AnnaMarie Houlis
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Ever sit there thinking, How do I become a successful career coach? Tons of people want to become career coaches — it's a lucrative job that helps people. But what exactly is a career coach and how do you become successful at it?

What Does a Career Coach Do?

Simply, a career coach is someone who helps both students and professionals alike to set and achieve their own career goals. They guide these individuals by helping them to identify and realize their wants and needs in their professional lives.

"Career coaches use a solution-oriented approach to assist and inform any person who is in need of career advice — in other words, they help people define, redefine and achieve their professional objectives and other work-related goals," according to Neuvoo. "For instance, career coaches can help people figure out what kind of job they’re looking for or help them plan a new career path. They can also give people advice on their current work situation (whether they are freelancers, employees or executives), helping them develop or improve their stress management skills and their leadership and interpersonal skills, including conflict-management skills and self-confidence."

Career coaches who work with organizations (as opposed to independently like many entrepreneurial coaches) may also handle staff training and development, as well as ensuring seamless role transitions and helping out with employment-related issues. They may also offer career services for employers, such as workshops.

For a career coach, a typical day's work might include any of the following responsibilities:

  • Meeting clients to discuss experience and background, as well as goals and aspirations
  • Tracking performance and measuring goals of clients via reports
  • Working with clients to discuss skills, needs and opportunities
  • Helping clients with the job hunting process
  • Helping clients with mock interviews for jobs
  • Helping clients network and build networking skills
  • Helping clients find career opportunities by researching with and for them
  • Reviewing clients' resumes, cover letters and other application materials for jobs
  • Using vocational tests to help clients better understand their own skills and interests
  • Giving clients tips and recommendations on how to keep a job, get a promotion or ask for a raise, among other ways to scale the career ladder
  • Helping clients to work efficiently and profitably
  • Helping clients make business decisions
  • Advising employers and human resource departments on employment-related issues
  • Presenting workshops and speaking at webinars on career goals and satisfaction

Career coach work with clients could span the course of a week, or the work could last up to several years, depending on the clients' needs. That's why a career coach must boast a number of specific skills. They should possess the following, for example:

  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Ability to assess situations, people and their skills
  • Genuine interest in other clients' thoughts, concerns and goals
  • Listening skills
  • Ability to establish rapport with clients
  • Ability to translate ideas into practical goals
  • Decision-making skills
  • Organizational and time-management skills
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution skills
  • Prioritizing skills

On average, a career coach costs between $89 and $150 for a 90-minute session, according to Thumbtack. Given all the responsibilities a career coach has and how much they cost, if you're wondering, how much money does a career coach make?, the answer is that it varies. It varies on whether the career coach works independently or for a company — and what exactly they're doing for clients. That said,  a career coach earns an average salary of $43,438 per year, according to Payscale. 

How Do You Become a Certified Coach?

You don't need to be certified to be a career coach. In fact, many career coaches just hold bachelor's degrees, though some have earned voluntary certificates in the field.

"Employers typically prefer that applicants have at least a bachelor's degree, possibly in a field such as business or counseling," according to Study.com. "Work experience in a related field may also be desirable. Proficient communication skills — both verbal and written — are necessary. The ability to handle a variety of tasks, prioritize and problem solve are also important. Potential career coaches must have spreadsheet and database management skills. Aspiring career coaches can also choose to undertake more targeted training through a college or university program in career or life coaching; the latter addresses both personal and professional development. Some of the courses may cover assessments and consultations, goal-setting and time management. Programs often culminate in a certificate. Completion may lead to eligibility for certification by the Center for Credentialing and Education or International Coach Federation (ICF)."

The title "career coach" is unregulated and has no standardized qualification, according to Neuvoo. That said, many career coaches enroll in an ICF-approved or -accredited coach training program, completing at least 60 hours of coach-specific training, to earn credibility. To become an ICF member, career coaches must complete a number of coaching hours under the supervision of an experienced coach, as well as demonstrate mastery of ICF standards, Code of Ethics and Core Competencies.

If you're wondering, how much does it cost for a career coach to get certified? The answer is that it varies by school. Here are four popular career coach certification programs.

1. New York University

"The innovative coaching offerings are designed to help you to become a personal or career coach, to enhance your own coaching enterprise, or to increase your leadership and management value within an organization through the use of coaching theories and skills," according to the site. "Learn to facilitate an individual’s development and potential, to apply coaching skills and techniques to significantly enhance an organization’s workforce performance, and to develop a personal coaching practice."

You can request information on hours and costs on the site.

2. Georgetown University

"Georgetown’s Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching examines the links between coaching and organization development, with an emphasis on coaching skill development," according to the site. "As a student, you‘ll learn about the role of self as a coach and instrument of change, study coaching within systems dynamics, and understand how to create productive and fulfilling relationships in the coaching role. You’ll have the opportunity to connect with other senior-level professionals while learning through a combination of interactive classroom instruction, reading, self-reflection, and hands-on practice in individual and group & team coaching. Upon completing the program, you’ll be prepared for the Professional Certified Coach level of proficiency as established by the International Coach Federation."

The program includes eight courses over eight months for a tuition cost of $13,995.

3. Life Purpose Institute

"Start your own Life Coach business immediately after completing your Certification Program; the program will provide you with a complete roadmap for becoming a highly effective and successful coach," according to the site. "

The Certification Programs have the same content and comprise 60 hours of training. However, there are different formats you can choose from to best meet your schedule and learn how to be a leadership coach at a pace with which you're comfortable:

  • Online Five-Day Intensive Life Coach Classes, with four follow-up online classes
  • In-Person Five-Day Intensive Life Coach Training, with four follow-up online classes
  • Online Three-Month Certification Program, with two-hour sessions twice per week
  • Online Six-Month Certification Program, with two-hour sessions once per week

Tuition costs $2,500 or $3,600 depending on whether you live in or outside the state.

4. The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches — CPCC Program

"The CPCC program trains and coaches you, and provides the tools and career coaching processes and competencies to guide you in building a strong career coaching practice, to propel your clients to meet their career objectives and seize new opportunities," according to the site. "The Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC) is the first and longest-standing career industry association with thousands of members (globally) since 1990, and thousands of certified resume writers, interview professionals and career coaches."

The CPCC Certification training and testing fee of $1,195 (U.S.) includes a 600-page training manual, six hours of video training, sample forms and documents a personal telephone coaching/Q&A session with Diane Hudson, testing, CPCC Certificate upon completion, use of the CPCC logo on your website and/or other promotional literature and membership in the CPCC LinkedIn group.


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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.