Life Coach – Transformational Counselor

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 the goals they set in life 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 chooses to focus their practice on helping to facilitate transformational changes in their client’s 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.

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, 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 methodologies and processes used.

Education of a Life Coach or Transformational Counselor

There is not a certifying or accrediting organization for life coaching, so there is no specific license or degree 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. 

To go on to the next step of earning a master’s degree, 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).

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.

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 are required to complete coursework that also 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 are required to 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. In order 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 Coach or Transformational Counselors Do?

People seek the help of a life coach or transformational counselor for a variety of 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 being able to identify their goals and obstacles or bring about those goals could hire a life coach. 

A life coach will spend a lot of time talking with clients, to really 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 2019)—the latest data available as of March 2021.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

  • Number employed in the U.S.: 283,540
  • Average annual salary (mean): $49,950
  • 10th percentile: $29,520
  • 25th percentile: $35,960
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,240
  • 75th percentile: $59,650

Rehabilitation Counselors

  • Number employed nationally: 109,040
  • Average salary: $40,160
  • 10th percentile: $23,820
  • 25th percentile: $28,140
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,950
  • 75th percentile: $48,110
  • 90th percentile: $63,790

All Other Counselors

  • Number employed nationally: 25,420
  • Average salary: $48,800
  • 10th percentile: $27,030
  • 25th percentile: $33,690
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,930
  • 75th percentile: $59,170
  • 90th percentile: $77,590

Life Coach (Transformational Counselor) Resources & Organizations

  • International Coaching Federation
  • Animas Centre For Coaching
  • Positive Psychology 
  • Zur Institute 
  • Leadership That Works 
  • iPEC Coaching 
  • The Institute For Life Coach Training
  • Integrated Wellness Academy 
  • Certified Life Coach Institute
  • Health Coach Institute 
  • Transformation Academy
  • Coach Training Alliance 
  • Life Purpose Institute 
  • Center for Credentialing and Education
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.