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What Is the NBHWC Certification for Health Coaches?

What Is the NBHWC Certification for Health Coaches?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-06-17


A health coach certification program can teach you effective coaching methods. For instance, you learn how to deliver health education in a way that others will understand. You also gain valuable coaching skills for motivational interviewing and positive psychology techniques.

But if you want to take your career to the next level, you might want to consider becoming national board certified as a health coach. This option is available through the NBHWC.  

About the NBHWC

NBHWC is the acronym for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. This organization was formed in 2012 and, since then, has continued to work toward the advancement of the health and wellness coaching industry.

In 2016, the NBHWC joined forces with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Their goal with this partnership was to develop a board certification program for health coaches. They’ve completed this task, enabling more than 10,000 health coaches to become national board certified.

What Is the NBHWC Certification? A Closer Look at the NBC-HWC

The health coach certification offered by the NBHWC is known as the NBC-HWC. This stands for National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. What’s the difference between this credential and one you’d get from a non-board-certified health coach certification course?

The NHHWC sets the standards for health and wellness coaching professionals. It does this, in part, by ensuring that health coaches receive quality training. It also reinforces the value of experience, requiring individuals who want to be certified by the national board to lead a certain number of coaching sessions before they can take the exam.

The NBHWC exam verifies that applicants have gained the knowledge and skills needed through their health and wellness coaching certificate program to effectively help their clients. Test takers must achieve a passing score to earn this board certification. So, it is a credential that carries a bit more weight.

Reasons to Become a National Board-Certified Health Coach

Now that you understand what a board-certified health coach is, it’s easier to see the benefits of pursuing this designation. Since the NBHWC sets the standards industry-wide, earning its health and wellness coaching certificate shows that you meet those standards. It says that you understand health science and how to apply its ideology to the coaching process. It confirms your knowledge of exercise science, nutrition, and change management. In short, it says that you have the education and skill set needed to work in a health coach role.

Other benefits of being a board-certified health coach with the NBHWC include:

  • Being included in their national directory, which can make it easier for potential clients to find you

  • Networking with others in the health and wellness coaching industry, whether to share knowledge or make new friendships

  • Gaining access to a variety of tools useful when health coaching, along with additional resources

  • Attending events open only to NBHWC members, which are offered throughout the country (some of which provide continuing education credits)

4 Steps to Becoming National Board Certified Through the NBHWC

Becoming a board-certified health coach takes some work. However, taking the steps necessary to receive board certification pays off in terms of having a higher-level credential. And you can get this credential in just four steps: 

Step 1: Obtain the minimum education or work requirements 

To apply for national board certification, the NBHWC wants one of two things. The first is to have an associate degree or higher. (Graduate study is great, but not required.) The second is 4,000 hours of work experience. Both the degree and experience can be in any field. They don’t have to involve health coaching at all. This helps create a diverse field of certified wellness professionals.

Step 2: Complete an approved health coach training program 

Before you can take your certification exam, you must have completed a training program approved by the NBHWC. This ensures that you’ve received the education required to meet the minimum standards. Programs that meet the NBHWC’s guidelines often have its seal on their website. You can also find an approved health coaching program with the NBHWC’s training program search page.

Step 3: Perform the minimum coaching session requirements 

Certification applicants must complete 50 coaching sessions before they can take the exam. This shows that you understand the coaching structure. It also validates that you know how to lead clients through the coaching process. A log of your sessions must be submitted with your exam application.

Step 4: Take the national board certification exam 

Once you have the necessary education and experience, the next step is to take the certification exam. These exams are held in person and administered by Prometric. Pass the exam and you are now a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).

Your national certification must be renewed every three years. This requires that you pay the required fees. You must also earn 36 continuing education credits every three years to retain this credential.

Tips to Prepare for the NBHWC Exam

Getting board-certified is a big deal. The more you’re prepared for the certification exam, the better. This exam is designed to test your knowledge in four key areas:

  • Coaching structure

  • Coaching process

  • Health and wellness

  • Ethics and legal considerations

Coaching structure refers to how you organize your programs. The coaching process refers to the sessions themselves. This includes how you establish trust with clients. It also involves your strategies for communicating.

The area of health and wellness covers things you need to know as a certified health coach. This includes chronic health conditions and their risk factors. How to develop healthy behaviors is another subject area. Ethical and legal topics include professional conduct and adhering to local, state, and national regulations.

The NBHWC provides several resources to help you prepare for your board certification exam. Among them is a practice exam. This covers the same four areas as the health coaching exam. You can also go through the NBC-HWC certifying examination tutorial. This tutorial teaches you how to use testing features when taking the actual exam.

It can also be helpful to connect with others who’ve taken and passed the national board exam. Ask about their experience. See if they have any advice. The more you prepare, the better you’ll feel on the day of the exam.

But First, Choosing an NBHWC-Approved Training Program

Maybe you’re not ready for the exam yet. Perhaps you still need to find a health coaching program. Consider finding one that immerses you in the coaching process. One that teaches you what you need to know, but also works with you on an individual level.

Understanding coaching theories and approaches is one thing. Putting them into action is another. You want a training program that helps you develop your practice. A program that works with you to take your coaching skills to the next level.

Also, consider the materials and resources included with the health coaching program. Look at whether you have access to:

  • Online study materials

  • Live training sessions

  • Coaching videos

  • Real-time practice sessions

Each of these is valuable on its own. Put together, they combine to make you a more successful health coach. This alone makes board certification worth the effort. Now all you have to do is enroll in an NBHWC-approved training program.

The HCI Pathway Program, powered by ISSA, is approved by the NBHWC. Pathway is an immersive 13-week program that does a deep dive into the eight dimensions of wellness. Upon its completion, you will have the training required to pursue national board certification.

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