Becoming a Wellness Coach: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a wellness coaching career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a wellness coach is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Wellness Coaching

Wellness coaches have the opportunity to help people meet their dietary and fitness goals, which can lead to improved health and elevated levels of contentment. Continue reading to learn more about the pros and cons of a career as a wellness coach, so you can make a smart career decision.

Pros of a Wellness Coaching Career
Can help people meet their wellness goals*
Only a bachelor's degree is usually required***
Many dimensions to this career (including clients' physical, spiritual, social and financial well being)*
A variety of training programs focused specifically on wellness coaching are available****

Cons of a Wellness Coaching Career
Lowest earners made $10 per hour or less as of July 2015**
Many employers prefer certified wellness coaches***
Cannot actually treat or counsel patients in a clinical setting*
Usually need prior experience to find work***

Sources: *Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives, **PayScale.com, ***May 2012 CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com job postings, ****National Wellness Institute.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), wellness coaches don't provide therapy or treatment, but instead motivate their clients to meet their health and fitness goals (www.publichealth.va.gov). The Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives stated that wellness coaches help clients identify the health problems they want to overcome, such as smoking, obesity, poor nutrition or lack of exercise (welltacc.org). Together, you and your patient can set realistic goals, make steps to meet those goals and determine appropriate deadlines. The VA added that you also should have the capability to recognize suicidal behaviors and depression, so you can refer clients to trained clinicians if necessary.

You might work with clients face to face or support them using text messaging and phone calls. You can track their progress and supply them with advice, encouragement or guidance. You also might help motivate clients on financial, spiritual or social issues that they face.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According to Payscale.com, most wellness coaches made about $10-$36 per hour, or about $23,000-$71,000 per year, as of July 2015. Most workers with 0-5 years of experience made around $39,000, while those with 10-20 years of experience made about $53,000.

The wellness and fitness fields were expected to experience average or higher-than-average employment growth over the next decade. For instance, O*Net Online projected that employment would increase by 8-14% for wellness coordinators between 2012 and 2022 (www.onetonline.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that fitness training positions would increase by 13% over the next decade, while dietitian and nutritionist jobs were expected to grow 21% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).

What Are the Requirements?

To become a wellness coach, you usually must start by earning a bachelor's degree in a health-related field, such as dietetics, public health, nutrition, health education or nursing. This training often include studies in nutrition, chemistry, meal management and statistics. You also usually must gain experience working with patients through internships or practicums. You can learn about different diseases and how to use nutrition and fitness principles to reduce people's risk of such ailments. During a bachelor's degree program, you could acquire the following skills, which could benefit you as a wellness coach:

  • Effective communication
  • Good organization
  • Listening skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Familiarity using modern technology

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job postings usually request that wellness coaches have a bachelor's degree in health education, nursing, dietetics, wellness or health promotion. Employers also usually want someone who has experience in the field. According to May 2012 job postings from Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, employers prefer wellness coaches who communicate effectively, listen well, have a positive attitude and stay organized even with multiple clients. Below are some more specific job requirements.

  • A Wisconsin health care provider wanted to hire a wellness coach who had a bachelor's degree in the health field and at least two years of experience in health promotion, health coaching or wellness. The employer reported that the ideal candidate would be an energetic, communicative person who was proficient in Microsoft Office and could help people develop healthy lifestyles.
  • A health care facility in North Carolina advertised for a part-time wellness coach who could maintain a relationship with clients by encouraging them and helping them set goals by telephone. The ideal candidate would have at least a bachelor's degree, three years of experience in wellness and certification as a wellness coach.
  • A behavioral health care company in Maine searched for a wellness coach who had a bachelor's degree in behavioral health, dietetics or nursing, three years of clinical experience and previous wellness coaching experience. The coach's responsibilities would include using the phone to reach out to clients, tracking clients' progress and helping people make decisions that would improve their overall wellness.
  • A Missouri health care facility looked for a wellness coach who was a registered nurse and fluent in Spanish. Responsibilities included drawing blood and testing the results to get an idea of clients' general health.
  • A health care provider in Boston wanted an outgoing, independent wellness coach with good communication skills, a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience in the wellness industry to help employees and clients stop behaviors that can lead to bad health.

How Can I Stand Out?

Specific training in wellness coaching is available as a specialization or minor at some schools. These classes can help you develop marketable skills while you complete your undergraduate degree. You could also complete an internship or work at a gym, a health care facility or a school to acquire the skills needed to help people set and meet important health goals.

Get Certified

Certification is not required for wellness coaches, nor is it regulated by the federal government, but having it can help you stand out, and many options are available. The National Wellness Institute offers certifications for wellness practitioners, wellness specialists and wellness program managers (www.nationalwellness.org). These certifications can show you how to design and implement wellness plans, maintain good client relationships and encourage your clients. You typically must complete an accredited health program and pay a fee before receiving your credential.

Develop Related Skills

If you're still in school, you might consider taking classes that could prepare you for dealing with a variety of different clients. For instance, some employers request that candidates speak Spanish, so taking language classes could be beneficial when you apply for jobs. You could also take additional courses in nutrition, physiology, psychology or fitness training.

Alternative Career Options

Nutritionist

If you like the idea of helping people improve their health, but becoming a wellness coach isn't for you, you might consider becoming a nutritionist. As previously mentioned, the BLS projected that employment in this field would increase by about 20% between 2010 and 2020. This job requires you to teach people about the foods they eat and how food can improve their health and reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes. For this job, you need to earn a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics and acquire licensure. The BLS reported that nutritionists earned a median annual salary of around $54,000 as of May 2011.

Fitness Trainer

Fitness trainers motivate people to exercise and teach them how to use fitness equipment correctly, which makes the job a more hands-on alternative to wellness coaching. They also give advice about related lifestyle issues, such as weight management and improving nutrition. To become a fitness trainer, you must complete fitness training and become certified. Although a degree isn't necessarily required, earning an associate's or a bachelor's degree could be beneficial. Fitness trainers made a median annual salary of about $31,000 as of May 2011, and the BLS projected that their employment would increase by 24% between 2010 and 2020.

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University of Delaware

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Keiser University

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Colorado State University Global

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  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
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Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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American InterContinental University

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  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
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