In this article:
Defining Coaching, Training, and Consulting
Legal Framework in Austria
Nature of Coaching Services
Client Base and Industry Specificity
Available Business Licenses
One of the trendiest occupations or a calling 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. Two factors 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.
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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 a consultant (Berater).
Shortly put, a coach is an expert who helps their client help themselves. The coach supports
their clients to find their solutions, using the resources already available to them (the
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)
That 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 (reglementierte 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 a 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 the 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 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
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 applies 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 about using the title “coach”, there is one about
the type of 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 several years. And when I say
education, it has to fit the legal framework for the license.
I will be happy to answer your questions about this topic in the forum or during the consultation session!