Misinterpretations of Certification, Credentials, and Accreditation in Coach Training

Individuals and organizations who are interested in coaching education, often don’t understand the differences between certification, credentials, and accreditation. Many coaching schools promote their certificates as internationally recognized but often it’s not clear what international certificate really means. The International Coach Federation (ICF) the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals insists on making clear distinctions between these categories.


Each coaching school has its own certificate that is issued to students at the end of the training. The real value of those certificates is usually questionable, as well as the criteria by which they were issued. Usually, the criteria are set by the person who is leading the program and in most cases, all individuals who paid the program and met minimal criteria get the certificate at its end.


Credentials are given by independent professional associations. They are professional standards of coach associations and are given to individuals. Credentials mean that:

  • coach has attended a specific number of coach training hours,
  • coach has specific number or years of coaching hours with real clients,
  • coach has passed Coach Knowledge Assessment
  • coach’s coaching skills were evaluated by ICF independent professional mentors

Individual ICF credential needs to be renewed every three years. For renewal of individual credential coach needs to attend a specific amount of continuous education hours, and for certain level of accreditation coach needs to pass an additional evaluation.

For example, I got my ICF credential in 2010 and so far I needed to renew it two times. Right now I am without credential as I need several more hours of continuous coaching education. After more than 2.000 hours of coaching it might look like nothing special but at the same time, it is one of the criteria that makes a difference when it comes to professional coaching.

Credential shows that a coach is in the process of constant improvement and that an independent organization is evaluating him/her.


ICF gives accreditation to training programs. Those training programs that fit ICF criteria get ICF accreditation. It means that accredited program meets ICF standards for training delivering. Every several years, ICF accredited programs are re-evaluated in order to keep the standards high.

If you are interested in ICF accredited coach training programs Atria Group organizes ICF accredited coach training programs in Belgrade, Prague, Podgorica and Lisbon: