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Demystifying the Credentialing Process

Read more to learn about coaching education with The Academies and understanding the ICF credentialing process.

Coaching Certification with The Academies

What coaching disciplines do you offer?

Our core disciplines are career and leadership—both of which have a brain-friendly underpinning to them. We also offer specialized programs in strengths coaching, brain-based coaching, and coaching resistance to expand your coaching education. So a question you could ask yourself as you’re considering which program is right for you is, am I more interested in coaching people around their careers or am I more interested in coaching leaders?

Which course is right for me?

If you’re new to coaching, our foundational courses are the Certified Career Management Coach course (CCMC) for the career track and the Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach course (CELDC) for the leadership track.  If you’re a seasoned coach, you can take these foundational classes, or you can also drop into our advanced classes, such as the Academies Certified Strengths Coach course or the Certified Leadership Engagement & Impact Coach course. However, we do have a few recommendations based on industry/job title/coaching focus for appropriate courses:

Certified Career Management Coach Course: HR Recruiter, Entrepreneur, Career Advisor, any background with a passion for helping people find their passion in life

Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach Course: Any sort of leadership role from CEO to Supervisor, HR Manager, Entrepreneur

Academies Certified Strengths Coach Course: Career, Leadership, Life, or Business coach (or truly any other coaching discipline), looking to add the power of Strengths to their coach-approach

Certified Leadership Engagement & Impact Coach Course: Leaders in upper management/c-suite, any coach working with leaders to create psychological safety within their teams

Career Coaching Fundamentals: Student Career Advisors on a budget


What makes the Academies courses different from other organizations?

Every course from The Academies is built on a strong foundation of neuroscience and positive psychology. Both our curriculum and our brilliant instructor team highlight brain-friendly approaches to coaching.

Our courses are also designed with busy working professionals in mind. With 90 minute class times and the ability to choose dates and times that work for you, you are able to customize your learning process in a way that is unique from many training organizations.

Some may observe that our courses are more expensive than many – and they would be right. In addition to continual updates to our curriculum and maintaining a stellar instructor team, we also stay on the cutting edge of ICF-changes. We were among the first to adopt the new 8 Core Coaching Competencies introduced by the ICF in 2020, and were nearly a year ahead of shifting our programs to Level 1 and Level 2 accreditation status.

Staying abreast of changes in the coaching industry and the latest neuroscience research takes time and effort – but we believe it is worth it! If it is also worth it to you, we invite you to join us!

Can your programs help me to get my ICF credential?

Yes.  All of our courses are ICF-approved and can be used toward our Level 1 or Level 2 packages.

We have four primary courses, categorized by two foundational courses and two advanced courses.

Our foundational courses are approved for 33.5 hours of coaching education each, our advanced courses for 31 hours each, our Resistance course for 12 and Career Coaching Fundamentals for 18.

Two of our primary courses will help you qualify for your ACC (which requires at least 60 hours of coaching education) and four of our primary courses will help you qualify for your PCC (which requires at least 125 hours of coaching education). 

What does "neuroscience foundation" actually mean?

Please visit our Neuroscience page for a detailed explanation of The Academies brain-friendly approach.

Do you offer live or virtual training?

All training offered at The Academies is conducted in a virtual format using Zoom.  However, there are certain cases where we can offer live training to private cohorts at an additional cost.

Do you offer condensed training?

Our courses are designed with the brain in mind! Neuroscientists explain that memory requires repetition, and one study uncovered that on average it takes months to form a habit (not just 21 days, as is the common saying). With this in mind, we’ve landed on the best of both worlds, with a condensed design that also ensures you’ve “routinized” new skills both in your brain pathways and your real-world behaviors. We want your investment of time, energy, and resources to “stick,” setting you up for success with the people you coach. We currently only offer condensed training in the form of our Career Coaching Fundamentals course, which runs for 6 weeks and is recommended for MBA programs and universities.

How much time can I expect to spend on classwork each week outside of live class time?

You can expect to spend an average of 1.5 hours per week on asynchronous work outside of your live class. You will also have one hour of Buddy Coaching every other week—a swap of practice coaching with another classmate—this allows you to actively apply what you are learning and immediately begin logging hours spent coaching if you plan to work towards an ICF credential down the road.

What's the difference between CCMC and CELDC?

Our Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC) and Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach (CELDC) courses offer a fundamentally different perspective on foundational coaching principles.

While both are rooted in the 8 ICF Core Competencies, the CCMC course is more appropriate for coaches working with clients who are trying to navigate their careers or the job search process, like HR recruiters, Career Advisors, solopreneurs, or anyone who is energized by helping clients find their passion.  The CELDC course is more appropriate for coaches who are interested in helping leaders improve cohesion, communication, and productivity within their teams, or any leader who is looking to add the coach approach to their own leadership style.

What's the difference between your foundational and advanced courses?

Our foundational courses are designed to introduce new coaches to the ICF Core Competencies and give seasoned coaches a refresh of the competency fundamentals with a neuroscience focus baked in.

Our advanced courses are designed for coached who have a fundamental familiarity with the competencies and would like to enhance that knowledge with a deeper neuroscience focus and more complex application of the competencies.

Since all of our courses are constantly being updated as the world of coaching evolves, coaches of any level can take any foundational or advanced course at The Academies and gain something new from the curriculum.

What are mentor coaching sessions?

Mentor coaching is where a huge bulk of learning happens; where you find your identity as a coach; where you develop your coaching strategy and develop your sense of who you are going to be as a coach.

If you’re already clear on your identity as a coach, it’s also an opportunity to make sure you’re on the right track, and continue to flow with the changes that are happening in the coaching world.

One of the ICF coaching competencies is Embodies a Coaching Mindset – which means being a continual learner.Mentor coaching is also a place to bring questions about how to work with your clients – if you find that one of your clients is stuck, you can bring these questions to your mentor coach.

Most importantly, mentor coaching is an opportunity to speak with your instructor on a deeper level about how your coaching is meeting the rubric for evaluation that the ICF uses to grant an ICF credential, and how your mentor coach can help you address those competencies so that you meet the standards of the ICF.

Our foundational courses (CCMC & CELDC) offer 5 hours of group mentor coaching, and our advanced courses (ACSC & CLEIC) offer 2.5 hours of group mentor coaching sessions.

How many mentor coaching sessions do I need for my ICF credential (ACC or PCC)?

In order to obtain an ACC (Level 1) or PCC (Level 2) credential with the ICF,  you are required to complete a minimum of 10 hours of mentor coaching. At least 3 of these hours must be individual mentor coaching sessions.

Your required 10 hours will be automatically included should you purchase a Level 1 or Level 2 package with The Academies.

Can I put previous training from another organization toward a Level 1 or 2 Certificate with The Academies?

Absolutely! The Academies is happy to support you in transferring previous training hours towards a Level 1 or 2 training program. Please complete our Transfer Survey to see what programs you qualify for.

How do I qualify for Level 1 or Level 2 if I have completed an ACSTH program?

The Academies is happy to upgrade you to a Level 1 or 2 training program if you have previous ACSTH training. Contact coaching@theacademies.com for more information on how to upgrade.

The ICF Credentialing Process

Why should I get an ICF Credential?

There are several reasons to get an ICF Credential:


  • Add credibility to your coaching practice
  • Develop and advance your ability to support change
  • Deepen your confidence in navigating challenging client scenarios
  • Take advantage of the growing trend in professional coaching that is now a $3B industry
  • Meet the ICF credential prerequisites that many organizations seek for professional coaching positions
  • Align your coaching skills and practice with the gold standard in coaching accreditation.

Can you tell me about the ICF transition from ACSTH/ACTP to Level 1 and 2?

The International Coaching Federation recently updated their accreditation process and The Academies was on the forefront of adjusting our curriculum and structure to meet the requirements for Level 1 and 2 accreditation.  Here is a breakdown of the changes:

Level 2 (formerly ACTP): There is no change to this process for participants.  The requirements remain the same with a different name: 125 education hours, 10 hours of mentor coaching, and a performance evaluation completed with the training organization.  This path will prepare you to apply for either the ACC or PCC credential.

Level 1 (formerly ACSTH): In the past, ACSTH programs could have anywhere from 30 to 124 hours included in them, and 60 hours would satisfy the requirements to apply for the ACC.  Level 1 programs include all 60 hours of coaching education required to apply for the ACC, along with mentor coaching and the addition of a performance evaluation completed with the training organization.

So, whether you complete a Level 1 or 2 program with The Academies, you can be sure that the following will be covered at The Academies:

  • All of your required training hours (at least 60 for Level 1 and 125 for Level 2)
  • All of your mentor coaching hours (10 for each Level)
  • Performance Evaluation (at the ACC level for Level 1 and the PCC level for Level 2)

That means you will be responsible for:

  • Your coaching hours with clients (100 for ACC or 500 for PCC)
  • Your ICF application for either ACC or PCC
  • The ICF Credentialing Exam

Is ACC or PCC a better fit for my goals?

The ACC is becoming the standard requirement in the corporate world for any coach.  However, for solopreneurs, the PCC may lend more credibility to your coaching practice.  Most coaches begin at the ACC level and work toward their PCC.

What does ACC and PCC stand for?

There are three levels of accreditation with the ICF: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC).

We like to use the analogy of mainstream degrees to explain the level of commitment and knowledge that goes into each level:

The ACC is akin to an Associate’s Degree in Coaching.

The PCC is akin to a Bachelor’s Degree in Coaching.

The MCC is akin to a PhD in Coaching.

What does the ICF credentialing process look like?

The ICF credentialing process includes several steps and begins with your coaching education.  While the ICF offers three levels of credentialing (ACC, PCC, and MCC), The Academies has direct pathways to the ACC and PCC, so the focus of this answer will be on those processes.

The ACC and PCC requirements differ slightly:


Coaching Education Hours 60 125
Mentor Coaching Hours 10 10
Direct Experience Hours with Clients 100 500
Performance Evaluation 1 1
ICF Credentialing Exam  Final Requirement Final Requirement

Your credentialing journey will begin with your coaching education hours.  Typically, mentor coaching begins sometime within that process and is completed soon after your courses have concluded.  Your logged coaching experience hours can begin from the first day of your first ICF-accredited coaching course, so these are typically completed concurrently with education and mentor coaching. 

Once your education hours, mentor coaching hours, and experience hours are complete, you will complete your performance evaluation.  You can do this one of two ways: 1) submit a recording to the ICF, or 2) complete a Level 1 or 2 program with an accredited organization like The Academies and submit your recording to them for evaluation.  This is a much quicker and more streamlined option and also saves you money on your ICF application.  

Once you receive your Level 1 (for ACC) or Level 2 (for ACC or PCC) certificate, you are ready to submit your application to the ICF.  You will submit your Level certificate, confirm your mentor coaching hours, and sign an attestation of coaching for your experience hours. 

Your next step is to schedule your ICF Credentialing Exam.  This Exam is proctored, so you can either go to a specific location near you to complete the exam or take it virtually with a proctor present online.  

Once your exam is reviewed and you have passed, congratulations!  You have earned your credential!

We know that this can sound like a daunting and arduous process, but The Academies will be there along the way to support your experience and help you prepare for your ICF application!

How much time and dedication needs to be invested in pursuing an ICF credential?

As with many endeavors, you will get out of the process what you put into it! Many coaches see earning an ACC or PCC credential as a crucial piece of their development as a coach and their ability to be taken seriously in the marketplace as coaches.Because of that, we highly recommend taking the process seriously as well!

If you are working towards your ACC credential, you will need to complete 60 training hours, 10 mentor hours, and 100 coach experience hours – that is, time actually spent coaching clients.
Motivated participants who are actively coaching or applying coaching skills in the workplace are often able to complete these requirements in approximately 6 months, working 8-10 hours per week. You can anticipate dedicating 3+ hours to coursework and class, and another 5 or more hours to coaching clients each week.

If you are working towards your PCC credential, you will need to complete 125 training hours, 10 mentor hours, and 500 coach experience hours – again, time actually spent coaching clients.
Coaches on this path who are actively coaching or applying coaching skills in the workplace usually find themselves completing these requirements in 12-18 months of intentional work. This looks like 3+ hours of coursework and classes with an additional 7-10 hours coaching clients each week.
Coaches who prefer to take a more laid back approach, with breaks between classes and fewer coaching hours, might take 2 years or more to complete all their requirements.