Health Coach Salary: What You Need to Know | Chris Kresser

Health Coach Salary: What You Need to Know

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Health coaches make a living by making a difference. Coaches understand the science of behavior change, how motivation works, and diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Using a client-centered approach, they leverage their knowledge and skills to support their clients as they build new habits and make lasting changes. Becoming a health coach means you would help people change their lives—and earn a salary while doing so. This is a rare vocation that allows you to combine your passions and knowledge into a rewarding career.

Health coach salary
The average health coach salary varies considerably based on many factors, including whether the coach earns revenue through speaking engagements and other sources. iStock/piranka

You’re probably wondering about the average health coach salary because you’re really, really hoping that this passion you have for health is something you can do and still pay the bills. You are not the first person to look for a career where you can have a deep sense of purpose, do some good in the world, and still be happy when you look at your bank balance. I get it. When I became a health professional, I wanted to help people. But I also had to find a way to afford the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You’re going to find a lot of people out there who just want to whitewash this topic and tell you about the coaches who do make mid-six-figures. And, yes, some do.

While others may try to take advantage of your desire to have some kind of guarantee, I’ll be honest. There’s no guarantee in any kind of business. I know it is important to do the math—to see if you’re likely to be able to pay your bills—and I have a lot of stats below that will set your mind at ease. At the same time, a more important question is, what is the value of doing work that feeds your soul and changes the world?

Okay. With that out of the way, I know you’re here for some information you can trust about how much coaches can make, so let’s get to it.

Health coaches change lives, but how do they make a living for themselves? Check out this article for more information on the average health coach salary and the factors that influence your earnings. #healthylifestyle #changeagent #kresserinstitute

What Is the Average Health Coach Salary?

Before we can answer the question “what is the average health coach salary,” we have to make sure we’re all on the same page about what a health coach actually is and be aware of the very real challenges in coming up with any kind of answer:

  • Health coaching is a relatively new career, which means there just isn’t as much data available as there would be for a more established vocational path.
  • There is still some confusion among job sites and market researchers around the job description for health coaches, which causes them to lump coaches together with other professionals, like health educators or nutritionists. Importantly, the role of, and opportunities for, a health coach are continuing to evolve (which means expanding options for people like you who are joining the career).
  • Health coach careers are highly flexible and individual; the career path of one coach may look nothing like the path of another, and those differences impact salary.

That said, according to a 2018 report, health coaches can earn around $50,000 to $100,000 per year, or $25 to $100 per hour. (1) This report does reflect one of the issues I listed above: the authors included data about health educators in their figures. They also gathered information from several job sites, which, as I’ll explain below, have issues of their own.

Many job sites also share salary data for health coaches in the United States. LinkedIn, for example, lists the median health coach salary as $45,000. Other job sites focus on the average health coach salary, which is:

  • $46,764 per year, according to Glassdoor (note: you may need to create an account to view this information)
  • $15.60 per hour, or about $32,448 when that’s translated to a 40-hour-per-week annual salary, according to Indeed
  • $46,145 per year, according to PayScale (you may also need to create an account to view this information)
  • $48,397 per year, according to ZipRecruiter

Note: These salary figures are updated frequently and may change. 

While the averages provided by these job sites hover around $45,000 to $50,000 per year, the salary range for this career varies considerably. It’s listed at around $15,000 on the low end to up to around $95,000 on the high end.

An important note: Each of the job sites listed above uses a different method to collect salary data. ZipRecruiter relies on data from job postings on the site (while including a disclaimer stating that these numbers have not been verified by employers and that “actual compensation can vary considerably”). (2) Glassdoor’s numbers are based on 4,377 salaries anonymously submitted by health coaches. (3) Indeed’s estimates come from “1,333 employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months” (as of December 2019), and PayScale uses crowdsourced data based on 888 individual reports (as of November 2019). (4, 5, 6) LinkedIn based its median salary estimate on 416 user submissions. (7)

They also rely on their own definition of what a health coach is—and, like I mentioned, those definitions aren’t always accurate. PayScale’s job description for a health coach, for example, describes someone who offers nutrition advice and creates diet plans, neither of which is within the scope of practice for a health coach. (8)

All of this is to reiterate that we don’t have clear-cut salary data for this career path quite yet. As more and more health coaches join the workforce (and as public knowledge of health coaching increases), we will likely get a more reliable average salary for health coaches.

The Good News Is the Health Coaching Industry Is Growing

Several trends are all pointing to one key development: the health coaching industry is growing, as is knowledge and acceptance of the profession. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Board of Medical Examiners, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic are speaking out in favor of, and employing, health coaches. Public awareness of health coaching is growing, as well. According to one global survey, 66 percent of people said they were aware of health coaching as a profession, and 31 percent said they’d undergone coaching personally. (9) What does all of this mean for you? If you are considering joining the health coaching profession, there’s no better time than now. As more health organizations advocate for health coaching and more people seek coaching themselves, your opportunities will continue to grow.

And we as a species desperately need more health coaches. The chronic disease epidemic continues to expand unchecked, harming people in catastrophic numbers, but health coaches have the knowledge and skills to fight back. Becoming a health coach means becoming an expert in behavior change—and that expertise can make the difference for clients who are struggling to implement treatment protocols from their doctors that are necessary to reclaim their health. As long as dedicated people like you continue to devote their lives to this mission—helping people change and improve their health—the health coaching industry will continue to grow, and we’ll all be better for it.

According to the 2018 report referenced above, health coaching is potentially a $6 billion industry (keeping in mind that this figure could include health educators and other non-health-coach professionals). This report also indicates that more than 100,000 health coaches and health educators are currently employed in the United States. (10)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) features job and industry data on “health educators and community health workers,” not health coaches specifically. The BLS does say that the industry is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2028, much faster than average. The BLS also notes that median pay for health educators and community health workers was $46,080 per year in 2018. (11) While these numbers aren’t exact representations of the health coaching industry, they do point to a developing trend in health and wellness.

Health coaching has been trending for quite some time. Health and wellness coaching was ranked number 9 in a review of the top 20 trends in global fitness for 2020 from the American College of Sports Medicine. (Also of note, health and wellness coaching has been among the top 20 trends since 2010 and has steadily climbed up the list; in 2019, it was ranked number 11.) (12)

All of this points to an increasing awareness and acceptance of health coaching among the companies that would employ coaches and among the people who would seek out health coaching personally. That means that the job opportunities for you are already out there and will likely continue to increase. 

Three Things You Can Do to Influence Your Salary as a Health Coach

Several factors will impact your salary as a health coach. Some of these are universal to nearly any industry, like your years of experience, past education, and other qualifications or credentials, while other factors are specific to health coaches. Let’s dive in to the top three factors that will influence your earnings as a health coach.

1. Plan How to Structure Your Health Coach Career

Health coaching is a highly flexible career path. You have choices on nearly every aspect of how you work, like whether you:

  • Conduct in-person or virtual sessions (or a combination of both)
  • Work full-time as a health coach or part-time while keeping another job
  • Offer individual coaching sessions or group classes (or, again, a combination of both)
  • Work in your own private practice or seek full-time employment with a clinic, hospital, primary care group, wellness center or spa, or even with a corporate wellness program

All these choices will impact your salary and your day-to-day experience as a health coach. Seeking full-time employment with a hospital or corporate wellness program, for example, may earn you a stable salary in addition to benefits, while opening your own private coaching practice could be slow to start up but more flexible and potentially lucrative later on. Running your own in-person practice would mean establishing a physical location to work with your clients, while offering virtual sessions would mean much less overhead cost.

Health coaches also have lots of options when it comes to establishing additional revenue streams. Many coaches maintain a monetized blog, sell specialized products (such as downloadable guides), and book paid speaking engagements to earn a higher salary in addition to their coaching fees.

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2. Earn Your Health Coach Certification

While health coaching is a new career path, it still requires specialized training (to master the skills and knowledge needed to coach) and certification (to signal to employers and potential clients that you have what it takes to coach effectively). My recommendation for aspiring health coaches is to enroll in a training program that is approved by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) and, after graduation, seek certification as a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).

The ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is an Approved Health and Wellness Coach Training & Education Program by the NBHWC—meaning our students can pursue the NBC-HWC credential after they graduate. Our graduates can also earn the ADAPT-Certified Functional Health Coach (A-CFHC) certification, which signifies that they’ve demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and professional behaviors needed to act as safe, effective Functional Health coaches for their clients.

Earning certification—from the NBHWC and from your chosen health coach training program—demonstrates that you’re committed to your profession and allows you to apply for positions that ask specifically for certified coaches. Having this credential could also offer you a better bargaining position when discussing salary with a potential employer or rates with your potential clients.

The NBHWC also plays another important role in the health coaching profession: they establish standards and define what health coaches do (and what they don’t do). Having clear professional standards and job descriptions will help lessen the confusion surrounding this career and will eventually lead to more accurate job data and salary information. That’s another benefit to seeking board certification as a health coach.

In the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program, our expert faculty covers everything you need to know about building a career as a Functional Health coach. That includes:

  • The skills and knowledge you need to act as a behavior change agent for your clients
  • An evidence-based education into Functional and ancestral health
  • Professional development topics like how to structure and market your health coaching business

Find out if the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is the right fit for you.

3. Choose Your Area of Expertise and Target Clients

This is another area where you have a high degree of career flexibility. If you’re planning to start your own private coaching practice, you can choose to focus on a specific area that you’re passionate about. This will allow you to target clients who are seeking support in your area of expertise and niche. Some remote coaching jobs are also based on a specific niche, product, or service (for example, weight loss or building healthier daily habits). The types of clients you serve will have a direct impact on your rate. The rates of a health coach who helps high-powered executives manage their stress, for example, will look very different from someone who is working with underserved community members with a lower socioeconomic status.

Similarly, your geographic location will impact your salary (which is, of course, true of any job). According to ZipRecruiter, health coaches in New York State have the highest average salary, while PayScale identifies Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the place with the highest earning potential. (13, 14) If you’re not in the United States, your salary and rates will also vary considerably. Virtual coaches won’t feel geographic constraints as much as those who operate via in-person sessions. If you are planning to work as a health coach in a lower income area, offering virtual sessions to clients across the United States or even across the globe could allow you to earn a higher rate.

Health coaching is a highly flexible career—and that’s a great thing. It’s not often that an opportunity arises to earn a salary while doing work that is crucial to global health and wellness; it’s even less common for a career to offer so many viable paths toward that important goal.

If you’re committed to helping people improve their health, I hope you’ll consider becoming a health coach. Not only do your future clients need you, the industry needs you to act as an advocate and further the public’s knowledge of health coaching. The more we educate others on health coaching, the more chances we have of reversing the chronic disease epidemic and improving our health as a species. For more on how to join this fulfilling profession, check out my article on four steps to become a health coach.