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Perspective: Psychology, counseling, and social work majors could benefit from completing a life coaching certification during undergrad

Psychology, counseling, and social work majors could benefit from completing a life coaching certification as an undergraduate student.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Entry into a paid, skilled trade aligned with behavioral science, counseling, and social work objectives – to support individuals as they enhance their quality of life through psychosocial and emotional learning, positive behavior change, life skills development, and many other personal and professional development initiatives, etc.

2. Coach trainees, or life coaching students, learn skills directly related to and pulled from psychology and counseling theories and modalities – active and reflective listening, person-centered presence, non-directive dialogue, Socratic questioning, observing themes and patterns in behavior, gently challenging, mindful engagement, creating the social conditions for growth, enhancing awareness, objectivity, accepting and appreciating differences, etc. They simply apply them with non-clinical clients.  

3. Being employed in a job that allows you to immediately apply fresh knowledge gained through higher ed in service of your client’s goals deepens learning and increases the likelihood of knowledge retention.

4. Plenty of organizations offer a continuum of care that includes life coaching, counseling, psychotherapy, medication management, etc. with life coaches supporting those experiencing non-clinical levels of distress or life challenges and therapists supporting those with moderate to severe clinical issues. A life coach certification would allow the psychology, counseling, or social work major to begin entry-level work in an organization like this with access to mentors and a career path. The bonus is an opportunity to determine fit for this type of work before committing all the time and energy required to complete a graduate degree and licensing.

5. Certified life coaches (and other types of professional coaches) often work flexible schedules on contract, part-time, and/or remote for around $50 USD per session, and often much more. So many undergrad students work part-time jobs unrelated to their career path interests for much lower pay around school schedules. Why not do work directly related to your major for more pay earlier than possible with the higher bar to entry related to licensing?

6. Yes, there is a stigma in the U.S. around life coaching due to a lack of government regulation around the profession. However, evidence-based coaching is a thing. I found life coaching through scouring the behavioral science literature for quality-of-life related interventions while pursuing my PhD in Psychology. Governing bodies also exist to help raise the ethical and professional standards in the industry (e.g., the International Coaching Federation, the Center for Credentialing & Education, etc.). Coaches can complete evidence-based training programs that are approved or accredited by these or other governing bodies to demonstrate a commitment to high quality coaching and ethical standards.

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