One of the many fields in which a dietitian may choose to practice is that of health coach. Becoming a health coach can be an important way to enhance your existing licensure and certifications, and can improve your career path overall.
Just what is a health coach, however? Many people entering the field of dietetics don’t realize just how broad the field can be, and how many options there are in which to practice. Learn about what it means to be a health coach, how it differs from a dietitian, and what you must do to gain certification in this interesting and specialized field.
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What Is a Health Coach?
While dietitians are licensed to practice in their individual state, and may be registered nationally as a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, becoming a Health Coach is a certification. It’s not a different career path from that of dietitian, but rather a supplemental path.
Health coaches work with their clients to establish not only healthy dietary habits, but overall good health. This can include everything from establishing fitness plans to quitting smoking or even spiritual well-being.
The Dangers of Health Coaches
Because being a health coach is a certification, it’s not necessary to be a dietitian to become a health coach in most cases. For this reason, many dietitians are wary of the term, as they feel it further muddies the waters of access to solid nutritional advice. For this reason if nothing else, one should seek proper education as a nutritionist or dietitian as well as registration and licensure in these fields, before looking into becoming a certified health coach.
Dietitians as Health Coaches
Because of the sheer amount of education, examination and skills that it takes to become an RD, dietitians can make excellent health coaches. A licensed and registered dietitian will have solid training and background knowledge in health and wellness, and are experts in nutritional choices. Many also obtain training in behavioral principles, which can help with the establishment of new life choices.
If nothing else, having an additional certification can increase your qualifications for a range of services, and can make you more eligible to perform a variety of duties as a dietitian. This makes you more employable in a field that is already growing by leaps and bounds.
The first thing you’ll want to do is find a solid certification program in your area. Different programs for health coach certification can be wildly different, so you’ll want to do some research on the strengths and weaknesses of each. Some are on-the-ground, traditional programs. Others use online training. Still others are old-school distance learning of the workbook-and-phone variety.
The only third-party credential currently in existence is the ACE Health Coach Certification, which carries accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Again, before you become certified as a health coach, you should look into your state’s requirements to become a licensed dietitian. This is your first step on the road to a rewarding career in this fast-growing career field.