Executive Coaching Certification: The Ultimate Guide [2023 Edition]

Which are the best executive coaching certifications available in the market today? And do you need one?

This is one of the most popular questions that I face during my workshops or webinars.

I have written about this several times in an attempt to answer queries. You will find some of the blogs on coaching certifications here and here.

The truth is that coaching is still an unregulated industry in the United States of America. This means anyone can claim to be a coach. But mere claims will not help you build a large client base!

What you need is experience, skills and a list of good client recommendations!

In this blog I will assume that you are looking to build on your skills. Hence I will tell you all you need to know about executive coaching certifications.

Executive Coaching Certification Programs Guide [2021]
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Necessity of Executive Coaching Certification Programs

In my blog Do you Need Coaching Certification in 2021, I have laid out the benefits of degrees.

  • Executive coaching certification is bound to enhance your skills. An executive coaching certification prepares you to tackle diverse situations. Your people skills will make your executive coaching career. So why not get a heads-up into what is in store for you? In a controlled classroom environment you will get a real feel of how diverse clients can be!
  • An executive coaching certification also gives you insight about standardized processes. Sure, you can bend the rules to achieve your goal. But you should know what the rules are in the first place!
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  • Coaching certification builds legitimacy. There is no disputing this
    . In a saturated market, an executive coaching certification can be one of the best ways to win clients. Executive coaching certifications from a deemed institution gives you an advantage. Your skills and hard work will decide the rest of your career!
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  • Companies are hiring executive coaches to motivate staff and boost their baseline profits. The life coaching industry topped with $1 billion in revenue in the USA last year. In a saturated market, an executive coaching certification invokes trust in your resume.
  • A support network of executive coaches will help you throughout the career. This is the biggest benefit of an executive coaching certification program. You will meet like-minded individuals and competitors all under the same roof sometimes!
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  • An executive coaching certification shows that you are serious about learning. Nothing spells commitment better than well, commitment! It proves you are eager to learn and use the skills in your coaching business.
  • An executive coaching certification helps you to establish the business on your terms. It gives you an understanding of what your brand stands for. This helps for all practical purposes when it comes to running your business. For example, you understand how you can price your coaching services.

These are some of the ways that an executive coaching certification will help your coaching business.

Basics of Executive Coaching Certification

Let us break down the course contents of popular Executive Coaching Certification programs. This will help you understand and choose a program best suited for you.

First let us understand how the executive coaching certification program will help you.

What does an executive coach do?

An executive coach is a qualified professional that works with high-potential employees. The coach helps them with the following:

  • To gain self-awareness
  • To clarify goals
  • Achieve objectives set for development
  • Unlock their potential
  • Act as a sounding board

Does executive coaching work?

After all the hard work you are putting into getting a degree, will your career take off?

Does executive coaching work?

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, it does!

Unlike most business processes, executive coaching engages with people in customized ways. These acknowledge and honour the individuality of the employee.

It helps people know themselves better, live more consciously, and contribute more richly. The essentially human nature of coaching is what makes it work—and also what makes it nearly impossible to quantify.

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Is there a difference between an executive coach and a business coach?

Yes, there is.

I have written about it in my blog Best Executive Coaches to Follow in 2021. I will summarize some of the points I have mentioned earlier.

Both business and executive coaches work with clients in the corporate sector.

An executive coach usually caters to the top leaders of an organization. These include chief executive officers, directors, vice presidents and managing directors.

The best definition of executive coaching is by Graduate School of Stanford Business. “Executive coaching is an inquiry-based approach to personal and professional development. Executive coaching helps create awareness and generates action. It facilitates learning and growth. It focuses on improving performance. It helps individuals to develop and sustain new perspectives, attitudes, skills and behavior.”

Definition of Executive Coaching

The Graduate School of Stanford Business website breaks down what executive coaching is.

The top tasks of executive coaches are:

  • Gathering and giving feedback
  • Identifying development opportunities
  • Building awareness
  • Facilitating solutions by asking powerful questions
  • Setting goals and creating action plans
  • Facilitating learning
  • Supporting and encouraging over the long term
  • Monitoring progress and holding others accountable

Check out the whole blog if you are planning to enrol for executive coaching certification programs.

Executive coaching engagements usually follow these steps:

  • Intake and assessment (including 360-degree feedback)
  • Goal setting
  • Ongoing coaching and skill development
  • Measurement of results

So, you will learn these steps in every executive coaching certification program.

Skills Taught in Executive Coaching Certification Programs

Besides a course plan, any executive coaching certification program will also teach you soft skills.

According to the iNLP Centre, the top 5 soft skills every executive coach should have include:

  1. Ability to work in ways that help everyone succeed
  2. Communicate specific instructions/requirements
  3. Use creativity to achieve goals
  4. Enter any mindset at will and sustain the mindset
  5. Understand how decisions affect larger outcome

Take for example the 10-day intensive executive coaching certification program by Berkeley. It lists the skills that students will pick up in the executive coaching certification program. The main skills are:

  • Empathy
  • Professional intimacy
  • Leadership presence
  • Effective communication skills
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Where Can I Get My Executive Coaching Certification?

Listed below are some organizations and institutes that offer executive coaching certification programs.

According to Protoly, there are three top executive coaching certification organizations.

  • The International Coaching Federation
  • The European Mentoring and Coaching Council and
  • Center for Credentialing and Education

Each certification group offers its own unique certification process. They offer education and support for every coach, at every stage.

These groups can help new coaches get their feet off the ground. They also provide continuing education for coaches who began many years ago. Here is more information about each certification provider.

  • International Coaching Federation (ICF). ICF is a global, non-profit certification organization. They are regarded as the industry leader in coaching certification. Their coaches have worked for countless world leaders, business tycoons and more.
  • European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC): EMCC is a European certification organization that works to equip coaches with the tools they need to succeed. They seek to develop and promote best practices in executive coaching while certifying coaches and training facilities across Europe.
  • Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). CCE is a credentialing organization based here. They serve counselors, coaches and other similar practitioners in a variety of fields, including executive coaching. CCE does not only offer executive coaching certifications. They also provide assessments and business support when needed. They have certified 25,000 professionals around the world.

In an earlier blog on the best training institutes, I have mentioned the following institutes:

  • Coach Training Alliance: Coach Training Alliance has ICF and ACSTH accreditation. It gives coaching training in various areas. This includes personal coaching, life coaching, and professional level coaching. As a coach, you can gain good skills to have a profitable coaching business.
  • Co-Active Training Institute: The institute follows the paradigm of leadership development. This helps to empower humanity in the journey of consciousness. It has ICF, ACE, HRPA accreditation. The institute provides coaching training in various niches.
  • Coach U: Coach U offers leading global coaching training programs. The programs teach coaching skills, helps to build a coaching practice. It also develops a strong foundation and helps you learn to coach. It has ICF accreditation.
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A comparative study of the top ICF ACTP coaching schools in the continental United States was conducted by Education Service Center, Region 20 (ESC 20). It provided comprehensive information about the best executive coaching certification programs in the area based on 10 categories. The comparison efforts positioned the top three schools as:

  1. The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)
  2. The Coach Training Institute (CTI)
  3. The University of Texas at Dallas.

Some other popular choices of executive coaches include:

  1. Columbia Business School
  2. Wharton university of Pennsylvania
  3. Berkeley Executive Coaching Certificate Program 

Some online executive coaching certification programs are listed here.

If you are confused about which one suits you best, do not worry. Start by signing up for my free webinar. I have mentioned the link in the last section of this blog. Once you have a clearer idea of what you are setting out for, it will be easier to pick a course that is best for you.

Who Needs Executive Coaching Certification?

Anybody who is serious about pursuing a career as an executive coach is eligible for any of the Executive Coaching Certification programs. Institutes such as Berkeley mostly look at:


  • Internal coaches
  • Corporate leaders

Client-Service Professionals

  • Individuals or firms in consulting, law, health care, staffing services

Aspiring and Growing Coaches

  • Individuals who want to enter a new profession of Executive Coaching
  • Practicing coaches seeking to learn a new methodology

The question is not whether you are eligible for any executive coaching certification program.

The questions that most coaches ask themselves are:

  1. How will I get clients after my executive coaching certification program?
  2. How can I get noticed for my coaching services in a saturated market?
  3. How will I advertise my start-up coaching services?
  4. Will I earn enough to have a good life after this executive coaching certification program?

Can you relate to these concerns?

These are concerns of all coaches, irrespective of how successful they are.

Rest assured. You are in the right place. Throughout this blog, I will answer each of the queries listed above.

What Qualities Will Executive Certification Coaching Program Enhance?

What are the traits that your clients will look for in an executive coach?

Those are the skills that you should look to develop during your executive certification coaching program.

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There is no one talent that makes for great coaches. But most coaches have certain traits in common. These traits alone cannot guarantee success. But they are definitely influential in making you a great coach.

I have written about some traits that make for good coaches in detail in a few blogs. Look at my blog How to become an executive coach (That people die to HIRE!)?

I have mentioned some of the following qualities. I have taken the liberty to present the top 4 here.

  • Attentive listening: You should be able to listen to the spoken and unspoken language. Along with hearing you should be able to read the body language. The way a person changes position, tone etc. reflects the level of engagement. Establish a confidential space where someone feels comfortable to ‘release the truth’.
  • Art of questioning: There are questions which encourage an answer in either “Yes” or “No”. But these will stop you from getting a hold on the situation. Questions need to go far deeper and must reflect the subject’s perspective rather than your own. You can have a look at this list of 44 Powerful questions that every coach MUST ask to understand the type of questions that you should pose.
  • Art of giving feedback: You should know how to give honest feedback and that too in a positive way. Moreover, the feedback should lead to self-discovery of the client so that it is more likely to be internalized.
  • Asserting your presence: You client should connect with you in the first session itself. You should try every way to build a strong connection that emphasizes that you are striving hard to bring in the transformation in your client. You need to empty your mind of everything else and concentrate just on your client.

There are several other qualities that make for a good coach. You may read the blog I mentioned above for more.

I have listed some more qualities in my blogs 21 Coaching Skills Every Successful Coach Needs and Top Qualities Of A Successful Coach.

These qualities mentioned are helpful for all coaches. This includes those offering executive coaching services.

I have earlier listed some questions about executive coaching from a client’s perspective.

What are the questions that clients will ask you in an interview? A few are listed below. These are all great questions for you to brag about your executive coaching certification!

  • How many years of experience do you have post your executive coaching certification program?
  • Where did you study for your executive coaching certification?
  • How long did your executive coaching certification training last and what did it include?
  • How can I trust you with my goals?
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Can you Practice Without Executive Coaching Certification?

Yes, you can!

And very successfully too, I must add.

Should you choose to start practicing executive coaching without opting for a certification, there is no legal way to stop you.

The advantage is that the market is still not regulated. What this means is that anyone can claim to be a coach!

Should you choose to skip executive coaching certification for now, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Skip the executive coaching certification if you want. But do not miss out on training. As I always say, invest in yourself before asking others to invest in you.
  • Start working even if you do not earn a lot initially. Write out an ideal list of businesses and target audience. Make a business plan and offer your services at discounted rates. Experience will bring in rewards!
  • Network, network, network. Several people choose an executive coaching certification program as it connects them to peers. Without such a community, attend networking events and host library talks.

You may want to look up my blog Can you be a Life Coach without Certification? for more tips. Keep yourself updated at all times. My blogs should help you as I always talk about the latest industry trends!

How Much Can You Earn After Getting Executive Coaching Certification?

As an executive coach, how much can you expect to earn?

Let us tip this over to the customer. This website says that a client would pay the following rates:

  • Between $300 to $500 per hour for an upper level executive at your company
  • Between $200 and $400 per hour for mid-level management

According to Payscale.com, the average salary of an executive coach in the United States is $98,264. But this website claims that the average salary ranges from $15.96 (Career Coach) to $81.58 (Agile Coach) per hour.

You may wonder at the vast difference. This range is more evident in https://erickson.edu/blog/how-much-does-coaching-pay.

Their website states that the range of executive coach salary is quite large.

This is because these coaches work with leaders such as CEOs, CMOs. Salaries start at $150 and can go up to $350 for most coaches. Executive coaches can also charge $1,000 per session. Such coaches offer life coaching, strategic sound-boarding and other support.

This vast range in income is partly due to the unregulated industry. Anyone can claim to be an executive coach. The blog also offers some tips for earning better salaries as a professional coach.

The blog rightly notes that experience is an important clause though not the only factor.

“Building a business takes branding, niche development and attention to results-based processes”. Over time, the author says, you will have clients referring more prospects. And you will be earning the rate that feels right for you.

Is the market saturated for executive coaches?

The truth is that coaching is a growing industry.

Let us look at some market realities. I have mentioned these statistics in my earlier blog posts as well. But this sets the context in terms of what you can expect to earn as a coach.

This post claims that the life coaching industry has crossed the $1 billion dollar mark.

  • The International Coach Federation boasts 53,300 members. It has a steady growth trend.
  • Average income for life coaches ranges from $27,100 to $73,100. Specialty coaches can charge more than $100,000 per year.
  • Growth projections for the life coaching industry are an estimated 6.7%. This would take revenues to $1.34 billion by 2022.
  • 92% of life coaches remain active in the field.
  • In Asia, there were around 3,700 coaches. They contributed $113 million in total annual revenue.
  • More and more corporations are hiring life coaches instead of mental health counsellors to work with employees (no stigma).
  • Life coaches remain unregulated. There are no state licensing requirements. This suggests freedom of practice, but also raises concerns about quality.
  • Executive coaches can earn a handsome salary too. Salaries start at $150 and can go up to $350 for most coaches. Executive coaches can also charge $1,000 per session.

The result of executive coaching too would have similar positive responses. Although it has not been recorded yet, it is safe to assume that the results will be promising.

Marketing your Executive Coaching Certification

Since executive coaches have a very specific niche, tap into this enormous market.

Now, you may be wondering how you will you get your brand name noticed? The market is evolving and growing. But the competition is also getting tougher. You may want to refer to my blog for more on this. Learn more about how you can build your brand through marketing in my blog Is Marketing Crucial to my Coaching Business?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is executive coaching certification?

Executive coaching certification is a formal process which provides you the education, training and exposure on executive coaching. It helps in preparing you for coaching leaders and other executives.

What does a certified executive coach do?

Certified executive coaches provide a range of services to clients. Many executive coaches provide executive coaching services to CEOs, presidents, corporate officers, and business owners. They often specialize in one or two industries, including coaching for entrepreneurs and business owners, coaches for executives and executives, or coaches for healthcare professionals.

Do executive coaches need to be certified?

Most countries do not require executive coaching to be certified by any organization, although they may be required to hold a degree or certification in a related field. The qualifications of an executive coach depends entirely on the individual and their employer and not everyone coaching executive needs to be certified. However, there are a number of executive coaching certification programs and academic institutions who have established a standard for executive coaches to be accredited in the United States.

How do you become an executive coach?

Here are two ways to become an executive coach: 1) Make sure you have a master’s degree in a related field. This is how most executive coaches come into the profession. 2) Self-study and get certified. One popular certification is the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential, though there are many others out there. After that, you will want to start networking.

How much does an executive coach cost?

The cost depends on the type of coaching, the duration and your location. Executive Coaching can run in the thousands depending on the frequency of appointments and the demand for your coach. However, be sure to check with your company’s benefits department because they might cover the cost of coaching.


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