The Ultimate Guide On How To Become a Health Coach
Updated: October 11, 2019
Health Coaching is a rapidly growing field, with expected job growth of 16%1 through 2026. This number does not include the tremendous number of self-employed Health Coaches. If you want to become a health coach, this guide will give you some key information on how to evaluate a program, and what you should expect during and after your certification.
Sections in this Guide
What Does a Health Coach Do?
According to the World Health Organization, 70% of all deaths worldwide can be attributed to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. In the United States, obesity is a major contributor to these and other diseases with the obesity rate of 39.6% for adults and 18.5% for children2.
With chronic diseases and other health conditions on the rise, there is a growing need for Certified Health Coaches who can help educate and motivate clients to make sustainable changes and prevent disease. Health coaches partner with their clients to help them identify areas of their health they want to improve, set goals and then walk alongside them throughout the process.
As a Health Coach, you will make a difference in your clients lives by guiding, educating, and encouraging them to do what is best for their well-being and happiness. This means listening to your clients concerns and helping them come up with a plan that is tailored to meet their unique needs. This is a great career for anyone who is passionate about learning and helping people with their health and wellness.
Health Coaches have a variety of career options:
- Self Employment – Many health coaches choose to start their own businesses, working independently with clients and organizations.
- Employment with an organization – Wellness centers, insurance companies, fitness centers, corporations, and other types of businesses.
- Employment in healthcare – Medical practice, chiropractor’s office, hospitals, and others.
- Career expansion – Many individuals become certified as a Health Coach to expand what they can offer their current patients or clients, such as a nurse working in a doctor’s office or a physical therapist.
Where to Start to Become a Health Coach
Not all Health Coaching programs are equal, so it’s critical to do your research to ensure the program you choose meets your needs. Start by identifying more established Health Coaching Certification programs with a proven track record. Once you have narrowed that down, you can start your research by asking the following questions:
Is the health coaching program accredited?
If so, who is the accrediting body? Accredited programs must meet specific standards set by a separate, independent and credible organization, ideally run by a group of experts in that field. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is an example of an accrediting organization.
Is the health coaching program approved by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC)?
The NBHWC is an organization that oversees Health and Wellness Coach Certification programs and is run by a Board of Directors who are also experts in the field of health coaching. The NBHWC sets rigorous standards that Health Coach Certification program must meet in order to be approved and ensure that graduating health coaches have received the appropriate skills and training. Health Coaches certified by an approved program can also qualify to sit for the National Board Exam and become a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), which depending on the situation may provide more credibility or additional employment opportunities. If you are interested in becoming an NBC-HWC, or think this may be one of your goals in the future , be sure to select an approved training to ensure you will be eligible for the board exam if you desire to take that step in your health coaching career.
Are you a professional looking for continuing education credit?
Individuals with existing licensures or certifications may want to consider whether the training of choice is able to provide continuing education (CE). For example, if you are working in the medical field, you most likely are required to obtain continuing education to maintain your license. Selecting a training that also qualifies for CEs will save you time and money.
Are there prerequisites?
To become a Health Coach with some training programs requires students to hold certain degrees or licenses or expects them to have expertise in certain areas in order to qualify. Sometimes these programs assume that a person has previously been educated on a subject matter due to their licensure. This is not always the case, so make sure you research this thoroughly.
Is the institution dedicated solely to health coaching?
Make sure that health coaching is the primary focus of the organization, and not just another training program option. An organization that provides only Health Coach training means they are dedicated and vested to the field and in providing expert instruction.
How long have they been in business, and do they have a physical location?
These are two factors that should be considered in determining the soundness and accountability of an organization. With new organizations emerging in this expanding field, many lack the long-term experience or track-record that delivers more value to students. If an organization does not have a physical address (not a PO Box or virtual office suite) on their website or other public listing, it can be a red flag in terms of stability and accountability.
Answering the questions above should give you an idea of what to look for in a Health Coach training program so you can begin to narrow your choices. Next, as you look more closely at potential training, evaluate how the course is delivered to determine if it will fit your needs and availability.
How Is the Health Coach Training Delivered?
As you evaluate different Health Coach Training programs, it is important that how you participate, and how the content is delivered in the course fits your needs and availability. You’ll also want to make sure there a qualified instructor leading the training (not a mentor) and are they readily available to you.
Here are some key points to contemplate when deciding on the health coach training that is right for you:
Length and timing of training
Some Health Coach training will offer a more structured timeline for your training, with specific start and end dates that help hold you accountable. Other training offers a self-paced timeline that gives you an open-ended completion date (these tend to have lower graduation rates). You will need to determine which of these format suits your learning style and availability best.
Instruction and class style
There are trainings that provide pre-recorded video learning, live instruction, or combinations of these formats. Depending on the structure and richness of the content, training that only provides pre-recorded videos often limit learning and do not allow for interaction with other students and/or instructors. While most trainings include pre-recorded content, a live component is also important as health coaching involves thinking critically about clients’ needs, and this skill will better develop when engaging with a live instructor and fellow classmates.
Particularly if you are working full time or have existing responsibilities, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding about your time commitment. Be sure to inquire about how much estimated time you will need to devote to the training each week.
Investigate your future instructors. The instructors should be qualified, experienced, and passionate about teaching, and been a successful Health Coach. Most program websites will provide some information about the instructors, their credentials, and experience.
There are programs that offer training virtually and there are those that offer training on-site. If you are you looking for a training that is 100% online, be certain the program doesn’t require you to attend a portion of the training at their location. Online trainings that are structured like an online college are often more attractive, as they provide flexibility during the week, but still require homework or activities to be submitted by the end of each week. Structured classes, with interaction, can help students learn the real-life skills they’ll need when coaching their clients.
What happens when it’s over?
Know whether you received a certificate or documentation to verify the successful completion of your training. Ask if you will receive a title upon completing the training and what that title will be. The organization you choose may have different levels of certification or different training paths. You will need to evaluate these carefully to ensure you select the one that best aligns with your goals.
What Content Should Be Included in a Health Coach Training Program?
Every health coach training will be different. It is important to know what you will learn in your training. Here are some important questions to ask:
- What type of content is covered in the training?
- Does the program you are evaluating include wellness and nutrition education?
- Does it include or cover any specific coaching methods?
- Is there anything to help with marketing and business?
Know that each organization likely covers different topics in their training. Based upon your knowledge, goals, and experience, you will want to select a program that checks all the right content boxes for you.
Philosophy and approach
- What is the Health Coach program’s approach to nutrition?
- Is it theory based, or science based?
- Does it have a holistic focus or is it more traditional?
- Does it promote a specific diet, or does it teach how food works at the cellular level of the body?
- Does it provide a comprehensive nutrition and wellness education?
Science-based training is focused on scientific research and not specific types of diets. This is important to keep in mind, as diets tend to go in and out of style. As a coach, you will be working with a variety of clients: does what you learn in the training allow you to meet your clients where they are, answer their questions and help them get to where they want to be? Health coach training should provide factual information that can be applied to individual needs of clients.
Why You Need Support After Certification
Once you’ve completed training and received your certificate, you can begin coaching. Where do you start? A good health coaching training program should provide guidance during and after your training to help you lay the groundwork for how and where you want to coach, whether you want be self-employed and work with groups and/or individuals, or you choose to work as an employee of an organization.
It is important to continue learning even after you’re certified. Health Coaching is a life-long learning process – for both you and your clients – because the science is constantly evolving. You’ll need access to quality resources and materials that should be available from your certifying institution.
Here are some things to consider about post-certification:
What kind of support does the program offer after you’re certified?
Will the organization provide ongoing marketing support?
Will you have access to professional marketing materials?
Does the institution offer health coaching websites?
Is post-certification content continually updated to reflect current science?
Do you want to get board certified? Does the organization support you in this process?
We hope this information has been helpful to you in learning how to become a health coach. We are always available to assist you in sharing about the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute’s Health Coach Training or helping you to determine if another program might be the best choice for you.
Ready to Become a Health Coach?
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (April 2019), Health Educators and Community Health Workers
2. Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 15th annual State of Obesity report (2018), The State of Obesity 2018: Better Policies for a Healthier America
Posted By: Dr Sears Wellness Institute
The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute has been operating since 2007. Founded by Dr. William Sears, Dr. James Sears, and Robert Hodgin, the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is accredited, online training for health coaching.