Health Coaching

Do You Need a Certification to Become a Health Coach?

People across the world are increasingly prioritizing their health. Unfortunately, “prioritizing health” isn’t quite the same as actually living a healthy lifestyle.

Take this 2016 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, for instance. Researchers found that an average of only 2.7% of Americans met four basic qualifications of a healthy lifestyle.

What’s behind this disconnect? On an individual level, research highlights two culprits: a lack of motivation and feeling overwhelmed.

Is it any wonder why the demand for certified health coaches— professionals who help motivate and guide clients into implementing practices that sustain long-lasting health and well-being improvement—has skyrocketed?

The health coaching market is a $14.48 billion service market. And it’s only expected to grow—potentially reaching $25.95 billion by 2030.

So, if you’re considering becoming a health coach, there’s no better time than now.

But does this process simply entail adding “Health and Wellness Coach” to your social media profiles? Will you be able to work with clients immediately? Let’s explore.

Can You Call Yourself a Health Coach without Certification?

As health and wellness coaching is still unregulated, you can technically call yourself a health coach without any certification.

But, you cannot advertise yourself as a “Certified Health Coach”—because you’re not, and if you do,  you could land in legal hot water over false advertising.

Still, just because you can call yourself a health coach without having any training, doesn’t mean that’s in anyone’s best interest. For three reasons:

  • Ineffective (or downright harmful) wellness coaching The health and wellness field is an ever-evolving one. A health coach certification program equips you with up-to-date health information and coaching skillsets to guide clients effectively and safely into adopting a healthier lifestyle. Without the education of a health coach program, you might give the wrong advice, overstep your scope of practice, or fail to use a trauma-informed approach when appropriate. 
  • “Less legitimate” than certified health coaches Imagine that your toilet is clogged, and no matter what you do, you just can’t get things in working order. You need a plumber. Who would you choose: an unlicensed or licensed plumber? Chances are, you’d go with the latter. Think about this if you’re considering pitting yourself against other certified health coaches. If you were a potential client or employer, who would you choose?
  • Professional resources that’ll help you get started How do successful, reputable health coaches onboard new clients? Handle sensitive health information? Track client progress? You’ll learn the best practices and tried-and-true health coaching systems in high-quality health coach training programs. In most cases, you’ll also get access to health coaching templates, forms, and worksheets you can use with your own clients. Beyond preventing you from making costly mistakes, these resources can also save you massive time and energy.
Your Guide to Becoming a Board Certified Health Coach

Learn How to Set Yourself Apart as a Board-Certified Health Coach

What Can a Health Coach Legally Do?

It’s important to note that a health coach certification doesn’t make you a nutritionist, licensed therapist, registered dietitian, or certified personal trainer (unless you already hold these qualifications).

Meaning? Even as a certified health and wellness coach, you cannot legally:

  • Develop individualized meal plans for clients, unless you hold a certification in nutrition
  • Diagnose or treat clinical conditions or chronic health conditions
  • Provide therapy services
  • Give clients specific physical fitness recommendations

What can you do as a certified health coach, then?

Health and wellness coaches help clients build the self-care skills, habits, and healthy behaviors crucial for optimal overall well-being and health. They help clients find the tools needed to make better lifestyle choices and achieve their health goals.

After you earn your health coaching certification, you can expect to:

  • Guide clients in achieving and sustaining habits such as healthy eating, exercising, practicing stress management, getting adequate quality sleep, and more.
  • Develop client-specific integrated wellness plans to support them in multifaceted areas of their lives.
  • Teach clients about accountability and be there to reflect upon their efforts.
  • Assist clients in working through potential barriers to behavior change.

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Health Coach?

There are three benefits to becoming a certified health coach.

You Help Change Lives

A growing body of research highlights the efficacy of health coaching in increasing the uptake of and adherence to healthier lifestyle habits — which could lead to the following outcomes:

  • Dietary habits. A 2018 systematic literature review of 11 randomized controlled trials studying health and wellness coaching (HWC) for improving eating behaviors found that individuals with a health coach tend to eat more health-boosting fruits and vegetables, plus less unhealthy fats, compared to those without a wellness coach.
  • Physical activity. Numerous studies have found that people who receive health coaching log significantly higher step counts or minutes of physical activity than those who do not work with health coaches.
  • Weight loss. According to a 2011 randomized controlled trial involving 415 individuals classified as obese, those who met with a health coach to improve their diet and overall lifestyle experienced more significant weight loss than those who did not receive health coaching.
  • Cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Research has found that people who received health coaching experienced a more significant reduction in total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol (i.e., “bad” cholesterol), and systolic blood pressure than those who did not work with a wellness coach. These are all beneficial to cardiovascular health.
  • Blood sugar control. In a 2012 study, researchers found that individuals with type 2 diabetes assigned to an 8-week telephone health coaching program reduced their HbA1c levels by 1.3%, compared to the 0.5% reduction in those who received standard care. The HbA1c test measures an individual’s average blood glucose levels for the last two to three months. 

Bottom line? If you become a certified health coach, you’ll be able to help guide clients into implementing lasting positive behavior changes.

Earn a Living Doing What You Love

If you’re passionate about helping others take charge of their health journeys, entering the health coaching field will be a fulfilling career choice.

But how much does it pay?

According to Nudge Coach, most experienced certified health and wellness coaches charge between $100 to $200 per session. A quick search on Glassdoor also reveals that full-time health coaches can expect to earn upwards of $90,000 annually.

Please note that these numbers don’t imply that there’s a limit to your earning potential as a wellness coach.

For example, you could expect to charge more for your services if you hold multiple certifications (e.g., a Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant).

The following factors could also impact your income:

  • Whether you’re working part-time or full-time
  • Your years of health coaching experience
  • Your location
  • Whether you’re self-employed or working for a company

Unlock Endless Opportunities

As a certified health coach, regardless of whether you’d like to run your own business or work for a company, you’ll gain access to endless career paths.

For example, some companies regularly hiring certified health coaches include:

  • Community centers
  • Health clubs
  • Fitness studios
  • Hospitals
  • Private medical offices
  • Health insurance companies
  • Educational institutions
  • Wellness centers
  • Weight loss centers
  • Gyms
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Corporate environments

And if you’d like to run your own business, here are a few ideas beyond conducting one-on-one health coaching sessions:

  • Create your own online wellness products and programs
  • Start a health and wellness blog
  • Lecture or speak on health and wellness and behavior change
  • Run a wellness center
  • Develop a health-based smartphone app

What Should I Do to Become a Health Coach?

Interested in becoming a certified health and wellness coach? Here are four steps you could take to start living your passion.

#1: Clarify Your Goals as a Certified Health Coach

First things first, give some thought to the type of health coach you wish to be. Ask yourself the following questions. Your answers will help guide you in choosing the best health coach certification program for you:

  • Who do you wish to work with? Think about your target client. How old are they? What changes and issues do they want to focus on? 
  • Are you looking to focus on any one aspect in particular? In other words, are you looking to specialize or work within a particular niche? ?
  • How will you work with clients? Will you conduct one-on-one or group sessions? The coaching skills required in one-on-one settings may differ slightly from those in group settings (e.g., with group coaching, you may need to work with clients with different goals, perspectives, and personalities simultaneously).

#2: Research Health Coaching Programs

Time to do some serious research on health coach training options.

While many options are available, you could quickly narrow down your choices by simply asking yourself: will this equip me with the knowledge and skills I need to work with the clients I want, in the way I’d like?

To further cut down on the options you have, screen your list of health coach programs against the following:

  • What prerequisites must you meet? Most health coaching programs do not require you to hold a college or master’s degree in order to enroll.  Instead, most request that you be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. That said, there are always exceptions—so it’s still a good idea to check.
  • Are all materials online, or are there hard-copy options too? If you prefer to study with hard-copy materials, choose a program that provides that option.
  • What kind of supplemental materials does the program offer? For example, practice quizzes, additional reading materials, and assignments can help you better grasp the coursework. 
  • Are the lessons conducted online or in person? What does your schedule look like? Can you attend in-person or live classes? If you can’t, it makes sense to focus on online programs that are self-paced.  
  • Will you get hands-on coaching sessions? Nothing beats real-life experience. To better prepare yourself for your first session with a paying client, go for certification programs that offer hands-on coaching practice sessions.
  • Will the health coach certification program provide continuing career support? What happens after you complete the certification program? Does the certifying agency provide continued support to help you find your footing as a newly certified health coach?

#3: Land Your First Job as a Certified Health Coach

Once you’ve received your health coach certification, the next step is to land clients.

Whether you’re running your own health coaching business or planning to work for a company, the following two tips will prove valuable in maximizing your employability:

#4: Keep Your Health Coaching Certification Current

Continuing education courses are necessary to keep your certificate valid, but you can also use them for upskilling purposes, to better serve your clients, or to steer your health coaching business in a different direction.

Why Health Coaches Call AFPA the Best Health Coaching Certification Online

Why do so many aspiring health coaches choose to get certified with AFPA? Answer: because it stands out in so many ways.

Rigorous and Comprehensive

With AFPA’s Health and Wellness Coach Certification, you’ll learn everything there is to know about:

  • The various evidence-based coaching processes
  • Being an effective coach
  • Eliciting behavior change from clients
  • How health is not only specifically dependent on diet and exercise but also on supportive relationships, meaningful work, work/life balance, spirituality, and more
  • Client-focused support

Plus, if you opt for the Holistic Health Coach Certification, in addition to the above, you’ll also learn about the following:

  • Meal planning and dietary guidelines for disease prevention and optimal health through whole foods nutrition
  • The science behind whole foods and plant-based nutrition
  • Holistic diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, and paleo diets

Fully Remote and Study at Your Own Pace

Like all of our certification programs, our health coach certifications  are self-paced, self-study programs you can complete from the comfort of your home in 12 months or less. You can complete the course 100% online or choose a hybrid learning program with physical textbooks and online testing.


Our health coach certification programs won’t break the bank. Receive your health coaching credentials at a fraction of the price of a four-year college curriculum or many other health coach programs.

And the cherry on top? AFPA offers payment plans.

Simply pick the option that fits your budget and make payments over three, six, or twelve months. Our payment plans offer instant approval and are safe and secure.

Nationally and Internationally Recognized

Learn more about AFPA’s health coaching certification programs below:

Learn How to Stand Out as a Top-Tier Health Coach in 5 Steps

Your Guide to Becoming a Board Certified Health Coach


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