The 5 Best Health Coach Programs – Everything you need to know!

Hey everybody and welcome to my article on the best health coach certifications.

With various options to choose from, they can be challenging to select the health coach program that fits you the best.

After this article, you will have a much better feeling about which one you should pursue! Afterward, I recommend checking the article on how to become a health coach! I also recommend my article on the best nutrition certifications as well as the greatest corrective exercise certifications.

If you have any questions or concerns about health coach programs, drop me a comment here and I will get back to you within 24 hours.

I’ll try not to beat around the bush, let’s get right into the top health coach certifications! 🙂

Best Health Coach Programs

The Top health coach certifications in 2019

1. The ACE (American Council on exercise) health coach certification

The ACE (American Council on exercise) health coach certification

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The health coach certification from the American Council on Exercise is geared more towards fitness professionals such as personal trainers certified nutritionist.

General information on being an ACE health coach

There are two separate packages available from ACE, and they both contain slightly different study material to prepare yourself for the test.

The standard bundle includes:

  • The primary textbook for the health coach certification
  • Entrance to the exam
  • The ACE Academy select ( video series, custom progress tracking, exam review and practice tests)
  • Access to their resource Center support

The premium bundle includes everything that the standard does with the addition of:

  • The option to finance your certification over four separate payments
  • The e-book format of the health coach manual (in addition to the hard copy)
  • ACE Academy premium (audio text, three practice tests, seeing a health coach in action)
  • A “master the manual” booklet

All of this material is self-study material. You can study for the ACE health coach certification in your own time at your own pace. When you are ready to take the exam finally, you can register at one of their 500 testing locations.

The only requirements are that you are at least 18 years old, have a valid CPR/AED certification, and have a valid and accredited general personal training certification (or the work experience equivalent).

ACE health coach certification cost

The standard option costs $599 but is frequently brought down to $549 on their website.

The premium health coach certification usually cost $749, but I frequently see it brought down to $599.

My overall opinion of the ACE health coach certification

My overall view of this certification is magnificent. When I went through the process, I enjoyed their helpful interactive study materials that the program comes with. You will learn a ton of information on how to change the habits of your client. In turn, helping to prevent obesity, depression, and tons of other societal problems.

The American Council on exercise his overall a very well recognized certifying agency in the health and fitness space. They have a very popular CPT certification and work hard towards continuing evolving in the area of health and fitness.

It is also the only health coach certification that is NCCA accredited. This means that is the Institute of credentialing excellence has recognized the ACE curriculum and certification as providing very competent and professional information.

2. The NSHC (National Society of Health Coaches)

The NSHC (National Society of Health Coaches)

This is probably the most prestigious health coach certification in the industry due to such strict standards of entry.

General information on the NSHC

The NSHC program is only available to professionally licensed healthcare individuals.

This includes physicians, nurses, certified nutrition specialists, pharmacists, psychologists, physicians, athletic trainers, dental hygienists, it certified clinical counselors, ACSM certified acupuncturist, ACSM licensed exercise psychologist as well as many other credentialed professionals.

The overall NSHC program will take 70 hours to complete. The online study package includes all of the study materials that are necessary to learn the material and pass the exam. Some of these study materials include:

  • A hard copy and e-book copy of the manual
  • A quick reference pocket guide
  • Online interviewing skills in motivational practice
  • Multiple online case studies and concept applications
  • Online quizzes
  • Self-assessments of your coaching style

With purchasing the national Society of health coaches certification, you also receive a one-year NSHC membership. This membership comes with free support online or over the phone, access to live webinars, the most recent articles from NSHC, online tools and much more.

If you would like to get this certification that is not a licensed health care professional, they have the option to take the test and receive what’s called a certificate of completion credential.

This is different than their full certification. It just lets people know that you have learned the material on the health coach certification but are not as qualified as a healthcare professional.

NSHC cost

The NSHC allows for organizations to do bulk orders, so the pricing depends on how many registrations. For the sake of this article, I’m guessing that you are not an organization looking to certify all of their employees.

The cost for one NSHC certification this $485. This includes the one-year membership that will need to be renewed after 365 days. The yearly renewal fee is $50.

My overall impression of the NSHC certification

This is a very highly regarded certification in the health coaching industry. They have a rigorous and standardized approach to health coaching with every aspect being evidence-based and research driven.

Any healthcare provider will recognize this certification and respect it. Unfortunately, for those that are not already a licensed health care professional, will not be able to get the full certification. The “certificate of completion” is only available.

3. The Wellcoaches School of Coaching

The Wellcoaches school of coaching

Founded in 2002, the Wellcoaches school of coaching have been collaborating with ACSM (the American college of sports medicine) to be a primary influence in the health coaching field.

General information on the Wellcoaches certification

The general certification takes approximately 18 weeks to finish and ends with a written and oral test that one needs to pass to get credentialed. This is only the first part of the certification; the second part is a 10-month program. The initial certification is needed to start this 10-month curriculum.

There are also two forms of certification that they offer.

The first is called their “certified health and wellness coach” and is for licensed health professionals who wish to integrate health coach training principles with their patients.

To be allowed into their full certified health and wellness coach program, you need to hold a bachelors degree in a health related field with the addition of an NCCA accredited certification and a minimum of 2000 hours of work experience. Tons of other eligibility requirements can be seen here.

The second certification option is for nonlicensed professionals and is called the “certified personal Coach” certification. This option is more for fitness professionals such as personal trainers.

This gives you the overall knowledge to work with your clients and improve their well-being and Outlook on health and fitness.

The general form of study materials that they provide is live workshops and interactive online classes. There are also three individual mentoring sessions and the general textbook for the program.

You are required to recertify every three years with continuing education.

Cost of the Wellcoaches certification

The overall cost of the Wellcoaches certification the $650.

My overall thoughts on the Wellcoaches certification

The Wellcoaches program is a very good one overall. I like how they have two options, one for licensed health care providers in one geared towards individuals in the health and fitness space.

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Overall they have a unique approach to the study materials that they provide. There’s a ton of information on how to combat essential problems such as the obesity epidemic, sedentary lifestyles, stress, and depression.

4. The Duke Integrative Health Coach Program

The Duke Integrative Health Coach Program

The Duke integrative health coach program is unique in the way it teaches its students about wellness coaching principles.

General information on the Duke Integrative medicine program

To obtain the certification from Duke integrative medicine, you first need to complete their full foundational course.

Foundation course (certificate of completion)

Overall, there are various modules that you need to take and pass to get certified.

There are two different options for the in-person opportunity at their university or the online foundation course.

The in-person foundation course is eight overall days at the Duke University. There will be two separate four-day modules 6 to 8 weeks apart.

The online foundation course is 16 live webinars that are three hours each and once a week. The overall duration is 18 weeks long.

The certification course (certified integrated health coach)

This park can only be completed once you have done the foundation course with Duke. This course is done entirely online through virtual classes and conference calls.

One needs to provide evidence of having a minimum of four clients and 100 hours of coaching experience. In the end, there is an oral exam as well as a written exam that you need to pass.

The prerequisites to apply for the Duke health coach certification is a bachelors degree or higher, or approximately 3 to 5 years of full-time experience in a health-related field such as physical therapy, exercise physiology, nutrition, medicine or many others.

How much does the Duke health coach certification cost?

The price for the foundation course (both in-line and in person) costs $4,440.

The cost for the certification course is $1,440.

The overall cost for both the foundation course and the certification course is $5,880.

My take away from the Duke health coach program

Overall, the Duke integrative medicine program is very in depth and one of the hardest health coach credentials to obtain.

This is an excellent certification for individuals that have been working in the health and wellness industry for a while and would like to obtain training in behavior modification therapy for their patients.

Different, yet valuable information is contained in both the foundation course as well as the certification course. It is a very valuable credential coming in close to $6000 can be difficult for most people to swing.

Also, if you would like to get your name up on the official list of certified Duke health coaches that are on their website, you need first to purchase professional liability insurance. I thought this was silly.

5. Dr. Sears Wellness Institute

Dr. Sears Wellness Institute

The last wellness certification program on this list is also one of the most complex with three different health coach certifications being offered.

General information on the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute

If you are going for one of their three available health coach programs, look to spend approximately six weeks completing each one.

The certifications follow Dr. Sears popular LEAN system. LEAN stands for lifestyle, exercise, attitude, and nutrition.

In addition to getting certified, the program also encourages its certified health coaches to teach their seminars and workshops.

There are no prerequisites to apply for the Dr. Sears health coach certification.

Let’s talk about the six different health coach certifications.

  1. Adults and seniors coach: This curriculum is composed of information that will help change the lives of senior citizens and adults. You’ll learn behavior modification, healthy lifestyle choices, cognitive function practice and stress reduction techniques.
  2. Pregnant and nursing coach: This certification is targeted towards pregnant women and post-pregnancy women. Focuses on the importance of eating right, reducing stress, getting back in shape and how their spouse plays a vital role in a positive pregnancy experience both during and after.
  3. Family coach: The health coach certification for families is aimed at strategies to motivate and educate families as a whole. A strong focus on lifestyle choices and preventing childhood obesity.

There are also packages to purchase to do to health coach certifications at a time. For instance, you can do the pregnancy and families certifications together, the adults and families certifications together or all three of them together if you would like.

Dr. Sears Also has a master health coach certification. This super certification lasts approximately 30 weeks long and is an online-based program.

This master health coach program is mostly designed for individuals that would like to pass the ICHWC (international consortium for health and wellness coaching) exam.

Study materials

Your the study materials that are provided you with the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute certification.

  • Online courses that are available 24 hours a day
  • The physical books and course materials will be sent to you.
  • Peer interaction: The ability to express your ideas and learning concerns over conference calls and discussion forums.
  • Interactive learning including videos and e-learning segments
  • Life support – whenever you need a question you can contact the live support team.

How much does this certification cost?

Each of the three health coach programs costs $895 each. If you would like to get two programs for a combined price you will be spending approximately $1250. If you would want to get all three together, it will be $1550.

If you are trying to obtain their master health coach certification, the cost will be approximately $3000.

In addition to the initial cost of the certifications, there is also a yearly recertification fee of $145.

My opinion on the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute

Overall, a very in-depth course. I like how you can do one certification at a time or three all at once if that suits your needs. It allows you to pick and choose and specialize in each area of health coaching.

It’s excellent for those non-health or fitness professionals that would like to get started in health coaching due to they have no prerequisites. I like the study materials that they provide and the support that comes with each certification.

One thing that I did not like is the yearly maintenance fee of $145. Most certifications require this every two or three years.

Conclusion on the Top health coach programs

Top health coach programs

Well, that’s about it ladies and gentlemen for my best health coach certification article.

Overall I would have to give the winner to the ACE health coach certification because it is a relatively cheap option, has fantastic study materials and is widely recognized as a great certification both by employers as well as the NCCA.

If you have been working as a licensed health care practitioner, I think that the NSHC certification is a great option as well as it has comparable prices and excellent study materials to the ACE health coach certification.

Let’s pass this conversation over to you guys and gals. Which health coach programs have you guys come through? What were your experiences with them?

If you have any other questions or recommendations for this article, please don’t hesitate to share in a comment down below!

  • Caitlin says:

    Thanks! This was very helpful. I’m a physical therapist and found this overview great as I’m looking into starting to be a health coach.

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for the overview! I am an ATC, and looking to get my wellness coaching certification. I am wondering what your thoughts are on the Health Coach Institute compared to the 5 that you reviewed above.

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hello Lisa,
      I am not too familiar with the health coach to to that you are talking about. I will definitely have to look more into it and included in the information on my website in the future. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Jules says:

    Hi Tyler,
    Thanks for your overview! Have you come across the Integrative Institute of Nutrition or the Health Coach Institute. Would be interested in your thoughts on these two programs vs the 5 above. Thanks!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Jules,
      I am not too familiar with that health coach program but I will definitely take a look at it and see what they are all about. Thanks for your input as I am always trying to make my website better!

    • Maria Alvarez says:

      hi I have a lot of friends who did it and are very happy , it more nutrition thats why i don’t think it works for me i am more into fitness

      • Tyler Read says:

        Is definitely a legitimate option Maria, it’s great that you have done your own research as well as having other friends that have gone through the process themselves. That is always one of the most helpful things!

  • Maria Alvarez says:

    Fantastic advise thank you < for me i don't have any background so i guess the best is Dr. Sears i saw it in another website and i like what they offer< i am 45 and have become obsess with health and fitness so i think its my best approach < what do you think ?

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Maria,
      This is a very legitimate health coach certification. Personally, coming from a personal training background I thought that ACE was the best option for me. Be aware that NASM also just recently released a nutrition certification called the NASM CNC (certified nutrition coach) certification. This combines a lot of information on nutrition but has a superstrong focus on behavioral change as well. For that reason, I am basically considering a health coach certification that has a very strong emphasis on nutrition as well. I highly recommend checking that out if you are interested. Good luck becoming a health coach!

  • Allison says:

    Hi 🙂 Great article! I just signed up for IIN (Institute of Integrative Nutrition). I put down a deposit but I am hesitant to do the whole program. I love the spiritual and holistic approach, that is already how I coach- but I am wondering for $5000 if it’s really necessary if I can get certified for less $500- $1000 and a lot faster. I honestly just want a certification that can help me grow my business and work with companies that pay their employees better and maybe offer benefits. Any thoughts?

    • Tyler Read says:

      I do like the holistic approach as well. In terms of the job opportunities you would get between $5000 certification and a $500 certification are probably not too different from one another. On the other hand, if you do want a nutrition certification that does have a specific focus like you’re talking about, it seems like you are on the right path.

  • David says:

    Hello. Any opinions about the Primal Health Coach Institute? Thank you!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hello David,
      No I have not heard of the primal health coach Institute. I will have to look into it and do a full review thanks for pointing this out for me and have a good day.

  • Sas says:

    Is there an online training program you recommend for as applications go?

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hello, do you mean personal training software? There are definitely a few great programs that I have used including virtuagym, Totalcoaching and trainerize. I hope this helps answer your question!

  • Shareia says:

    Tyler – Thank you so much for such an indepth look into the different options. I was initially looking into IIN, but was/am hesitant because of the steep cost.

    One thing i noticed when I went to Dr. Sears’ website is that the first year renewal is 145, second, 95, third 75, and after that you are a lifetime “member” with access to all the materials.

    After reading i was convince ACE would work until I looked more into their requirements.

    One question – i know this is just your opinion, but does it really matter if the program is accredited?

    Lots to consider. Thank you, again!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Yes every certification or program should be accredited by some sort of legitimate accrediting agency. If that were not the case, anybody off the street could create a certification and start charging money for it. These accrediting agencies make sure that the study materials and exams are legitimate. This is both in terms of accuracy of the information as well as that their testing procedures are difficult enough so that not anybody can get certified. They want to make sure that the people coming out with the certifications actually know what they are getting certified for. I hope this makes sense to you and good luck with all the studying.

  • Katia says:

    I am not a health professional nor in fitness or personal training but I would lime to be a health coach! I want to know if there is one course to get certified without being a health professional ! Thank you

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Katia,
      You do not need to have a personal training certification for some of these. In fact you can get the ACE health coach certification right now if you wanted. I feel like that is right now the best option. The NASM CNC is a nutrition certification but it also covers a lot of health coach topics such as habit formation training and other tidbits. That is another certification that I recommend. I hope this helps answer your question in some way

  • Nicole S. says:

    Great article! I’m looking into becoming a health coach and with accreditation being so important, I’m assuming everything you listed here is accredited by a legit and recognized organization? I’m leaning towards Dr Sears or Ace but need to learn more about each first. Thank you!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hello Nicole,
      Yes all of these are very legit certifications. Good luck with your search and I hope you find the health coach program that is right for you!

  • Midnite Kimberly Townsend says:

    This is very helpful, thank you! Do you know about/ have any opinions on The Institute of Transformal Nutrition,
    Like someone else mentioned before I really like the holistic approach this program offers. Does ACE or any of the programs you listed delve into the spiritual and psychological aspects of health coaching much? Thank you!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hello midnight,
      These certifications are not necessarily holistic certifications. Some of them do however dive slightly into the spiritual side and definitely talk a lot about the psychological aspects of health coaching. That is what habit formation is all about anyways. I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for, but a purely holistic certification might be something that’s more up your alley.

      • Tristan says:

        What are your thoughts on the Institute of Transformational Nutrition in terms of being a legitimate certification……seemed to me like a quality program that was backed by quite a few professionals in the industry. Also saw that it was on the list of approved programs for the health coach alliance

        • Tyler Read says:

          Hey Tristan,
          Thanks for pointing this out to me. I will take a look at the Institute of transformation nutrition and do a full review of it here on my website. There are so many certifications in so many new ones coming out every year that it is hard to keep track. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  • jodi says:

    I’d like to add a couple more options: Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This link will save you an additional $500:

    Also, when you are done with your basic certification, consider learning more clinical knowledge at SAFM.

    I talk to a lot of coaches (I run a Facebook group of 12,000 coaches) and I truly believe these are the best options. Here’s the link to my group if anyone is interested:

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Jodi,
      Thanks for the information. I will definitely check out these health code programs to see what they are all about. Don’t hesitate to stop by again and leave more comments!

  • Jami says:

    Hi! I went through the Wellcoaches program in 2012, prior to the division/addition of two options. The cost of certification is separate from the cost of the class (which is very good – loved the Motivational Interviewing) and am considering a career change from tech back to a caring profession. Info to know:
    18-week, teleclass program fees:

    Full fee: $1295 (does not include certification fee)
    Payment Plans: 3-month or 5-month includes additional processing fee per month
    Early Bird Discount: $100 discount, applied immediately when paying the full fee, or divided over the course of each payment with both the training registration and bundled purchase payment plan

    4-day, residential program fees:

    Full fee: $1645 (does not include certification fee)
    Payment Plans available; please view specific course for details
    To ensure registration, invoices for corporate accounts must be paid in no later than 7 days prior to the course start.
    Early Bird Discount: $100 discount, applied immediately when paying the full fee, or divided over the course of each payment with both the training registration and bundled purchase payment plans.

    For those who have already completed the program yet did not complete the certification, there is a reduced course price.

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Jami,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving this valuable information about the wellness coach program. I will definitely look into this and thanks so much for leaving such a detailed comment.

      • Jami says:

        You’re welcome! I’ve decided to go back to finish my certification in August, and am seriously considering ACE because of your review. Personally, I used dietary and lifestyle changes to go from a pre-diabetic condition to very good health, and maintain it over the years. After looking into the human genome project and learning how the DNA works for type-2 diabetes, I made these changes and know how difficult it can be. It would be much more satisfying knowing I am helping people rather than staring at a computer for 8-hours daily at a tech company. So, yeah, really glad I found this article. Thank you!!

  • Jackie says:

    I have been doing tons of research on health coaching programs and I’m curious to know if you know anything about the AFPA Holistic Health Coach certification as that seems to be the direction I’m leaning towards but I’m just hesitant given that it’s also a financial investment. Any opinions are appreciated!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Jackie,
      AFPA is definitely an investment. That being said, they are a fantastic organization that have really gained the trust of the entire industry. This is especially true if you are looking to go specifically holistic. In my opinion is a great program and clearly the biggest drawback is trying to balance whether or not it is worth it for the money.

  • Romi Labanca says:

    Hey Tyler! Love this site and the info you have provided. I have been looking into Health Coach Institute, do you have any feed back on them? I do know they aren’t cheap, so I’d hate to go with the more expensive option if they aren’t who they say they are!

    • Tyler Read says:

      Hey Romi,
      I will have to do some further investigation into this institute before I can say for sure. Are they accredited by any legitimate organization? That is a good quick way to tell if they have gone through the hoops they need to in order to provide a great certification.

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