Professional Certified Coach in Under 4 Years

March 15, 2019

Before starting my coaching Diploma, I mapped out what I needed to do to earn the ACC (Associate Certified Coach) credential from the ICF.  The criteria are set out clearly on the ICF website:  I built my log of coaching hours and set out to meet all the criteria required by the ICF so that I could apply for ACC at the earliest opportunity.  As it happened, I had everything in place on completion of the Animas Diploma.  My ACC certificate arrived in April 2015.  So far so good but would the PCC credential be so straightforward?

I revisited the ICF website to check out what was needed to earn the PCC credential.  Fortunately, some of the requirements for the ACC credential also covered the PCC credential.  Other requirements were to a higher standard but nevertheless familiar so I’m glad I went for the ACC credential first.  

There are 3 paths to ICF credentials: 

1.       ACTP (Accredited Coach Training Programme)

2.       ACSTH (Accredited Coach Specific Training Hours) - the Animas Diploma is recognised by the ICF as ACSTH

3.       Portfolio.  

Here are my experiences of meeting the criteria for PCC using the ACSTH path.

  • At least 125 hours of coach-specific training through an ACTP or ACSTH program.  Comment: note that the Animas Diploma is recognised as 123 hours of ACSTH.  It may be only 2 hours short of the 125 hours required however the ICF are sticklers for their criteria.  I used the Animas CPD in Group Coaching to top up the hours.
  • 10 hours of Mentor-coaching over a minimum of three months to be documented on your online application. Your Mentor-coach must be a PCC or MCC in good standing.  Comment: Mentor-coaching is about developing coaching competence and is not to be confused with Supervision, which is not required for ICF credentials.  You need to be mentor-coached by a coach with the credential you are working towards.  If you were mentor-coached by an ACC coach for your ACC credential, you will need to have a further 10 hours of mentor-coaching by a PCC coach for your PCC credential.  I was mentor-coached by a PCC coach for my ACC credential and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could use these same 10 hours towards my PCC credential.  I registered with the ICF as a mentor-coach as soon as I earned my ACC credential and it’s work that I continue to enjoy.
  •  A minimum of 500 hours (450 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 18 months prior to submitting the application for the credential.  Comment: This may look daunting however I logged every coaching session I ever did and soon built up the hours.  
  • Performance evaluation: two audio recordings and written transcripts of coaching sessions to be uploaded with your application.  Comment: This was the crunch part, the ‘trade test’ of my coaching.  I use the Zoom video conferencing platform; the free version has a built-in recorder, which is easy to use.  When I’d recorded 2 sessions that I felt were satisfactory at PCC level, I sent them for transcription to the service provider recommended by the ICF, which cost about £75 each (total £150).  Don’t be tempted to do this yourself as it’s very detailed, listing in precise detail who said what and when to the second.  I first had to convert my recordings into the required file formats and then trim them by a few minutes to get within the 1 hour maximum, which was technically challenging.  Ideally, keep your recordings to under 1 hour to avoid the need for trimming.  Recordings longer than one hour will be rejected by the ICF. 
  • Completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA).  Comment: the CKA is a once-only test done on-line.  I familiarised myself with the ICF definition of coaching, the ICF Core Competencies and the ICF Code of Ethics, which provide the syllabus for the CKA and I passed comfortably.  The feedback on my PCC application stated that the decision to award the PCC is based on a combination of factors including your score on the ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment and the marking of the two recordings submitted with your application so it’s important to take the CKA seriously.

Looking back on my approach, the success factors implicit in my credentialing journey are:

·         I was highly motivated.  There are many good coaches who don’t have a credential so you need to be clear on what having a credential will do for you.  I felt it was the best way to speed up my learning and become the best coach I could be.  I wanted to work with business owners and professional people.  I felt that I needed to be professional myself and I saw credentialing as the way to demonstrate this. 

·         I took a strategic approach.  If you are clear on what you want, it’s helpful to research the requirements of the credential you are aiming for.  You can then plan your journey to get there.  Retro fitting your coaching journey into the ICF’s credentialing criteria may result in disappointment and delay, and possibly additional expense.

·         I had a positive attitude and I was eager to learn.  Coaching is a fascinating journey of discovery.  If you see your path to a credential as an opportunity to learn and grow as a coach, this will help you to get the most out of the experience.  If you see it as an exercise in compliance, you won’t necessarily get the most out of it and you may not have the motivation to complete the journey.

·         I used a ‘blended learning’ approach.  Planning your journey allows you to blend your learning from the main activities required for credentialing, which are: coach training (diploma and other CPD coach training); and mentor-coaching from a more experienced PCC (or MCC) coach.  Adding reflective learning on your coaching sessions to the mix enables synergies to arise and enriches your learning experience.

·         I used reflective evaluation after each session.  The ICF core competencies can be mysterious at first, especially at the higher levels of PCC and MCC.  Without thinking about it, I used the MCC level competencies from the start (perhaps I’d subconsciously set MCC as a goal?).  As you gain experience, the competencies begin to reveal their subtlety and richness.  Reflecting on each coaching session against the ICF core competencies is a great way to understand the essence of coaching and to improve.  The ICF also provides a set of ‘PCC Markers’ on its website and I used these for reflective evaluation of my sessions in addition to the ICF core competencies.  In effect the PCC markers translate the core competencies into behaviours, which coaches need to exhibit for PCC.  For example, one of the markers for the competence of ‘Active Listening’ is, “Coach enquires about or explores the client’s use of language”.  These markers are used by the ICF assessors to evaluate your 2 recorded coaching sessions.  The pass mark was not specified in the feedback I received, however the feedback stated that while not all markers need to be observed, the assessors need to observe “adequate evidence” of your coaching skills within each competence.

·         I was diligent.  As mentioned above, the ICF are sticklers for their criteria.  You therefore need to be diligent in checking the exact criteria and in recording, and evidencing, your achievement of each criteria.  The ICF provides example log sheets on its website for logging your coaching hours.  Due to data protection rules, the ICF no longer requires log sheets to be included in credential applications however log sheets need to be available for scrutiny by the ICF.

·         I kept up to date with the ICF credentialing requirements.  These do change.  The ICF now issues an update on credentialing annually in February.

If my account of the journey to PCC comes across as something of a technical exercise and a bit of a marathon, in some ways it is.  The ICF has set out its stall to lead the way by setting ‘the Gold Standard’ for coach credentialing worldwide.  They are therefore rigorous about their criteria in order to maintain the integrity and credibility of their credentials.  That said, if coaching really is your thing and you are committed to it, it’s an engrossing journey that happens surprisingly quickly.  Passing the threshold of 500 hours took me by surprise and by the time I applied for PCC, I was well beyond that. 

I hope this account is helpful.  If I can be of any further help on credentialing, do get in touch and I’d be pleased to help you.  Best of luck with your credential application.  My next step is MCC (Master Certified Coach) so I’m off to check the criteria on the ICF website – and I’m on the lookout for a MCC mentor-coach.

Kind regards

Ross Nichols 2019



Business Plan for Coaches: Adventure, Intuition, Trust

January 1, 2019


Further to my recent posts on Start-up for Coaches and Personal Branding for Coaches, few self-employed coaches have a business plan.  We all keep putting it off; frankly, most of us would rather go to the dentist!  A conventional business plan can be helpful however it’s my experience that the energy and commitment in the coach is more important for business success than the coach’s written plan.  If your business comes from your ...

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Personal Branding for Coaches: Motivation; Values, Intentions

November 26, 2018

Further to my recent post [‘Business Start-up for coaches: Labels; Niche; Style'], I’ve been reflecting on how coaches establish their personal brand. New coaches can get hung up on the trappings of branding, such as business name, logo, strap line and so on. These are important, yet superficial. What’s more important is the experience your prospects and clients have when engaging with you. In my view, the key to creating a b...

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Business Start-up for Coaches: Labels; Niche; Style

November 2, 2018

In recent sessions with start-up coaches, I’ve noticed some common issues around how coaches describe themselves and present themselves to the market place.  Here is my suggestion, which may be helpful for new coaches launching their practice.

There are 3 related issues: what labels you give yourself, the niche you are aiming at and your coaching style.  Let’s look at each of these in turn.


This needs to be clear and simple so people who are looking for the service you offe...

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What Is Coaching?

October 26, 2018

During a coaching session yesterday, I was asked what I thought coaching was. The session was recorded (with mutual consent) and the client transcribed my answer and emailed it back to me later. I share it here as it feels appropriate.
For context my coaching style is 'Transpersonal': working with the client's values, energy, vitality and spirit in an intuitive way. I coach for business, career, wellness and cancer and I'm drawn to coaching with the client's shadow side, which I've previou...

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Poems for Wellness

October 24, 2018

As I prepare for my talk on 'Wellness Coaching' to the Salisbury Coaching Circle on 25 October, I thought I'd write a poem about wellness. The talk is based on a chapter I've contributed to the inaugural book by the Cancer Coaching Community due publication in 2019. Heather Nichols (my wife) has also contributed a poem, which I include here.

Here are the 2 poems: 'I Want to be Well' and 'Un-wellness Poem'

I want to be Well

When someone says, ‘I want to be well’,
do we reach for a pill or...

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Mindful Walking - Barefoot!

July 13, 2018

Do you ever walk mindfully?  Another beautiful summer morning drew me outdoors for a walk around the enchanting Iron Age hillfort of Old Sarum just north of Salisbury in Wiltshire.  I can see it from my kitchen window and it often calls me to walk around it.  So far so normal however as I stepped off gravel pathways and onto grass, on a whim I took my trainers and socks off and went barefoot.  This had instant and surprising effects: I slowed down and became more aware of where I was placin...

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Coaching With the Client's Shadow

March 9, 2018

I find myself drawn to my client’s shadow side. What is the client’s shadow?  It’s their dark side, the place inside they don’t want to look at, that’s often been suppressed for many years, unacknowledged but hanging over them and casting a shadow over their life.  The shadow holds powerful emotions that are hard to live with, such as guilt, grief, shame and fear – is it any wonder that people don’t want to go there?  And yet the unresolved shadow always follows them, holding ...

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Intuitive Career Planning Workshop

March 6, 2018
I was delighted to be asked to run a career planning workshop for the London-based alumni of ESSEC, one of the top global business schools.  I used my Intuitive Career Plan as the basis for the workshop and very much enjoyed the experience.

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Bool Review: 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed

January 29, 2018

In my work as a coach, I find that suppressed emotions often surface for the coachee.  I’m drawn to working with the coachee’s shadow side as I know that powerful learning and healing is to be found here so I welcome these emotions to my coaching sessions.  When it’s appropriate, I’ll recommend a relevant book for the coachee to read in their own time.  This is a good way for them to continue to explore and reflect on their emotions; I’ve since learned that this is sometimes called ...

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