Are you at a point in your life where you want to make a difference and help others lead better and happier lives? Are you passionate about nutrition, fitness, and wellness? Perhaps you have a bachelor’s degree in health or nutrition and are considering graduate work, or you’re making a mid-life career change and looking for a more satisfying job. A career as a health coach or nutrition educator may be the answer, and demand for qualified people is higher than ever.
What is a Health Coach?
Most people know about personal trainers, nutritionists, mentors, and wellness experts, but they may not know the difference between those professions and the definition of health coaching. Simply put, health coaches take a 360-degree approach to wellness. They are trained in multiple disciplines—nutritional, behavioral, and physical—in order to enhance the lives of the clients they serve.
As a health coach, you might help individuals lose weight, increase their levels of fitness, battle illness, make healthy nutrition choices, and improve their mental health through meditation or spirituality. You would be using your knowledge of total body nutrition and wellness to change lives.
“Unhealthy individuals want lasting change, corporations want healthy workers, and healthcare providers want patients to get and stay healthy,” writes fitness expert April Durrett in the IDEA Fitness Journal. “So what is the answer to the problem? It may be health coaching.”
The Steps to Becoming a Health Coach
Health coaches typically start by earning undergraduate degrees in any of several different areas, commonly health, fitness, psychology, or nutrition. An advanced degree typically follows, such as the online Master of Science in Nutrition Education. This graduate nutrition degree is particularly helpful for anyone interested in becoming a health coach since it delivers theoretical and practical training in areas where health coaches need to be highly proficient. MSNE degree holders are able to:
- Design and implement nutrition programs in a variety of settings, including corporations, government organizations, schools, and private practices
- Use different strategies to effectively communicate and advocate for nutritional health with people of different ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds
- Understand and communicate scientific principles of nutrition in easy-to-understand terms to help all people realize the health benefits of a proper diet
After additional coursework and supervised clinical experience, health coaches typically sit for the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam. Health coaching is also a natural career progression for Registered Dieticians (RDs).
A Healthy Outlook for Jobs
Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a study of the top trending issues in the fitness industry. In 2015, the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends found health coaching one of the top (and fastest) emerging trends. Compared to the previous year’s study, health coaching moved from #17 to #13 among the top trends in 2015. The results were based on 3,403 responses from health and fitness professionals from around the world.
One of the largest areas of growth is in the workplace. The Affordable Care Act created lucrative tax incentives for employers to provide health and wellness benefits to their employees, which in turn has created more demand for health coaches to design, implement, and oversee workplace nutrition and fitness programs. According to the latest employee benefits research report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than two-thirds of U.S. employers offer a general wellness program, up from 58% in 2008.
The growing trend in the public and private sectors towards better health is making qualified wellness professionals highly sought after. This fact is reflected in the growing number of health and wellness careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for health educators is expected to grow by 13 percent through 2024.
Health Coaching Helps Others Improve Their Lives
If you are interested in being a health coach or nutrition educator, you probably have aspirations beyond job security and earning potential. You also want to help people.
Health coaching goes beyond working with a client on his or her immediate goals of diet and fitness. It also has long-term implications in disease prevention and management of chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and osteoarthritis.
“The familiar adage, ‘Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime,’ demonstrates the difference between rescuing a patient and coaching a patient,” says an article by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) entitled Health Coaching for Patients with Chronic Illness. An example of a “rescue” might be emergency surgery or a prescription for antibiotics, while coaching involves a patient’s hopes and goals over the long term.
“A health coach can spend the time to help someone figure out what their personal health and wellness issues are, how they intersect and affect them holistically and help them develop strategies to overcome them,” writes Certified Health Coach Nancy Monson in an interview with Healthy Women. “I know a lot about nutrition, health, mindfulness, and wellness, and I want to share that in a more direct way with people.”
If you also want to share your expertise with others and turn your passion for health and wellness into a rewarding career, American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education can help you take the next step toward becoming a health coach.
To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.