Becoming a Health Coach in 2024: 3 Decisions You Need to Make First
Becoming a Health Coach: 3 Decisions You Need to Make First. Image featuring a male health coach working on a laptop, with the Wellspired Co. logo displayed prominently on the screen. The text and logo are set against a clean, professional background, emphasizing a focus on health coaching careers.

The First Decisions to Make as a Health & Wellness Coach

Health and Wellness Coaching is an exciting career choice, rapidly growing and evolving with diverse job opportunities and companies eager to hire skilled professionals.

The skills you develop as a health coach are not only transformative for others but also highly adaptable, offering you a wide array of career paths to help others achieve their health and wellness goals.

On the downside, this can also create so many potential paths that it can be hard to determine which path is the right one for you.

Let’s talk about some of the key decisions you will want to make as you decide where your career path takes you:

Decision #1: Contract vs. Full-time vs. Part-Time vs. Private Practice

Unlike traditional jobs, which usually require full-time work with strict 8-5 schedules, Health and Wellness Coaching offers a variety of options that allow you to have more flexibility in your day and working hours.

Contract Roles

A contract role is when you are not an employee of the company but have contracted with them to complete a specific role. Contract roles are typically set for a specified period of time and include an end date with the possibility of renewing that contract when the time comes.

Contract roles can sometimes pay more than hourly employment positions because they do not include benefits or paid time off.

A contract role can be a great option for a health and wellness coach who is looking for a shorter-term opportunity with higher potential pay that allows for some additional flexibility (generally, contract roles cannot dictate the days and times you work, so you are able to set your own schedule of availability).

Part-time Health Coach Jobs

A part-time health and wellness coaching job will usually offer additional flexibility in your scheduling but may require you to work nights or weekends as part of that flexibility. These roles are typically hourly positions and come with limited or no benefits or paid time off.

As a part-time employee, a company is able to determine the hours you work and when you need to be available, which may be a challenge if you need flexibility in your schedule.

Full-Time Health Coach Jobs

A full-time role is what would fit most commonly with a traditional job. Typically, the schedule that accompanies these roles is Monday – Friday during regular office hours but may ask you to be available evenings or weekends. Unlike the other types of roles, full-time roles typically include benefits and paid time off and will be salaried versus hourly.

Companies typically incentivize a full-time role by offering insurance benefits and paid vacations.

Lastly, in many instances, part-time and full-time health and wellness coaching roles will not allow you to work with clients in any other capacity, such as your own part-time coaching practice or taking on additional contract roles.

Starting a Private Coaching Practice

Lastly, starting a private coaching practice means being self-employed and marketing yourself to work with clients in your own coaching practice setting. This might be in person or online and can offer the most flexibility when it comes to who you work with when you work with them, and how much you make.

Unlike the other options, being self-employed means you charge your clients directly and pay yourself through the revenue your company brings in. Although Health and Wellness Coaches are not billable through insurance at this time, many HSA and FSA options are available for clients to use to pay for Health and Wellness Coaching.

Owning your own private coaching practice can give you more autonomy in the amount you choose to be paid; however, embracing skills in networking, marketing, and sales will help you build a healthy private coaching practice that pays you a regular income, and there is usually a ramp-up period to reaching this point.

A common option for health coaches who are starting their own private practice is to have both a contract role as well as accept clients through their own private practice. This allows them the ability to bring in income while they are ramping up their own private practice.

Which type is right for you?

Knowing which type of job opportunity might be right for you is an important first step in your search.

Decision #2: Clinical vs. Non-Clinical Health Coach

As mentioned above, being a health and wellness coach can be broad at times, which means working with a variety of people on various topics. However, many coaches realize early on that they have a desire to work in a clinical setting or that they prefer not to work in a clinical setting.

Clinical Health Coach

Becoming a health coach in a clinical setting usually involves working side-by-side with other healthcare professionals, sometimes in a clinic or other healthcare office. These health coach roles may emphasize working inside a larger healthcare EHR (Electronic Healthcare Record) system, sometimes focusing on specific health conditions and supporting patients in their overall wellness in clinics and healthcare offices that help patients with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions.

Non-Clinical Health Coach

A non-clinical health coach may work in their own private practice or focus on corporate wellness opportunities. Although all health coaches will focus on well-being, non-clinical health coaches typically emphasize integrative wellness and may focus on topics like stress management, work/life balance, improving energy levels, and lifestyle habits represented across the entire wellness wheel. This is not to say that clinical health coaches don’t focus on these areas, but the reason why clients want to work with you in the first place will be different.

Rather than focusing on lifestyle changes that may help to improve specific lab test results with a patient who is working with a physician, non-clinical health coaches are generally more focused on overall lifestyle well-being and the associated behavioral changes.

Which one is right for you?

Deciding early on whether you desire to work in a clinical setting or in a non-clinical setting can be helpful in deciding what job opportunities are right for you. Knowing where you will focus can also help you build the initial connections needed to bring clients to your coaching practice through referrals if you decide to open your own health and wellness coaching practice.

Decision #3: Narrowing in Your Focus

Many coaches are drawn to specialize in areas where they have personal experience or passion. For example, if you have personally managed Type 1 Diabetes your whole life, you might feel a strong calling to help others in supporting the overall wellness and lifestyle management of those who live with the same condition.

Knowing what you’re passionate about as a health and wellness coach can be helpful in creating a dream career that feels purposeful and fulfilling to you. In addition, having specialized training or certifications on a specific topic can also make you stand out above other coaches in the industry, whether to get an interview or with potential clients looking to work with you privately.

As more health and wellness coaches enter the market and the industry becomes more competitive, having additional certifications and training that make you more versed in a specific area will help you be more successful and advance further in your career.

For example, a functional medicine clinic that works with women in menopause is going to be more likely to work with a health and wellness coach who has taken advanced training in menopause and women’s health studies, which allows the coach to ask better questions and provide more meaningful educational information to the client when it’s appropriate (remember, according to NBHWC, coaches can educate clients up to 25% of the time in their sessions, so having the appropriate resources and information to provide that client will help them achieve strong outcomes.)

Note: Health coaches should ensure their use of language and the services they offer do not imply medical expertise or enter into a territory of medical advice unless they are also licensed as a healthcare provider. Instead, health coaches can focus on supporting overall wellness, lifestyle management, and behavior change.

Where will you focus as a health and wellness coach?

If deciding on a specific focus feels difficult to decide on, it’s important to note that training on a specific topic in health coaching doesn’t mean you can’t change focuses in the future. The most important step is to decide on a specific area of interest that resonates with you, then explore that topic more with some practice clients or additional research on that topic.

Making Decisions as a Health Coach for an Easier Path Ahead

It might feel daunting to make these decisions right away in the beginning, but creating a complete career development plan for yourself as a certified health and wellness coach will go a long way toward ensuring that you are taking the right steps to advance your career and set you up for success in the long term.

If you’re ready to jump into starting your health and wellness coaching career and would like to explore the path of starting your own private health and wellness coaching practice, register for our free on-demand training, 5 Steps to Jump-Start Your Wellness Coaching Business. Plus, it’s approved for 1 CEU through NBHWC!

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