5 Best Health Coach Certifications of 2020

On your quest to get certified as a health coach you’re likely starting with some of the same questions many prospective students have.

Which health coach certification should I get? How much does a health coach certification cost? What kind of jobs can I get with a health coach certification and how much can I make?

The questions go beyond the above, so we wanted to provide this in-depth guide on the best health coach certifications available dissected by four important factors:

  1. Price
  2. Primary focus of education
  3. Program prerequisites
  4. Program duration

We’ll be taking a closer look at these popular health coach certifications:

Before we dive into the above four criteria let’s discuss what a health coach is and how to get a health coach certification:

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What is a Health Coach?

Health coaches are credentialed healthcare professionals who provide support and mentorship to clients through personalized food and lifestyle recommendations to help them accomplish health goals. 

How to Become a Certified Health Coach

Step 1: Determine Your Prerequisites

Unlike many other health and wellness certifications, certified health coach bodies have varying requirements for their prerequisites. For example, ACE requires their students to be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and a CPR/AED certification. The Duke Integrative Medicine Program requires a bachelor’s degree or 3-5 years of experience in a medical or allied health field. The AFPA only requires that participants are 18 or older.

In short, there are no uniform guidelines to become a certified health coach; each body will have its own prerequisites that should factor into your decision.

Step 2: Find the Best Health Coach Certification for YOU

The “best health coach certification” does not exist. The decision is an individual one as there is no best option for everyone. Each certification has its pros and cons, education focus, and elements that make the best option different for everyone.

Step 3: Prepare for Your Exam & Pass!

We recommend setting a realistic deadline for your exam date and scheduling it in advance. Students who don’t set a date may suffer from long term procrastination and never end up taking the time needed to prepare. Further, some certification bodies require that you schedule your exam in a certain time period after your initial registration.

Once your exam is complete and you earn your certification, you are ready to start working with clients!

Step 4: Start Working with Health Coach Clients

Once certified, you have the credentials and knowledge needed to take on clients. You can now focus your efforts on marketing your brand or landing a job as a certified health coach and helping others achieve their health and wellness goals.

Now that you know what’s needed to enter the health coach industry, let’s look at some important considerations of each health coach certification to learn the best one for you!

Best Health Coach Certification: An Objective Look into 4 Key Criteria

Price

The costs of each respective health coach certification are not really apples-to-apples. Some courses are much more in-depth than others and this is reflected in their costs. The cost-to-value benefit will greatly depend on the educational nature of the material and what it may mean to your career.

From a pure cost perspective, the ACE Health Coach Certification is the cheapest health coach certification we found at $599. It frequently goes on sale and was actually under $450 at the time of our research. At $699, the AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification is the second cheapest. These two bodies are well-known for their personal trainer certifications while the other more expensive options seem to be much more focused on health coaching exclusively.

The most expensive health coaching certification was $9,997, provided by ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach. The Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program and the Primal Health Coach Program are around the same price, at $4,400 and $4,495, respectively. 

 

Certification

Price

ACE Health Coach Certification

Basic- $599 | Plus- $749

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach

Advance- $9,997 | Monthly- $899

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification

$699

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program

$4,400

Primal Health Coach Program

$4,495

Primary Focus of Education

The below information was taken from the websites of the respective certification bodies. Note that the site’s don’t necessarily have a clean, succinct focus blurb.

ACE Health Coach Certification: Rooted in behavior-change science and the principles of lifestyle medicine, the study and training program addresses all the core competencies of health coaching within a single learning experience. You will learn practical and effective strategies that can be implemented to facilitate lifestyle change and positively impact health and well-being.

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach: The ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is a year-long, virtual course that offers instruction in everything you need to establish and grow your coaching career. [The] course gives you the skills you need to help others and change your own life in the process.

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification: AFPA Certified Health & Wellness Coaches help their clients make powerful lifestyle behavioral shifts that lead to: Greater life satisfaction;

Better emotional and physical performance; Less disease. As a Certified Coach, you’ll develop tailored wellness plans for your clients to integrate into their lives and teach clients how to be accountable, follow through, and reach their goals.

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program: Gain an understanding of the science of behavior change, personal health planning, the Wheel of Health, and mindful awareness; Learn the essential elements of Integrative Health Coaching and how to apply them with individuals and groups; Acquire the coaching expertise needed to successfully motivate others to adopt positive behaviors for sustainable health and wellness.

Primal Health Coach Program: Primal health incorporates diet and nutrition within a holistic framework that includes exercise, stress management, sun exposure, and lifestyle behaviors. 

Certification

Primary Focus of Education

ACE Health Coach Certification

Behavior-change science and the principles of lifestyle medicine

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach

Behavior-change, conflict resolution, “ancestral nutrition,” business and professional development

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification

Behavior-change, emotional and physical performance, disease prevention

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program

Behavior-change, experiential practice, personal health planning, sustainable wellness

Primal Health Coach Program

Nutrition/health education, coaching training, business building, infrastructure for the operation of your practice.

Program prerequisites

As mentioned, the program prerequisites for health coaching certifications vary more than perhaps any other health or wellness certification. Here is what you can expect from each body:

ACE Health Coach Certification: To sit for the ACE Health Coach Certification Exam, you must: 

  • Be at least 18 years of age 
  • Hold a current adult CPR and AED certificate including live skills check
  • Present a current government-issued photo ID with signature (driver’s license, passport or military ID). 

ACE allows requires at least one of the following:

  • Current NCCA-accredited certification in fitness, nutrition, healthcare, wellness, human resources or a related field
  • An associate degree or higher from an accredited college or university in fitness, exercise science, nutrition, healthcare, wellness or a related field
  • A completed health coach training and education program approved by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC)
  • A minimum of two years of documented work experience in coaching, leading, designing, implementing, or facilitating one or more of the following: behavior or lifestyle change, exercise, wellness, nutrition, or physical activity

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach: You automatically qualify for ADAPT if you; have a professional license, certification, or associate’s degree or higher in any healthcare or wellness-related field, or; have at least two years of full-time work experience in a healthcare or wellness-related field.

Prospective students can also fill out an eligibility form if they do not meet the above requirements. 

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification: Qualification for the AFPA entails:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have a solid understanding of the English language.

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program: Applicants to the Duke program must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which may be in any field of study. Exceptions may be made for those with 3-5 years of experience in a medical or allied health field such as medicine, nursing, physical therapy, health education, exercise physiology, psychotherapy, or nutrition.

Primal Health Coach Program: Primal health has no prerequisites whatsoever.

Certification

Program prerequisites

ACE Health Coach Certification

18 years old; hold a current CPR/AED*

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach

2-years full time work experience in healthcare, or; a professional license, certification, or associate’s degree or higher in healthcare

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification

18 years old

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program

Bachelor’s degree, or; 3-5 years of experience in a medical field

Primal Health Coach Program

None

Program Duration

ACE Health Coach Certification: The ACE program is self-paced although preparation usually takes 80 to 100 hours. The exam is good for 6 months from the purchase date of your study program. 150 Questions (125 scored and 25 experimental questions) are on the exam. 

ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach: The ADAPT program is a year-long program with an estimated time commitment of 10 to 12 hours per week

AFPA Health & Wellness Coach Certification: The AFPA program is self-paced however students will need to complete the exam within six months of enrollment. 

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coach Professional Training Program: Duke offers both an in-person course and an online course:

  • In-person: this course totals eight days of two, 4-day modules, six to eight weeks apart.
  • Online: the online course is 18-weeks and is comprised of 16 live, 3-hour webinars, once a week.

Primal Health Coach Program: The Primal program is self-paced and consists of 20 comprehensive chapters that are estimated to take 60 to 100 hours to complete.

FAQS About Health Coach Certifications

Do health coaches need certification?

While anyone can say they are a health coach, only certified health coaches will be able to showcase the credentials, education, and support from third-party organizations dedicated to ensuring proper client care and results. Further, getting a job with a health coach certification will be much easier to obtain. 

Do health coaches need college degrees?

Health coaches don’t need college degrees for some certifications, while others do require them.

How much is a health coach certification?

Health coach certification costs range from $600 to nearly $10,000. These costs vary depending on the length, curriculum, and prestige of the course.

How long does it take to become a certified health coach?

Many health coach certifications can be obtained in as little as three months. Other courses may take up to a year.

Where can you work with a health coach certificate?

There are a number of career opportunities available to certified health coaches including those within college and university settings; within wellness centers and gyms; within corporate wellness programs; within weight loss programs; at training centers; and as entrepreneurial ventures such as within a consulting capacity.

What do Certified Health Coach Salaries look like?

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a Certified Health Coach is $46,764. More experienced health coaches can expect to make upwards of $70,000 a year.

Health Coach Certification Takeaway

According to data from the BLS, the health coach job market is likely to grow 11% over the next decade, making it a great option for in-demand work. As health and wellness continues to dominate conversations around the US and the world, certified health coaches will always be needed to help implement positive change amongst individuals and groups. 

To get into this high demand market, you first need to get certified. With the information above determine the best health coach certification for your career goals and start your career path with confidence and a sound background in which to help clients.

If you need help determining which health coach certification is right for you, leave a comment or reach out to us directly.

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