July 20, 2020
Last Updated:
February 5, 2024

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Health Coach?

Health coaching is quickly becoming one of the most popular and lucrative health and wellness professions, not only because of the flexibility this kind of career offers as it relates to work/life balance, but also because so many people around the world still need help figuring out how to improve their health.

Chronic disease prevalence continues to rise, despite the information available to practice preventive health. This is the paradox Health Coaches aim to resolve: teaching others how to actually put this health knowledge into practice to reverse chronic disease and live healthier, happier lives.

How are all these Health Coaches actually becoming Health Coaches? Are they required to go through the same types of degree programs as other health professionals? We’ll cover what kind of education you need to become a Health Coach and why taking certain educational paths and degree programs may be beneficial to your success as a Health Coach.

What education or areas of expertise do you need before becoming a Health Coach?

In general, people interested in pursuing a career in the health and wellness field tend to enroll in degree programs that focus on a particular area of health, such as nutrition, biology, sociology, nursing, counseling, food science, anatomy and physiology, or physical therapy. Earning a bachelor’s degree in one of these areas would lay a solid foundation for any future enrollment in a health coaching program, further expanding on your knowledge of how to improve and maintain health and well-being.

Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree can also be beneficial for securing employment, especially if you’re looking to work in an institution, such as a hospital or physician’s office. Many health and wellness workplaces require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specific field, such as nutrition.

Do you need a degree to become a Health Coach?

While earning a bachelor’s or higher education degree will be helpful in your pursuit to become a Health Coach, many health coaching programs do not require a degree to enroll. In fact, many Health Coaches decide to pursue higher education after their health coaching education! Health Coaches facilitate diet and lifestyle changes through simple yet effective coaching techniques and a general understanding of nutrition, physical fitness, and health, so you may decide to dive even deeper into a subject to refine your skills and become an even better Health Coach.

If that’s something you’re potentially interested in pursuing, check out health coaching programs that have established educational partners that allow you to apply your health coaching education toward a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s or doctorate degree. For example, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the world’s largest health coaching and nutrition school, has U.S.-based and international educational partnerships that allow students to continue their education beyond IIN!

Are there any required certifications or licenses needed to become a Health Coach?

As the health coaching profession grows, efforts have been made to better regulate the industry, such as standardizing education and certification requirements. While this process is underway, certification is not currently required to become or practice as a Health Coach.

Leading these efforts is the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), an organization whose goal is to become the certifying body for Health Coaches in the United States. The NBHWC requires health coaching programs and schools be approved, which allows these programs and schools to provide graduates with the opportunity to sit for the NBHWC certification exam to become a certified Health Coach. IIN is one such school that has approval for their graduates to take the NBHWC certification exam upon graduating from their  Health Coach Training Program and Coaching Intensive Practicum course.

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Opting to become certified gives Health Coaches the opportunity to maintain a competitive edge in the health and wellness field. As more people pursue health coaching as a profession, the marketplace has become saturated with people calling themselves “Health Coaches.” How can a client feel confident choosing a guide for their health journey? Certification is a great way for Health Coaches to demonstrate their dedication to the practice and competency of coaching and behavior change.

Employers often look for multiple forms of education, certification, or licensure, depending on the exact field and workplace you’re seeking employment. When it comes to health coaching, while earning a certification may not technically be required, going above and beyond the basic requirements will not only help you stand out among the ever-expanding pool of Health Coaches but also provide a refined and robust skill set to better help your clients.

How long does it take to become a health coach?

Most health coaching programs range from six months to one year. While completing coursework quickly sounds great, you should consider whether you’ll be getting the well-rounded, complete education you deserve to set you up for success after graduating.

What other degrees can lead to a career in health coaching?

If you have an interest in health and wellness, and love connecting with others about it, then any degree can lead to a career in health coaching!

At IIN, many graduates pursued health coaching because they were unsatisfied with aspects of their lives that didn’t align with their true passions and goals. They tell similar stories about how burnout and reaching their health “rock bottoms” led to the realization that if they didn’t have their health, they didn’t have anything. Health Coaches are the perfect mentor to guide someone on their health journey because they can say, “I’ve been in your shoes, and I want to help you live a life that’s vibrant and fulfilled.”

If you have a degree in finance or business, and you’re thinking that you could never possibly apply it to your future health coaching career, think again! Many Health Coaches end up founding their own private health coaching practice, which not only requires being a wonderful coach and mentor but also a savvy small-business owner.

What kind of work environment and job outlooks are there for Health Coaches?

Health Coaches can work in a variety of settings, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, gyms, wellness centers, spas, schools, and corporate offices. Many choose to become their own employers, opening private practices in the form of an online business or providing add-on services as a Health Coach in person at any one of these spaces.

The Bottom Line

The demand for Health Coaches is on the rise as more people recognize the benefit and value they bring to improving health outcomes, contributing to lower healthcare costs, and reducing chronic disease. Health Coaches with additional specialties, certifications, and education are even more in demand as they can demonstrate more advanced competencies in the settings that require them.

Overall, for anyone looking to become a Health Coach, there’s never been a better time to invest in yourself and become the kind of health professional who can help fill the void in our current healthcare system. Experience a taste of IIN for yourself by taking a free Sample Class today!

Author Biography
Nina Zorfass
IIN Content Writer

Nina holds a bachelor’s in dietetics, nutrition, and food sciences from the University of Vermont, is a graduate of IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, and is an NASM-Certified Personal Trainer.

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