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Ultimate Guide to Becoming NBHWC Certified


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The Health and Wellness Coach’s Guide to Becoming NBHWC Certified: A Step-by-Step Playbook

Diving into the world of health and wellness coaching? Let’s talk about the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) – a pivotal organization that sets the gold standard for professionals in this field. Achieving the NBHWC certification is not just about adding another credential to your resume; it’s about showcasing your commitment, expertise, and dedication to the highest standards in health and wellness coaching. 

In this guide, our main objective is simple yet profound: to guide you step-by-step through the NBHWC certification process. From understanding its significance to navigating the requirements and beyond, we’ve got you covered. So, whether you’re a seasoned coach or just starting your journey, read on to discover how this certification can be a transformative milestone in your career!  

Why Should You Get Certified? The Importance of an NBHWC Certification 

Becoming NBHWC certified is a pivotal step for those who aspire to make a significant impact in the realm of health and wellness. The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) is at the forefront of professionalizing the field of health and wellness coaching. Since its collaboration with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) in 2016, the NBHWC has developed a robust board certification examination. This effort has culminated in over 8,400 professionals achieving the esteemed NBC-HWC credential. This credential is a testament to rigorous training, education, and assessment standards, propelling the profession forward in all facets of health care and wellness. 

The NBC-HWC certification is the pinnacle of achievement in the health coaching sector. It represents the profession’s highest standard, underpinned by extensive research and the collective expertise of top professionals in the industry. While there isn’t a mandatory requirement for health coaches to be certified, many positions within the healthcare sector mandate board certification during the application process. 

Benefits of NBHWC Certification: 

  • National Directory Inclusion: Certified professionals become part of the NBC-HWC National Directory, aiding individuals in search of a qualified health and wellness coach. 
  • Enhanced Job Opportunities: Employers often prioritize candidates with the NBC-HWC credential. 
  • Advocacy: Certified professionals can champion training and education standards for this burgeoning field. 
  • Distinctive Branding: Use the NBC-HWC logo to emphasize board-certified status. 
  • Networking: Join the NBC-HWC community for private networking opportunities, shared resources, and exclusive events. 
  • Continued Learning: Receive invitations to NBHWC Quarterly Connects and other events featuring industry experts, along with complimentary continuing education credits. 

The AFPA’s Certified Health and Wellness Coaching program and the Advanced Health Coaching Intensive [Live] (combined as the AFPA Certified Master Health and Wellness Coach program) is NBHWC-approved, and complements the holistic approach emphasized by that organization. Our program ensures that individuals are not just recovering but thriving, bridging the gap between biomedical care and holistic wellness. 

Your Guide to Becoming a Board Certified Health Coach

Learn How to Set Yourself Apart as a Board-Certified Health Coach

5 Steps to Becoming NBHWC-Certified 

Step 1: Hold an Associate’s Degree or Higher or Have 4000 Hours of Work Experience 

For those aspiring to become National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coaches (NBC-HWC), the NBHWC has set forth specific educational and work experience prerequisites to ensure a foundational understanding and competence in the field. 

Educational and Work Experience Requirements: 

  • Associate’s Degree or Higher: One of the primary pathways to qualify for the NBHWC certification is to hold an associate’s degree or higher. This degree can be in any field, reflecting the NBHWC’s recognition that diverse educational backgrounds can bring valuable perspectives and skills to health and wellness coaching. 
  • 4000 Hours of Work Experience: If you do not hold an associate’s degree or higher, there’s an alternative route. You can qualify by completing at least 4000 hours of work experience in any field. This requirement ensures that even those without formal higher education have substantial professional experience, which can be invaluable in understanding client needs and dynamics. 
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Guidelines and Considerations: 

  • Diverse Backgrounds Welcome: The acceptance of graduation from an associate’s degree or higher in any field, or the completion of 4000 hours of work experience in any domain, underscores the NBHWC’s inclusive approach. They value the diverse experiences and knowledge that candidates from various backgrounds can bring to the health and wellness coaching profession. 
  • Choosing the Right Path: If you’re at a crossroads, consider your current qualifications and future aspirations. If you’re close to completing an associate’s degree or already have one, that might be your best route. On the other hand, if you have extensive work experience, even outside the realm of health and wellness, you can leverage that toward your certification. 
  • Comprehensive Preparation: Regardless of the path you choose, it’s essential to remember that the NBHWC certification is rigorous. Whether you come from an educational background or rely on work experience, thorough preparation is crucial to succeed in the certification process. 

In essence, the NBHWC has designed these prerequisites to ensure that certified health and wellness coaches have a robust foundation, whether it’s through formal education or professional experience. This foundation is pivotal in ensuring that coaches can effectively guide and support their clients on their wellness journeys. 

Step 2: Graduate from an NBHWC Approved Training Program 

To begin the journey of becoming a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), the first and foremost step is to graduate from an NBHWC-approved training program. This is a non-negotiable criterion, ensuring that aspiring coaches are equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills to excel in the profession. 

AFPA’s Certified Health and Wellness Coach Program and the Advanced Health Coaching Intensive [Live] (combined as the Certified Master Health and Wellness Coach program) are NBHWC-approved and integrate the most up-to-date knowledge and best practices on coaching. Regardless of the program you choose, make sure they meet at least the minimum standards for NBHWC recognition:   

NBHWC Training Program Standards: 

  • Instructional Time: The NBHWC-approved courses are meticulously designed to encompass the required instructional time, which includes both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (self-paced) activities. 
  • Practical Skills Development and Assessment: These programs emphasize hands-on experience and practical knowledge. They ensure that students undergo coaching activities, practical skills development, and rigorous evaluations to hone their coaching skills. This is pivotal as the initial coaching sessions are often conducted through guided simulations. 
  • Faculty Qualifications: The faculty’s qualifications are of paramount importance. The NBHWC standards guarantee that the instructors are not only well-versed in health and wellness but also possess the necessary credentials and experience to impart quality education. 

Tips on Choosing the Right NBHWC Approved Program 

  • Alignment with NBHWC Standards: Ensure that the program’s curriculum aligns with the standards set by the NBHWC. This includes the required instructional time, coaching activities, and faculty qualifications. 
  • Program Topics: The Health & Wellness Coach Certifying Examination (HWCCE) encompasses four categories: Coaching Structure, Coaching Process (Coaching Relationship/Communication/Techniques), Health & Wellness, and Ethics/Legal (including NBHWC Code of Ethics). It’s imperative that the chosen program offers comprehensive coverage of these topics. 
  • Diversified Instructions: Opt for a program that offers a blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience. Programs that provide both synchronous and asynchronous learning sessions, supplemented with varied learning materials and peer coaching sessions, are ideal. 
  • Community and Networking: Being part of a virtual community of successful certified coaches can be invaluable. This network can offer mentorship, industry insights, and a deeper understanding of the HWCCE content outline. 
  • Look for the NBHWC Seal of Approval: Only NBHWC Approved Programs carry this unique seal. It’s a mark of quality and adherence to the highest standards in health and wellness coaching. 

Remember, while there are numerous institutions and organizations offering training on becoming a health and wellness coach, not all meet the stringent standards set by the NBHWC. It’s crucial to choose a program that not only prepares you for the certification exam but also equips you with the skills to excel in real-world coaching scenarios. 

Step 3: Log 50 Coaching Sessions  

After successfully graduating from an NBHWC-approved training program, the next pivotal step toward achieving the NBC-HWC certification is logging 50 health and wellness coaching sessions. This requirement is designed to ensure that aspiring coaches gain practical experience and hone their skills in real-world scenarios before taking the certification exam. 

Guidelines for Logging Coaching Sessions: 

  • Number of Sessions: Aspiring coaches must log a total of 50 coaching sessions. This ensures that they have adequate exposure to diverse client needs and scenarios, refining their coaching techniques in the process. 
  • Duration: Each of the logged coaching sessions should be a minimum of 20 minutes in duration. This time frame ensures that each session is substantive, allowing for meaningful interaction and progress with the client. 
  • Facilitation Method: The coaching sessions can be conducted either face-to-face or through a virtual platform. This flexibility acknowledges the evolving nature of health and wellness coaching, where virtual sessions are becoming increasingly prevalent. 
  • Coaching Content: The primary focus of these sessions should be on coaching facilitation. This means that the sessions should be centered around guiding clients, helping them set and achieve their health and wellness goals, and addressing any challenges or obstacles they might face. 
  • Limitations: While logging these sessions, it’s essential to ensure that they adhere to the guidelines set by the NBHWC. For instance, sessions that deviate significantly from the standard coaching facilitation or those that don’t meet the minimum duration requirement might not be considered valid. 
  • Documentation: It’s crucial to maintain a detailed log of these sessions. This log will serve as a record of your practical experience and will be a requisite when applying for the NBC-HWC certification exam. 
  • Guided Simulations: Initially, your coaching sessions might be run through guided simulations. This approach provides a structured environment to practice and refine your coaching techniques before transitioning to independent sessions. 
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In essence, logging these 50 coaching sessions is not just a formality but a valuable phase in your journey to becoming a certified health and wellness coach. It offers a platform to apply theoretical knowledge, develop a rapport with clients, and fine-tune your coaching approach based on real-time feedback. 

Step 4: Pass a National Board Certification Exam  

Achieving the National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) designation is a significant milestone for professionals in the health and wellness coaching industry. This certification not only validates your expertise and skills but also enhances your credibility in the field. One of the pivotal steps toward this achievement is passing the Health & Wellness Coach Certifying Examination (HWCCE). 

You can check the NBHWC website for the upcoming exam dates

Prerequisites to Sit for the Exam (See Steps 2 and 3 for More Information): 

  • Complete an NBHWC-Approved Course: Before you can take the HWCCE, you must complete an NBHWC-approved training program. This ensures that you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills aligned with the standards set by the NBHWC. 
  • Log 50 Coaching Sessions: As previously discussed, you need to log 50 coaching sessions, each lasting a minimum of 20 minutes, focusing on coaching facilitation. 

Exam Structure and Content Areas: 

  • Coaching Structure: This section delves into the staging procedure, climate, and session routines before, during, and toward the end of the coaching period. 
  • Coaching Process: This segment emphasizes the proper manner of conducting a session from start to finish. It highlights effective ways of establishing a client-centered relationship, communication strategies, and psychological techniques. 
  • Health & Wellness: This area covers the science underpinning the coaching process. It outlines chronic diseases, health risks, prevention, behaviors, and more. 
  • Ethics/Legal Considerations: This component encapsulates professional conduct, the confidentiality of clients’ records, federal and state regulations involved in the health and wellness coaching industry, and other related topics. 

The HWCCE is a half-day onsite exam that assesses the aforementioned content areas. 

Tips for Preparation and Success in the Exam: 

  • Review and Practice: Regularly review the course materials and ensure you understand the core concepts. Take practice tests to familiarize yourself with the exam format. 
  • Connect with Certified Coaches: Engage with Health and Wellness Coaches who have successfully completed the HWCCE. They can provide insights, tips, and share their experiences. 
  • Regular Coaching Sessions: Continuously practice your coaching skills by conducting regular sessions. This hands-on experience will deepen your understanding of the content outline of the HWCCE. 
  • Join a Virtual Community: Being part of a virtual community of successful certified coaches can be invaluable. This network can offer mentorship, industry insights, and a deeper understanding of the HWCCE content outline. 
  • Use NBHWC Exam Study Materials: Make use of the study materials provided by the NBHWC to ensure you’re well-prepared for the exam. 

Remember, while the exam is challenging, with the right preparation and mindset, you can successfully achieve the NBC-HWC designation and stand out in the health and wellness coaching industry. 

Step 5: Plan for Continuing Education Courses 

Once you’ve achieved the coveted National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) designation, the journey doesn’t end there. To maintain this certification and ensure that you’re always at the forefront of the health and wellness coaching industry, you’ll need to engage in continuous learning. 

Continuing Education Requirements: 

  • Complete 36 Continuing Education (CE) Credits: Every three years, NBC-HWCs are required to complete and document 36 CEs. These courses must align with the NBHWC continuing education guidelines. 
  • Course Content: For a course to be approved by the NBHWC, it must adhere to specific criteria. Primarily, the content should fall within the NBHWC Scope of Practice. The course should be relevant to the core competency areas essential for health and wellness coaching. This includes areas such as Coaching Structure, Coaching Process, Health and Wellness Knowledge, and Ethics and Legal Considerations. Additionally, the course could address aspects of business development tailored for a health and wellness coaching business. This encompasses topics like business development and design, marketing strategies, and essential business systems like accounting. Furthermore, the course can also delve into health and wellness coaching subspecialties. All courses need to be approved by the NBHWC to be considered as CE.  
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Finding the Right Continuing Education Courses: 

  • NBHWC Approved Courses: When searching for CE courses, always look for the NBHWC Approved CE Course Seal of Approval. This seal guarantees that the course meets or exceeds the NBHWC’s standards for the continuing education of NBC-HWCs. 
  • AFPA CE Catalogue: The American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) offers a range of continuing education courses. It’s advisable to check out the AFPA CE catalogue and specifically search for NBHWC approved courses. 
  • Directory for Approved Courses: The NBHWC directory is an excellent resource to find approved continuing education courses. This list is continually updated, ensuring that you have access to the latest and most relevant courses in the industry. 
  • CE Petition Form: If you’re interested in a course that’s not listed in the directory, you can submit a CE Petition Form to have individual courses reviewed for use toward recertification. 

Engaging in continuous education ensures that you stay updated with the latest trends, techniques, and knowledge in the health and wellness coaching industry. It not only enhances your skills but also ensures that you provide the best possible guidance to your clients. 

What to Consider Once You’ve Become a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach  

After achieving the National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) certification, a new chapter in your health and wellness coaching journey begins. This certification is not just a testament to your skills and knowledge but also a gateway to numerous opportunities in the industry. 

What to Expect After Receiving NBHWC Certification: 

Upon receiving your NBC-HWC certification, you join the ranks of over 6,500 qualified coaches in the industry. This certification is a unique indicator of your skill set in the health coaching field. As NBHWC executive director Leigh-Ann Webster, NBC-HWC, CPT explains, the NBC-HWC credential represents the training, education, and assessment that a health and wellness coach has undergone to achieve board certification. This certification solidifies your credentials and positions you as a recognized expert in the field. 

Opportunities for Board Certified Health Coaches: 

  • Enhanced Credibility: An NBHWC certification can sharpen your knowledge and skills, better preparing you to offer comprehensive services to clients. It assures your clients that they’re working with someone skilled, qualified, and who has put in the necessary hours of training. 
  • Networking and Community: NBC-HWC certification provides access to exclusive summits, conferences, mentorship programs, and webinars. Networking is vital in any field, and being part of this certified community can help you connect with others who share the same passion for health coaching. 
  • Real-World Experience: Unlike many coaching programs that are limited to classroom-only learning, the NBHWC certification requires you to integrate your new skills into real-world scenarios. This hands-on experience ensures you’re well-prepared to face the challenges and demands of health coaching. 
  • Business Opportunities: From nursing to personal training to life coaching, NBHWC training can elevate your skills, opening doors to diverse opportunities in the health and wellness sector. 
  • Continuing Education: As previously mentioned, maintaining your certification requires continuous learning. This not only keeps you updated but also allows you to expand your skill set and offer a broader range of services to your clients (see the previous section for more information). 

The health coaching industry is continuously evolving, and the NBC-HWC certification ensures that you’re well-equipped to navigate this dynamic landscape. Not only does it enrich your professional journey, but it also empowers you to make a significant impact on the lives of those seeking a healthier, more holistic lifestyle. 

FAQs About the NBHWC Certification Process 

What Is the NBHWC and What Does It Mean? 

The NBHWC stands for the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching. It is an organization that sets the standards for health and wellness coaching, ensuring that professionals in the field meet rigorous criteria to provide the highest quality of coaching to clients. 

The NBHWC certification, known as the NBC-HWC (National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach), is a unique indicator of a coach’s skill set in the health coaching field. When a coach holds this certification, it signifies that they have undergone comprehensive training, education, and assessment to achieve board certification. This certification is based on a job task analysis that determines the key skills one must master before becoming a health coach. 

In essence, the NBHWC represents a commitment to excellence in the health and wellness coaching industry. Coaches with the NBC-HWC credential have demonstrated their competency and dedication to the field, ensuring that they are well-equipped to support clients in their health and wellness journeys. 

What Is the Passing Score for the NBHWC Exam? 

The passing score for the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) exam can vary, and it’s essential to refer to the latest information provided by the NBHWC itself, as these details can change over time. However, I can provide some general insights into the scoring process for certification exams like the NBHWC. 

Certification exams typically use a criterion-referenced approach to determine passing scores. This means that the passing score is not set based on how other test-takers perform (norm-referenced) but rather on a predefined standard of knowledge and competence required to become certified as a health and wellness coach. 

The passing score is often determined through a process called standard setting, which involves expert panels or committees that review the exam content and establish the minimum score required to demonstrate competency in the field. This process aims to ensure that individuals who pass the exam have the necessary knowledge and skills to be effective health and wellness coaches. 

The specific passing score for the NBHWC exam may also be influenced by factors such as the complexity of the exam questions, the content domains covered, and the psychometric properties of the exam itself. The NBHWC may periodically review and update these passing score standards to align with current best practices and research in the field of health and wellness coaching. 

It’s essential to check the NBHWC’s official website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information regarding passing scores and exam requirements, as these details can change over time and may vary depending on the version of the exam you’re taking. Additionally, candidates often receive detailed information about exam scoring and pass/fail criteria when they register for the exam. 

Is Becoming a Certified Health Coach Worth It? 

Absolutely. The NBC-HWC certification represents training, education, and assessment that a health and wellness coach has obtained to become board certified. This certification solidifies your credentials and can help sharpen your knowledge and skills, better preparing you to offer comprehensive services to clients. Moreover, it provides clients the assurance that they’re working with someone skilled and qualified, potentially opening up more opportunities for you in the health and wellness field. 

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What Credentials Do You Need to Be a Wellness Coach? 

To become a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), you need to graduate from an NBHWC-approved training program, log 50 health and wellness coaching sessions, hold an associate’s degree or higher (or complete 4000 hours of work experience in any field), and pass the National Board Certification Exam. 

How Do I Start a Health and Wellness Coach Business? 

Starting a health and wellness coach business involves obtaining the necessary certifications, such as the NBC-HWC, and then integrating your skills into real-world practice. Networking is crucial, and certifications like the NBC-HWC provide access to exclusive summits, conferences, mentorship programs, and webinars. These resources can help you connect with potential clients and other professionals in the field. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Board Certified Health Coach? 

Being a board-certified health coach, specifically with the NBC-HWC certification, indicates that you have met the highest standards in the health coaching field. It signifies that you have undergone rigorous training, education, and assessment to obtain the certification. This credential assures clients of your competency and expertise in health and wellness coaching. 

What Is the Benefit of Being a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach? 

The benefit of being a board-certified health and wellness coach is manifold. It offers clients the confidence that they’re working with a skilled and qualified professional. This certification can open doors, helping you stand out among other coaches. It also provides access to exclusive networking opportunities, such as summits and conferences, which can be instrumental in building and growing your coaching business. 

Can You Call Yourself a Health Coach Without Certification? 

While there’s currently no strict requirement for health coaches to become certified by other organizations, many jobs in the healthcare sector require board certification upon application. Being certified, especially with a recognized board like NBHWC, adds credibility to your practice and assures clients of your expertise and commitment to the profession. 

Does Insurance Cover Certified Health and Wellness Coaching Services? 

As of now, most wellness practitioners deliver services that are not covered by health insurance. While some groups, including the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), are advocating for CPT Codes to be assigned to health coaching services, private payers, such as health insurance companies, do not necessarily have to recognize these CPT Codes and therefore may not reimburse for health coaching services. Some insurance companies are more accepting when it comes to covering health coaching services.  

What Are the CPT Codes and Reimbursements for Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches? 

CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes are used in the medical field to describe the services and procedures performed by healthcare providers. Reimbursements refer to the payment that healthcare providers receive for their services. The specific CPT codes and reimbursements for board-certified health and wellness coaches are: 

  • 0591T Health and Well-Being Coaching face-to-face; individual, initial assessment 
  • 0592T individual, follow-up session, at least 30 minutes 
  • 0593T group (two or more individuals), at least 30 minutes  

It’s recommended to consult with professional organizations or billing experts in the health coaching field for this information. 

Main Takeaways  

As we conclude our deep dive into the NBHWC certification process, let’s reflect on the key insights and the transformative potential this certification holds for aspiring health and wellness coaches: 

  • Significance of NBHWC Certification: The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) certification is more than just a credential. It’s a testament to your dedication, expertise, and commitment to the highest standards in the health and wellness coaching industry. Achieving this certification signifies that you’ve undergone rigorous training, education, and assessment, positioning you as a recognized expert in the field. 
  • Unlocking New Opportunities: With the NBC-HWC certification under your belt, you not only enhance your credibility but also open doors to a plethora of opportunities in the health and wellness sector. Whether it’s networking, attending exclusive summits, or expanding your client base, the certification paves the way for a rewarding career. 
  • A Call to Action: If you’re passionate about health and wellness and aspire to make a significant impact on individuals’ lives, consider taking the steps toward becoming NBHWC certified. This journey will not only enrich your professional skills but also empower you to guide others toward holistic well-being. 
  • Dive Deeper with NBHWC: For those keen on exploring more about the certification, the NBHWC’s official website is a treasure trove of information. From detailed guidelines to FAQs and a directory of approved courses, the platform offers comprehensive insights to guide you through the certification process. 
  • Resources at Your Fingertips: Embarking on the certification journey is a significant commitment, and having the right resources can make all the difference. Here are some useful links to guide you: 

In conclusion, the NBHWC certification is a beacon for those who believe in the transformative power of health and wellness coaching. It’s an invitation to elevate your skills, broaden your horizons, and be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of many.  

Learn How to Stand Out as a Top-Tier Health Coach in 5 Steps

Your Guide to Becoming a Board Certified Health Coach

References: 

  1. https://nbhwc.org/  
  2. https://wellnesslaw.com/can-health-coaches-or-wellness-practitioners-bill-insurance/  



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