I recently received a request from a former student asking what I knew about wellness coaching certifications. I told her that sounded like a great blog post! Since then I have spent some time not only looking at potential certifications but also on the projected growth of this as a potential career. I ran into a small problem: The U.S. Department of Labor does not have this listed as a potential occupation. The various components of what a wellness coach would do seems to meld into other occupations like health education, health care, and health promotion. This created a bit of a challenge, but I was able to gather some information that may be of help.
First and foremost, before even considering a certification, go look at job postings. What are employers looking for? Do they even require or value a health or wellness coaching certification? If you have the skills and other credentials, it may not even be necessary. I always encourage future professionals to start looking at job postings even if it’s their first year in school. Or, maybe you are looking at a career change or growth opportunity. Job postings can quickly point out what you have and don’t have and what employers want.
Once you have a sense of what employers are looking for, take a look at the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics Website. They have tons of valuable information on occupations and projected job growth or decline. If you are spending time and money on education or credentials, you want to make sure there is some kind of demand or projected growth in that area. One opportunity that people may not realize is that the Affordable Care Act is creating a bigger incentive for employers to get into the wellness game. Companies are receiving tax breaks to provide these services right at the job site and through employee benefits. In a March 2014 survey, 52% of state and local governmental employees had wellness benefits available to them. This is not only good for the employer (for MANY reasons) it’s good for society as a whole. It’s common to find large corporations with extensive wellness programs – they can’t afford to overlook the impact that medical expenses have on their bottom line. However, where I predict the growth and opportunity lies is in smaller business. Building a cooperative among small businesses and making services available that way could be financially attractive to both the professional and the business.
As far as certifications go, this is definitely a new frontier. I have seen exercise, health, and fitness certifications absolutely explode in the last 10 years and they are NOT created equal. After doing some research around health and wellness coaching, I would direct anyone to start with the Wellcoaches Coach Certification, which is endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, a highly regarded organization that I follow very closely. Wellcoaches has also taken it upon themselves to establish the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches. The professionals involved in this effort have “embarked on a path toward national training & education standards, coach certification, and a collaborative coaching research strategy. A second important agenda is to integrate basic coaching skills into the work of all health professionals who assist patients struggling with lifestyle-related chronic disease.”
One other certification to take a look at would be the American Council on Exercise Health Coach certification. Again, I respect this long-standing, non-profit organization. They are accredited by the NCCA, which is an important distinction that many people are not aware of when they consider which certifications to pursue.
If you have done some research or obtained credentialing, please share your insight! For those of you who may be considering this path, I hope this helps – or at least gets you started.