ICF Credentials and Certification Programs: Understanding the Paths for ACC, PCC, MCC

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ICF Credentials and Certification Programs: Understanding the Paths for ACC, PCC, MCC

How to become a certified coach? Understanding ICF Credential Requirements and Updated Application Paths

By Lucia Baldelli

How to become a certified coach? If you are an aspiring coach embarking on the journey of ICF certification programs, you might find it confusing to figure out the differences between the different credentials and the requirements for each certification. I vividly recall my own experience when I decided to pursue the ICF certification path. Navigating through the various credentials and understanding the prerequisites was a challenge, even more so now that ICF has introduced new certification paths, making it harder to differentiate between the old and the new. In this article, I aim to unpack the requirements and highlight the differences between the different levels of ICF credentials and paths, to help you decide which is most suitable for you and how to choose the right program. Whether you are taking your first steps towards an ACC, PCC or MCC credential, this guide was made to support you in making informed choices in your professional journey. Let’s demystify the process together, so that you can move forward with clarity and confidence.

What is an ICF Credential?

In the coaching world, the International Coach Federation (ICF) is known as the top authority, representing the highest standard in our profession. However, the process to get ICF accreditation can be quite complex for many coaches. 

Many of our students are confused between the terms, acronyms, and a variety of detailed requirements and pathways. To make it easier, let’s first explain the basic terms: credentials, requirements, and paths.

Let’s start from the basics: what is an ICF Credential? According to ICF itself:

An ICF Credential is a professional certification indicating that you have met specific standards and requirements designed to develop and refine your coaching skills“.

Holding an ICF credential is paramount to increasing your credibility as a coach. 

ICF distinguishes three credentials, each with specific coach training and experience requirements:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Completed 60 hours of coach-specific education and 100 hours of client coaching experience
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – Completed 125 hours of coach-specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Hold or have held a PCC Credential, completed 200 hours of coach-specific education and 2,500 hours of client coaching experience.

What are the requirements to earn an ICF credential?

To apply for any of the ICF credentials, a coach must complete:

  • 10 hours of mentor coaching (7 group and 3 individual);
  • The requisite amount of relevant coaching experience;
  • The payment of a fee;
  • Passing an online test, the new ICF credentialing exam, which assesses knowledge on the ICF Core Competencies, the ICF Code of Ethics, and the ICF Definition of Coaching.

There are different application paths to these ICF credentials and understanding them is essential. They are the blueprints we follow to achieve our professional aspirations. These paths are in transition, as ICF moves towards new structures designed to better accommodate our evolving field. 

It’s important to know the options available to prepare thoroughly and get maximum benefit from training. Let us explore these paths in detail in the following paragraphs. You are also invited to join our next free session on ICF credentials and ask your questions to our ICF credentialed coaches!

Are you ready to apply and need some guidance to prepare for the exam? Our short course ‘Get Ready for the ICF Credentialing Exam’ is designed for you! You will learn everything you need to know pass the new online test: requirements, resources, tips & tricks and more. You will also try our mock test and get ready to go!

  • Start Date: 16/09
  • End Date: 16/09

Updated ICF Credential Application Paths

The ICF has recently updated its framework for credential application paths, making things clearer and more straightforward for coaches. This change means we no longer have to choose between the old paths, which were:

  • Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) Path
  • Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) Path
  • Portfolio Path

In August 2022, the new credential application paths – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 – went live, replacing the old paths – ACSTH and ACTP. Accredited organizations were called upon to submit for these new pathways to adapt their offerings accordingly. 

The new paths are more intuitive, offering a clearer progression through the levels of coaching expertise. They are as follows:

  • Level 1 (formerly ACSTH): This path requires 60+ training hours and 10 hours of Mentor Coaching by an eligible Mentor Coach. Level 1 organisations are tasked with evaluating performance at the ACC level.
  • Level 2 (formerly ACTP): With this path, one must complete 125+ training hours and 10 hours of Mentor Coaching by an eligible Mentor Coach. Level 2 organisations assess performance up to the PCC level.
  • Level 3: This advanced path demands 75+ advanced contact learning hours and 10 hours of Mentor Coaching by an MCC Mentor Coach. Level 3 is designated as the pathway leading to the MCC Credential.

These updates mark a significant milestone in our collective journey as coaches, ensuring that the path to credentialing is not only well-defined but also mirrors the depth and sophistication of coaching practice today. More information on these updated paths can be found on the ICF website, providing us with essential guidance as we progress towards our coaching aspirations.

Are you unclear about the difference between different credentials or paths and need guidance? You are invited to join our next free session and ask your questions to our ICF credentialed coaches!

  • Start Date: 08/07
  • End Date: 08/07

ICF ACC Credential (Associate Certified Coach)

The Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential is the first step in ICF certification. It shows that you understand the ICF’s Code of Ethics and can use the ICF’s core skills to help clients reach their goals.

As the initial level of certification, it shows your commitment to the coaching profession and your effort to develop your coaching skills to meet global standards: it is suitable for life coaches, business coaches, facilitators, leadership coaches, managers and anyone who works on other people’s development.

For those seeking to attain this credential, the ACC paths are clear-cut and designed to accommodate various learning styles and professional backgrounds.

The ACC paths include:

  • Level 1 Path: For those who have completed foundational coach training.
  • Level 2 Path: A step up for those seeking a deeper dive into coaching practice.
  • Portfolio Path: An option for seasoned practitioners with diverse learning experiences. 

Each path offers a structured journey toward achieving the ACC credential, ensuring that every coach has access to a route that aligns with their unique professional narrative and aspirations.

ACC Requirements and Eligibility

Here are the essential requirements for becoming an Associate Certified Coach (ACC):

  • A minimum of 60 hours of coach-specific education through a Level 1 or Level 2 program or an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) that includes a comprehensive final assessment.
  • Alternatively, these hours may be accrued through partial completion of an ACTP or by completing Accredited Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) program(s).
  • Another viable route is accumulating 60 hours of coach-specific education that may include Continuing Coach Education (CCE) program(s) or training from non-ICF accredited program(s), ensuring that the content aligns with ICF core competencies.
  • A practice requirement of over 100 hours coaching clients, with at least 8 different clients. Of these, a minimum of 75 hours must be paid coaching sessions. Importantly, at least 25 of these hours, whether paid or unpaid, must be completed within the 18 months preceding your credential application.

For those who have not completed a Level 1, Level 2, or ACTP program, additional prerequisites apply:

  • Engaging in at least 10 hours of mentor coaching with a PCC or MCC credentialed coach. This mentorship should span over a period of at least three months, with a minimum of three hours being one-on-one coaching sessions.
  • Submission of an ACC level coaching session recording ranging from 20 minutes to one hour in length, accompanied by a transcript for review.

You are invited to join our FREE ‘Coaching Dojo’ to practice in a safe space and get feedback on your skills by our ICF certified mentor coaches.

Associate Certified Coach (ACC) Paths

The path to achieving an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) designation is not a one-size-fits-all journey. Rather, it’s a multifaceted route that accommodates various levels of education and experience. Let’s explore the different pathways that are specifically tailored for ACC aspirants.

  • Level 1 or Level 2 Path: Previously known as the Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP), this comprehensive route is ideal for coaches who have completed an entire ICF-accredited program. It includes training, mentor coaching, and a final assessment to ensure competency. The Level 1 path is for ACC, while Level 2 can be for ACC or PCC.
  • Partial Level 1 or Level 2 Pathway: Suitable for those who have started their coaching education but haven’t completed a full ACTP. Formerly recognized as Accredited Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH), this path is perfect for coaches who have gathered training hours through various ICF-accredited programs but haven’t gone through the entire ACTP curriculum.
  • Portfolio Path: This alternative is for experienced coaches who may have acquired their education and experience outside of ICF-accredited programs. It involves demonstrating coaching competency through a detailed portfolio submission, including recorded coaching sessions and other documents that reflect adherence to ICF standards.

Each of these paths is designed with flexibility in mind, allowing coaches at different stages of their professional development to find a route that best aligns with their educational background and coaching experience. It’s about providing options that honor where each coach is on their journey while upholding the rigorous standards set by the ICF.

Level 1 / Level 2 / ACTP Path

The Level 1, Level 2, or ACTP path represents the most streamlined and direct approach to obtaining your ICF credentials. This pathway is particularly suitable for those who prefer a structured and comprehensive program that leads them through every step of the credentialing process.

Here’s what it entails:

  • Completion of an ICF-accredited Level 1 or Level 2 program, or a full ACTP, which includes a final assessment to validate your coaching competency.
  • The accredited organisation where you completed your training will manage much of the application process, including the evaluation of your coaching recordings.
  • The time frame for these programs can vary, but I often recommend those that span 4 to 6 months, as they provide ample opportunity for practice and skill refinement.

When to choose this path:

  • You value a structured approach with guidance and oversight from an accredited institution.
  • You are looking for a clear and direct route to credentialing with minimal administrative burden on your part.
  • You prefer a program that offers a balance between education duration and practical experience.

Required documentation typically includes:

  • Proof of completion of the respective Level 1 or Level 2 program or ACTP.
  • Recorded coaching sessions as required by the program for final assessment.
  • Any additional documents specified by the training organisation.

Regarding costs, prices for these programs can vary significantly. Some may offer different rates for ICF members versus non-members. It’s essential to factor in not just the financial investment but also the value you receive in terms of quality training and support throughout the certification process.


The ACSTH path, which stands for Approved Coach Specific Training Hours, was once a popular route for coaches seeking ICF credentials. It is recognized as a more flexible option that allows aspiring coaches to accumulate training hours across different programs and institutions. However, it’s important to note that while ICF will continue to accept ACSTH certificates issued before June 28, 2023, the official designation has been retired as of that date.

Key aspects of the ACSTH path include:

  • Accumulation of coach-specific training hours from various ICF-approved providers.
  • Flexibility to tailor your education according to your specific interests and needs within coaching.

When considering the ACSTH path, keep in mind:

  • It may be more costly due to the piecemeal nature of accruing hours.
  • The path can be more complex, requiring you to manage your own educational journey across different programs.

Requirements for this path generally consist of:

  • Completion of a certain number of coach-specific training hours from approved providers.
  • Submission of recorded coaching sessions for evaluation.
  • Mentor coaching hours as stipulated by the ICF.

Required documentation typically includes:

  • Certificates proving completion of coach-specific training hours.
  • Logs of completed coaching hours and mentor coaching sessions.

For those who embarked on this path before its retirement, you may find the process more involved compared to the Level 1/Level 2 or ACTP paths. However, it also offers a degree of customization that many coaches found appealing. As with any significant professional development investment, it’s advisable to weigh the costs—both financial and in terms of time—against the potential benefits and opportunities that come with holding an ICF credential.

Portfolio Path

The Portfolio Path remains a steadfast avenue for coaches who seek ICF credentials but may not have had access to formal ICF-accredited coach training programs. It is often considered the most challenging and intricate path, as it requires a substantial commitment to both self-directed learning and the gathering of comprehensive documentation.

Here are the essential components of the Portfolio Path:

  • A robust compilation of various coach-specific training hours, which may not necessarily be ICF-accredited.
  • A demonstration of coaching competency through recorded sessions and detailed self-reflection.
  • Submission of a comprehensive portfolio that showcases your coaching journey and proficiency.

Choosing the Portfolio Path is often best suited for:

  • Experienced coaches who have accumulated diverse training and experiences outside of ICF-accredited programs.
  • Individuals who prefer to design their own learning path or have unique educational backgrounds in coaching.

The requirements for this path typically include:

  • Completion of a minimum number of coach-specific training hours.
  • A log of client coaching hours meeting ICF standards.
  • Recorded coaching sessions for evaluation.
  • Mentor coaching hours as required by ICF standards.

Documentation required for the Portfolio Path generally encompasses:

  • Evidence of completed coach-specific training.
  • Logs verifying client coaching hours and mentor sessions.
  • Recordings of coaching sessions that demonstrate your coaching competencies.

Regarding costs, the Portfolio Path is recognized as the most expensive due to its extensive requirements and potential need for additional resources to meet ICF criteria. The evaluation time can also be longer given the detailed review needed for your submitted portfolio. For both members and non-members, it’s prudent to consider these factors when deciding if this path aligns with your professional development goals and available resources.

Are you unsure about whether you reach the bar of the ICF certification you chose or simply looking for insights to elevate your coaching? Going through your own recorded coaching session with an ICF Master Certified Coach is the most impactful next step you can take! You get valuable feedback and tips you can immediately incorporate in your coaching. Let’s partner on one of your recordings to celebrate your strengths and explore what you need to grow.

ICF PCC Credential (Professional Certified Coach)

The Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential is the intermediate certification offered by the ICF, representing a significant milestone in a coach’s professional development. This credential is tailored for practitioners who have amassed a deeper level of coaching experience and education, indicative of their commitment to excellence in coaching.

The PCC credential is more suitable for life coaches, business coaches, leadership coaches, team coaches and facilitators.

The paths to achieving PCC status are designed to accommodate various coaching backgrounds and experiences. They include:

  • The Level 2/ACTP Path, which is built on comprehensive training programs accredited by the ICF.
  • The ACSTH Path, suitable for those who have completed specific coach training hours approved by the ICF.
  • The Portfolio Path, an option for coaches who have accrued diverse coaching experiences and education outside formal ICF-accredited programs.

Each of these paths provides a structured approach to obtaining the PCC credential, ensuring that coaches are thoroughly prepared to serve their clients with a higher level of expertise and professionalism.

PCC Requirements and Eligibility

To earn the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential, you must meet several strict requirements that show your deep understanding and experience in coaching. The main requirements for PCC eligibility are:

  • Completion of a Level 2 training program, previously known as the Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP), which encompasses a minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training.
  • A blend of Partial Level 1 and Level 2 education, formerly referred to as Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH), ensuring a comprehensive foundation in coaching skills.
  • The Portfolio Path, which allows coaches to leverage diverse coaching education and experiences, potentially gained outside the structure of formal ICF-accredited programs.

In addition to these educational pathways, candidates must also demonstrate:

  • A minimum of 500 hours of client coaching experience, with at least 450 hours being paid coaching sessions.
  • Completion of 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months.
  • Successful performance evaluation through two audio recordings and written transcripts of coaching sessions.
  • Passing the ICF Credentialing Examination, which assesses one’s understanding and application of the ICF Core Competencies and adherence to the ICF Code of Ethics.

Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Paths

To understand the requirements for the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential, it’s crucial to know that they are based on your structured coach-specific education and practical coaching experience. The PCC is meant for coaches who have shown advanced skills in coaching. There are several ways to achieve this credential:

  • Firstly, completion of a Level 2 or full Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) is one path. This includes a comprehensive final assessment that evaluates a coach’s competency.
  • Alternatively, one can accumulate 125+ hours of coach-specific education through a combination of Level 1 programs, partial ACTP programs, or through Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) programs.
  • For coaches who have gained their experience outside the confines of ICF accreditation, there is the option to compile 125+ hours of coach-specific education. This can include continuing coach education (CCE) programs or training from non-ICF accredited sources.

In terms of practical coaching experience:

  • Coaches must have completed 500+ hours of coaching with at least 25 clients. Out of these, 450 hours must be paid coaching sessions. Moreover, at least 50 of these hours, whether paid or unpaid, need to have been conducted within the 18 months preceding the submission of their credential application.

For those who have not completed a Level 2 or ACTP program, additional requirements include:

  • Engaging in at least 10 hours with a PCC or MCC credentialed mentor coach spread over a minimum period of three months. Of these mentoring hours, three must be one-on-one sessions.
  • Submission of two recorded coaching sessions along with their written transcripts for evaluation.

Level 2 / ACTP Path

The Level 2 or Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) path is a comprehensive route for coaches aiming for the PCC credential. This path is designed for those who seek an all-encompassing training program that meets ICF’s stringent educational and practical requirements.

Here’s how it works and what it entails:

  • Completion of an ICF-accredited Level 2 training program, which includes both advanced coach training and mentor coaching components.
  • A minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training, ensuring a deep dive into advanced coaching methodologies and techniques.
  • Successful completion of a performance evaluation that demonstrates the coach’s understanding and application of ICF Core Competencies.

Coaches should choose the Level 2/ACTP path if they are looking for a structured, in-depth program that will guide them through every aspect of becoming a proficient coach at the PCC level. This path is particularly suitable for those who appreciate having clear guidance and assessments along their educational journey.

As for the required documentation, coaches will need to provide:

  • A certificate of completion from an ICF-accredited Level 2 or ACTP program.
  • Proof of having completed the required amount of coach-specific training hours.
  • Evidence of mentor coaching sessions.
  • Recordings and transcripts of coaching sessions for performance evaluation.

While this path is more expensive compared to others, it offers a rigorous and thorough preparation for the PCC credential. It’s worth noting that while ICF will continue to recognize ACTP and ACSTH certificates issued before June 28, 2023, these designations have been officially retired after this date.

Consequently, accredited training providers no longer issue certificates with the ACTP or ACSTH designations. Coaches considering this path should be aware of these changes and plan accordingly. Prices for members and non-members, as well as evaluation times, may vary and should be verified with individual training providers.

Level 1/ ACSTH Path

The Level 1 path, which aligns with what was formerly known as the Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) program, represents a foundational step for those pursuing a PCC credential. This path offers flexibility and allows coaches to accumulate training hours through various ICF-approved courses that resonate with their specific coaching style and interests.

Here are the essential elements and requirements:

  • Accumulation of at least 125 coach-specific training hours from various ICF-approved Level 1 courses.
  • Engagement in mentor coaching for a minimum of 10 hours over a three-month period or longer.
  • Demonstrating coaching proficiency through recorded coaching sessions.

Choosing the Level 1/ACSTH path is ideal for coaches who prefer to tailor their education by selecting from a diverse range of courses that fit their unique coaching approach. It’s also well-suited for those who may have started their training before fully committing to an ACTP and wish to continue building upon their existing hours.

When it comes to documentation, coaches must provide:

  • Certificates from each ICF-approved Level 1 course completed.
  • Verification of completed mentor coaching hours.
  • Coaching session recordings as required for performance evaluation.

While this path offers great customisation, it is important to note that it can be the most expensive and complex way to achieve your PCC credential, similar to the Portfolio Path. The costs associated with this path can vary significantly depending on the chosen courses and whether you’re an ICF member or not. Evaluation times for this path can also differ, so it’s recommended to consult with your chosen training providers for precise details. Coaches pursuing this path should be prepared for a potentially higher investment in both time and resources to ensure they meet all necessary criteria.

Portfolio Path

The Portfolio Path stands as a testament to the commitment and perseverance of coaches who choose to compile their diverse learning experiences into a coherent portfolio. This path is particularly suited for those who have amassed their coaching education from a variety of non-ICF accredited sources or have a blend of formal and informal coaching training.

Let’s delve into the specifics:

  • A minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training that meets ICF’s standards.
  • At least 500 hours of coaching experience with clients following the start of your coach-specific training.
  • Completion of 10 hours of mentor coaching, following ICF guidelines.
  • Submission of two audio recordings and written transcripts of coaching sessions for performance evaluation.

Coaches should opt for the Portfolio Path if they have significant coaching experience and education from various programs not specifically accredited by ICF. It is also a path for those who value integrating a broad spectrum of knowledge and methodologies into their practice.

Required documentation includes:

  • Detailed records of all coach-specific training completed.
  • Log of client coaching hours with appropriate verification.
  • Proof of mentor coaching hours.
  • Audio recordings and transcripts of coaching sessions.

The Portfolio Path, along with Partial Level 1 or Level 2 paths, demands a higher level of scrutiny from the ICF due to the absence of a singular, comprehensive training program. This rigor ensures that the high standards expected by ICF are met, even when the educational journey has been more eclectic.

While this path offers a degree of flexibility, it comes with its own set of challenges. It can be more costly and time-consuming, with fees varying for ICF members and non-members alike.

Evaluation times may also be longer due to the detailed review process. Many coaches reflect on their choice of the Portfolio Path over a full Level 2 path with mixed feelings, often citing the additional administrative hurdles and the intensity of effort required. It is a path less traveled but can lead to great professional fulfillment for those who are well-prepared to navigate its demands.

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ICF MCC Credential (Master Certified Coach)

The ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential is the highest level of achievement in the coaching profession, symbolizing the greatest expertise and commitment. It’s for advanced coaches who have deeply committed to their craft, showing expertise and mastery that few achieve.

The MCC path is suitable for experienced coaches who have already proven their skills at the PCC level and want to further improve and elevate their coaching practice. It’s ideal for those who have refined their coaching abilities and aim to make a significant impact in the profession, like mentoring other coaches or contributing to the field through thought leadership.

The paths to achieving an MCC credential are as follows:

  • Completion of 200 hours of advanced coach-specific training beyond the PCC level.
  • Accumulation of 2,500 hours of client coaching experience, with at least 35 clients.
  • Current or past possession of a PCC Credential.
  • Undertaking an additional 10 hours of mentor coaching.
  • Successful completion of the MCC performance evaluation, which includes an audio recording and written transcript of a coaching session.

The MCC journey is not merely about accumulating hours or fulfilling requirements; it is a transformative process that shapes one into a coach of the highest caliber, recognized globally for their expertise and leadership in the field.

MCC Requirements and Eligibility

To be eligible for the MCC, here’s what you need:

  • Hold an active Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential, evidencing prior accomplishment and recognition in the coaching field.
  • Engage in a Level 3 program, which is an advanced coach training program that aligns with ICF standards and goes beyond the foundational and intermediate levels of coaching education.
  • Accumulate over 200 hours of coach-specific education. This can include a variety of advanced training courses that focus on enhancing coaching skills, deepening understanding of coaching methodologies, and exploring new dimensions of coaching practice.

Each educational experience contributes to a coach’s development, offering insights and techniques that will be reflected in their coaching sessions. Achieving an MCC is not just about meeting these requirements; it’s about embodying the spirit of continuous learning and growth that defines the very best in our profession.

Master Certified Coach (MCC) Paths

To reach the Master Certified Coach (MCC) level, it’s important to know the different paths that lead to this top coaching achievement. These paths acknowledge the extensive experience and learning of a coach. To start this journey, you must choose from the following options:

  • Completion of a Level 3 or full Advanced Coach Training Program (ACTP) recognized by ICF, which provides comprehensive training and education aligned with the highest ICF standards.
  • Alternatively, a minimum of 200 hours of coach-specific education is required for those who have not completed a Level 3 program but have engaged in various advanced training opportunities.

In addition to these educational foundations, practical coaching experience is paramount:

  • Over 2,500 hours of coaching, with at least 35 clients. A significant portion of this experience, specifically 2,250 hours, must be remunerated, reflecting the professional nature of the services provided.

For those on the path that does not include a Level 3 program, further requirements are in place:

  • Engage in at least 10 hours of mentor coaching with an MCC credentialed coach. This mentorship must span at least three months and include a minimum of three hours one-on-one. Importantly, these mentor hours are distinct and cannot overlap with any mentor hours used for previous credentials.
  • Submission of two recorded coaching sessions accompanied by transcripts is also essential to demonstrate the candidate’s coaching competency.

These paths are thoughtfully crafted to ensure that MCC candidates have not only received rigorous education but have also applied their skills extensively and effectively in their coaching practice. The journey to MCC is one marked by dedication to craft and an unwavering commitment to excellence in coaching.

Level 3 Path

The introduction of Level 3 as a distinct path to the Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential is a testament to the evolution and refinement of coaching standards. This advanced program is exclusively available to those who have already attained the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) level, marking it as a progressive step in a coach’s professional development. Here is how the Level 3 path unfolds:

  • A specialised program consisting of 75 hours of advanced training, Level 3 is designed to deepen a PCC-level coach’s expertise and prepare them for the elite MCC status.
  • The curriculum of this program is tailored to enhance mastery in coaching and expand upon the core competencies established at previous levels.

When considering whether the Level 3 path is the right choice for you, it’s important to evaluate:

  • Your commitment to achieving the highest standard of coaching proficiency.
  • Your readiness to engage in an intensive learning process that builds upon your existing PCC foundation.

The documentation required for this path includes evidence of completed training hours and a record of your coaching experience. Additionally, prospective candidates should be prepared to submit:

  • Proof of current PCC credential status.
  • Verification of completion of the 75-hour Level 3 program.

For those considering this path, it’s also valuable to note:

  • The investment required for this program varies for ICF members and non-members, reflecting the value placed on continued professional growth within the ICF community.
  • The evaluation time for this path is meticulously structured to ensure a thorough assessment of each candidate’s qualifications.

Choosing the Level 3 path signifies a commitment to excellence and a desire to stand at the forefront of the coaching profession. It’s an investment in one’s future as a coach, signifying not just an accumulation of hours, but a dedication to the craft that distinguishes MCCs as leaders in our field.

Portfolio Path

The Portfolio Path offers a flexible route to ICF credentials for those who have pursued their coaching education through various avenues, including non-accredited programs. This path is particularly suited for coaches who have amassed a wealth of knowledge through different educational experiences and are now seeking formal recognition from the ICF. Here’s what the Portfolio Path entails:

  • Coaches can apply using a Level 2 credential with over 200 hours of coach-specific education, or they can compile hours from one or more non-accredited programs.
  • This path requires a demonstration of a broad and comprehensive understanding of coaching principles, acquired from multiple sources.

When is the Portfolio Path your best option?

  • If you have a diverse educational background in coaching that doesn’t fit neatly into a single accredited program.
  • When you’re seeking to leverage a wide range of learning experiences to fulfil the ICF’s credentialing requirements.

The documentation necessary for this path includes:

  • Detailed records of all coach-specific education hours.
  • Proof of completion for each educational program, accredited or otherwise.

Valuable information for candidates considering the Portfolio Path includes:

  • The cost of application varies for ICF members and non-members, with members enjoying preferential rates.
  • The evaluation time for this path is designed to comprehensively assess the diverse educational experiences of each applicant.

The Portfolio Path acknowledges that learning and growth often occur outside conventional structures. It’s a pathway that honours the eclectic educational journeys we coaches undertake, offering a way to bring together our collective experiences under the esteemed umbrella of an ICF credential.


As we conclude our overview of ICF credential paths, it’s clear that each route offers unique benefits and factors to consider. Choosing a path is more than just a decision; it’s a strategic move to align your coaching career with your professional goals and educational background.

The ACC, PCC, and MCC paths each serve different stages of a coach’s development, from the foundational level to the pinnacle of coaching mastery:

  • The Level 1 / Level 2 / ACTP Path is ideal for those who prefer a structured learning environment with the support of an accredited program.
  • The ACSTH Path offers flexibility for those who may want to build their education incrementally or combine various training sources.
  • The Portfolio Path is tailor-made for coaches who have a rich tapestry of non-accredited learning experiences and seek to weave them into an ICF credential.

In choosing your path, weigh the pros and cons:

  • Consider the time commitment and financial investment required for each path.
  • Reflect on how each path aligns with your current coaching practice and future goals.
  • Think about the learning style that best suits you—structured programs or a more self-directed approach.

Ultimately, the most valuable advice is to choose the path that resonates with your personal coaching narrative—one that will not only meet the ICF’s stringent requirements but will also enrich your unique coaching identity and practice.

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