What Is the ICF? International Coaching Federation Overview

March 7, 2023


7 min read

What Is the ICF - International Coaching Federation Overview

What is the ICF? What does it mean to hold an ICF credential? Does the International Coaching Federation do anything other than credential coaches?

Professional coaching is a growing industry. And, the International Coaching Federation is on the frontlines, as it’s always been.

Continue reading to discover what the ICF is, how the organization developed over the years, and how the ICF “ecosystem” operates today. You’ll also learn about ICF membership and credentials.

We’ll answer these questions:

  • What is the ICF?
  • What is the cost to join ICF?
  • How do I get ICF accreditation?
  • Is ICF coaching certification worth it?
  • What do ICF coaches charge?

What Is the ICF?

So, what is the ICF exactly? The International Coaching Federation (ICF) calls itself “a membership organization for trained professional coaches.” That’s how it started, and that’s still the heart of the ICF. In 2021, however, it became an “ecosystem” of organizations that work together to serve professional coaches.

The ICF ecosystem is a new way of operating. Let’s take a look at ICF history to see the path the organization has taken to get to where it is today.

ICF History

Back in 1995, when the professional coaching industry started to take root, professional coach Thomas Leonard founded the International Coach Federation. Based in the United States, it aimed to support professional coaches by connecting them with each other. ICF also served to provide the young industry with some gravitas.

The ICF merged with the Professional and Personal Coaches Association (PPCA) in 1998. Also that year, the ICF launched their membership and credentialing programs. The next year, it started to accredit programs that offer training for coaches.

By 2000, ICF membership could be considered global, with coaches joining from four continents and the first annual conference being held outside of the U.S. ICF membership reached nearly 8,000 by 2004. In 2008, regional offices started to open up around the world.

By 2010, ICF membership exceeded 17,000. Nearly 7,000 coaches held ICF credentials. That number grew to 15,000 in 2014. In that year, ICF exceeded 25,000 members who were spread among local chapters all over the world.

By 2020, the ICF had proven itself as the premier professional coaching organization, with more trained coaches than any other body. The ICF took a new name, changing from the International Coach Federation to the International Coaching Federation. This change represented the broadening mission of the organization. In 2021, the ICF introduced its new “ecosystem.” We’ll look at this in depth later on.

What Is the Cost to Join ICF?

The coaching industry considers ICF membership to be prestigious, as it signifies that a coach has extensive experience and training—and that they adhere to ICF’s code of ethics.

ICF members enjoy opportunities for professional growth, business development, community, and networking. They also have access to the latest research.

ICF membership is annual, and it costs $245 (USD) per year. To become a member, you must meet at least one of these requirements:

  • Have a current ICF Credential (ACC, PCC, or MCC)
  • Have completed at least 60 hours of training that meets ICF’s qualifications
  • Be enrolled in 60 hours of ACTP or ACSTH training

Learn more about these requirements. If you’re interested in ICF membership, complete the application their website. ICF membership is available for organizations, as well.

How Do I Get ICF Accreditation?

The International Coaching Federation provides credentials that correspond to the coach’s training and experience. Credentialed coaches also must receive mentor coaching and successfully complete evaluations and an exam.

The ICF offers three credentials and one certification:

Learn more about ICF credentials and certifications.

ICF Core Competenties

The credentialing program is based on ICF’s core competencies, a set of eight skills and approaches to coaching:

  • Demonstrates ethical practice
  • Embodies a coaching mindset
  • Establishes and maintains agreements with the client and stakeholders
  • Cultivates trust and safety
  • Maintains presence
  • Listens actively
  • Evokes awareness
  • Facilitates client growth

Is ICF Coaching Certification Worth It?

Coaches seem to be popping up all over these days. But, just because someone is performing coaching services, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trained and qualified.

That’s where ICF credentials come in. They indicate that a coach meets high standards of experience, education, and ethics. ICF represents the gold standard of coaching certification.

ICF credentials can set you apart from the growing crowd in the industry. A recent study revealed that the vast majority of clients want their coach to be certified or credentialed. Holding ICF credentials lets your prospective clients know instantly that you’re professional, trained, and experienced.

Technology for ICF Coaches

ICF coaches are expected to be communication experts. Many coaches use Yoodli, their AI-powered speech coach, to get feedback on their filler words, talk time, eye contact, body language, and much more. If you’re looking to be a coach, you can get started on your communication skills for free at yoodli.ai.

What is the ICF - Yoodli

What Do ICF Coaches Charge?

Coach pricing varies greatly. The biggest difference is probably between executive and nonexecutive coaching, so let’s look at each type separately. And, it’s important to note that coaches (of any kind) who are certified tend to charge higher prices for their services.

Executive Coach Pricing

Even within this category, you’ll find major variations. Some new coaches offer their services for free. Experienced coaches charge up to $6,000 per one-on-one session. On average, executive coaches charge 38.7% more than non-executive coaches for individual sessions.

Group coaching can cost anywhere from $0 to $4,500 per person, with an average session price of $266.63.

Learn more about the pricing of executive coaching.

Nonexecutive Coach Pricing

The cost of nonexecutive coaching varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and coaching type. Nonexecutive coaches, such as life coaches, charge either by the hour or per session. Their rates can range from $75 to $250 per session.

Monthly coaching fees can range from $500 to $1,500. They include incentives such as a set number of monthly coaching sessions and email or phone support between sessions.

Long-term life coaching fees can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month. Often, they include longer sessions and incentives such as a free or discounted initial consultation and a flexible payment plan.

Online life coaching is a more affordable and convenient option, with fees typically ranging from $50 to $100 per session.

Learn more about the pricing of life coaching.

If you want more guidance on pricing your coaching services, check out this article from Harvard Business Review.

The ICF Ecosystem

As we saw earlier, the ICF began as one organization. These days, it’s an ecosystem of six “family organizations.” Let’s take a quick look at each one. This will give you a good idea of what ICF is all about today.

#1: ICF Professional Coaches

ICF Professional Coaches is basically what the ICF, as a whole, used to be. This is the membership organization for coaches who are professional, trained, and practicing. Learn more.

#2: ICF Credentials and Standards

Previously a department in the ICF, ICF Credentials and Standards is now a member organization of the ICF ecosystem. As its name implies, it administers the credentialing of coaches. Learn more.

#3: ICF Coaching Education

Previously a department, ICF Coaching Education is now a full organization in the International Coaching Federation family. It’s similar to ICF Credentials and Standards in that it administers accreditations. But, rather than credentialing coaches, ICF Coaching Education credentials coaching education providers. In other words, if you offer training for coaches, you can get your program accredited by the ICF. Learn more.

#4: ICF Foundation

Similar to the other organizations in the ICF ecosystem, the ICF Foundation isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for more than 15 years. The ICF Foundation is a nonprofit organization that handles the charitable aspect of ICF. Learn more.

#5: ICF Coaching in Organizations

Does your organization have coaching? If so, ICF Coaching in Organizations is for you. This body supports managers who coach, and it provides opportunities for outside coaches looking for clients. Learn more about how your company can become an ICF member organization.

#6: ICF Thought Leadership Institute

The ICF was at the cutting edge of the professional coaching industry when it began in 1995. In the same way, the ICF Thought Leadership Institute helps keep the organization on the frontlines. Inspired by the United Nations Action Plan for People, Planet and Prosperity, the ICF Thought Leadership Institute brings together people from various industries to build a knowledge base for coaches. To this end, the ICF seeks to do more than stay current. It aims to shape the future of the professional coaching industry—and, ultimately, to shape the world through coaching. Learn more.

Global Digital Library

Effective coaching makes the world a better place, right? That’s the idea behind the Global Digital Library, which is part of the ICF Thought Leadership Institute. This open-access library is a collection of knowledge that informs how coaching can continue to impact the world in a powerful and positive way. The Global Digital Library brings together collections of information, organized by themes, that cast a vision for the future—with coaching at the heart of it.

The content comes from experts all around the world, referred to as Wisdom Weavers. They explore themes such as the future of education, the future of work, and the future of planetary ecology.

Anyone can access the content of the Global Digital Library as well as the International Coaching Federation’s blog Coaching World. (And, if you’re looking for coaching resources, keep in mind that Yoodli is a free tool that coaches can use to help their clients shine up their public speaking skills!)

Wrapping Up

If you’re a professional coach or seeking to become one, you’ll want to connect with the International Coaching Federation. Their resources, community, training, and credentialing can serve as your faithful companions on your coaching journey.


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