How to Become a Certified Nutritionist or Wellness Coach

How to Become a Certified Nutritionist or Wellness Coach

Wellness Mama®
Simple Answers for Healthier Families
If you’re like me, nutrition has become a big part of your life. It literally changed my health!
Becoming so passionate about something can easily make you think of doing more with your interest. Have you wondered about doing a nutrition program or getting nutrition education so that you can start a career in wellness?
I’ve rounded up some of the best fully online programs that you could use to launch a career in wellness. Doing your own research is important, but this should get you started and give you a realistic idea of what each program entails and how it could help you achieve your career goals.
There are many different nutrition, health coaching, and other wellness credentials. They all mean different things, but the most important factor to know is how your state of residence defines them. Some credentials are accepted in all states, while others are not considered health practitioners in certain states.
Not all programs will give you credentials or letters you can use after your name. You don’t have to have these to be able to work in wellness or nutrition, but you need to decide what’s important for you.
When you’re thinking about credentials, ask yourself what job you want to end up with, and then pick a program that will get you there. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can also consider going to graduate school and becoming a dietitian, but those pathways tend to be lengthier and overall more expensive.
Still, it’s about what matters to you. You’re never too old to go back to school or to learn new things. I’ve proven that to myself over and over! For example, I’m more of an athlete now than I ever would have dreamed of. Intentionally challenge yourself to learn new things and see what happens!
While every job will be different, there is some information on the internet about what you might expect to earn as a health coach. In the US, according to the popular job search site Indeed, the average salary for a health coach is $36,000 per year or around $15 per hour. These averages will vary widely by state or location, and whether the job is at a smaller business or a larger company.
You can also have the potential to earn more money if you start your own business, although it may take time to work up to a part or full-time income.
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for health coaches and people with these credentials will continue to be in high demand for many years to come.
All of these programs are designed for adults who are working full-time, but some of them are more time-intensive than others. As online courses, they have some level of flexibility built-in but some have more “live” requirements than others.
If you’re looking to get your feet wet but not dive into a full program, see my post 11 Useful (and Fun) Skills You Can Learn Online for the resources that helped me.
Healthy eating means different things depending on who you ask. A holistic nutritionist will answer differently from a clinical nutritionist, and so on. Some programs, like studying dietetics and becoming a registered dietitian, involve a lot more government-mandated protocols being taught. Find a program that agrees with your philosophy on nutrition and wellness so that you can really dig into the nutrition degree or program that you pursue.
While there are many different online nutrition courses and certifications, these are some of the best. Here is a breakdown of each program, the certifications they offer, the cost, and what you might expect to do once you’ve completed the coursework.
Note: None of the following programs are accredited by the US Department of Education and they do not accept federal student loans because they do not teach the government’s idea of nutrition.
I’ll start with my personal favorite, since I teach there!
The Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach (CTNC) program blends holistic nutrition coaching, health coaching, and life coaching into a science-based system that focuses on nourishing all aspects of wellness: physical, mental, and spiritual health. You’ll work with clients well beyond eating habits alone, to create an entire lifestyle that supports their wellness goals.
Pros: Can start seeing clients after 3-4 months. The program can be completed entirely online and prepares graduates to have a fully set-up coaching business, including concepts like copywriting, time management, and building a “million dollar brand.” Eligible to order lab tests and supplements for clients, which few other coaching programs offer. Offers open enrollment, so can be started at any time.
Cons: Health coach scope of practice is limited and you should check with your state health board to understand what you are allowed to say and claim as a health coach. Requires certification exam before the certificate is awarded.
Get more information on ITN here.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition trains health coaches in a holistic lifestyle and dietary wellness. Health coaches work alongside other healthcare providers, like doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists, dietitians, and more. They can also run their own health coaching business where they work directly with clients to support optimal wellness. Whether you want to help clients with weight loss or sports nutrition, you can create a business that specializes in your interests.
Pros: Can be completed fully online and offers business coaching as part of the program, along with basic marketing set-up for a website and other marketing materials. Up to 29 credits can transfer into another degree program for a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate at qualifying schools. Qualified to start seeing clients once completing half of the program.
Cons: Health coach scope of practice is limited and you should check with your state health board to understand what you are allowed to say and claim as a health coach.
Learn more or get started with IIN here.
The ADAPT Health Coach Training program by the Kresser Institute focuses on creating “change agents” who can support others in their health journeys. Their health coaching mentality is focused on functional wellness, enabling people to motivate change in others by asking the right questions and inspiring clients. The program specifies that it is not creating health experts and you aren’t practicing any type of counseling or care.
Pros: Can be completed fully online and offers community support. The program also has business materials and set-up tips as part of the program, with customizable handouts to use with clients so that you can launch a practice ASAP.
Cons: Health coach scope of practice is limited and you should check with your state health board to understand what you are allowed to say and claim as a health coach. Only accepts enrollment twice per year, in the spring and fall, which may be a downside if you want to start something outside of that timeframe.
Start the Kresser Institute program or request more information here.
The MindBody Green Functional Nutrition Coaching Program trains professionals in the functional approach to nutrition and wellness. It is a self-paced program that can be done anywhere in the world. With video lessons and instructional videos, handouts, and other materials, students interact with other students and instructors via discussion boards, but do not work directly with any practitioners or faculty. As with other health coaching programs, this will allow someone to practice as a health coach, depending on specific state or international laws.
Pros: Can be completed fully online with plenty of learning resources like handouts, reading materials, and access to discussion boards. Offers a small amount of business coaching as part of the program. Can sit for the final exam when 80% of the course materials have been completed.
Cons: Health coach scope of practice is limited and you should check with your state health board to understand what you are allowed to say and claim as a health coach. Must pass the final exam with 90% or higher in order to earn the certificate.
Learn more about their program here.
The Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) certification course focuses on helping people recover and maintain the best health possible. Underlying causes of conditions are considered, including lifestyle, environment, and metabolism. Graduates are equipped to read labs and coach clients into a better understanding of healthy living that goes beyond a healthy diet alone.
Pros: Counts as continuing education credits (CEUs) for several professional associations and is one of the more affordable options. Allows graduates to order lab work and assess it for clients.
Cons: Health coach scope of practice is limited and you should check with your state health board to understand what you are allowed to say and claim as a health coach.
Get the FDN certification process started here.
The Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program is a fully online program that can be completed in less than a year. It is taught by instructors with a focus on bio-individuality and holistic and functional nutrition. Graduates may use the credentials NTP, and will be equipped to support education for nutrient-dense food, lifestyle choices, dietary wellness, coaching clients, and setting up a practice.
Pros: Can be completed fully online and offers business coaching as part of the program. One of the more affordable options.
Cons: Some states may not recognize the NTP credential. You should check with your state health board before beginning any nutrition program.
Check out the full program here.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
Have you ever considered studying for a degree or certification in health and wellness? If you already work in this field, what tips would you pass along?
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder and CEO of Wellness Mama and Co-Founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a wife and mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Jen

I was considering the program at University of Western States. It is a graduate degree program in Functional Medicine and Human Nutrition and allows you to sit for the Clinical Nutrition Specialist exam. The program is 100% online as well.
Cory

I found this very insightful! I’ve been thinking about this for years as it’s where my passion lies however I’m still on my healing journey so it’s difficult to jump in and just do it! Thanks for this post!
Megan

You are also allowed to take the board exam for NANP as a NTP. ?
Brenda Nicholson

I am making some personal health related changes and would like to learn more – mind, body, spirit – much like your choice of healthcare education. However I would only be doing it to further my knowledge and share with others in a blog setting. Any suggestions for that type of education?
Katie Wells

All of the above would be good just for the knowledge, whether you plan to work in the industry or not…
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