My Journey to PCC Coaching Credentials – Ross Nichols

Author : Ross Nichols

journey to PCC credentialing

15th October 2020

In response to requests for tips on credentialing, here is my account of how I earned the PCC (Professional Certified Coach) credential from the ICF (International Coach Federation) in under 4 years.

My first experience of coaching was in 2011. For my back story, check out my reflective essay (‘This Second Chance’) on the Animas Learning Zone. I’d just registered my company (Business Mentoring Services Ltd) when I had a voluntary client referred to me who, it turned out, wanted career coaching. I was open about being a business mentor rather than a coach but offered to give it a go and see how I could help. After a few sessions I’d fallen in love with coaching and I realised that I wanted to add coaching to my business.

My first training was NLP Practitioner in 2012. I learned the hard way that this does not count as coach specific training as far as the ICF is concerned. I looked on the ICF website for accredited coach training and found the Animas Diploma in Transformational Coaching, which I did Aug 2014-Mar 2015.

Before the Diploma course started, 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:

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

Criteria: 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.

Criteria: 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.

Criteria: 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.

Criteria: 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.

Criteria: 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. Retrofitting your coaching journey into the ICF’s credentialing criteria may result in disappointment and delay, and possibly additional expense.

person making a plan

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 and grow.

man holding plant symbolising growth

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!

You can find out more about Ross and his work here.

If you would like us to help tell your story or you would like to share your coaching niche, philosophy or agenda in the form of a blog, like this one – contact Sam to express your interest:

Categories: Accreditation  

What's new?

Making A Difference: Transformational Coaching and its Potential for Impact

Making A Difference: Transformational Coaching and its Potential for Impact

Social Impact

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead As human beings, conversations are an integral part of our daily routines. Through our conversations, new possibilities and experiences are discovered, and the impact of that…

Categories: Social Impact

Read More

Coaching for Happiness: Introducing the Science of Positive Psychology - Yannick Jacob

Coaching for Happiness: Introducing the Science of Positive Psychology - Yannick Jacob

In this lecture, existential coach (MA), positive psychologist (MSc) and Animas graduate Yannick Jacob explores what it takes to live a happier and more fulfilled life and what positive psychological science may contribute to the process. He also looks at how we as coaches may deal with clients who are…


S1 E2 : Setting The World On Fire

S1 E2 : Setting The World On Fire

Robert Stephenson sat down with Lilian Flynn to talk about some of the amazing experiences and projects she has been involved with since completing her Animas Diploma in Transformational Coaching a year ago. Lilian talks about: Getting client referrals, setting up her own company, youth coaching in schools, developing emotional…