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2/19/2024 | Competence

ICF requirements for certified coaches: How can you fulfill them?

From the basics to the different levels of certification. 

ICF Requirements For Certified Coaches

Certification from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is an important mark of quality for a coach. That's why it's worth finding out how you can achieve such certification and what requirements are necessary, e.g. in the form of completed coach training units. In this article, you will find out what requirements ICF places on certified coaches, how you can fulfill them and what the difference is between ACC, PCC and MCC certification.

What is ICF certification?

An ICF certification is proof:

  • that you have acquired the coaching skills that meet the coaching definition and requirements of ICF,
  • that you are willing to continuously develop as a professional coach and
  • that you are committed to following ICF's ethical standards.

Proof of a coaching certificate is becoming increasingly important these days. According to the 2022 Global Consumer Awareness Study, 85% of coaching clients expect their coaches to have a reputable certification. Therefore, an ICF certification is an excellent way to gain visibility and credibility as a coach in the market.

ICF offers coaches the opportunity to pursue three different certifications, depending on the extent of their training and coaching experience:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC): for coaches who have already completed ICF-accredited coaching training and have subsequently gained initial coaching experience with their own clients.
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC): for experienced coaches who already have several years of professional coaching experience and have undergone comprehensive basic training as well as further advanced training according to ICF criteria.
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC): for experienced coaches who have been certified as PCCs for at least some time and have undergone sustained and in-depth advanced training according to ICF criteria to meet the claim of being regarded as masters in their field.

In the following text, we will take a closer look at the first two certification levels (ACC and PCC) in particular, which you can aim for at the beginning of your coaching career or after a few years of coaching experience, and a brief look at the MCC level. You can find more details about ICF certification levels on the ICF website.

Requirements for ICF certifications

The ICF has set requirements for obtaining certification in five different areas:

  • Coaching Education
  • Coaching Experience
  • Mentor Coaching
  • Performance Evaluation and
  • Final Exam

For all three certification levels (ACC, PCC, MCC), requirements in these areas must be fulfilled, although the level of requirements differs between the three levels.

1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC)

With the ACC certificate, you can demonstrate early on in your coaching career that you have basic coaching skills, expertise and practical experience. This level of certification is designed to introduce you to the possibility of demonstrating through a coaching certificate that you provide coaching services that are aligned with the core competencies and coaching definition of the ICF and that you adhere to the ethical standards of the ICF.

The ACC certification can be completed after 60 coach-specific training hours and 100 hours of Coaching Experience with your own clients. Coaching experience may be counted if it was gained after the start of the first accredited coaching training unit, e.g. after Co-Active Fundamentals or ORSC Fundamentals. In addition, you must have received 10 hours of Mentor Coaching and passed an ICF Performance Evaluation and a Credentialing Exam.

ICF Certification Paths

The ACC can be achieved via three different Certification Paths:

1. Level 1 / Level 2 / ACTP Path
2. ACSTH Path
3. Portfolio Path (for non-ICF-accredited training courses)

All three pathways have the same requirements (training, experience, mentor coaching, performance assessment and final exam) and result in the identical ACC certificate. Which path you need to take depends on the nature of your coach-specific training, i.e. whether or how it has been accredited by ICF.

For example, Level 1/2/ACTP Trainings already include all requirements regarding Education, Mentor Coaching and Performance Evaluation. The CTI and CRR Global coaching trainings, for example, are recognized as Level 2 Programs, i.e. after completing the complete Co-Active Training (Coach Training plus Certification as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach/CPCC) or after completing the complete ORSC Program (ORSC Curriculum plus Certification as an ORSC Certified Coach/ORSCC), you can enter the Level 2 Path, have already gained the 100 hours of Coaching Experience in addition to the above-mentioned requirements and only need to pass the ICF Certification Exam to acquire the ACC.

If you have only completed part of a Level 1/2/ACTP Program, you can follow the ACSTH Path, e.g. after the Co-Active Coach Training (Fundamentals to Synergy) or after the ORSC training (ORSC Fundamentals to Systems Integration), and must then independently meet the requirements of Experience, Mentor Coaching and Performance Evaluation in order to take the ICF Certification Exam. All information on acquiring the ACC certificate (including costs) can be found on the ICF website.

2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC)

As an experienced coach who would like to demonstrate your skills and expertise as a full-time coach, you have the opportunity to do so by obtaining the PCC Certificate. This shows that you already have substantial practical experience and are advanced in applying the Core Competencies of the ICF. Compliance with Ethical Standards and regular further training are a matter of course for you at this certification level.

To acquire the PCC certificate, you need 125 hours of coach-specific training and 500 hours of Coaching Experience. Like the ACC, the PCC must also complete 10 hours of Mentor Coaching and an ICF Performance Evaluation, as well as a Credentialing Exam.

The PCC can also be achieved via the three certification paths mentioned above (Level 1/2/ACTP Path, ACSTH Path, Portfolio Path), each of which places identical requirements on the candidate and aims to achieve the same PCC certificate.

Here too, you choose your path depending on the type of coach-specific training you have completed. If you have already completed a complete Level 2 Training Program as a CPCC or ORSCC, you must prove that you have coached a further 400 hours (i.e. 500 hours in total) after the original 100 coaching hours. As a graduate of a section of these programs (i.e. after the Co-Active Coach Training or after the ORSC training), you must again independently meet the requirements regarding Experience, Mentor Coaching and Performance Evaluation in order to take the ICF Certification Exam. Further information on obtaining the PCC certificate (including costs) can be found on the ICF website.

3. Master Certified Coach (MCC)

The MCC certification offers advanced coaches who are already certified as PCCs the opportunity to prove themselves as experts and true masters of their field. The certification process is similar to that described above, but you should have completed at least 200 hours of training and accumulated 2,500 hours of coaching. The requirements here are higher than for Level 2 programs, which is why you must also complete additional training hours as a CPCC or ORSCC or complete a Level 3 Program. Please refer to the ICF website for exact details.


In order to live up to its own claim as the leading international coaching association, ICF expects certified coaches to undergo regular further training and to document that their knowledge of the ICF Core Competencies and ethical standards is still fresh. As an ICF-certified coach, you must renew your certification and recertify every three years. All information about re-certification (including costs) can be found on the ICF website.

If you have already reached the point in your coaching career where it is time to take the next step and aim for the next level of certification, you can do so at any time during your certification period and without prior renewal.

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