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Can You be a Health Coach Without a Certification?

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As more people discover that prevention is always better than needing treatment, health coaching has taken off as a well-regarded career.

Hospitals are hiring health coaches in their wellness centers to reduce healthcare costs. Doctors are referring their patients to health coaches to improve their overall well-being, reduce obesity, and improve life satisfaction.

Corporations are offering integrative health and wellness programs to their employees in an effort to improve their work satisfaction and decrease health insurance costs. Individuals are turning to health coaches to work on health goals such as weight loss, because they want to live a life that feels good and allows them to be healthy well into their old age.

Health coaches bring strategies (such as motivational interviewing) that help their clients improve their quality of life and decrease healthcare spending. This powerful combination is contributing to the skyrocketing growth of this career path over the past decade or so. Health coaches are becoming popular for very impactful reasons.

But perhaps you’re not sure how you can join this meaningful career field. There are so many options for entry, so how do you get started?

What Requirements Are Needed to Become a Health Coach?

Health coaching is considered part of the supportive or allied health field, which means it’s not part of the medical field and is less risky than other careers.

As a health coach, you won’t be giving medical advice. You’ll instead offer support to your clients so they can engage in goal setting that leads to improvement of health conditions and making big, long-term changes in their lives.

While an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary to become a health coach, it can give you an advantage in the wellness field if you have a degree in a field such as psychology, nutrition, public health, or other health-supportive related fields.

You don’t have to be a nutritionist, dietitian, or personal trainer to be a health coach, though these can be great additions to a health coaching career.

That said, the only thing truly required to become a successful and well-regarded health coach is to complete a health coaching program and then complete the steps that lead to certification. There are a few routes to fulfilling these education program requirements. They might include:

  • An online certification and health coach training program
  • An in-person program
  • A full-time program at a university or college
  • Programs that last 6 months
  • Or some that are a year-long or longer

Various programs have specific focuses and are built for different styles of learners. For example, online programs are a great fit for busy working adults looking for a career change. Different programs also offer varying levels of support both in the training and after the program has been completed.

Typically, a health coach training program teaches students about all things health and wellness. This ensures they have a thorough understanding of how lifestyle and health habits affect overall well-being. One program might emphasize a particular view on what that should look like, so take the time to make sure the program you choose aligns with your goals and views.

Good programs will also teach you excellent, evidence-based coaching skills to make sure you can convey health information to your clients in ways that will help them lead healthy lifestyles. They should also give you the opportunity to practice your coaching skills, as well as experience coaching for yourself.

The final piece of the training puzzle is career development and business-building support. The best programs ensure that new coaches will be successful in the field with all the tools they need to build successful careers.

After completing your program, you’ll get to demonstrate your skills in order to get your health coaching certification. This step shows clients and employers that you have the skills, knowledge, and training necessary to be an effective coach and make a difference in others’ lives.

Why Getting Certified in Health Coaching is Important

man sitting in a grey chair researching health coach certifications and online training

Currently, health coaching is not a regulated career in the United States and most western countries. But just because there is not a governmental body that regulates health and wellness coaches, does not mean you will be able to find a career without a certification.

Health and wellness schools and institutions work hard to develop coursework and receive accreditation from organizations, like the International Coaching Federation, to provide their students with the knowledge they need to practice safely and confidently. The accrediting bodies and schools help maintain standards for health coaches.

Anyone can “hang out their shingle,” so to speak. However, that doesn’t mean that someone without a health coach certification will have the necessary skillset to be an effective health and wellness coach.

It also doesn’t mean that they will be hired by companies that look for specific qualifications like health coach certifications. A person without health coach training is also likely to be seen as less legitimate than other health coaches who are certified.

The best way to embark on a health coach career path is to undertake a rigorous training that leads to an accredited certification. You might do this as part of a degree program or as a stand-alone training.

By becoming certified, you’re demonstrating that you understand both up-to-date health information and can perform effective coaching practices.

The training process allows you to dive into health education and coaching theory. But it also offers lots of hands-on practice so you’ll get experience working with real people before trying to apply theory in client sessions.

Being part of an effective health and wellness coach certification program also gives you access to mentors who can help you navigate your career transition process. From helping you determine whether you want to be an entrepreneur or become employed to finding the right niche for your health coaching business, you’ll get effective support throughout the process.

If you do decide you’d like to work for a company as a health and wellness coach, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’ve been fully trained and have experience working with others. With a certification, you can prove that you’re qualified and have undertaken the rigorous training needed.

By choosing an accredited school, you’ll also be set up for the best presentation of your coaching skills and the most respect from employers and clients.

How to Become a Certified Health Coach

young health coach in training doing her coursework with a laptop computer and a textbook

Start by thinking about your own personal career goals. Imagine what your ideal health coaching career might look like.

  • Do you work with clients one-on-one or in groups?
  • Does the idea of a flexible business owner path fit your lifestyle?
  • Would you prefer to work for an employer?
  • What kinds of people would you like to work with?
  • Do you have other certifications or experience that are complementary to health coaching?
  • How much time do you have to give to a training program each week?

By getting clarity on your goals and needs, you’ll be able to analyze programs more effectively.

Next, take your time researching all the available options for training and certification. Read up on the specifics of what health coaches do and the most up-to-date coaching methods. Document your research so you have it all together for comparison.

Make sure to consider the different perspectives in health coaching, as well. If you’re more interested in a holistic health coach model that takes into account all aspects of a person’s life and how it all affects their well-being, you might be interested in a specialization in Holistic Wellness Coaching.

As a Holistic Wellness Coach, you’ll be supporting clients in improving all areas of their lives for the most long-term and sustainable lifestyle changes. You’ll help them see the connections between their stressful jobs and eating behaviors, for example. This holistic approach takes a deeper look than only analyzing someone’s nutrition and exercise habits does.

The IAWP offers this specialized training complete with accredited certification and lifelong support for students. Our wellness coaching program is one of the most highly accredited training programs available to potential coaches today. To learn more and inquire about program application requirements, get started here.

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About the Author

Suzanne Monroe

Suzanne Monroe is the author of The Holistic Cookbook & Lifestyle Guide: 12 Weeks to a Healthier, Happier You, the co-author of 101 Ways to Improve Your Health, and is a health and business expert appearing regularly in the media. Suzanne was inspired to create the IAWP Wellness Coach Training & Certification Program in collaboration with other leading health experts in order to inspire people to create meaningful careers and spread the message of wellness.