Article This article explains the differences between ACTP, ACSTH and CCE categorizations. 1 2013 Life coaching Life coach training and certification life coaching Lifecoachhub Pty Ltd LifeCoachHub

Life Coach Training Programs and the ICF: ACSTH,ACTP, CCE, Making Sense of it All


Whether you are trying to get in shape or learn a new trade, you need to make sure that you are willing to train hard.If you are interested in becoming a certified life coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF), or offering training to life coaches to help them become certified, this article explains the different forms of training recognized by the ICF. Life coach training recognized by the ICF can be classified into three different categories: Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP), Approved Coach Specific Training hours (ACSTH), and Continuing Coach Education (CCE).This article explains the differences between the categorizations.

Getting certified with the International Coach Federation (ICF)

In the world of coaching there are many different courses and life coach training opportunities. There are many opportunities to learn and develop better coaching strategies and skills.  Some of these opportunities will help a coach toward becoming a certified life coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) if that is their goal. This article outlines the types of coach training programs that count in one way or another toward gaining or maintaining an ICF life coach certification.

The ICF itself does not provide training—it is merely an independent body that conducts its own certification process. Although other life coach certifications exist, the ICF is that which is most common currently. In order to qualify for ICF certification, an aspiring life coach must complete some training that has been granted one of three designations awarded by the ICF. The life coach training programs themselves must go through an application process in order to be awarded these designations. This article outlines the differences between these types of life coach training.


Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP): One route to certification

Life coach training bodies can apply for various types of accreditation from the International Coach Federation (ICF), allowing them to provide training that will help life coaches aspiring toward earning an ICF certification.

One of the programs a life coach training body may offer is called the Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP). An Accredited Coach Training Program must meet certain specifications and requirements in order to be recognized by the ICF.  This is important because when a coach is trying to certify as an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) or a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), they must complete an ACTP as part of the application process, unless they choose to use the portfolio method instead.

The Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) requirements are that it must provide the following learning environment to its life coaching students:

  • At least 125 hours of coach specific training must be completed in the program.
  • Training must include all ICF Core competencies and classes on the ICF Code of Ethics.
  • Applicant must observe at least six experienced coaching sessions.
  • A final test is administered that determines the coaching abilities of the applicant.

In the ACTP application method, a life coach wanting certification will complete the entire ACTP program, and also needs to have proof of coaching experience and two letters of recommendation from qualified coaches. For ACC certification, 100 hours of coaching experience need to be documented, and for PCC certification, this number is 750 hours. Read more about the requirements for ICF certification.

Approved Coach Specific Training hours (ACSTH): Another route to certification

Another type of accreditation that life coach training bodies may apply for from the ICF is that of Approved Coach Specific Training hours (ACSTH). This accreditation also allows these life coach trainers to provide training that can be used by a coach when applying for certification.
The Approved Coach Specific Training hours are life coach training classes that can be used to meet the coach’s requirements when applying for a life coach certification. ACSTH classes are used with the portfolio method.

The Approved Coach Specific Training hours requirements are:

  • The applicant must complete at least 30 hours of coach specific training in the program.
  • The training classes must include some classes on ICF Core Competencies and the ICF Code of Ethics.
  • There is an exam as a part of the portfolio application.

In the portfolio method, a life coach wanting certification will take 60 hours of Approved Coach Specific Training hours for an Associate Coach Certification or 125 hours of ACSTH training for a Professional Coach Certification, as part of their application which also includes coaching experience hours, ten hours of work with a mentor coach, two letters of reference from qualified coaches, and an oral exam. For the ACC designation, 100 coaching hours need to be documented, and for the PCC designation, 750 coaching hours. Read more about the requirements for ICF certification.

Continuing Coach Education (CCE): Recertification, an ongoing process of study

As in most professions that have a certification process, life coaches must be recertified by meeting ongoing requirements of further coach training study. Continuing education credits are a part of the recertification process for life coaches.  Certified life coaches must earn forty continuing coaching education units every three years in order to qualify for recertification with the ICF.

In order for an organization to offer training that meets the Continuing Coach Education (CCE) requirements they must first apply and get the courses or seminar approved through the ICF. This coach training may come in the form of seminars, teleconferences, or structured classes.

The CCE requirements are:

  • Must provide skills that are directly related to the ICF Core Competencies, provide and develop the skills and tools that will help a coach become more competent.
  • Coach training must be a minimum of 60 minutes with an instructor (cannot include independent study time.) Sixty minutes of instruction are equivalent to 1 CCEU (Continuing Coaching Education Unit).
  • Instruction must fit into the following categories:
  1. ICF Core Competencies: Courses on the skills and ethics that help develop the coach.
  2. Personal Development: Courses that help the coach become a better person.
  3. Business Development: Helping the coach develop skills to build their business such as advertising, technology and organization skills.
  4. Other Skills and Tools: Tools such as personality assessments that can help the coach do a better job, but are not necessarily a coaching skill.
  • The coach must acquire 40 CCEU’s over the course of three years to recertify with the ICF.  At least 24 of the CCEU’s must be in the ICF Core Competencies category.  The remaining 16 can be from the other three categories.

Opportunities for training programs and aspiring life coaches

As a training organization wanting to provide life coach training options that can be accredited by the ICF, or as a life coach who wants to earn their ICF life coaching certification, there are a number of avenues that can be taken.

The ACTP and ACSTH are good options for those training organizations wanting to help life coaches earn their certification or become life coaches.

The CCE types of training open the door for trainers to offer a variety of short courses that will allow coaches to continue expanding their skill set in multiple areas in order to continue to qualify for their ICF life coaching certification.

Photo Credit : Sebastian Fritzon


Contact me




  • ~ sR
    November 05, 2014

    Thank you Janilyn! I am really pleased to have this clarified so well. I am a client who needed a life coach due to my decision to make a big career change. I knew i want to help people SOMEhow & so many ways. I thought about coaching people but honestly didn't realize there was this field. I sought an astrologer because i am passionate about astrology & just wanted some thoughts about how to combine my love of astrology with helping others find the peace in life i enjoy everyday. She recommended a life coach she knows & now as a client of that coach i realized it is the path i am destined to take. Thank you again for helping my initial research stay clear & forward directional. ~ sarah

Join our coaching community

Life Coach Hub will propel your coaching business to the next level.

  • Create your own coach profile in the directory.
  • Gain new clients and establish yourself as an expert in your niche
  • Automate and organize your coaching with our online coaching software.
Find out More

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis, recommended treatments, or professional advice. Readers should consult with a licensed professional to get advice for their individual situation. See the Disclaimer and Terms of Use for more information. Copyright Life Coach Hub Ltd 2016. A community of life coaches dedicated to improving your life.
We Noticed You're Blocking Ads
We rely on advertisers to help support our free coaching advice.
Please whitelist us.