March 7, 2023
7 min read
What is the ICF? What does it mean to hold an ICF credential? Does the International Coaching Federation do anything other than credential coaches?
Professional coaching is a growing industry. And, the International Coaching Federation is on the frontlines, as it’s always been.
Continue reading to discover what the ICF is, how the organization developed over the years, and how the ICF “ecosystem” operates today. You’ll also learn about ICF membership and credentials.
So, what is the ICF exactly? The International Coaching Federation (ICF) calls itself “a membership organization for trained professional coaches.” That’s how it started, and that’s still the heart of the ICF. In 2021, however, it became an “ecosystem” of organizations that work together to serve professional coaches.
The ICF ecosystem is a new way of operating. Let’s take a look at ICF history to see the path the organization has taken to get to where it is today.
Back in 1995, when the professional coaching industry started to take root, professional coach Thomas Leonard founded the International Coach Federation. Based in the United States, it aimed to support professional coaches by connecting them with each other. ICF also served to provide the young industry with some gravitas.
The ICF merged with the Professional and Personal Coaches Association (PPCA) in 1998. Also that year, the ICF launched their membership and credentialing programs. The next year, it started to accredit programs that offer training for coaches.
By 2000, ICF membership could be considered global, with coaches joining from four continents and the first annual conference being held outside of the U.S. ICF membership reached nearly 8,000 by 2004. In 2008, regional offices started to open up around the world.
By 2010, ICF membership exceeded 17,000. Nearly 7,000 coaches held ICF credentials. That number grew to 15,000 in 2014. In that year, ICF exceeded 25,000 members who were spread among local chapters all over the world.
By 2020, the ICF had proven itself as the premier professional coaching organization, with more trained coaches than any other body. The ICF took a new name, changing from the International Coach Federation to the International Coaching Federation. This change represented the broadening mission of the organization. In 2021, the ICF introduced its new “ecosystem.”
ICF Coaches are expected to be communication experts. Most coaches use Yoodli, their AI powered speech coach to get feedback on their filler words, talk time, eye contact, body language, and much else. If you’re looking to be a coach, you can get started on your communication skills for free at http://www.yoodli.ai.
The ICF began as one organization. Now, it’s an ecosystem of six “family organizations.” Let’s take a quick look at each one. This will give you a good idea of what ICF is all about today.
ICF Professional Coaches is basically what the ICF, as a whole, used to be. This is the membership organization for coaches who are professional, trained, and practicing. Learn more.
You’re likely to see the letters “ICF” listed in the credentials of professional coaches. It’s the gold standard of coaching certification. Previously a department in the ICF, ICF Credentials and Standards is now a member organization of the ICF ecosystem. As its name implies, it administers the credentialing of coaches. Learn more.
Previously a department, ICF Coaching Education is now a full organization in the International Coaching Federation family. It’s similar to ICF Credentials and Standards in that it administers accreditations. But, rather than credentialing coaches, ICF Coaching Education credentials coaching education providers. In other words, if you offer training for coaches, you can get your program accredited by the ICF. Learn more.
Similar to the other organizations in the ICF ecosystem, the ICF Foundation isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for more than 15 years. The ICF Foundation is a nonprofit organization that handles the charitable aspect of ICF. Learn more.
Does your organization have coaching? If so, ICF Coaching in Organizations is for you. This body supports managers who coach, and it provides opportunities for outside coaches looking for clients. Learn more about how your company can become an ICF member organization.
The ICF was at the cutting edge of the professional coaching industry when it began in 1995. In the same way, the ICF Thought Leadership Institute helps keep the organization on the frontlines. Inspired by the United Nations Action Plan for People, Planet and Prosperity, the ICF Thought Leadership Institute brings together people from various industries to build a knowledge base for coaches. To this end, the ICF seeks to do more than stay current. It aims to shape the future of the professional coaching industry—and, ultimately, to shape the world through coaching. Learn more.
Effective coaching makes the world a better place, right? That’s the idea behind the Global Digital Library, which is part of the ICF Thought Leadership Institute. This open-access library is a collection of knowledge that informs how coaching can continue to impact the world in a powerful and positive way. The Global Digital Library brings together collections of information, organized by themes, that cast a vision for the future—with coaching at the heart of it.
The content comes from experts all around the world, referred to as Wisdom Weavers. They explore themes such as the future of education, the future of work, and the future of planetary ecology.
Anyone can access the content of the Global Digital Library as well as the International Coaching Federation’s blog Coaching World. (And, if you’re looking for coaching resources, don’t forget that Yoodli is a free tool that coaches can use to help their clients shine up their public speaking skills!)
The coaching industry considers ICF membership to be prestigious, as it signifies that a coach has extensive experience and training—and that they adhere to ICF’s code of ethics.
ICF members enjoy opportunities for professional growth, business development, community, and networking. They also have access to the latest research.
ICF membership is annual, and it costs $245 (USD) per year. To become a member, you must meet at least one of these requirements:
Learn more about these requirements. If you’re interested in ICF membership, complete the application their website. ICF membership is available for organizations, as well.
Coaches seem to be popping up all over these days. But, just because someone is performing coaching services, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trained and qualified.
That’s where ICF credentials come in. They indicate that a coach meets high standards of experience, education, and ethics. ICF credentials can set you apart from the growing crowd in the industry. A recent study revealed that the vast majority of clients want their coach to be certified or credentialed.
Holding ICF credentials lets your prospective clients know instantly that you’re professional, trained, and experienced.
The International Coaching Federation provides credentials that correspond to the coach’s training and experience. Credentialed coaches also must receive mentor coaching and successfully complete evaluations and an exam.
The ICF offers three credentials and one certification:
Learn more about ICF credentials and certifications.
The credentialing program is based on ICF’s core competencies, a set of eight skills and approaches to coaching:
If you’re a professional coach or seeking to become one, you’ll want to connect with the International Coaching Federation. Their resources, community, training, and credentialing can serve as your faithful companions on your coaching journey.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.