Best Health Coaching Certification: The “Gold Standard” + A Very Attractive Alternative (2023)
So…you’re shopping around for a health coaching certification program?
Yessss – we get so excited when people decide to become health coaches!
And we know your head is probably FULL of questions, right?!
- How much can I expect to make?
- What would my day-to-day job look like?
- Is this really going to work for me?
- How much is all the training going to cost?
There are lots of factors at play when trying to answer the questions above, but one of the biggest is the education & training you choose.
Because your education & training greatly impact:
- what services you’re qualified to provide
- how much you can charge
- who you work with, and
- how much flexibility you have in your work
So…what does this mean for you??
It means that choosing the right training program is critical!
Which is exactly why we’ve dedicated an entire blog post to it.
Our goal with today’s post is to help you understand what’s available so that you can make the best possible decision for you & your family.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The “gold standard” of health coach certification
- A very appealing alternative to consider
- How to decide what’s right for you
Let’s get to it!
The Gold Standard in Health Coaching Certification
The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) is considered the “gold standard” when it comes to getting board certified as a health coach.
We say that primarily because it’s the most well-known & popular option. Butttt, as you read through this blog post, keep in mind that just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s the best path for you.
Our goal is to help you understand your options!
So, let’s chat about it.
Health Coaching Certification Through NBHWC
Established in 2012, National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) works to advance the health coaching profession. One of their roles is to vet all the popular & emerging health coaching programs on the market & choose which ones they want to acreddit (e.g. approve).
If you’ve completed a program that has been approved by NBHWC, then you’re eligible to sit for their board exam. Since launching the exam in 2016, over 7,000 coaches have obtained the credential as a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC)1.
3-Steps to Health Coaching Certification Through NBHWC.
If you decide to become certified, you’ve got 3 steps:
- Complete a training program approved by NBHWC, such as:
- Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)
- Health Coach Institute (HCI) and
- Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA)
- Complete 50 health coaching sessions that meet their criteria
- Have an associates degree (or higher), OR at least 4,000 hours of work experience
Once you’ve got those covered, you can apply for the board exam, which has a $100 application fee and $400 exam fee (fees quoted as of 2023). After passing the exam, you are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education credits every 3 years to maintain your certification.
So, what does this particular health coaching certification do for you?
In a nutshell, it shows future clients & employers that you’ve completed some high-quality training & education.
All sounds pretty good right?
But don’t stop there because there is another juicy option to consider!
An Attractive Alternative to Health Coaching Certification
If you haven’t heard of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) before, we’re glad you’ve landed here!
FDN has over 4,000 graduates worldwide and is well-respected within the functional medicine & holistic health communities.
The name “Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P)” is a mouthful (we get it lol), butttt basically it means that you are a functional health practitioner.
In fact, many FDN graduates refer to themselves as a “Functional Health Coach”, and for the most part, you get to choose what you call yourself. The important thing to note however is that as an FDN-P, you have more advanced skills than your average health coach.
Yes…even those with the gold standard NBHWC seal of approval!
FDN practitioners specialize in using functional testing to help pinpoint the root causes behind people’s symptoms, and they’re really good at it! But it doesn’t stop there. Once they have the test results, they create data-driven diet & lifestyle protocols to help people address their symptoms & reclaim their health.
FDN practitioners are given highly specialized training that sets them apart from other health coaches, and allows them to launch + grow successful online wellness practices.
The truth is, many students who have already completed other health coaching certification programs come to FDN because they realize they want more in-depth training & education.
Now… we know what you might be thinking:
“This is going to take forever!!”
- Complete an approved health coaching program
- Get board certified through NBHWC
- Get advanced training through FDN
But guess what??
You have the option of skipping right over steps #1 & #2, and coming straight to FDN!
This surprises most people because they assume we have a bunch of prerequisites!
But the truth is, FDN Founder Reed Davis, has intentionally kept the prerequisites to a minimum because he’s so passionate about getting this knowledge out to anyone with a strong desire to learn.
In order to enroll in the FDN certification course, all you need is:
1. a genuine desire to help people heal
2. an interest in holistic health
That’s really it!
The course takes about 6 months for most people to complete, but you’re able to take up to 12 months if you need extra time. Once you graduate, you will have the title Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, FDN-P.
Becoming an FDN-P sets you apart from other health coaches for many reasons, so let’s take a closer look at that.
Health Coaching Certification vs. FDN Practitioner Certification
We touched on this above, but to recap:
FDN provides more in-depth training than your average health coaching certification program.
As an FDN-P, you can:
- Order functional testing (independently, without a doctor involved)
- Analyze test results (with access to a program mentor for help)
- Create your own custom protocols based on those test results
An NBHWC health coach cannot order functional tests unless they work under another practitioner or physician.
As an FDN-P, you act as a true health detective, digging into the data to find the root cause/s & creating personalized protocols to help your clients get better.
Sounds pretty good right?
But maybe you’re still unsure if you can really skip the health coaching certification part…
So let’s keep going!
Options For Board Certification
Because Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) is so well-known within the functional health industry, most of our graduates are highly respected whether they are board certified or not!
However, some people just want that extra stamp of approval, and we get it.
While the FDN program does not qualify you to sit for the NBHWC board exam, it does qualify you to get board certified through the following organizations:
- The American Natural Wellness Coaches Board (ANWCB)
- The American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP)
ANWCB & AADP are both reputable organizations, and you can display their logo on your website for an additional level of credibility.
One piece of important advice:
Don’t let yourself get tooooo hung-up on getting certified in every single thing under the sun. It’s a common mistake we see new health coaches make allll the time!
The truth is your future clients will be most interested in what you can do for them. Not in a stack of certificates collecting dust in your file cabinet.
Typically prospective clients are most impressed by actual testimonials & raving reviews, which you’re totally capable of collecting!
So, are you ready to learn how you can become an FDN-P?
How to Become an FDN-P
On average the certification course takes 6-8 months to complete, but you have a full year to complete the course if needed, which is great for people who have busier schedules.
You can learn more about the course right here, but here’s a summary:
Over the course of 6-12 months, the FDN Certification Course teaches you how to analyze functional lab results, and create data-driven diet & lifestyle protocols to help your clients build better health.
What you learn:
- The FDN method of intake & investigation
- The D.R.E.S.S. For Health Success™ framework
- Comprehensive training on (6) foundational functional lab tests
- How to create personalized data-driven healing protocols
- (13) self-paced modules w/ module exams
- (8) 1:1 sessions with program mentors
- (4) functional health test kits (no extra charge!) to run on yourself
- Access to the Medical Director Program (upon graduation) to order 60+ lab tests
- Access to a growing library of “done-for-you” business resources, forms & templates
- Opportunity to join our graduate program for ongoing business development support
Whew, that was a lot of information, wasn’t it?
Let’s recap, and help you choose the best path forward!
How to Choose The Right Path For You
One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is what you want your career to look like.
For example, some employers require the NBC-HWC credential when hiring new employees to work for their business or organization. If you have a specific wellness practice or business that you want to work for, ask them what requirements they have for new health coaches.
On the other hand, becoming an FDN-P prepares you for many different career paths, including:
- Working for a functional medicine practice
- Working for a supplement company
- Working as a host of wellness retreats
- Working as a corporate wellness consultant
- Working as a functional health and wellness speaker
But the most popular option among FDN graduates is to start their own online wellness practice.
If you’re leaning toward starting your own business (we’re rooting for you if you are!), then becoming an FDN-P is going to provide the best value for you because you are trained to operate your own individual practice.
Here are a few other top questions to ask yourself when trying to decide between becoming an NBHWC Health Coach or an FDN-P.
- How much do you want to earn?
- Do you want to follow doctors orders or create your own protocols?
- Do you want access to ordering functional tests for your clients?
- Do you want to work for yourself or for another business?
Get Your Health Coaching Certification Questions Answered!
We’re here to help!
We offer a free 45 minute consultation to answer all your questions.
Our Course Advisors are educated on many health coaching certification programs and can help you determine if FDN is a good choice for you, or not!
PLUS, we’ll be sure to provide some tips & next steps on how you can start or grow your health coaching business.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
Health Coaching Certification References
1. Health Coach Board Certification – Board Certified Life Coach, https://aanwc.com/.
2. Armine, Jess. “Functional Health Expertise.” Functional Diagnostic Nutrition,
3. “Become An Approved Training Program.” NBHWC,
https://nbhwc.org/become-an-approved-training-program/. 4. “History.” NBHWC, https://nbhwc.org/history/.
4. “History.” NBHWC, https://nbhwc.org/history/.