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What is Health Coaching? Benefits, Salary & Skills (2024)

This is the ultimate guide on health coaching.

You’ll learn:

  • What health coaching is
  • What clients should look for in a health coach
  • How to become a successful health coach with a flexible Freedom Business

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

You’ll learn:

What is health coaching?

What is a national board-certified health coach?

What does a health coach do?

What are the benefits of becoming a health coach?

Health coaching salary and job outlook

How to become a health coach

Health coaching examples

What is health coaching?

Health coaches are there to help people reach their health goals and improve and transform their lives through advice and guidance. 

When most people think of health coaching, they immediately think about weight loss.

But there’s so much more to it than that.

While health coaches do help with weight loss, they can help with any health areas like sleep, stress reduction, illness management, and nutrition. 

It’s a common misconception that health coaches, wellness coaches, and personal trainers are interchangeable. But they aren’t.

  • A wellness coach helps people improve their overall well-being by changing their mindset, habits, or nutrition.
  • Personal trainers create exercise programs for clients to help them reach their fitness goals. They’re also typically certified.

Speaking of certifications, some health coaches are national board-certified. 

What does that mean? Read on to learn.

What is a national board-certified health coach?

Nationally board-certified health coaches (NBHWC) have attended an approved health and wellness coach training program. They’ve then passed the HWC Certifying Examination, a board certification exam. The NBHWC offers this examination three times a year. 

NBHWC is the highest standard in the health coaching industry. Getting this certification is voluntary, though. In some health coaching niches you do need a degree or certification but you don’t need to be a nationally board-certified health coach to qualify.  

However, what does a health coach generally do? 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What does a health coach do?

As a health coach, the number one goal is to help clients go through a transformation. And that transformation helps them improve their lives. 

To do so, a health coach does the following:

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1. Defines clear health goals and offers actionable advice. 

As a coach, you help clients set goals that are based on where the client is on their health journey versus where they want to be. You also need to understand what’s keeping your clients from reaching their goals. 

Then, as the client works through the roadmap you’ve created for them, you tailor that plan for them. For instance, someone might get stuck and need a bit of time to work through on building a new habit. In that case, you’d help them work around the thing that’s keeping them back.    

2. Helps clients see the bigger picture and believe in themselves.

The most important thing about being a health coach is that you have the experience necessary to help each client reach their goals.

In other words, you’ve been where your clients are and know how to help them see how it all comes together.

In doing so, you help their clients overcome obstacles, learn to believe in themselves, improve self-awareness, and strengthen their resilience by offering continuous feedback and support.

But a good coach also knows the value of being candid with their clients and how to have tough conversations.

For instance, a stress management coach whose client isn’t seeing results might have to tell them, “We’ve worked together to map out the necessary steps to reduce stress, but I’m not seeing you take that first step. What’s going on?”

Being faced with a hard truth isn’t what most clients want, but a great coach has those kinds of conversations – because that’s how your clients grow.

3. Get great results.

Most importantly, a good health coach gets their clients the results they want – and defining goals and helping clients see the bigger picture will get them those results. 

That said, you aren’t responsible for your clients’ results. They have to take action to achieve results. But your job is giving that roadmap and guiding them through it in a way that makes the goal achievable for them. 

What are some health coaching techniques you can use to help clients get there? 

That’s what we’ll talk about next.

Health coaching techniques 

When it comes to health coaching, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Just like every client, every coach is different.

Here are a few health coaching techniques you can use. For more, read my posts on what coaching is, the coaching questions to ask your clients and how to find your coaching style.  

Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a client-centered approach where you ask open-ended questions instead of making a statement.

For example, a running coach might say, “How would your life be different if you could comfortably run the half marathon you’ve been training for?” instead of just something like, “You need to train harder.”

Why does it work?

Instead of having someone tell them what to do, clients believe they’re making changes for their reasons and on their terms.

Positive psychology

Also called the scientific study of human flourishing, positive psychology increases happiness and emotional wellness by helping people hone in on their strengths, improve gratitude, and live a more fulfilling life.

It has three pillars: Connecting with others, savoring pleasure, and developing gratitude. 

Why does it matter for coaching? Because it increases resilience while focusing on motivation, growth, and the future. 

Stages of Change

The Stages of Change Model describes how someone integrates change into their daily lives.

There are five stages: 

  1. Pre-contemplation (not acknowledging something needs to change)
  2. Contemplation (knowing there’s something to change but not ready to do it yet)
  3. Preparation (getting ready to change)
  4. Action (making the change)
  5. Maintenance (maintaining the change)

Having a firm grasp on the stages of changes helps you understand where your client is in their journey.

Before we move on, let’s talk about what skills you need. 

Health coaching skills

What kind of skills does someone need to become a health coach? 

You should…

  • Be a leader (you lead your students to achieve the goals they want) 
  • Problem solve (help clients overcome their internal and external roadblocks)
  • Be an expert (you don’t have to be THE expert, but you do need to have experience on the topic you’re coaching others on – whether that experience is something you’ve learned on the job or in your free time) 
  • Be willing to have all types of conversations (your clients grow when you’re willing to address all the things that are holding them back)

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of health coaching, let’s talk about why you should become one – or the benefits of hiring one. 

What are the benefits of becoming a health coach?

Health coaching is one of the most fulfilling coaching careers out there. 

Why?

Because health coaches benefit their clients by helping them to:

The benefits are clear, but you might wonder, “It sounds good, but how is the job market for a health coach?”

I’ll tell you in the next section!

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6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Health coaching salary and job outlook

The wellness industry is one of the best to start a coaching business in, as it’s estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion. And the market is expected to grow by 5% to 10% each year. 

But at the end of the day, how much you make per year depends on you. The type of health coach you are, along with your experience and credentials, makes a difference. 

The average health and wellness coach makes about $63,500 per year. Certified health coaches make more, clocking in at $77,683 annually.

But that’s just the average – and a full-time, self-employed health coach with a booming coaching business and profitable niche can make even more. 

To learn more about health coach salaries, check out this guide.

But where do you work as a health coach? 

Health coaches aren’t always self-employed. You can also be an employee of a larger company and work in several different settings. Health coaches work at…

  • Healthcare teams
  • Hospitals
  • Schools and universities
  • Clinics
  • Spas
  • Fitness studios
  • Hotels
  • Nursing homes
  • Health food stores
  • Health insurance providers
  • Within corporations
  • Online fitness programs

Other professions include community health workers, health education specialists, and more. Ultimately, you can create a health coaching career that looks like what YOU want it to look like.

Self-employment has a lot of perks, though. You can build a business that flexibly lets you decide over your own schedule and decide when you work, with whom, and how. 

In the next section, you’ll learn how to start your health coaching journey.

How to become a health coach

What kind of steps do you need to take to become a health coach? 

Find your health coaching niche

Health coaching is a broad industry, and at the end of the day, the niche you choose will make you stand out from other health coaches in the market.

How do you figure out what your niche is? By figuring out what problems people will pay you to help them solve.

Maybe you’ve figured out how to help young children eat nutritious foods. That’s a niche.

Helping people get stronger even if they spend less time in the gym or have healthier relationships with food? Those are niches, too.

The truth is that every aspect of health has a niche. 

I recommend you use this formula to figure yours out: “I help ___ to ___ so they can ____.”

There are many niches to choose from, but whatever you choose, make sure it’s profitable.

I’ve compiled a list of 100 profitable niches for you – start there!

Get a health coaching certification

Because coaching is a largely unregulated industry, all you typically need to become a successful coach is experience, a proven methodology, and results.

A few niches require certification or a degree, especially in the health coaching industry, so keep that in mind. For instance, if you want to be a registered nutritionist and combine that with coaching, you will need to go through specific training. 

That’s not to say you can’t get certified, even if your niche doesn’t require it. If you choose to go the certification route, be selective. Try to find courses that are ICF-accredited or taught at well-respected institutions – or become a board-certified health coach.  

Here are a few health coaching certifications to consider:

Start your health coaching business

After you’ve come up with your niche and know exactly what you want to help your clients achieve, you’ll need to actually start your business.

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6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

First, you’ll need to market your business.

I always recommend that new coaches start by contacting their own network. 

Speak with your family, friends, and colleagues to see if anyone is in the market for their health coaching services.

Or, find a health-related community on a platform like Reddit, Facebook, or Instagram. The key is to offer value and build strong relationships with people before offering your services. I talk more about coaching and social media here. 

Alternatively, you can pitch yourself as a guest on podcasts. That way, you get in front of other people’s existing audiences and can build trust faster – and, at the same time, offer your services.   

But what are some examples of successful health coaching businesses?

Here you go. 

Health coaching examples

Next, I’ll show you how my own students (past and present) have built their health coaching businesses from scratch. 

Wellness coaching

Wellness coaches help their clients set and achieve health and wellness goals. 

Niches include:

  • Stress management
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition

For example, my student Lorisa was a nurse for a decade before pivoting to and finding success in plant-based nutrition coaching. 

Check out my guide to becoming a wellness coach here.

Weight loss coaching

As a weight loss coach, you’ll help your clients lose weight and keep it off with the help of structure, consistency, and accountability. 

Weight loss niches you might explore include:

  • PCOS and weight loss
  • Navigating food relationships after weight loss surgery
  • Losing weight in a healthy way
  • Managing weight after illness

My student David learned to use herbs for weight loss and now teaches others to do the same.

Read more about how to become a weight loss coach here.

Nutrition coaching

Most nutrition coaching clients don’t have specific health issues but are typically looking to improve their relationship with food.

That’s where a nutrition coach comes in and helps them learn to make healthier food choices.

Niches include:

  • Transitioning to a plant-based diet
  • Growing your food
  • Budget-friendly, healthy meals
  • Ketogenic diets

Adrienne, a student of mine, used her experience as a registered nutritionist to build a six-figure coaching business specializing in helping clients lose weight and improve health outcomes.

You can learn about becoming a nutrition coach in this guide.

Fitness coaching

As a fitness coach, you’ll help your clients make positive changes to their health and fitness using lifestyle changes and exercise programs.

Fitness coaching niches include:

  • Bodybuilding
  • Exercise recovery
  • Healthy pregnancy
  • Marathon or triathlon training

Online fitness coaches are in high demand – to learn about what it takes to become one, check out this guide.

Next steps 

There you have it! Everything you need to know about health coaching.

As a health coach, you have a big impact on people’s lives. And you can do so while building a business that offers you freedom and flexibility.

But you need the right strategy to create a sustainable business.

And in this step-by-step guide to building a six-figure coaching business, I share that strategy:

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Read more:

How to Design and Price Your First Coaching Package

The Most Profitable Business Coaching Models

How to Become a Nurse Health Coach

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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