What is ICF PCC Certification? The Path To Becoming A Professional Certified Coach.


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

Women learning about PCC certification

Are you looking to find out more about ICF PCC Certification? You’ve come to the right place!  We’re going to cover everything you need to know about PCC Certification so you can decide if it’s right for you in your coaching journey.

What is an ICF PCC Certification?

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

What is a credential?

A 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 once you are officially certified, such as the ACC, PCC, or MCC you put after your name.

PCC Certification

In order to understand PCC Certification, it’s important to know that while this credential is provided by the ICF, the training to achieve the credential is not. The ICF itself does not provide training but it does oversee the standards of training programs.

Coach certification training is provided by professional coaching programs or training schools who submit their course to the ICF for approval. If the course meets the requirements and high standards of the ICF, they will accredit the course with either an ACTP or an ACSTH designation.

Training schools designate ICF certification but not the ACC, PCC or MCC credentials. Only the ICF can designate the ACC, PCC and MCC credentials. 

The way you can distinguish an actual coach from a person who has merely adopted the title of coach is by the letters after their name. The letters indicate what credential they have earned.

The first step towards earning credentials is getting coaching qualifications through certification training.

Woman researching ICF Certifications

Which ICF coaching certification is best?

As long as you first make sure that your training course is an ACTP or ACSTH, you will be off to a good start. Begin by comparing the difference between the two paths to see which one suits your needs. You can find out more about ACTP and ACSTH in this article.

Learn about the different types of coaching, coaching styles and certifications and ask yourself which path inspires you the most.

Then, book a discovery call with the school administrators who made your shortlist. Ask all of the questions you need, read their websites, download their materials. Get a feel for the quality,  culture, and goals of the school so that you can decide where your learning journey will be best supported.

What does it mean to be an ICF certified coach?

A coach who has met the training requirements of their school is considered an ICF Certified Coach as long as the school was an ACTP or an ACSTH.

For example, I’m a certified graduate of Coach U’s Advanced Corporate Coach Training Program and they designated me the certification of ‘Corporate Coach U Graduate’ with the qualification letters of CCUG.

Those who complete the learning journey at The Coaching Academy for Leaders graduate with the designation of Certified Leadership Coach, or CLC.

One of the ACTP schools that I mentor for offers a generic approach to life coaching and corporate coaching and their students become a Personal and Professional Certified Coach, or PPCC.

In all of these cases, ‘certified’ means that the ICF has granted the school the right to certify coaches as they prepare themselves for credentialing.

With this certified training, a person can call themselves a coach in all integrity.

Man sitting at computer researching ICF Certifications

How long does it take to get ICF Certification?

How long it takes depends on many variables that are unique to each coach’s journey. Things such as how intensively they complete their training, how much time they take to build their coaching practice, how much time they need to skillfully incorporate the coaching competencies into their practice, and how much attention they devote to the credentialing process are all factors in how long it will take.

Before you can assess how long it may take you to get an ACC, PCC or MCC credential you have to know the process you need to follow to earn the credentials. But in general, a person can expect to take anywhere between 6 to 18 months for a base level certification, and it can take longer for an advanced level.

How do I go from an ACC credential to a PCC credential?

As I discussed earlier, the ACC credential is where many coaches begin, followed by earning their PCC credential. The PCC is a level higher than the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) program so it requires additional training and experience.

It’s important to note that some coaches are so well prepared by their ACTP or ACSTH coach training program that they can skip the ACC and go directly to PCC.

To obtain PCC Certification, you have to complete at least 125 hours of coach-specific training through an ACTP or ACSTH program, so if you already have your ACC (which requires 60 hours), you need another 65 hours of training.

You also need 10 more hours of Mentor Coaching, on top of the 10 hours required for the ACC.

PCC candidates are required to document at least 500 hours (440 paid) of coaching experience with at least 25 clients following the start of your coach-specific training. 

At least 50 of these hours must occur within the 24 months prior to submitting the application for the credential to the ICF. If you skipped your ACC, you will also have to sit the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA), which is required for the ACC. 

Additionally, you must submit 2 (two) coach-client audio recordings with their transcripts to demonstrate that you are coaching at the PCC level.

PCC coach working with client

What is PCC level coaching?

As a coach I have been trained to “coach the WHO, not the WHAT”. This means to coach the person, not the problem.

It can take a while to really understand what this means. 

For example, ACC level coaching is all about discussing the problem and trying to solve it during the conversation.

PCC level of coaching includes supporting the client to get the results they are looking for but it goes deeper, into more meaningful territory, knowing that the insights and AHA moments often happen after the conversation.

PCC level coaching is more geared towards coaching the person and understanding what is stopping them from finding a solution on their own. It is powerful because it involves the competencies of evoking client awareness and facilitating client growth.

The coach doesn’t solve problems (the WHAT), but rather observes and offers reflections back to the client around what they see coming up for the client in the moment, or around what keeps coming up over and over again.

A PCC is there to support the client through a transformation from who they are now to who they want to become. This ‘whole person’ approach of the PCC is enlightening and empowering because the client comes to see ways to resolve their challenge from a whole different perspective. 

Because this level of coaching is life-changing and not problem-solving, the client is often able to grow exponentially and begin to transform many areas of their life all at once.

Calculating the cost of PCC credentials

How much does the PCC credential process cost?

The investment for coach training varies widely however, a good quality program may cost between $2000 to $8000 USD, for a base level certification. In order to make sure your money is wisely invested, you need to be sure that the school is an ACTP or ACSTH program, and that the course is a good fit for your career path.

In addition to the coach training certification program, you will also need to invest in mentor coaching. The investment for mentor coaching is another piece that varies widely but again, expect a dollar figure in the low thousands USD.

The investment that stays the same for everyone across the board is the ACC, PCC and MCC credentialing process that is done through the ICF.

Costs for the ICF ACTP Path

  • ICF Members: $300 USD
  • Non-members: $500 USD

Estimated Timeline for Review: 4 weeks

Costs for the ICF ACSTH Path

  • ICF Members: $575 USD
  • Non-members: $775 USD

Estimated Timeline for Review: 14 Weeks

Why are credentials important?

Completing your ACC, PCC or MCC requirements show that you are a professional who is doing the work necessary to be great at what you do! 

Earning your credentials is an accomplishment that shows that you are dedicated to delivering the best possible experience to your clients. 

Having an ACC, PCC or MCC credential means that your clients can trust your integrity because you have earned the title that you are claiming to have. It means that you have credibility because the credentials attest to the fact that you have invested great energy and countless hours into honing your craft.

This means that the powerful ICF coaching competencies are a part of your skillset and that you can coach individuals and teams at a high standard based on a research-backed, proven methodology.

Happy professionals learning about coaching

Who needs Coaching Certification?

If you are a B2C professional, meaning a business person who sells directly to the consumer, certification is necessary if you have the title coach in your offering or in your marketing.

Coaching qualifications are ideal for those who offer their expertise and advice such as:
Sales and marketing consultants
Professional development trainers
Business advisors
Financial planners
Health and fitness professionals
Spiritual advisors, counselors, and transformational guides

For these folks, the professional’s main gig is to share their expertise with their client to help them transform some aspect of their professional skill set, their business, career, or private lives. They will educate the client with their wealth of knowledge and expertise, then help them make a plan for putting the knowledge into action. This is the consulting part of the offering NOT the coaching part of the offering.

For employees, certification is necessary for anyone who has coaching in their job descriptions. For example, managers who are asked to coach employees need coach training and certification to do that, and organizations who want to build a coaching culture and have their managers use coaching as a leadership style need to provide them with coach training and certification.

professional getting her ICF certification

When are credentials needed on top of certification?

There are many things that coaches have in common and one of those is that they are lifelong learners and love to fine-tune their craft. Stephen Covey called it Sharpening the Saw. The ACC, PCC and MCC credential journey is a way of showing that commitment to getting better and better at the service you offer.

B2B (business to business) professionals are well served by credentials if they are going to offer coaching services to companies. As the coaching profession matures, more and more people are bringing coaches into their organization and credentials are becoming a requirement to even be considered.

A professional can still be offering their expertise and advice as their main product but if they want to also offer to coach, internal buyers are asking that the professional offer up credentials to prove to the company that they are going to get what they pay for.

Coaching skills are like rocket fuel for some professionals. Some excellent combinations that pack a powerful punch are:

Coaching and Leadership Training
Coaching and Presentation Skills
Coaching and Communication Skills
Coaching and Emotional Intelligence
Coaching and Change Management
Coaching and Stress Management
Coaching and Conflict Management
Coaching and Time Management
Coaching and Mindfulness
Coaching and Assertiveness Training
Coaching and Sales Training
Coaching and Customer Loyalty

These are just a few of the modalities that a consultant can specialize in. They can then give advice, training, and workshops to impart knowledge to the client on these topics.

After the consultant’s knowledge has been transferred to the client and the learning phase is complete, the coaching piece becomes really powerful. The coaching moves a client through the learning phase, through the practice phase, and through the habit formation phase and ends with the ‘being’ phase. In coaching we call this ‘facilitating client growth’ and all ACTP and ACSTH will have focused training dedicated to it.

Coaching certification at the coaching academy for leaders


In a world where coaching training is more and more available, I hope this article has helped you sort the wheat from the chaff. Not all coaching training is legitimate so without due diligence, you run the risk of wasting a significant investment of time and money. I hope to help those on the quest for coach training find the best that the industry has to offer, whether that is through PCC certification, or another ICF credential.


Did you enjoy this article?  You may also enjoy:
How To Become A Certified Coach: Understanding ICF Credentials and Certification Programs
How To Become an Executive Coach:  Everything you need to know
Types of Coaching, Coaching Styles, and Certifications – Which One Is Right For You?

1 Comment

  1. Adam

    I want to register the basic coaching course


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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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