Making Sense of Credentials for Coaches

By Jonathan Reitz

March 19, 2016

The various terms connected to coach training cause a lot of confusion. Are you a certified coach? Do you have a certificate in coaching? And what’s the big deal about earning a coaching credential?

Credential ReminderWhich one is right for you? It depends on what you want to do with your coaching and what your training looks like. Where you decide to do your coach training also might have an impact.

But first, how about we cover some key terms. Three words get bounced around a lot: certificate, certification, and credentials. They are not inter-changeable, though they do work together in some cases.

A certificate is an official document attesting to something. For example, in coach training, certificates attest that you have finished a particular course. But, certificates make no guarantee that you’ll actually be able to DO any thing or have any specific skills after you’ve earned a certificate. CoachNet gives a certificate to everyone who completes a training course.

A certification goes a step further–referring to the fact that a person has learned to apply learning in the form of skills. Certifications confirm classroom learning with some form of review, education, assessment, or audit. The most meaningful certifications have this review conducted by an outside organization or third party.

Here’s an easy way to keep them straight: Certificates are about accomplishment, and certifications are oriented around skills. In both cases, you get a document to hang on the wall or keep in a wallet at the end.

When a coach earns a credential, they get the right to put initials after their name. In fact, I sometimes use my coaching credential like this when I refer to myself as Jonathan Reitz, PCC. Credentials attest to someone’s knowledge or authority, and usually carry professional status or membership in a professional organization, (like the International Coach Federation). Certification is usually a process that results in credentials, but also often require some mentoring by an experienced practitioner in the field where the credential is held.

The ICF process for coaching credentials is a pretty standard credential process. To earn a coaching credential, you need a combination of: - Training hours (which the ICF calls coach specific training, - Experience in the field as paid or volunteer coach, - Time in a focused mentor coaching relationship with a credentialed coach, and - The passage of an outside examination, which has two parts: a written exam on the ICF’s 11 Core Competencies and an oral exam which consists of the evaluation of recordings of your coaching.

The credential/certificate/certification world can be quite confusing, but the benefits of rigorous standards for evaluating and deploying effective coaches are worth the effort. Credentialed coaches are making a difference in the lives of their clients, and their clients know they can rely on the quality of the coaching they receive!

If you want to earn a credential or just a certificate for some specific training, CoachNet has options for you. You can explore our full credential track called cnStandard (which includes everything you’ll need to earn your associate certified coach credential) or short courses that will sharpen a particular area of your coaching. We can even help you explore what it will mean to launch your own coaching practice. Check out the options here.

Mark your calendar for a web event on Wednesday, March 30th to explore your options! You can register here.

For information about the ICF’s credential process, click here. To renew your ICF credential, visit this page.


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This post appeared originally on   For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching for over 10 years and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

For a daily coaching question from Jonathan Reitz, follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz  Or, you can email him at or by phone at 440.550.4374.

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