Life coaching, also known as personal coaching, is an emerging specialty among the counseling professions. Life coaches help people set goals and plan steps to meet those goals during major personal transitions, such as divorce and job changes. Life coaching has similarities to career counseling, but encompasses additional areas of peoples' lives beyond their careers. Life coaches provide advice and guidance for clients through in-person meetings, phone conferences and email exchanges.
Life coaching emerged from a fusion of the ideas of 20th century pioneering psychotherapists, including Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, and the concepts of business leaders, including Dale Carnegie and Peter Drucker. Life coaching began as a formal profession in the 1950s called "business coaching," focused on helping corporate managers improve their performance, according to Vikki G. Brock's history of life coaching, "Grounded Theory of the Roots and Emergence of Coaching." The term "coach" was borrowed from its traditional sports context. In the 1980s, business coaches became known as "executive coaches."
As late as 1990, there were no life coach professional associations and only three life coach training schools existed. Since 1990, the life coaching field has expanded dramatically. By 2008, 16 professional associations and 273 training schools served the life coach movement.
The life coach profession is so new that as of 2012, salaries and careers associated with it were not described in the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics collections of information about American careers. The professions closest to life coaching, school and career counseling, show a median national pay of $53,380 per year, according to the Bureau. A "Forbes" magazine article, "Surprising Six-Figure Jobs," estimated that 20 percent of approximately 10,000 registered life coaches make more than $100,000 per year.
There are many potential careers within the life coaching field. The International Coach Federation recognizes 15 fifteen coaching specialties, including business, health and fitness, life visions, relationships, and spirituality. One way to see what types of careers exist in life coaching is to review online directories of life coaches and examine their detailed biographies, specialties and credentials lists.
Life coach training varies widely within the field. Some life coaches obtain advanced graduate degrees and training in business or psychology before receiving certification from life coach schools. Other coaches appear to have very little training. One of the earliest life coach training institutions, Coach U, was founded in 1992 by Thomas Leonard, known as the "Father of Coaching." Coach U offers a mixture of in-person and distance learning classes leading to certification as a life coach.
Since life coaching was not recognized as a profession by the BLS as of 2012, statistics on the future growth of life coaching jobs are not yet available. Because life coaching is a new profession with few established organizational positions awaiting new entrants to the field, fledgling life coaches must use entrepreneurial skills to create their own client bases.