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Is Becoming a Board-Certified Health Coach Worth It?

Is Becoming a Board-Certified Health Coach Worth It?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-07-08


The health coaching market is projected to grow by 4.4% each year. (1) This makes it a good time to pursue this coaching role—also making it a good time to think about becoming national board certified as a health coach.

Overview of the Health Coach Role

A health coach helps clients make healthier choices. Often, this involves providing nutritional guidance. It can also include working with them to create healthier behaviors in terms of exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, and more.

Health coaches do this in a few different ways. One is that they educate clients. They teach clients about many different aspects of health and wellness. They talk about actions that can improve health and those that can harm it. They share what strategies do and do not work according to science. Health coaches also provide accountability. 

Some health coaches develop programs for public health agencies. The goal of these programs may be to improve health education. They teach the public about how to improve their health. Or they share actions people can take to reduce their risk of disease. Health coaches may also offer coaching as a form of lifestyle medicine. An example would be helping patients with specific conditions make healthier choices.

Another important function of a health coach is to keep a client’s motivation going strong. The goal is to help them make positive lifestyle changes. Health coaches do this with techniques known to compel lasting change, such as motivational interviewing.

A health coach can sometimes have a different title. They may be called a wellness coach or life coach, for instance. Some combine these titles and work as a health and wellness coach. All perform similar duties. As explained in a Mayo Clinic video, health and wellness coaching involves “supporting your vision to live your best life.” (2)

What Is a Board-Certified Health Coach?

Some health coaches are board-certified. Board certification means that they have taken and passed a national board certification exam. This exam affirms a person’s competency in areas important to the health coach role. It also establishes standards for the industry as a whole.

The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) credential is the gold standard in health coaching certification. Its certification exam was developed in coordination with the National Board of Medical Examiners. As of today, more than 10,000 health coaches hold this credential.

The NBHWC exam assesses a person’s knowledge of the coaching structure and process. It also covers important topics related to health and wellness. It even dives into ethical and legal topics related to health and wellness coaching.

Regular Certification vs. National Board Certification

Some training programs offer health coach certification. Others are national board certified. What’s the difference?

To become a certified health coach, you must complete a training program and pass a certification exam. This exam can be offered by any accrediting agency. 

Board certification requires that you pass an exam offered by a national board. Becoming national board certified is generally a more stringent process. It also often requires that you have more training and experience.

For comparison, let’s look at a non-board-certified health coach program. To become a certified health coach, you must complete a training program and pass an exam. This involves learning about health science, exercise science, and nutrition. It provides the foundation needed to work as a health coach. However, to enroll, you simply need a desire to work in a health coach role. You don’t need a degree or experience.

Getting national board certified has more requirements. To qualify for NBHWC certification, you must:

  • Have at least an associate degree or 4,000 hours of work experience in any field

  • Complete an NBHWC-approved training program 

  • Log 50 coaching sessions post-graduation

  • Complete an application and pay the board exam fee.

In short, the journey to becoming a national board-certified health coach is longer and has more requirements.

Benefits of a National Board Health Coaching Certification

If you can become a certified health coach quicker by not getting national board certified, why take this additional step? Because it provides several benefits:

  • Enhanced credibility. Being able to call yourself a board-certified coach tells potential clients that you meet the highest standards within the health coaching industry. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have credibility without board certification. But being accredited by a national board helps boost this credibility. It takes you to the top of your field.

  • More employment opportunities. Some employers require you to be a national board-certified health coach to apply for open coaching positions. Having a certification from another accrediting agency isn’t enough. Getting your board certification qualifies you for these positions. This opens the door to more employment opportunities.

  • Increased confidence in your abilities as a health coach. Let’s face it, national board certification doesn’t only increase other people's confidence in your abilities. It also increases your confidence in yourself. This may be due, in part, to the increased training required for this certification. The greater your education, the more comfortable you are with your skills as a health coach. Having an experience requirement helps as well. Through actual coaching sessions, you learn the ins and outs of health and wellness coaching. It puts more tools in your toolbelt for working with clients. You start to feel like you can master health coaching.

How to Find a Board-Certified Health Certification Program

To become a board-certified health coach, you must first complete an approved training program. This health coach training helps advance your skills. It also provides the opportunity to get feedback from others with experience in health and wellness coach roles.

Since the NBHWC is the gold standard in board certification, choosing a program approved by this accrediting agency is a good first step. You can search for these programs on the NBHWC’s website. It provides a lot of information about specific programs to help you select one for you.

For example, one of its approved training programs is the HCI Pathway Program powered by ISSA. When you look at this program on the NBHWC website, you can see that the program length is 13 weeks. Additionally, no prerequisites are required to enroll in this health coaching program.

The NBHWC also provides an overview of the certification preparation course. For HCI Pathway, it says that this program uses Empowered Well-Being models. The program also focuses on holistic health and wellness. Learners have access to both pre-recorded lessons and live instruction. They also gain live health coach practice to help develop their skills.

In addition to course overview, the NBHWC also provides course design. In the case of HCI, this includes:

  • Two live sessions per week

  • Weekly lectures, quizzes, and reflection activities

  • Interactive health coaching labs

  • Mentorship and access to faculty with regular office hours

  • Health coaching demos

  • Ability to network with an alumnus of professionals in health and wellness coach roles

You can become a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach with the HCI Pathway Program, offered through ISSA. This program only takes three months to complete and includes intensive, interactive instruction. It is NBHWC-approved and can take your coaching skills to the next level!



References

  1. LaRosa, J. (2024, January 24). $7.6 Billion U.S. Health Coaching Market Will Surge to New Heights in the Next 5 Years. MarketResearch.Com. https://blog.marketresearch.com/7.6-billion-u.s.-health-coaching-market-will-surge-to-new-heights-in-the-next-5-years

  2. The benefits of health and wellness coaching. (2022, March 21). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/vid-20522993

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