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Should You Become a Health Coach? 4 Things to Consider


Posted by on January 19, 2016 / 35 Comments

Should you become a health coach? 4 things to consider.

Since becoming a health coach last year, I’ve been asked this question numerous times by friends, family and readers of this website. In fact, the emails are becoming more frequent lately, so I wanted to address my thoughts to the larger group – all of you! And have a resource for others on the interwebs who may be wondering the same thing.

It seems many are intrigued by the fact that I ditched the corporate world and have struck out on my own, as an online entrepreneur. And more importantly, as a health coach…who happens to make some darn good healthy food! Am I a health coach? Yes. Am I a food blogger? Yes. Have I now become a food photographer? Yes. And depending on which day of the week it is, I may give myself a handful of other titles. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship!

There are many things to consider before becoming a health coach and the simple fact of the matter is, it may not be for everyone. Sure, it sounds glamorous from the outside (work from your laptop and travel the world!) – but I’m not gonna lie, tons of work has to happen behind the scenes in order to become a successful health coach. So much so, that the topic of becoming successful in your health coaching practice is a conversation for another day.

So let’s delve into three reasons why you SHOULD become a health coach

1. You want to improve your own health and that of your family

Did you know that many who enroll in health coaching programs have zero desire to create a business? It’s true. They simply want to learn more about nutrition and holistic health to benefit their own wellness and help those around them. And if you think about it that way, it may just be the best investment in preventative medicine possible.

Trust me, there are things I wish I knew 10 years ago about nutrition, wellness and self-care that may have mitigated my numerous doctor appointments as I was diagnosed with four autoimmune diseases. I’m super thankful that I’m healthy today, but an education in wellness can’t be underscored. It’s an investment in ourselves, which personally, I feel is far more valuable than any investment in creating a business.

So if you’re interesting in health coaching for your own wellness, you’re not alone. But if you are interested in creating a business, read on…

2. You want to positively impact the lives of others and create a career out of it

The thing I love most about being a health coach is positively impacting clients and helping them reach their goals. It’s almost a bonus that I get paid for doing so! But just to clarify (as it does get confusing) health and wellness coaches are NOT dietitians or clinical nutritionists. We don’t prescribe medicine, order lab tests and doll out medical advice. 

Think of it this way – health coaches are similar to life coaches, with a wellness bent. We inspire, motivate and provide a level of accountability that is currently absent in the healthcare continuum. It’s a “missing link” that can provide enormous benefit. My own clients will attest to it!

But getting to the root of the question – can you make a career out of it? Yes. Absolutely. Media outlets for the last couple of years have mentioned health coaching as an emerging occupational trend, simply based on the needs of society (which I talk more about here). WebMD and the CDC highlight it as well. In short, the field of health coaching is gaining in popularity, with doctor’s offices even employing health coaches on staff.

So if you’re interested in providing health coaching services, as part of an integrated healthcare delivery system or through your own business (like I do on my website), health coaching may be right for you. 

3. You want to create a wellness-focused business, but not provide coaching services.

Seems like an oxymoron to obtain a health coaching certification to not coach, right? But this may in fact be the largest trend. Many people pursue health coaching to have a solid, well-rounded background in nutrition and holistic health – as the basis for other endeavors.

Next time you go to the bookstore, peruse the cookbook aisle. Then, flip to the back and see how many cookbook authors are certified health coaches – heaps! Many health coaches pursue other revenue generation streams like writing books, holding wellness retreats and creating physical or digital products.

Again, using myself as an example, I (very soon!) will be launching my first ebook. Sarah Wilson, from the enormously successful I Quit Sugar franchise has also mentioned that she didn’t pursue health coaching to provide coaching services. And that’s totally okay! Pursuing health coaching can be the jumping off point for numerous wellness-focused businesses – even bricks and mortar businesses like yoga studios and healthy cafes. 

And one reason that you SHOULDN’T pursue health coaching

You’re driven by making tons of money, as soon as you graduate

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve talked to numerous folks who’ve pursued health coaching with visions of massive wealth dancing through their heads. They do the math: $100/hr x 2080 work hours in a year equals $208K! Unfortunately, those individuals were let down and re-joined the 9-5 game after deciding that health coaching really wasn’t for them after all.

Yes, you can make good income as a health coach, but it won’t happen overnight and it will take quite a bit of effort. When you finish your health coaching certification, clients will not automatically fall into your lap. You’ll have to find them, market to them and work to gain their business. This requires confidence, business skills and marketing savvy. The health coaching program I attended, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition does provide courses to address this, but even still, it takes time to really find your groove, develop your niche and grow your business. In other words – don’t quit your day job (just yet!).

My recommendation is to build your health coaching career while you still have a steady income stream. Then, once you’ve gained enough momentum in your coaching career, you can choose your future path – whichever path that may be.


If you’d like to learn more about IIN, the health coaching program I attended, click here to get a copy of the curriculum guide.

I became a school Ambassador as I knew IIN was something I would want to share and promote to others in my community. Because of this, I receive a small commission from anyone who enrolls through this link and each time I do I feel extremely grateful for the reward and opportunity to share what I have learnt. I also wish every new student the best experience, whether they go on to be a successful Health Coach or use their new found knowledge to better the world in their own way.


Other health coaching posts you might be interested in:

What Exactly is a Health Coach?

My Morning Routine: How a Health Coach Starts Her Day


Are you thinking of becoming a health coach? I’d love to hear your thoughts and what’s motivating you! Share in the comments below.

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Thanks for this article! I’m in school to be a nutritionist and you are such an inspiration :) I’m just now starting to realize that it’s going to be a ton of work to be a success but I love it so much it doesn’t matter.

    • That’s wonderful Elizabeth! When you love what you do, the extra work to make it a success is always worth it! :) x

  • WIN TER

    Hi! Wonderful article I’m just wondering, do you have a bachelors or above including your health coach cert or do you just have a health coach cert? I’m asking because I will have an associate degree in human services next month and am passionate about health and nutrition, I’m wondering if pursuing this certification is right for me at this time. I would love to work with an RD and maybe do some intake type of work whist pursuing my undergrad..any advice would b helpful!

    • Glad the article was helpful! I have a bachelors and masters degree (both in business) and then my health coaching cert. Health coaches come from varied backgrounds, but extra education in human services and/or nutrition would be an added bonus. The certification takes a year and would be very beneficial if you’d like to work with RD’s/doctor’s offices. You’ll also learn basic business skills to help you market yourself as a value added service…and you could definitely pursue the cert simultaneously to your associate degree. :) x

      • WIN TER

        Awesome! Thanks now I’m not afraid to answer the phone when the school calls to solicit me lol. You’re the best!

  • Melissa Johns

    What made you choose this school over the ACE health coach certification and others? I’m comparing programs now and it’s confusing….

    • Yes, it does all get a bit confusing. The good news though is that there are several wonderful programs to choose from. I think at the end of the day it all depends on which program resonates with you the most, based on what you’d like to do as a health coach. I chose IIN as it’s a large, well-supported program and it provided business/marketing support (ie – how to gain clients). Additionally, most successful health coaches I was aware of were IIN-grads, which I believe speaks volumes. :)

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  • Marta Pesquero Henche

    Hello Lisa, Thanks a lot for all this information. It has been very usefull as I have been two months not sure about becoming a health coach and if I did so where to study. As a biologist (with my work), fond about healthy and balance food, mother of two and yoga teacher I want to change a bit my professional career. My first option has always been INN but I always have the doubt of doing somewhere else;can I ask you in terms of time did it take you daily a lot of time to study it??Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Marta – Many people have full-time jobs while going to IIN and I was actually traveling overseas while doing much of my coursework. As long as you have a handful of hours to study each week, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Especially with your science/wellness background. :)

  • Sheri E. Barnes

    Thank you for writing this. I am seriously considering enrolling in a health coach certification class and working to launch my practice while still working full time. It is daunting and intimidating and exciting and scary, all at the same time. You provide a realistic perspective on the profession, and I really appreciate that. It is very helpful as I work through this very big decision.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Sheri! Becoming a health coach is definitely a mix of emotions, thoughts and decisions. And while I’m not a practicing health coach anymore, I still think it was one of the best decision I made to jump start an entirely new career path for me. I wish you the best of luck! :) x

  • Alexa

    Great article as I am considering this. I graduated with an elementary education degree in May 2016. I love education but with an unpredictable chronic illness (the basis of my blog) I knew being a classroom teacher was out of the question. I am working hard to build up my blog and ideally earn at least a part time income from it. (Very helpful in the case of being in a flare up and not having to worry about going into work!) I am currently a nanny with a flexible schedule so I have lots of time to work on this.

    I have 10 years experience living with Crohn’s and have made huge improvements in my life with diet and lifestyle changes. I looked online for specifications for my state, MA and there is no real guidelines one HAS to follow. I am going to research different certifications and such. I feel I could help people because I understand chronic illness and transitioning into a gluten free/paleo lifestyle.

  • Sara

    Thank you for writing this! I’ve been researching health coaching for a few months now and I’ve been on the fence about whether to jump in and what school to go with. But I really want to help people identify their health, fitness and wellness goals and give or help them find the resources they need to see their goals become a reality. I’ve been only a short time on my own journey to a healthy lifestyle and I know, I personally, I would greatly benefit from the classes.

    • Your motivation sounds perfectly well-suited for health coaching Sara! The classes are thought-provoking, informative and enlightening. Best of luck to you! :) x

  • Marquerite Ackley

    I found your article very interesting. I’ve been thinking about couching others, some what like I do now, being involved in dietary cooking & herbs /oils, exercises. Although, I’m not a people person due to there attitudes, personalities, criticism. Looking for a career?

  • Angie Patterson

    Hi! I found the information very interesting. I would love to be a health coach but I’ve always been a “keep to myself” person. Any thoughts on how to put myself out there? I work in Mental Health Case Management right now and would love to merge the two together. Thanks for any help you may offer.

    • Hi Angie. I’m actually an introvert (which surprises most). I’ve found that the best way to put yourself “out there”is to just take small, incremental steps. For instance, launching this website a couple of years ago was a big “holy moly” moment for me – my face was plastered on the home page! But over time I became more comfortable with my public persona and I no longer have the vulnerability fears I had two years. Surprisingly, becoming more public has actually boosted my confidence. With your background in mental health case management, it seems like health coaching would be a perfect fit and I agree the two would merge together beautifully! :) x

  • Tiffany Ellen

    Thanks for the post! I ‘ work as a pediatric occupational therapist, but i have been more interested in branching off into a more integrative wellness model. I have been through, and still going through a lot of health conditions that I have treated with an integrative model. Part of me wants to share this with people, although feeling responsible for people’s healing has been exhausting. Health Coaching seems like it transitions the responsibility to people to take charge of their own health a little more. I also like the flexibility of using it in other ways like you have. Due to my degree, work, and personal health experience I’m concerned I won’t gain enough “new” tools with this certificate. I was debating doing holistic nutrition that will provide more detailed skills but honestly I’m having trouble deciding what I will enjoy and be good at. Any thought’s since you went through he program?

    • I think you nailed it on the head when you said coaching transitions the responsibility to people taking charge of their own health. And that’s exactly it. You’re not diagnosing, you’re simply listening, guiding, educating, inspiring and providing accountability for your clients to make they changes they (more often than not) usually already know they need to make. IIN isn’t heavy on science-based nutrition, rather it gives you an overview of numerous nutrition theories, dietary models, trends, and approaches. But it’s strength lies in helping you become a coach and start a business. I personally didn’t want to go the RD route, as I preferred a more holistic approach. But it’s not uncommon to find health coaches with multiple certificates. It’s all about finding where your interests lay. Hope that helps! :) x

  • Joan Robinson

    I work in a weight loss clinic and I would love to help people eat better. We use diets that I don’t think works for everyone. Our bodies are not the same, I want to suggest the right foods for each individual to lose the weight they want.

    • We’re definitely not all the same – from so many angles (genetics, microbiome, ancestry, environment, etc). That’s wonderful you want to help people eat better Joan – it sounds like health coaching may be a perfect fit for you! x

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  • Liz Lindsey Jensen

    I became a Health and lifestyle coach a little over 5 yrs ago. I had always been passionate about health but didn’t know how to actually build a successful business without putting too much money or time into it (I have 6 little kids). After finding an amazing healthy lifestyle program that was very turn key and simple to follow that produced predictable results I knew I had found a great solution. I became a COPE certified health coach through Villanova school of nursing and Center of Obesity Prevention Education. I have been able to build a very large coaching business, helping 100’s of people every year get to a healthy weight, get off of many medications, and learn how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle. My income consistently has grown over the years now well over $100,000/yr working part time from home. I Help people all over the U.S. because my services are offered via phone, email and text (and video conferencing). I now train other health coaches to start their own successful health coaching business Because our program is so turn key, our program is very affordable for clients, and the start up cost to become a health coach is very minimal. I’d love to explore this option with anyone looking to become a Health coach to help others get healthier. You can email me at liz@coachme2health.com

  • Ray Rivera

    Great article! I’m a student in the 2016 class with IIN. I actually left my day job a few months ago to reasons unrelated to me studying to become a health coach, and it actually caused me to end up in a rock bottom cycle in my life again, as I have not been able to land a new role. Part of that also has to do with the fact that I moved to LA from NYC for 3 years mostly for personal change but also because I was favored more on the west coast (I’m a digital designer) than on the east, and then moved back to NYC because of outside influence from my ex’s family and spiraled from there.

    Now I have to work 10x as harder to get something off the ground when I graduate as I think of a solution in the meantime, so my question is, is it possible to make 50-55k net (in Los Angeles perhaps) as a health coach? And is that possible early on? I just need enough to cover my expenses every month with money left over for my wants. I have a 3400 a mo. expesne roughly, rent included in that, so ideally for me I’d be happy with making 4-4.5k a month. Is that realistic? Sorry for such a long, revealing post. I’m at rock
    bottom and any advice or hope is helpful at this point.

    • Hi Ray – anything is possible. :) There are lots of successful health coaches (who make a full-time salary from it) and there are many who do it part-time while working other jobs. But as I mentioned in the post, there’s usually quite a ramp-up period if the desire is full-time. I’d recommend finding a part-time job or consulting gig for digital design until your health coaching is where you’d like it to be. No sense in adding undue stress and pressure to yourself. Best of luck to you! :)

  • Alice Neff

    Hello Lisa! I am about to graduate with a public health degree and am considering going back to school, or becoming a health coach. I am a bit conflicted because I am in a position where I don’t think my BS will open enough doors for me, allowing me to be happy where I land in my career path. I have a huge interest in nutrition (will be getting a minor in Nutrition also), and am extremely interested in constantly learning about the new surfacing diets, as well as new products/supplements in line with Nutrition. I am mostly interested in these things, because I think that there is little to no disclosure as far as what people are buying from the grocery store anymore. I also think that everybody is different in terms of what sorts of “diets” will work for them– I want to get involved in helping people figure out exactly what works for them to eliminate any health issues they may be experiencing by following the general “diet trends” that surface in the media. I am wondering, approximately how much did it cost you in terms of education to get your credentials? And based off of my interests, do you think this might be a good thing for me to pursue? Thanks so much for your help! Your article was extremely helpful. xoxo

    • Hi Alice – health coaching definitely sounds like the perfect next step for you! And your motivation in wanting to help people find what works best for THEM is spot on. In terms of cost, it’s been several years since I obtained my coaching certification from IIN, so I’d recommend reaching out to them for their current pricing. You will get a discount if you mention me. :) One other piece of advice is that I wouldn’t rely on your BS (or any credentials) to open doors for you. After 15 years in the corporate world (plus a BS and MBA), I’ve learned that the only way to open doors is to knock them down yourself! You just have to go after what you’re passionate about and be relentless in that pursuit. Best wishes! xo

  • Steph

    Hello Lisa, In one of your replies, you mention that you are no longer a health coach? Why is that? Is it not lucrative enough? I am considering this as a side career option and possible full time someday. thanks

    • Hi Steph. I’ve been fortunate that over the last two years this Downshiftology community has grown to millions of readers (which is crazy exciting). And with that has come new opportunities not only with the blog, but also with brands and partnerships in the food, lifestyle and travel space. Like many careers which morph and change over time, my health coaching has now morphed into so much more – and I’m excited for what the future holds! :)

  • Lynn Ghiringhelli

    Where did you obtain your certification? There are so many programs out there ranging from $70 up to $1000. How do I know which program to choose?

    • I attended IIN – the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (linked above) for my health coaching certification. There are several wonderful programs available, so I’d recommend researching them yourself and finding the one that resonates with you. :) x

  • Esther Johnson

    Hello Lisa, thanks for the article! It is greatly educative besides being inspiring for people like me who do not know that they have it in them.

    I come from a family that has no history of major illnesses other than an occasional indigestion or common cold. That is all because of the way my family sees, cooks and eats food. I have raised my daughter to be 17 (5 feet 11 inches) without having to go to a doctor’s clinic (even as an infant), except for school admissions. I must admit at this point that the only time she did visit the clinic was last year, at 16, when she wanted a quick remedy for her acne. (Preparation for prom!). Now she is back to dealing with her acne with kitchen based remedies and lifestyle changes.

    The point I am trying to make is, my kitchen cabinet has always been my pharmacy. Through watching my grandmother and mother (both practiced ayurveda) cook, using an array of spices, herbs, seeds and vegetables (my parents side of the family is strictly vegetarian) I have acquired tremendous knowledge about the usage of spices, spice blends, herbs, grains, seeds, nuts, salt substitutes, veggies, so on, so forth, for disease reversal and wellness upkeep. Besides, I have training in Yoga and meditation. My friends turn to me for health advice and I find myself making them weekly food charts and suggesting yoga exercises and lifestyle/ habit changes. A big thanks to them for trusting me.

    Knowing that I have this in me, I now want to utilize the knowledge I gained in the last 30-something years (I am older than that!), for changing the lives of people around me. What I felt, I lacked, was a prerequisite degree. Do I need one to be certified as a wellness coach? What are my other avenues? I have two masters degree, not related to health.

    Any information would be greatly helpful. Thank you.

    • Hi Esther. That’s wonderful you had such a holistic upbringing! Your vast knowledge in ayurveda, yoga and meditation has clearly served you (and your very lucky friends) well. As for certification, it really depends on what you want to do. If you’d like to branch out to a wider audience, I definitely think a health coaching certificate would be beneficial. Not only will you learn about numerous different dietary approaches, you’ll learn how to manage clients, market yourself to grow your business, and more. I have a masters degree as well, but still found the IIN health coaching program to be very beneficial as I started an entirely new career. Hope that helps! :) x

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