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Can I call myself a coach in Austria?

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

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 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

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 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!



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