Life Coach – Transformational Counselor

“You have to recognize and understand the difference between therapy and life coaching or transformational counseling. Therapy is designed to make you functional, while life coaching is designed to make you happy.”

Kelle Sparta, Transformational Shaman and Spiritual Coach Trainer, Author of The Over-Achiever’s Guide To Nailing Your Spiritual Growth In Record Time

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who said they wished they could do something different with their lives, that’s something a life coach (or transformational counselor) can help with. Likewise, if someone says they feel “stuck,” or unfulfilled in their everyday life or career. Or, even if someone is struggling with making and keeping a health and fitness plan, or they just aren’t sure whether their life goals make sense anymore. 

A life coach, or as they are sometimes called, a transformational counselor or a transformational coach, is a counselor who works with people to bring about the changes they want to see in their lives to feel fulfilled or meet their goals. Pursuing this career is often an individual path, as there’s no traditional degree program for a transformational counselor. Someone working in this field is typically someone who has achieved a counseling degree and then focuses their practice on helping to facilitate transformational changes in their clients’ lives. 

There is some confusion over the usage of terminology related to life coaching, counseling, and transformational counseling. The terms “counselor,” “therapist,” and even “psychologist” include clear distinctions between a person’s education, clinical training and experience, and licensure. 

The words “counselor” and “therapist” are often used interchangeably, but unless the person has a counseling degree, they should not call themselves either one, recommends the Transformation Academy—an organization that offers life coach certifications. As the name implies, a transformational counselor is more of a coach than a counselor. The goal is to help the person unlock their desire to make the changes they want to see in their lives on their own, through your help and encouragement. 

Let’s look at becoming a life coach or transformational counselor in more detail.

Ask an Expert: Kelle Sparta

Kelle Sparta is a transformational shaman who trains spiritual coaches to create high-ticket businesses that support their lives and change the world. She has spent 26 years coaching spirit-based entrepreneurs and marketing her own coaching programs. 

Sparta is the host of the Spirit Sherpa Podcast, which has over 300,000 downloads in 147 countries worldwide, and the author of The Over-Achiever’s Guide To Nailing Your Spiritual Growth In Record Time What do you wish the public understood about transformational counselors or life coaches?

Sparta: You have to recognize and understand the difference between therapy and life coaching or transformational counseling. Therapy is designed to make you functional, while life coaching is designed to make you happy. So, to understand the difference, you really need to do therapy and be functional before you go to a life coach because some life coaches aren’t very good at delineating the difference, and they end up doing therapy when they’re not certified to do so, and that’s problematic. 

Then, the next step is to recognize that there are two aspects to transformational coaching. One is perspective shift, where you have to learn to see the world differently and, therefore see yourself differently in relation to it. The other one is an identity shift, where you are stepping out of being the person that you believe yourself to be now and stepping into the person that you are choosing to become What advice would you give to aspiring transformational counseling or life coaching students?

Sparta: First, don’t stop doing your own work. You will need to do it for the rest of your life. 

Second, is don’t believe the marketing experts because they don’t know the spiritual marketing world. The way everyone teaches you how to market is not the way that works for the spiritual or transformational coach. If you market yourself in a traditional way, you get a lot of very victim-based and broken people. As an individual practitioner, you can’t afford to work with those clients because the prices are simply not high enough. You are selling to the bottom market. You have to take a more personalized approach, which means you have to do aspirational marketing.

How to Become a Life Coach or Transformational Counselor

There’s no traditional degree program for a life coach. The educational steps to becoming a life coach start with earning a high school diploma or the equivalent, and then achieving a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a field compatible with counseling, social work, or psychology. Choosing a master’s degree program for counseling is the next step.

People who wish to increase or hone their transformational coaching skills, or, for instance, develop a career as a motivational speaker, can complete a certification program. These are generally unregulated programs that vary quite a bit in their approach. Some could be general coaching programs, while others could be in a specific niche, such as working with entrepreneurs or working in the health and fitness industry. 

Transformation Academy states that most people who work as life coaches are utilizing their unique life experiences and work experiences, combined with some training programs, to teach them what coaching is, the psychology behind it, and the methodologies and processes used.

Education of a Life Coach or Transformational Counselor

There is not a unitary certifying or accrediting organization for life coaching, so no specific license or degree is required to begin working in the field. Individuals who have not completed a formalized counseling education program cannot legally treat people for mental health issues, but they can work with people to bring about changes in their lives. Each state may have its own regulations for life coaching and transformational counseling, so it is recommended that anyone seeking to enter this field check with the state where they live or wish to practice for specific information.

For those who wish to follow the more traditional path of completing a formal counselor education master’s degree, the requirements are quite a bit different. The prospective life coach will benefit most from entering the job market with at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, business, or education. 

Most employers want counselors to complete a master’s degree in general counseling from a university accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) to advance to the next step of earning a master’s degree.

CACREP accredits schools in the fields of addiction counseling, career counseling, clinical mental health counseling, marriage, couple, and family counseling, school counseling, and student affairs and college counseling. CACREP approves counseling education programs that require students to take a minimum of 60 semester-credit-hours (or 90 quarter-credit-hours) of coursework.

The International Coaching Federation, which offers coaching certifications, requires that applicants complete an accredited education program. Should an aspiring coach wish to pursue one of the ICF certifications, here are three educational options:

Duquesne University

The online professional coach certification program at Duquesne University is designed to help individuals become professional coaches. The program provides students with the skills necessary to effectively coach others, including gaining a stronger sense of self-awareness and demonstrating competency in coaching methods. 

Upon completion of the program, certified coaches will be prepared to implement coaching in the organizations they work in or even set up a private practice.

  • Location: Pittsburg, PA
  • Duration: Eight months
  • Accreditation: International Coaching Federation (ICF)

George Mason University

George Mason University offers an online leadership coaching for organizational well-being certificate program designed specifically for business professionals striving to create positive change in their team and organizational culture. 

The program emphasizes strengths-based and transformative practices, and has a competency- and research-based curriculum that aligns with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) requirements and coaching competencies. Candidates for this program must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, five years of professional experience, and English fluency. 

  • Location: Arlington, VA
  • Duration: Five months
  • Accreditation: International Coaching Federation (ICF)

Georgetown University

Through the Institute for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown University, students can earn an online health and wellness coaching certificate, which prepares them with the skills necessary to become health and wellness coaches. 

The program is based on Georgetown University’s core value of cura personalis, or “care for the whole person,” which calls on health practitioners to address the mind, body, and spirit of their clients. Candidates must successfully complete all eight required courses, including the 30-hour coaching practicum 

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: International Coaching Federation (ICF)

Supervised Hour Requirements for a Life Coach or Transformational Counselor

The International Coaching Federation is a global organization that establishes core standards and best practices for coaching programs. However, because coaching is not regulated by any country or state, practitioners are not required to become credentialed by the ICF. The ICF accredits coaching training programs at three levels: Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC). 

The ACC path requires completion of an ICF-Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP), a minimum of 100 hours, including 70 paid hours of coaching experience with at least eight clients, and completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA). 

The PCC path requires The completion of an ICF-Accredited Coach Training Program, a minimum of 500 hours (440 paid) of coaching experience with at least 25 clients. 

The MCC path requires 200 hours of coach-specific training, 10 hours of Mentor Coaching over a minimum of three months by an MCC Mentor Coach in good standing, a minimum of 2,500 hours (2,200 paid) of coaching experience with at least 35 clients, a performance evaluation, a current Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Credential, and completion of the Coach Knowledge Assessment.

The Association for Coaching is another organization that accredits coaches, coach training, and coaching supervision. The Accredited Award in Coach Training (AACT) requires either 50 or 54 hours of a training course. The Accredited Certificate in Coach Training (ACCT) requires either 100 or 120 hours of training. The Accredited Diploma in Coach Training (ADCT) requires 150 or 170 hours of training. Finally, the Accredited Advanced Diploma In Coach Training (AADCT) requires either 200 or 220 hours of training. 

Those following the master’s degree path who study at a CACREP-accredited school must complete coursework that includes supervised hands-on experiences in the form of practicums (100 to 150 hours) and internships (600 to 700 hours).

Licensure of a Life Coach or Transformational Counselor

Since there is no unitary formal oversight of the transformational counseling field, there is no formal licensure. However, many programs offer certification or diplomas. 

The Animas Centre for Coaching offers an ICF- and Association for Coaching-accredited diploma program delivered through five modules of live virtual training supplemented with online resources. 

Those following the master’s degree path who study at a CACREP-accredited school must complete licensure requirements set forth by the state licensing board. Each state’s requirements are slightly different, so it is recommended that anyone seeking to enter this field check with the state where they live or wish to practice for specific information.

Life Coach or Transformational Counselor Licensure Renewal Requirements

There is no formal, state, or federally sanctioned licensure renewal program for life coaches. However, many programs that offer certifications or diplomas also offer continuing education programs or professional development resources. 

For instance, Animas Coaching offers Continued Professional Development courses that are recognized by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as Continuing Coach Education. 

To renew a license with the ICF, the licensee must complete at least 40 hours of Continuing Coach Education (CCE) programs within three years of credentialing or the last credential renewal for the ACC path. The PCC and MCC paths require that at least 24 hours be in Core Competencies and at least three hours must be in coaching ethics.

What Do Life Coaches or Transformational Counselors Do?

People seek the help of a life coach or transformational counselor for various reasons. Potential clients could be single parents working on a life and fitness plan, working people who feel overwhelmed by money, or executives and CEOs who want to create a more dynamic leadership style. Anyone who feels “stuck” in identifying their goals and obstacles or bringing about those goals could hire a life coach. 

A life coach will spend a lot of time talking with clients to get to know them. A life coach working with an executive business owner, parent, or entrepreneur does provide emotional support and encouragement, but beyond that, they can also help their client find clarity about what they really want to do. They can help provide outside perspectives, clearly define goals, and provide accountability to help ensure those goals are met. 

The most common way for transformational counselors to find clients is through their own private practice or by joining a group practice. Any place that hires counselors could be a potential avenue for employment for a life coach. Churches, schools, business incubators, social work organizations, large companies, and hospitals or recovery centers may all employ people to help their clients get their lives on track.

How Much Do Life Coaches or Transformational Counselors Make?

How much a life coach or transformational counselor makes is difficult to pin down, because of a few factors. It is not a licensed or regulated industry so there is no standard reporting. An individual’s income is limited only by the services they provide, the number of clients they have, and the amount they charge per client. Working with a large corporation or executives can be more lucrative than working with individual people, but many life coaches do both and have a variety of clients across the spectrum. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports salary data for various types of counselors. Following are employment and salary figures for Mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and all other counselors. This information about rehabilitation counselors was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2023)—the latest data available as of May 2024.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

  • Number employed in the U.S.: 397,880
  • Average annual salary (mean): $60,080
  • 10th percentile: $36,700
  • 25th percentile: $44,600
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,710
  • 75th percentile: $70,130
  • 90th percentile: $89,920

All Other Counselors

  • Number employed nationally: 35,580
  • Average salary (mean): $52,360
  • 10th percentile: $33,300
  • 25th percentile: $38,890
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,130
  • 75th percentile: $59,340
  • 90th percentile: $79,880
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


At, Kimmy Gustafson’s expertly crafted articles delve into the world of counseling and mental health, providing valuable insights and guidance to readers since 2020. In addition to feature pieces and interviews, she keeps the state licensing tables current. Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

Vanessa Salvia

Vanessa Salvia


Vanessa Salvia is an Oregon-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As fun as rigorous studies in math and science were, Vanessa took an independent path and developed a prolific career covering lifestyle and healthcare topics for magazines and newspapers, important industries such as concrete construction and building waterproofing, and even hard science. You can get in touch at Sage Media and Marketing.