, life coaching should not be confused with counselling. Counselling focuses on deep emotional healing and aims to discover how past events contribute to their clients' current problems. In comparison, life coaches focus on the future and aim to identify areas for self-improvement and encourage personal growth. Life coaches are not qualified to diagnose or treat health or mental health related issues.
Do I need a degree?
As a relatively 'new' profession, life coaching is currently unregulated in the UK, meaning there are no specific entry qualifications and that pretty much anyone can call themselves a life coach. However, as the number of practicing life coaches rises, clients are increasingly doing their research and seeking coaches with some formal training.
As it's not a graduate career, specific life coaching degrees are hard to find. The majority of undergraduate courses tend to focus on sport or business coaching. However, the University of Cambridge's Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) offers an undergraduate Certificate in Coaching. Studied part time over the course of a year, the programme provides students with the communication and inter-personal skills necessary for establishing and maintaining an effective coaching relationship. You'll cover modules such as 'Introduction to coaching: core skills and methodologies', 'Raising awareness in self and others' and 'Coaching applications and practice'. The course costs £3,900.
At postgraduate level general coaching and mentoring courses are more widely available. For example, Northumbria University provide a three-year, part-time Coaching MA. Core units include 'Understanding Coaching', 'Psychological Dimensions of Coaching Practice', 'Professional Coaching Practice' and 'The Coaching Organisation'. Graduates of the course have gone on to work on a freelance basis, as part of small coaching practices or large organisations.
Oxford Brookes University run a programme in Coaching and Mentoring Practice, which can be taken as a PGCert, PGDip or MA. Discover more about Masters degrees and explore your postgraduate funding options.
While university study provides an in depth knowledge of general coaching practices, as well as opportunities to extend your professional networks, it's unlikely to increase your chances of success or boost your prospects in what is currently an unregulated profession.
Are life coaching courses are available?
To become a successful life coach and to reassure clients that you're trained to a high standard, consider taking a life coach training course that is accredited by coaching associations such as:
- Association for Coaching (AC)
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
- European Mentoring and Coaching Council UK (EMCC UK)
- International Coach Federation (ICF)
- International Authority for Professional Coaching and Mentoring (IAPC&M).
With so many providers out there it's hard to know which courses are accredited. All of the following organisations run courses accredited by at least one of the above associations.
With i-coach Academy you can study the Foundation in Coaching Practice (accredited by the AC, EMCC and ICF) and Coaching Essentials for Managers and Leaders. Courses take seven days and ten weeks respectively.
Animas Centre for Coaching offer a Diploma in Transformational Coaching, accredited by the AC and ICF. Delivered over five modules, you'll cover 'Foundations', 'Cognition', 'Presence', 'Transactions' and 'Paradigms'. You'll study each module over two days, either on a weekday or weekend as you choose.
At Full Circle you can choose between the five-month Certificate in Professional Coaching Practice and the 12-month Diploma in Professional Coaching Practice, both accredited by the ICF. Key components of the certificate include 'Understanding the coaching profession', 'Principles of coaching', 'Personal development coaching' and 'Advanced communication skills'.
Pure Coaching Academy runs an intensive eight-week life coaching course, accredited by the IAPC&M. The course syllabus covers a range of modules including 'The coaching principles', 'Confidence coaching', 'Extreme self care', 'Values and vision alignment', 'The fear factor', 'Charisma and rapport' and 'Spiritual coaching'.
How do I start my coaching career?
Opportunities for life coaches with recognised professional qualifications are increasing. You could work for the NHS, or as part of community projects in schools, universities or prisons. You could also work for a specific organisation, internally mentoring its staff.
However, the majority of life coaches are self-employed. You could work with organisations on a freelance basis or work from home, coaching clients online or over the phone. With experience you could set up your own coaching business, meeting with individuals and/or groups to provide face-to-face mentoring, traveling to give motivational talks to organisations or at community projects and training future life coaches.
As a life coach the majority of your clients will come to you through word of mouth and on the recommendation of others, so initially business may be slow. If you decide to start your own coaching business you'll need to successfully market yourself. Promote your business via social media (create pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), YouTube, blogging and by setting up a website.
To build your reputation and increase industry contacts, join a professional coaching body and attend conferences, seminars and events alongside other life coaches. The ICF and the AC both frequently run national and international conferences, workshops and webinars led by professional coaches.