mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
Image by Ivan Gener / Stocksy
June 4, 2022
The health and well-being industry has skyrocketed in the last several years, leaving the demand for qualified health coaches that much more apparent. Right now, people are in need of certified experts to help support and offer advice for working through illness and disease—and one way to receive your credentials is through the best online health coaching programs.
If you’re considering joining the field and becoming a health coach, read on to uncover the courses offering the most complete breadth of information and training. Whether you’re working on a budget or already have a baseline of knowledge, here’s everything you need to know to choose the right health coaching program.
What is a health coach?
A health coach is a trained expert in the field of nutrition and overall well-being, who offers clients well-rounded guidance for improving their health.
Instead of simply looking at the basics of your life to provide generalized diagnoses and advice, health coaches are trained to look into your sleep, diet, lifestyle habits, and more to get to the root cause of issues you may be struggling with—chronic or not. In fact, holistic nutritionist and celebrity health coach Kelly LeVeque once told mbg that health coaches can “support the resolution of [a client’s] symptoms, and potentially the resolution of [their] disease state.”
Specializing in topic areas such as diet and nutrition, fitness, and stress, a good health coach should be able to take a 360 approach to wellness, to provide the highest quality of care to their clients.
How to become a health coach.
In order to become a certified health coach, you must complete a training course to prepare for your role. There are a wide range of options to choose from—truthfully, an overwhelming amount—but it’s a good rule of thumb to look for courses that have been accredited by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).
These courses vary in time, monetary investment, and outcome, so setting realistic goals before entering into the program will ensure you’re getting the most out of it. Some require a college degree to begin with, and others are better suited for starting your own personal health coaching service. Knowing what you want out of a course before making your decision will ensure you’re not wasting any time.
You should also be prepared to take an extensive exam at the end of your course, which will determine your preparedness to enter into the field.
How we picked:
We chose programs at a variety of price points to meet incoming health coaches where they are, while also making the process accessible.
It’s important that a good health coaching program is accredited by a reliable source, and each certification we selected is recognized by either the NBHWC or NCCA.
Health coaching is a time investment, and some have more time to give than others. We selected a range of programs with varying time requirements to fit different schedules.
You want a health coaching program that covers a range of information across the health scape, and each of our selections offers the necessary breadth of knowledge to make you the best coach possible.
mbg’s picks for the best health coaching programs 2022:
- Well-rounded approach to well-being
- Efficient 20-week course
- Great for people changing careers & those already in health field
- 20-week program may not suit all schedules
If you’re looking for a well-rounded health coaching course that sets you up for success in just 20 weeks, mbg’s HCC is perfect for you. A NBHWC-approved training program, this course covers a robust view on health to prepare graduates through a combination of instruction, office hours, and feedback sessions. Although virtual, previous reviewers called the courses both supportive and interactive, proving you don’t need to meet IRL to get an enriching environment. It’s also well-paired with mbg’s Functional Nutrition Training to further expand your knowledge in the field.
- Brand-building skills
The Health Coach Institute sets you up with the knowledge to enhance your brand and share your skills, making it a top pick for anyone who wants to build their own health coaching service after they’ve completed training. NBHWC-approved, this program offers a simple Health Coach option, as well as a Coach Mastery course to take your learning to the next level. The latter puts you in contact with people who have previously completed the course for added community support.
- Great for people changing career paths
- No prerequisites
- Offers specialized learning
- Less generalized view on health, may be limiting
Many health coaching programs require prerequisites before beginning—whether it be a bachelor’s degree or CPR certification—but Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is welcoming of all levels. This program is great if you’re looking to focus on a more specialized area of health, offering certifications in pregnancy, families, and adults/seniors. The online courses take between six and 36 weeks to complete, depending on how rigorous you want it to be. Not to mention, it’s also recognized by NBHWC.
- Great for specialized training
- Not NBHWC-approved
- Requires CPR/AED certification
We recognize that health coaching is no small investment, especially if you’re just beginning your business. Even when you want to spend less, it’s important to find a program that will set you up for success. ACE’s health coaching program starts at just $650 and takes between three and four months to earn your certification. The program offers three different levels at varying price points, making it even more accessible to different income levels. The program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
- No prerequisites
- First come, first served
- Sole focus on nutrition instead of holistic health
- Not accredited
- Limited instructional support
If your focus within health coaching lies more in nutrition, Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 course will give you a comprehensive base of information. Not requiring any prerequisites, the virtual course is self-paced and offers valuable information on nutrition coaching for those looking for a more specialized practice. While the program is not accredited, it has been recognized and approved for continuing education units by various organizations including ACE, NASM, and more.
Created by a pioneer in the health and wellness space, IIN was the first health coaching program available. This gives IIN one advantage over competitors: It offers a widespread alumni network, which can be helpful after graduating from the program. They also offer six- or 12-month options. However, the course is expensive and requires extensive weekly coursework to ensure you finish the six-month program on time. It’s also worth noting they were acquired by a Minnesota-based Private Equity firm in 2018.
Selecting a health coaching program that is a good fit for you is essential for optimizing your experience and spending the time and resources you have on a certification that sets you up to best serve your clients. Whether you go with mbg’s HCC or another program, the health space needs qualified experts to make improved well-being more accessible.