Does A Health Coach Need To Be Certified?

Does A Health Coach Need To Be Certified?

Would you get your teeth cleaned by a hygienist who wasn’t certified? Could you rely on an emergency medical technician who wasn’t certified? Would you entrust your car to a mechanic who wasn’t certified? Definitely not. The same holds true for health coaches.

Clients entrust their wellness to a health coach, so it’s important that the coach has credible training and education. Certification is the first step to professionally entering the field as a CWC (Certified Wellness Coach). When you’re certified, it validates that you have the knowledge, skills, training – and integrity – to provide your clients with superior service.

Certification, like any other higher level of education, opens more doors to employment opportunities, whether you work for yourself or someone else. Many accredited programs are conveniently offered online.

Keep reading to learn more about the health coach certification process…

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become Certified as a Health Coach?

You can’t simply wake up one morning and become a health coach (as nice as that would be). If you lack experience, the knowledge and skills you acquire from certification will position you as a health and wellness authority. Truth is, many businesses and individuals shy away from non-certified health coaches. Health coach certification will help you land work even if you don’t have prior coaching experience.

Apart from certification, many major coach employers also require that health coaches have an undergraduate degree in a related field. Why? Because employers believe that a versatile education is more likely to translate into a versatile coach (not to mention more opportunities).

A BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science) degree in any of the following disciplines are especially recommended:

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Counseling
  • Speech and communications
  • Nutrition and dietary medicine
  • Nursing
  • Health and physical education

7 Ways Health Coach Certification Can Help Your Career

A health coaching certificate unlocks many employment possibilities on a national level. It also influences whether others take you seriously. These are a few of the many ways certification can help your career:

  1. Certified health coaches earn more, attain success faster and are less likely to leave the profession than those uncertified.
  1. Eighty-four percent of coaching clients noted that being certified was important or very important to them. In Latin America, a whopping 91 percent of the public, including coaching clients, believe in the importance of certification. This means that, if you’re certified, you can successfully work almost anywhere in the world.
  1. Certification differentiates you from people who misrepresent themselves as health coaches. It guarantees that you’re a legitimate practitioner. If someone finds you through an internet search, for example, rather than a referral, they’ll know they’re in good hands.
  1. Certification provides you with enough in-depth knowledge to allow you to narrow your focus to a specific niche specialization.
  1. Health coach certification allows you to adapt to myriad business settings including:
    • Doctors’ offices
    • Nursing homes
    • Hospitals
    • Fitness centers
    • Resorts and day spas
    • Universities
    • Corporations
  1. Certification teaches you essential coaching skills and helps you become an astute businessperson. For example, if you’d like to have a private practice but you’ve never started a business before, legitimate certification training will instruct you in areas such as these:
    • Setting your rates
    • Getting clients
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Setting up banking and bookkeeping
    • Best practices
  1. Certification gives you reliable standing in a field that’s anticipated to mushroom 21 percent by 2022.

Now that you know the many advantages of being a certified health coach, here are some tips to obtain certification…

Does A Health Coach Need To Be Certified?

How to Become Certified as a Health Coach

The first step to becoming a certified health coach is education. However, no two programs are exactly alike. Before enrolling in a particular program, consider the features each program offers:

Program Length

Most health coach certification programs take from six months to a year. However, don’t simply judge them by their length. It might turn out that a year-long program may force-feed you information to the point where can’t digest or retain it.

On the other hand, a six-month course may be laid out in gradual, bite-size portions. Before enrolling, see if the course length and information density is right for you.

Class Length

Keep class length in mind, too. Virtual classes may be 30, 60 or 90 minutes. There may, for example, be 15 90-minute classes, or 20 60-minute classes. Think about how long you can effectively pay attention to a subject when choosing a program.

Mode of Education

Different online programs cater to different learning styles. Some may provide PDFs for those who learn by reading. Others provide videos for visual learners and MP3s for those who learn better by listening. Some provide materials in all three media formats. There are many options, so be sure to note how a program provides its students with educational materials.

Consider your learning style and how you retain new information. Do you recall coursework better when you can see it printed out or onscreen? Do you do better with video lessons? Choose the program formats that suit your learning style.


Some programs have rigid test dates that you must strictly adhere to or you’ll get a “fail.” Others have more relaxed schedules so that you can study at your own pace and take tests when you’re ready. When you’re choosing a program, think about the approach that best suits your work style.


It’s important to research whether an online certification program offers ample support. Ideally, it should be in place for you to access 24/7 from instructors, TAs and even from the student community.


All health coaching programs are geared toward educating students about integrative health. However, the areas of emphasis within those programs may vary substantially. One program may highlight nutrition, while another may focus on the management of chronic disease. Explore the program’s curriculum to make sure it’s a match with what you want to learn.

Core Health Coach Training Curriculums

Aside from specialized curriculums, most reputable health coaching programs also cover subjects intended for all aspiring health coaches:

Behavior Change

Behavior change, habit formation, and habit reversal are pillars of health coaching. Many issues, such as smoking and overeating, are habit-based. Change a habit and the issue is diminished or removed.

Goal Setting and Accountability

Health coaches need to know how to collaborate with their clients to set gradual, realistic, achievable goals. They also need to hold clients accountable for reaching these goals in a designated amount of time.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing elevates clients’ awareness of possibilities while lessening their insecurities about change.

Nutrients and Supplementation

A health coach can wade through the glut of nutritional information and supplements and discern what’s a scam and what’s beneficial for the client.

They also understand the role of lifestyle factors, such as sleep, exercise, stress, and toxins. Sleep deprivation, sedentary behavior, job pressure, and excessive drinking are all consequences of lifestyle choices.

Building and Managing Your Own Practice

This course is essential if you’ve never had your own business or if you’ve had one in an unrelated field.

Conventional vs. Functional Medicine

Conventional medicine only addresses traumatic and acute conditions, while functional medicine focuses on chronic conditions. It dovetails habit change with nutrition guidance.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology, a modern movement that’s less than 20 years old, focuses on nurturing strengths rather than repairing what’s wrong. There’s a strong link between feeling happier and being healthier.

Food Preparation and Shopping

The avalanche of different foods at a grocery store can be confusing and overwhelming for your client. Meal preparation may be just as foreign. You’ll learn how to help them understand what to select and how to put it together.

Which Health Coach Certification Program is Right for You?

There are a vast number of health coach certification programs to choose from, but many aren’t legitimate. Students shell out their hard-earned money for a useless education and no viable skills.

However, there are many bona fide programs that provide a legitimate education that thoroughly prepares you for a rewarding career. Here are four at the top of our list:

Read a comprehensive review of our top recommended health coach certification programs.


So, does a health coach need to be certified? Yes. Certification validates that you’re a health coaching expert with credible training. It opens doors to lucrative pay, exciting employment possibilities and the opportunity to start your own practice. All these things are definitely worth the preparation to have those three little letters – CWC – after your name.

So, what are your thoughts about health coaching and certification? Leave your comments below!




  1. Dave Asprey

    Hi there Debbie. 

    Thank you for this interesting and informative post. 

    I never knew that you needed to be certified to be a health coach. Yes you are definitely right, I wouldn’t take my much loved car to a non certified mechanic, so why would people trust a non qualified health coach with their physical/mental progress?

    At my gym that I attend 4 days per week, the instructors there are extremely good at what they do. I have always wondered how they got into this type of work. It looks so interesting. 

    As your post brought out, being a certified health coach is a must if anyone wants to get into this type of profession. Landing the best jobs in the industry requires that we get the right education and put in the work.

    Thank you for this great blog

    Cheers Dave

  2. I think health coaches bare a lot of responsibility. When it comes to our health, why would anyone take a risk by dealing with an unqualified person? It stands to reason that in order to become a health coach, one would need to be certified after completing training or a course. Only then can one become a trusted expert in the field. Lastly, could you explain health coach training curriculums and certification programs in greater detail? Thank you very much for sharing this post. Regards, Ranao.

  3. I would like to commend you for the time and effort you took to putting this article together. Of course you are right, everyone would prefer to deal or engage with someone that is certified in his or her field. Who would want to seek out the service of a non-expert?  By the way, I would be grateful if you could share some health coach certifications that are globally recognized.

    I will definitely re-visit your site because of your attention to detail. Thanks for the informative write-up.

  4. Hi Debbie,
    I have a Bachelor’s but it’s not in a related field of study. I do have 10+ years in the medical field working as a language interpreter. Do you think it is necessary and recommended to get more schooling in a related field before doing a certification program for health coaching? Is there a course of study you would recommend that wouldn’t take too long? There is so much out there. It is overwhelming. I’ve been contemplating this field for a while. Want to get an idea of the best route.


    • Hi Melissa, I don’t think you’d need more schooling in a related field before enrolling in a health coaching certification program. There are several that don’t require any prerequisites, which you can read about here. You’ll also see which programs I specifically recommend! Hope that helps. 🙂

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