The Source and Accuracy of These Listings
The descriptions of each coach training organization are based on the most frequently asked questions about coach training or reflect the information provided to Peer Resources by the individual school or organization. Note that some schools specialize in what might be called advanced or graduate level coaching and would only be suitable for persons already certified as coaches or have other relevant qualifications.
The information contained in this Coaching Schools list was obtained from documents supplied by the individual schools or training programs. Not all schools actively cooperate to ensure the accuracy of the information provided here. Our goal is to provide educational information and not promotional marketing. Therefore, we sometimes have to edit the material we receive and remove unsubstantiated claims or marketing verbiage. In addition, we do not make judgments about the schools or include evaluations of their programs or courses. We do strive to provide up-to-date details, but please refer to the website or other contact information listed for the individual school for the latest course listings and tuition.
When you've had a chance to read through all the details here about accreditation, choosing a coaching school, and the actual listings of the difference schools, please return to this short survey and let us know what value this information had for you.
The Role of Accreditation in Coaching
In this section our goal is to provide a (1) general overview of accreditation models used by coaching associations; (2) list the general pros and cons of coaching accreditation; and (3) identify the most promising models along with their potential limitations. As a result we hope that readers will be able to (a) determine for themselves how much weight they want to give accreditation in making 'no-regrets' enrolment choices; (b) recognize instances where the term 'accredited' is misleading at best and a possible scam at worst; and (c) inform others as to what to look for when discussing accreditation in coaching.
Why is Knowing More About Accreditation Important?
Almost everyone who has attended a college or university has heard of the term "accreditation." And many prospective coaching school participants often begin their search for a school with the idea that it should be "accredited." One of the key reasons for seeking an 'accredited' school, according to the people who use our list of coaching schools, stems from associating the term 'accredited' with terms such as certified, approved, credible, valid, or trustworthy.
Around the world many people perceive these terms as synonyms because of the significant advances and the highly-regarded accreditation system used to review and assess the quality of institutions of higher learning in North America. While there are hundreds of accreditation systems that have been developed in North America (to assess dozens of different professional disciplines), the six geographic regions model of school, college and university accreditation system used in the United States and Canada (and initially formed over 100 years ago) is the most comprehensive, established, accepted and successful model of accreditation in the world. But at the present time there is very little similarity between the North American university and college accreditation system and any of the various models of accreditation used by coaching associations.
This dissimilarity may lead many coaching school applicants to assume that when a coaching school states it is "accredited by Association X" that the accreditation system used by 'Association X' is similar to or identical with the highly-reputable North American higher education model and therefore the coaching school accreditation is credible, valid, and a stamp of approval from a qualifed authority. Conversely, the dissimilarity may also lead coaching school applicants to wrongly assume that a coach training agency that does not hold "accredited by Association X" status is not credible, valid or worthwhile.
What makes this more complicated is the fact that there are several highly-reputable universities in North America that do not participate in the traditional accreditation system, and there are some reputable coach training schools that on philsophical or pragmatic grounds reject the 'authority' of or models of accreditation available through coaching associations.
Some critics of accreditation, particularly as it applies to coaching schools, have argued that accreditation (and its emphasis on regulation and compliance with a specific set of standards) stifles creativity, innovation, and the ability to respond quickly to significant trends and issues. Others believe that accreditation contributes to reducing rather than enhancing credibility in coaching because of the different standards used, the variety of accreditations available and lack of any official government endorsements.
While it is highly improbable that accreditation has been awarded wrongly to a university or college in North America that participates in the accreditation system, the same cannot be said for a few coach training agencies that assigned to themselves the term 'accredited.' The reason for this is that some coach training schools, dissatisfied with the structure, fees or requirements of the most established coaching association accrediting systems, have decided to create their own accrediting systems and 'accredit' themselves. Unfortunately, this 'self-congratulatory' accrediting approach is on the rise within the coaching industry, making it even more important for consumers to know what to ask about regarding accreditation when making an enrolment decision.
This is an alarming trend, and we hope is doesn't reach the extent of multiple accrediting agencies that exist around the world. The U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), for example, lists 467 accreditation or quality assurance agencies in 175 countries. Even in the higher education industry in North America there are more than 100 "unrecognized" accrediting organizationsin addition to the hundreds that are recognizedthat are not acknowledged by government or independent authorities. In the United Kingdom there are about a dozen higher education accrediting bodies that are associated with professions regulated by the government.
The Best Accreditation Models in the Coaching Industry
Up to this point it might appear that we believe that the North American college and university accreditation system is the 'gold standard' when it comes to comparing other accreditation approaches such as those used in the coaching industry. We do! But only as far as it can serve as a yardstick or benchmark to use because of its long and successful history to establish standards that resolve the many problems and conflicts that are inherent in virtually any initiative to create a valid and credible accreditation model.
While matching the North American higher education accreditation system may not be a goal of coaching association accreditation policy makers, there are three coaching associations, the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC), the International Coach Federation (ICF), and the International Association of Coaching (IAC) that are making significant progress towards improving and developing credible, reliable and vaild accreditation models.
These three coaching associations are all membership-based organizations, and share a siimilar approach to accreditation: they typically each have their own specific, content-based and association-centric standards for determining the accreditation status of a coach training school. That is, each association specifies the content that must be included in the coach training curriculum in order to be accredited by that group. In this way these three associations are similar to the sub-groups (or 'commissions') within many discipline-centered associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) which accredit a specific program or curriculum within a university (but not the university itself).
The European Model
In Europe the European Coaching Institute (ECI) and the Association for Coaching (AC) are called "accreditation agencies." They accredit individual courses or a 'programme' of studies and not a school or agency.
Typically their focus is on the number of training hours and the number of contact hours with specifically qualified leaders or teachers.
There is also a difference between Europe and North America in the use of the term "accreditation." In North America the term "accreditation" is typically reserved for or only applied as an approval system for schools or organizations, and the term "certification" is typically used as an approval system for individuals.
In Europe "accreditation" and "certification" are synonyms for an approval system for individuals and not institutions. In Europe for example a qualified coach might be described as an "Accredited Master Coach."
(Editor's Note: The WABC, ICF and IAC differ in the degree to which their accreditation systems also include standards beyond content such as a coaching school's business model, finances, delivery, evaluation system, and other features. At the present time (2011) the WABC provides the most comprehensive set of accreditation standards; the IAC provides the fewest additional standards; and the ICF provides a moderate number of additional standards.)
While the differences in accreditation models used by the three coaching associations can be of value in order reflect necessary and diverse viewpoints about what coaching is all about, the differences also prevent participants from transfering credit from one school to another, obscure the public's understanding of the meaning and value of the various resulting certifications or graduate certificates, and reduce the likelihood of any scrutiny or accountability from an independent, arms-length, authority designed to protect consumers. (In our view, the actual differences in content are minor and could easily be resolved. but instead appear to be maintained to reflect a need to proclaim the integrity of their coaching model, "mark their territory," and establish their influence.)
The WABC, the ICF and the IAC have all made great strides in creating and developing the most thoughtful, credible, standard-based, internationally-relevant models for accreditation in coaching. Their models are well-articulated and rationalized, relatively easy for the general public to understand, and well-detailed on their respective websites. The WABC's model is unique in that it is the first and only accreditation model designed exclusively for business coaching, whereas the ICF and IAC do not distinguish between different types or niches in coaching practice.
Cautions and Challenges
While all three coaching association accreditation models are intended to act as catalysts to ensure, maintain and strengthen quality in the coaching school industry, there are still a few challenges left to address. First, there is the question of who accredits the accreditors. What external authority designated any of these coaching associations as qualified to make judgments about private (typically for-profit) coach training schools? To whom is an accrediting coaching association accountable?
We've already mentioned the fact that other coaching school accrediting bodies (other than the three best models described above) have been created either as a rejection of what currently exists or because they just want to "do their own thing." If anyone can start their own accrediting systemwithout being granted the 'authority' to do so by a agency with the proper expertise and oversightjust because they are dissatisifed with the status quo, how does that increase the credibility and value of accreditation?
The proliferation of accrediting bodies around the world has been accompanied by an increasing number of agencies created to 'accredit the accreditors.' No such agency has emerged as yet in the coaching industry, and no efforts has as yet been made by the existing coaching school accrediting bodies to cooperate with each other to form a common "umbrella" agency to accredit coaching school accreditors.
At present there is no requirement or policy for coaching school accrediting bodies to disclose the details of their assessments, and what reporting is currently done is brief and provides only rudimentary information such as whether a school is accredited or not. On the plus side the ICF and IAC have volunteer member groups that engage in peer review and continously monitor their own accrediting standards and practices, make necessary revisions, and through this self-review hold themselves accountable. The WABC does not use volunteers and instead pays members of a standing committee to deal with accreditation.
A third challenge concerns the potential for conflict of interest. To what degree is the accrediting process conducted by an independent, arms-length, voluntary group or volunteer who is not a graduate of or associated with the school being reviewed for accreditation? At the present time the majority of persons conducting the accreditation review of any school are typically dues-paying members of the association. Only the WABC has minimized any conflict of interest by employing third-party assessors from the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) in the United Kingdom, although the committee that makes the final decision is a mix of WABC members and non-members (accreditation details are available here.)
A fourth challenge is whether accreditation standards actually contribute to the quality of coaching school graduates. Coaching schoolsmore than any other entityare, in addition to in-person training events, more likely to offer their entire curriculum online, through webinars, over the telephone, and with the greatest variety of durationsfrom a couple of dozen hours to a couple of years. Their tuitions vary from under a $100 to over several thousand dollars. And while this diversity could be a strength of the coaching industry, is it really credible that these different programs can share the same accreditation outcome?
At the time this article was prepared, we could not find any instance of a coaching school losing its accreditation or being placed on some type of 'probationary' status. For privacy or confidentiality reasons, it seems appropriate that schools that applied for accreditation but were rejected would not be identified. But how stringent or 'high' can standards be when almost every school that applies is granted some category of accredited status? On the plus side since applying for accreditation is voluntary, it seems likely that only coaching schools that have read, understood and organized themselves around a coaching association's explicit accreditation standards will apply. This is a form of self-study or self-review that can often result in a particular coaching school using the association's standards as a catalyst to improve its own program elements.
But coaching schools vary considerably in the degree to which they collect data regarding their own graduates. Testimonials abound on coaching school websites, and marketing brochures often make claims about the incomes, success or coaching effectiveness of graduates, but the methods used to collect this kind of data typically lack sophistication and statistical credibility. Should accrediting agencies have any responsibility for collecting this kind of data? Should the coaching associations involved in accrediting be reporting the details to the public?
The accreditation models used by the three most successful coaching associations (WABC, ICF and IAC) are works in progress and are likely to address the challenges mentioned above in their own way over time.