Can I call myself a coach in Austria?

One of the trendiest occupations or a calling, even, is being a coach. So, it is no wonder that I get asked the “Can I call myself a coach in Austria?” question A LOT.  

As some of you know, I explicitly work with foreigners who have found themselves at home in Austria. That means that most, if not all, of their qualifications, have been obtained in another country. It comes as a big surprise to my clients that even though they’ve worked hard to obtain these, they might not fit the Austrian legal framework and thus, allow them to be self-employed in that particular field. 

The most common area I come across is the one of coaching. There are two factors that make the answer to the question complicated and not an easy one to muster. So, I thought I’d take the time to explain these factors and hopefully, give you a better idea about this topic and what applies to YOU. 

Before I do that, it is necessary to explain what a coach is and distinguish it from two other similar occupations – those of a trainer and of a consultant (Berater).  

Shortly put, a coach is an expert who helps their client help themselves. The coach supports their clients to find their own solutions, using the resources already available to them (the client).  

Unlike the coach, the trainer provides knowledge, teaches new skills, methods, and competencies, and shares their know-how with their clients. The trainer composes the content of the training and organizes and controls the learning process. Most commonly, trainers work with groups of participants, rather than one-on-one.  

Neither coaches nor trainers give concrete advice though. This is left to the consultant ( (Berater). A consultant analyses the specific problem the client contacted them with and provides a client-orientated solution to that problem.  

Understanding the differences between these 3 is important as often they might (seem to) overlap.  

That being said, from a legal perspective, anyone can call themselves a coach in Austria. The tricky part is that you cannot be a coach in any area you like if there is a required qualified business license (reglamentierte Gewerbe) for that profession. The two areas that cause the most problems are business consulting (Unternehmensberatung) and life coaching (Lebens-und Sozialberatung). Both of these can be only exercised by individuals who have the necessary qualifications according to the Austrian legal framework. The licenses are difficult to obtain and require more than a course or even, a successful certification with the International Coaching Federation.  

The first important thing when it comes to using the title “coach” in a particular area (business coach, career coach, transformational coach, growth coach, etc.) is the nature of what you do for your client. And I mean that truly – EXACTLY what you do and what reasonable expectations about your services you create in them. When someone approaches me with the question above, I ask them a question in return “How does your process look like? Tell me what happens once someone hires your services.”  

The second factor is who your client is – do you work with individuals in their personal capacity or with businesses (even when they are solopreneurs they are considered a business). 

To illustrate the issue, let’s look at a career coach. If they work with businesses and focus on things such as internal organization, executive coaching, personal development of the team members, roles of the team members, internal processes, etc., career coaching falls under the qualified business license of a business consultant (Unternehmensberatung) and it is just part of the license. However, to do that, you have to have a license. It is possible though to limit the license to the coaching activity.  

If the career coach works with individuals and helps them either deal with personal problems related to their career/occupation or helps the client to consider their individual tendencies in the process of choosing a career path, the coaching requires a life coach license (Lebens-und Sozialberatung).  

In my opinion though, if the coach’s work is limited to a particular industry, I would argue that their activity does not fall under the qualified license of a life coach. For example, coaching women to advance in the tech industry. Why? Because their guidance and work will be industry-specific and they need to possess knowledge about it. Life coaches are educated to help their clients by using their education and training in psychology and/or psychotherapy and that is applicable to any field.  

Some free business licenses (meaning anyone can obtain them, there is no need for a particular education or other qualifications) include the activity of coaching in that area of work. Such licenses are the one for Marketing professionals (Werbeagentur), PR professionals (Public Relations-Berater) Web design (Werbegrafik-Designer) for example.  

As you can see, while there isn’t a limitation to using the title “coach”, there is one about the type of a coach you are.  

My best advice for you is to research carefully what you will need to become a coach in your desired area. On one hand, you might need to learn how to be a coach. It is just as important to have professional competence in that area which you can obtain either through a particular education and/or working in that field for a number of years. And when I say education, it has to be one that fits the legal framework for the license.  

I hope this article was helpful to you. I will be happy to answer your questions in the comment section.  

#coaching #careercoach #trainer #yourquestionsanswered

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