What is ICF ACC Certification?


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

Looking for information on ICF credentialing, including the ACC designation (Associate Certified Coach)?  Well, you’ve come to the right place! This article will outline everything you need to know to pursue certification with an accredited training program and then credentialing with the International Coaching Federation, or ICF.

What is an ICF ACC Certification?

ACC, or Associate Certified Coach, is a credential offered by the International Coach Federation, or ICF. The ICF offers 3 levels of credentialing, and the ACC (Associate Certified Coach) is the first level, followed by the PCC (Professional Certified Coach) and then the MCC (Master Certified Coach).

What is a coaching credential?

A coaching credential is an attestation about your ability made by a third party who is qualified to do so, in this case, the International Coaching Federation, or ICF.  The word credential is also often used to mean the official designation you earn such as the ACC, PCC, or MCC you put after your name.

What is an ACC coach?

As determined by the International Coach Federation, an Associate Certified Coach has completed at least 60 hours of training through an accredited training program and 10 hours of coaching with a mentor who is already an ICF certified PCC or MCC coach. 

Candidates must prove they thoroughly understand the ICF’s Code of Ethics and apply the ICF’s core competencies to their client’s goals. 

ACCs can obtain their credential through either an Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) or an Approved Coach Specific Training Hours Program (ACSTH). Either program is suitable depending on the aspiring coach’s intended niche and offerings. Learn more about ICF Credentials and Certification Programs.

ACCs can coach in many different capacities such as in organizations helping team members unlock their skills or solve workplace challenges. The ACC level is the basis for more advanced certification levels.

Once aspiring ACCs begin their coach training, they are required to document at least 100 hours (70 paid) of coaching experience with at least eight clients. At least 25 of these hours must occur within 24 months before applying for the credential. This training and experience are crucial to writing the required Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA) to demonstrate their competencies.

The ACC certification entails fewer hours than the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) or the Master Certified Coach (MCC) levels, but the processes are similar. To achieve higher certification levels, you must log more time each in accredited, approved training programs, mentoring and in the field with actual clients.

How do I become an ACC?

You can begin the process of becoming an ACC by offering coaching services once you have learned the core competencies through your ACTP or ACSTH training program. The key is that you do not call yourself a coach until you’re confident that you have had enough training. It’s essential to learn coaching techniques and develop your competencies as you gear up to work with paying clients.

As I mentioned, to achieve your ACC certification, you must demonstrate that you have completed the following:

  • at least 60 coach training hours training through an ACTP or ACSTH program.
  • at least 100 hours (70 paid) of coaching experience with at least eight clients following the start of their coach-specific training. At least 25 of these hours must occur within 24 months before applying for the credential.
  • at least 10 hours of mentoring with an ICF Registered Mentor Coach, who can be a PCC or MCC. ACC’s can be mentors too, but conditions apply.

Then, obtain a letter of recommendation from your mentor coach. Mentoring is an additional investment that is crucial to developing your skillset and versatile coaching competencies. To achieve your certification, you’ll send recordings and transcripts of your coaching sessions with clients to your mentor for evaluation and feedback. They’ll guide how you can better leverage your skills and keep the focus on your clients’ goals.

Once you’ve completed your required hours, the timeline looks like this:

  •       Estimated Timeline for Application Review through the ACTP or ACSTH Path: 4 weeks
  •       Estimated Timeline for Application Review for the Portfolio Path: 14 weeks

If you are counting non-approved training toward your training requirements, you are required to follow the ACC Portfolio path.

To get your credential approved, you also must submit 1 coach-client audio recording with its transcript for evaluation at the ACC level. Finally, write the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA), which is an online test administered by the ICF. You must receive a minimum score of 80% to pass. 

Don’t worry, though: the beauty of the ACTP or ACSTH training programs is that they will have prepared you well to easily pass. You only have to write this assessment once, so you won’t need to submit more CKAs as you advance or renew your credential.

What skills does the ACC have?

The ACC coach will be able to help their clients focus on their goals, understand their problems, and identify the next steps.

From there, ACC level coaching tends to follow a problem-solving approach by asking strategic questions so that they can best understand the challenge. An ACC then tends to dive into action-planning. The client uncovers the knowledge to correct the problem and make a plan for their goals.

ACCs are well-trained in the 8 Coaching Competencies which allows them to be compassionate listeners who can stay on topic without changing the subject. They understand how to keep the focus on the client’s goals by asking solid open-ended questions and letting the client have room to think and talk. However, they may not be sufficiently experienced to shift the conversation toward coaching the WHO (the person) rather than the WHAT (the problem). This entails cultivating the right conversation to facilitate the client’s self-discovery rather than simply tackling a problem. These skills emerge as you transition to the PCC level.

How much does it cost to apply for your ICF ACC credential?

ICF Members can expect to pay the following to apply for an ICF ACC credential:

  •       ACTP Path: $100 USD
  •       ACTSH Path: $300 USD
  •       Portfolio Path: $400 USD

Non-members should budget for:

  •       ACTP Path: $300 USD
  •       ACTSH Path: $500 USD
  •       Portfolio Path: $600 USD


After the accomplishment of earning your coaching certification through an ACTP or ACSTH, an ACC credential is the next powerful checkpoint to demonstrate your integrity and credibility as a coach out in the market.

An ACC credential is proof of the investment you made in learning the core principles, philosophies, and techniques of certified coaching.

Your ACC credential shows that you have learned how to be a thinking partner for your clients, to structure an empowering dialogue, and then help your clients find solutions and identify viable action plans.

Want to learn more about becoming a coach? Have a look at our ACSTH Certified Leadership Coach program, The Coaching Academy for Leaders.


Did you enjoy this article?  You might also like:
How To Become A Certified Coach: Understanding ICF Credentials and Certification Programs
Types of Coaching, Coaching Styles, and Certifications – Which One Is Right For You?
How To Become An Executive Coach: Everything You Need To Know


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Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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