Health Coach vs. Personal Trainer

So you love your time at the gym, right? So much so that you could easily see yourself having a career in health and fitness, not as a gym employee but by helping others train, get fit, or perhaps guiding them towards a healthy lifestyle. But where would you start?

Well, the most obvious career paths that would afford entry into the health and fitness world are that of either a health coach or a personal trainer. But are they any different? Are they, not the same thing? No, not at all!

This blog post will show you the role each profession performs in the health industry. That can help you decide as to which you would prefer to certify. Let’s look at both in detail.

If you are not yet certified, take the quiz to see which certification is best for you, or check out my article on the top five Training certifications and my article on the top health coach certifications.

Health Coach vs Personal Trainer? Let's see the difference! 5
Health Coach vs Personal Trainer? Let's see the difference! 6

The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to your personal training. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

Health Coaches: Helping others towards a healthy lifestyle

Health coaches: Helping others towards a healthy lifestyle

So what exactly is it that a health coach does?

A health coach mentors

For people looking to live a healthier lifestyle, a health coach provides the necessary mentorship they need to make those changes.

And its ongoing support, with constant motivation.

Why? Making lifestyle changes is easier for some than others, so constant motivation is necessary to help them in their new journey.

A health coach provides information

Mentorship is not the only thing a person looking to change toward a healthier way of living will require from a health coach.

They need the necessary material highlighting lifestyle changes and food intake changes to help them attain their goals.

A health coach will devise a range of programs for their clients that, if followed, will result in a healthier way of living. This is achieved by focusing on developing healthy habits in each client and changing their overall mindset.

Remember, each client is unique, so these programs’ purposes are built for them. They could be to help them lower their cholesterol or to lose weight, for example.

And this is achieved mainly through a change in diet with specific programs for individual clients.

A health coach supports

Through individual and even group sessions, a health coach will help motivate clients to meet their goals.

So it’s not just about providing the client with the necessary tools and information to make a success of their lifestyle goals.

Health coaches will support those clients in difficult times when motivational levels are at their lowest.

Remember, it’s not always easy for a person to change their lifestyle, especially if they have not cared too much about their health or what they eat before.


More info

Health coaches will assess each individual client, working out a specific lifestyle program based on that assessment. And the core of that will be based on nutrition and ensuring their clients eat the correct food.

Why? Well, often, food is the main reason people are unhealthy.

But these programs can also include other aspects, particularly from a motivational point of view. Even the best health coach won’t succeed with clients if they are not motivated to make all the important life changes.

And health coaches can be employed in their roles in several different ways.

Many people work privately, but more and more institutions employ health coaches, including hospitals, health resorts, spas, wellness centers, large companies, and even schools.

Personal Trainer: Helping to build a better body

Personal Trainer: Helping to build a better body

What roles does a personal trainer fulfill?

A personal trainer provides individual training regimes

The first and foremost thing a personal trainer does for their clients has devised a training regime.

This is unique to each individual and considers important aspects such as their age, general fitness level, and any health issues they may have.

And training may be needed for many reasons, but generally, their client wants to get fitter and improve their health that way. Or they are undergoing rehabilitation for an injury and therefore need specific exercises to strengthen muscles or joints, for example.

A personal trainer educates

Providing a client with their individual training regime or rehabilitation program doesn’t mean the job of a personal trainer is done.

That’s only the start.

While some clients might already have ‘gym knowledge, ‘ others could be clueless about how everything works.

A personal trainer’s job is to take their clients through the program they have worked out for them and show them how the gym equipment works!

In fact, a personal trainer should always demonstrate how each gym apparatus works and the correct form when using them.

A personal trainer is a motivator

As a personal trainer, motivation is key. While some clients love every aspect of gym work, others may need a little extra motivation to get the job done at each session.

They may even need the motivation to make sure they turn up!

The job is certainly not only about exercise. Personal trainers must learn what motivates their clients, get in their heads, and ensure they succeed.


Even more info

A personal trainer will provide an overall exercise plan for each client based on several criteria but most importantly, their age, fitness levels, and what they hope to achieve by working out.

They will then implement that plan in supervised training sessions, guiding and motivating them each step of the way as the client tries to improve their fitness or rehabilitate and strengthen muscles or joints.

The scope for employment for a personal trainer is massive.

Of course, the obvious place to be employed is at a gym. Still, personal trainers are found on cruise ships, at large companies, in sports and recreation centers, private practice, outpatient facilities, and wellness or medical centers.

What do I do if I want to become a Health Coach or Personal Trainer?

Ok, so what do I do if I want to become a Health Coach or Personal Trainer?

If you are considering becoming either a health coach or a personal trainer, there is one important step that you need to take first.

And that’s getting certified.

Health coach certification

You need a certification if you want to work in the fitness and wellness industry as a health coach. And there are many ways to earn that.

Let’s take a look at a few options.

Health Coach Institute

Health Coach Institute logo

The Health Coach Institute offers two certification options. You first have the combined Health and Life Coach Certification. Then there’s the Pathway Program, which is a Health Coach Certification geared towards anyone looking to take the NBHWC exam.

These are both high-quality options, however the Health and Life Coach certification gives you two certifications in one and is available year-round, while the Pathway Program is a 6-month program only available twice a year.

ISSA Health Coach

ISSA has a less expensive option that’s best used for personal trainers who also want to explore health coaching.

The ISSA Health Coach Certification gives you all skills you need to enact behavior change, along with an excellent online interface.

National Society of Health Coaches

The NSHC (National Society of Health Coaches)

The National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC) offers a Certified Health Coach course, one of the most popular in the country.

This is mainly for people who want to add health coach accreditation and already work in the medical industry and are licensed, for example, a diabetic educator, dietician, certified exercise specialist, and others.

If you do not work in the medical field, the course can still be completed for a “certificate of completion” recognition.

American Council on Exercise

ACE (American Council on Exercise)

The health coach course offered by the American Council on Exercise is open to those in both the fitness and medical fields.

To complete this course, participants must hold either an NCCA accredited certificate, an associate degree, or a CPR/AED certification.

Personal trainer accreditation and certification

Becoming a personal trainer will also require certification. Here are some options for you to investigate.

American College of Sports Medicine

American College of Sports Medicine

Established in 1954, the certification offered by the American College of Sports Medicine is one of the oldest in the country.

To enroll, you will need to have a high school or GED certificate and a CPR or AED course. With this course, expect a variety of study choices that can be customized to your needs.

American Council on Exercise

The American Council on Exercise offers certification for personal trainers wanting a one-on-one learning experience.

To enroll, you will need to be 18 years of age, have a high school or GED certificate, and have completed a CPR or AED course. Study helpers are available online for any questions you may have while taking the course.

How to ensure you get certified!

How to ensure you get certified!

While it’s all good and well that these institutions offer courses to get you certified and land your dream job as a health coach or personal trainer, you must pass an exam first.

Luckily, study materials, like those provided by Trainer Academy (insert link), are readily available to help you sail through your chosen certification and, more importantly, prepare you for the final exam.

These study materials have all the information you need and cover a range of different certification courses available in the personal fitness and health coaching field.

Using them to guide you is a no-brainer and certainly one of the best decisions you can make.


Epic before jumping to the conclusion; if you have not done so, take the quiz to see which certification you will complete.

Health Coach vs Personal Trainer? Let's see the difference! 5
Health Coach vs Personal Trainer? Let's see the difference! 6

So in this blog, we have shown you the primary differences between what a health coach does and a personal trainer’s role in the field of health and fitness.

Both play very important roles in the health and fitness industry and the scope for work is massive.

No longer is a health coach only employed in private practice or a personal trainer found only at a local city gym.

Remember, if you plan on adding another string to your bow or want to start out in either field, certification is crucial.

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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6 thoughts on “Health Coach vs Personal Trainer? Let’s see the difference!”

  1. Hi Tyler,
    I have a few questions for you that I hope you can answer. I have not heard back from ACE yet about my questions, so maybe you can help.
    I am looking to get my CPT and health coach certification at the same time. I was looking at ACE for both of these, because of the affordability and the accreditation. Will that be too much course work at once? I am free from work and obligations for the next three months.
    My next question is about the ACE health coach exam requirements. It says you must have be a CPT or have an associates or more in a health related field. They gave a list that was not “all inclusive” and my degree was not listed, but it is , somewhat health related. I have a BS in Health Services Management. Do you know if this would qualify?
    My last question is- do you think ACE would be the best option to complete both of these? I was also looking at the ISSA elite trainer cert which includes nutrition, but I’m not sure I could use that as a “health coach” certification. I was wondering if you knew of any programs that combine both certifications into one course load.

    Thanks for your time, your website has been very helpful.


    • Hey there, that’s a very specific question whether or not your ° qualifies. You will definitely need to contact the American Council on exercise to hear back from them. ACE is a fantastic option but I also do think that the elite trainer course with their nutrition certification is a great option. They don’t have a specific health coach certification but I heard that they are in the works with one of those that should be coming soon. I hope.

    • Hi and thank you for the wonderful insight and information. I’m considering a career in health and fitness and this helped me out. God bless you.

  2. I like how you mentioned that a personal trainer takes into account age, general fitness level, and health issues when making a routine for their client. People that hire a personal trainer will get a custom made workout plan to fit their needs and goals. Thank you for stating these benefits and reasons to get a personal fitness coach.


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