Skip to content

The Best Health Coaching Programs To Fit Your Personalized Needs

Merrell Readman
Author: Medical reviewer:
Updated on January 19, 2023
Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
By Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS
Medical review by
Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS
Board-certified Family Physician
Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS is a family physician and HIV specialist in California. He takes a holistic approach to healthcare, incorporating principles of functional medicine and using food as medicine when working with patients.
Last updated on January 19, 2023
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

The best health coaching programs of 2023

Best overall health coach certification program
mindbodygreen Health Coach Certification (HCC)Go to review
Best for building a business
Health Coach InstituteGo to review
Best affordable option for personal trainers
ACE Health Coach CertificationGo to review
Notable mention
IINGo to review

The health and well-being industry has skyrocketed in the last several years, leaving the demand for qualified health coaches that much more apparent. Right now, people are in need of certified experts to support them through illness and disease—and one way to receive your credentials is through an online health coaching program.

If you're considering joining the field and becoming a health coach, read on to uncover the five courses offering the most complete breadth of information and training that will equip you to start coaching. Three of them are also NBHWC-approved programs, meaning you can take a test to become a certified health coach upon completion. (More on that below.)

Whether you're working on a budget or already have a baseline of knowledge, here's everything you need to know to choose the right health coaching program for your needs.

How we chose

Price

We chose programs at a variety of price points to meet incoming health coaches where they are, while also making the process accessible.

Accreditations

It's important that a good health coaching program is accredited by a reliable source. Courses approved by the NBC-HWC (National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach) are considered the gold standard of health coaching, and make up most of our list.

Program length

Health coaching is a time investment, and some have more time to give than others. We selected a range of programs with varying time requirements—from 3 months to multiple years—to fit different schedules.

Synchronous and asynchronous options

We spotlight courses that allow you to learn on your own time, as well as come together in a group setting, to fit busy schedules.

mbg's picks for the best health coaching programs 2023:

Best overall health coach certification program: mindbodygreen Health Coach Certification (HCC)

Save $500 with code:
MBG500
view on mindbodygreen | $4,999

Pros

  • Well-rounded approach to well-being
  • Efficient 20-week course
  • Great for people changing careers & those already in health field
  • NBHWC-approved

Cons

  • 20-week program may not suit all schedules
Approved by the NBHWC?: Yes
Class type: Virtual
Weekly commitment: 4 hours
Program timeline: 5 months
Timing of lessons: Asynchronous / Synchronous combination

If you're looking for a well-rounded health coaching course that sets you up for success in just 20 weeks, mbg's HCC is perfect for you. A NBHWC-approved training program, this course provides a robust view of holistic health. It's designed to prepare graduates for health coaching careers through a combination of 75 hours of flexible instruction, office hours, interactive feedback sessions, and practical assessments featuring personal feedback from instructors. Lifetime access to program materials is included. Students call the virtual course with live and recorded elements supportive, enriching, and welcoming. Pair it with mbg's Functional Nutrition Training (which comes free with your HCC enrollment) to further expand your knowledge in the fields of health and nutrition.

Why we chose it:

mbg has spent over a decade working with the foremost experts in the health space—and when you sign up for HCC, you get direct access to them.

Our faculty includes Mark Hyman, M.D., Kelly LeVeque, Maya Feller MS, RD, CDN, and 17 of the other top medical and wellness experts in the world. The breadth of information they share across all facets of health—from sleep to hormone balance—is unparalleled by other programs. Once you sign up, you have unlimited access to their lesson plans, as well as the opportunity to consult with some teachers directly. mbg's private alumni community also makes this program an unmatched value for anyone looking to make a name for themselves in the health space and start a fulfilling career helping others.

Who should try it: Someone looking to go into health coaching (or a related field) armed with a holistic health perspective. Someone looking to learn the skills and practical knowledge needed to pass the NBHWC board exam in 20 weeks, through a mix of synchronous and asynchronous virtual training.

Who should skip it: Someone looking for an in-person program, a completely synchronous program, or a program that does not take a holistic approach to health coaching.

Review from a recent graduate:

"The course really emphasized the nature of being a health coach; I feel prepared to help people advance on their health and wellness journey. The support team was excellent and you never feel alone. The one-on-one faculty feedback experience during Practical Skill Assessments is professionally conducted and invaluable." — Cari, 2022 HCC graduate

Best for building a business: Health Coach Institute

Pros

  • Brand-building skills
  • Scalable
  • NBHWC-approved

Cons

  • Pricier
  • 6- to 12-month program
Approved by the NBHWC?: Yes
Class type: Virtual
Weekly commitment: 5-7 hours
Program timeline: 6-12 months
Timing of lessons: Asynchronous / Synchronous combination

The Health Coach Institute sets you up with the knowledge to enhance your brand and share your skills, making it a top pick for anyone who wants to build their own health coaching service after they've completed training. NBHWC-approved, this program offers a simple Health Coach option, as well as a Coach Mastery course to take your learning to the next level. The latter puts you in contact with people who have previously completed the course for added community support.

Why we chose it:

Beyond a solid foundation of health knowledge, we appreciate that this program teaches the ins and outs of building a business—something many of us did not learn in school. Another special perk of this program is its emphasis on relating to clients and helping them commit to habit change.

Who should try it: Someone entrepreneurial who is looking to start and build their own health coaching practice after graduation.

Who should skip it: Someone who is not interested in private health coaching. Someone who is looking for an in-person program.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Best affordable option for personal trainers: ACE Health Coach Certification

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good for specialized personal trainings

Cons

  • Not NBHWC-approved
  • Requires CPR/AED certification
  • Not as much live instruction
  • Does not take a functional approach
Approved by the NBHWC?: No
Class type: Virtual
Weekly commitment: 5-7 hours6 hours
Program timeline: 3-4 months
Timing of lessons: Asynchronous

Geared towards personal trainers, American Council on Exercise (ACE)’s Health Coach Certification starts at just $780 and takes between three and four months to earn your certification. Focused on the role that exercise plays in a healthy life, the program offers three different levels at varying price points, making it even more accessible to different income levels. The program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), but not NBHWC. The NCCA is a less specialized accreditation that certified individuals in a range of professions including personal trainers, nurses, respiratory therapists, counselors, and emergency technicians.

Why we chose it:

If you're interested in becoming an exercise professional, this program is designed to teach you the ins and outs of how movement promotes health. Beyond that, it also features valuable job training, with 71% of graduates saying becoming ACE Certified helped them make more money according to a survey by Indeed.com.

Who should try it: Someone looking to learn the health basics needed to become a personal trainer.

Who should skip it: Someone looking for an in-person program, a program that has a community component, or a program that is more focused on general health knowledge.

Best nutrition based: Precision Nutrition Level 1

Pros

  • No prerequisites
  • Self-paced and easy to follow

Cons

  • First come, first served
  • Sole focus on nutrition instead of holistic health
  • Not accredited
  • Limited instructional support
Approved by the NBHWC?: No
Class type: Virtual
Weekly commitment: Self-paced
Program timeline: Self-paced
Timing of lessons: Asynchronous

If your focus within health coaching lies more in nutrition science, Precision Nutrition's Level 1 course will give you a comprehensive base of information. The virtual course is self-paced (you get all the resources upfront when you sign up). While the program is not accredited, it has been recognized and approved for continuing education units by various organizations including ACE, NASM, and more.

Why we chose it:

This introductory online certification is geared towards those interested in going into nutrition coaching and who prefer to learn at their own pace. It also ladders up to more advanced programs like PN Level 2, which is an approved NBHWC program.

Who should try it: Someone who is looking to practice nutrition-focused coaching.

Who should skip it: Someone looking for an in-person program, a program that has a community component, or an accredited program.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Notable mention: IIN

Created by a pioneer in the health and wellness space, IIN was the first health coaching program available. This gives IIN one advantage over competitors: It offers a widespread alumni network, which can be helpful after graduating from the NBHWC-approved program. They also offer six- or 12-month options. However, the course is expensive and requires extensive weekly coursework to ensure you finish the six-month program on time. It's also worth noting they were acquired by a Minnesota-based Private Equity firm in 2018.

What is a health coach?

A health coach is a trained expert in the field of nutrition and overall well-being, who offers clients well-rounded guidance for improving their health.

Instead of simply looking at the basics of your life to provide generalized diagnoses and advice, health coaches are trained to look into your sleep, diet, lifestyle habits, and more to get to the root cause of issues you may be struggling with—chronic or not.

In fact, holistic nutritionist and celebrity health coach Kelly LeVeque once told mbg that health coaches can "support the resolution of [a client's] symptoms, and potentially the resolution of [their] disease state." 

Specializing in topic areas such as diet and nutrition, fitness, and stress, a good health coach should be able to take a 360 approach to wellness, to provide the highest quality of care to their clients.

Summary

Health coaches guide clients toward their well-being goals and help them make positive changes across all areas of health. Unlike doctors, health coaches do not diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, or run lab work.

How to become a health coach

In order to become a certified health coach, you must complete a training course to prepare for your role.

There is a wide range of options to choose from, but it's a good rule of thumb to look for courses that have been accredited by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).

These courses vary in time, monetary investment, and outcome, so setting realistic goals before entering into the program will ensure you're getting the most out of it.

Some require a college degree, and others are better suited for starting your own personal health coaching service.

Knowing what you want out of a course before making your decision will ensure you're not wasting any time.

You should also be prepared to take an extensive exam at the end of your course, which will determine your preparedness to enter the field. Once you're up and running, you can start to earn a good salary as a health coach.

RELATED STORY: 40+ Ways To Use A Health Coach Certification

Certified health coach salary.

Your salary as a health coach will depend on your location, qualifications, and level of experience. According to Glassdoor, the average base-level salary for a certified health coach ranges from $62,000 to $102,000 a year. There is the potential to earn up to $127,000 per year depending on your focus area. The most lucrative U.S. cities for health coaching include San Francisco, New York, and Boston, per Salary.com data.

RELATED STORY: As A Health Coach, This Is The Salary Range You Can Expect

What is the difference between a board certified health coach vs. non-board certified?

A board-certified health coach has graduated from a National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching-approved training program, passed the Board Certification Exam, and earned the credential NBC-HWC. 

There has been a growing movement within the health coaching industry to ensure that professionals are qualified and that best practices exist. The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) was created with the goal of leading the advancement of health and wellness coaching by instituting professional standards. Getting board certification from the NBHWC means that you are a part of a national, centralized standard of training and education. Becoming a certified health coach enhances your credibility and increases your chances of reaching more clients.

RELATED STORY: NBHWC Certification: What It Is & How To Get One For Health Coaching

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a health coach do?

In essence, they coach people through states of change. Health and well-being coaches work with individuals in a client-centered process that facilitates and empowers the client to achieve self-determined health and well-being goals. Health coaches can work for hospitals, private clinics, or any number of other companies, or run their own health coaching business. 

How long is a health coach certification program?

Health coaching programs range from 6 weeks to one year, with the average program lasting around 4-6 months.

Are health coach certification programs accredited?

Not all programs are accredited. Looking for one that is certified by the NBHWC will improve your chance of finding a job in the health coaching field after graduation.

Can a board-certified health coach perform the duties of a Registered Dietitian?

While a Registered Dietitian (RD) and health coach may work with similar people, their roles and credentials are different. A Registered Dietician is licensed and regulated by state licensing boards, whereas health coaches operate under a different national board certification by the NBHWC. A health coach looks at the whole person (body, mind, spirit) and shows up as a partner, whereas RDs may take more of an expert role. The RD can prescribe dietary interventions and recommend supplements. The health coach does not prescribe, diagnose or interpret lab results, and is instead an expert in behavioral change and motivation as it relates to well-being.

The takeaway

Selecting a health coaching program that is a good fit for you is essential for optimizing your experience and spending the time and resources you have on a certification that sets you up to best serve your clients.

Whether you go with mbg's HCC or another program, the health space needs qualified experts to make improved well-being more accessible.

Want to turn your passion for wellbeing into a fulfilling career? Become a Certified Health Coach! Learn more here.

Meet The Experts

Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS is a family physician and HIV specialist in California. He takes a holistic approach to healthcare, incorporating principles of functional medicine and using food as medicine when working with patients.