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Your 4 Step Guide to Becoming NBHWC Certified

by: Sarah Appleby
Published: October 19, 2022
Updated: August 16, 2023

Becoming NBHWC certified is a must if you want to make an impact as a health and wellness advocate.

Health coaching as a profession is growing at a rate much faster than the national average. With the number of health coaches on the rise, it's important to stand out amongst the rest.

So what is the NBHWC? And why is it so important to become a board certified health coach?

Find the answers to these questions, and so much more in our four-step guide, which covers the following topics: 

  1. Graduate from an NBHWC approved training program
  2. Log 50 coaching sessions
  3. Hold an Associate's Degree or higher or complete 4000 hours of work experience
  4. Pass a National Board Certification Exam

Let's get into it!

Upskill your credential and become a NBHWC certified coach.

Upskill your credential and become a NBHWC certified coach.

Why You Should Become a Board Certified Health Coach

The NBHWC (National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching) is a non profit organisation that was established in 2016. Their aim was to define and develop professional standards in the field of health coaching. In partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners, the NBHWC have established the professional standards, competencies and skills that are essential for coaches to be effective. These standards and competencies are based on a job task analysis involving more than 1000 practicing health coaches, and form the basis of the National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaching credential (NBC-HWC).

The NBC-HWC certification represents the highest level in the field of health coaching. Only graduates from an NBHWC approved school are eligible to sit the NBC-HWC exam to become NBC-HWC board certified.

There's currently no requirement for health coaches to become certified. But, many jobs in the healthcare sector require board certification upon application.

The NBC-HWC credential is not just for health coaches. If you work in the health, wellness or fitness space, then becoming NBHWC certified is desirable. From personal trainers to nurses to fitness coaches to life coaches. Your NBHWC training will help you bring out the best in your clients.

Your 4 Step Guide to Becoming a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC)

Becoming a certified coach takes time and planning. If you're feeling a little unsure about how to start the process, then we have you covered. Here's our 4 step guide to becoming board certified:

1. Graduate From an NBHWC Approved Training Program

Your first step towards becoming a board certified coach is to graduate from an NBHWC Approved Training Program. All NBHWC approved schools meet the minimum required standards in the areas of:

  • Instructional hours
  • Practical skill development and assessment
  • Faculty qualifications in health and wellness

It's important to do your research when selecting an NBHWC approved program. Whilst each NBHWC approved program will provide NBHWC approved learning, each school will have their own unique focus. Choose a school that aligns with your health and wellness values and offers excellent instruction and guidance.

2. Log 50 Coaching Sessions

All board certified health coaches are required to provide a written log of 50 health and wellness coaching sessions. The guidelines for these coaching sessions include:

  • Duration, each coaching session must be at least 20 minutes
  • They can be facilitated either in person, over the phone or using video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc)
  • 75% of each coaching session must be devoted to coaching facilitation and not education.
  • Coaching sessions must not be with friends, family or current classmates
  • Coaching sessions can be retroactively listed up to 7 years prior to sitting the NBC-HWC exam

3. Hold an Associate's Degree or Higher or Complete 4000 Hours of Work Experience

Before sitting your board certifying exam, you must provide evidence of either:

  • Graduation from an associate's degree or higher (in any field)
  • At least 4000 hours of work experience (in any field)

4. Pass a National Board Certification Exam

In order to qualify to sit the NBC-HWC exam you must first complete steps 1-3. Exams are held at approved testing locations worldwide, several times a year.

The exam itself consists of 150 multiple choice questions that are to be completed in a four and a half hour time period. The exam focuses on four key concepts:

Coaching structure, your ability to prepare and manage each stage of a coaching session.

Coaching process, your ability to use core health coaching competencies with your clients.

Health and wellness, your knowledge of health behaviors, chronic disease and related topics.

Ethical and legal considerations relating to health coaching.

Here's three informative NBHWC exam resources you may find helpful:

Upon successful completion of all 4 steps (including passing your exam) you will earn you NBC-HWC credential. To maintain your NBC-HWC status, you're required to renew your certification every three years. 

Why You Should Become a PHCI Master Coach

Did you know that here at the Primal Health Coach Institute (PHCI), we offer an NBHWC approved program? The Master Coach Certification is offered as a fully immersive 12-week program. Our advanced credential is suitable for all aspiring coaches who are keen to:

  • Prepare for the NBC-HWC exam with confidence
  • Understand the science behind ancestral health principles
  • Master expert coaching techniques and become a behavior change specialist
  • Network with PHCI's Faculty, fellow classmates and PHCI graduates
  • Graduate from the first ancestral health coaching school

Erin Power (Course Director and Senior Instructor) leads PHCI's expert panel of Course Facilitators. PHCI's Master Coach Instructors will guide, educate and nurture you through our 12-week program that offers:

  • Twenty-four 90-minute webinar sessions (two live sessions per week)
  • Online learning with 12 Chapters and 140,000 words
  • Graded peer-to-peer coaching practice with detailed feedback from course faculty
  • Access to the private PHCI Master Coach Facebook Group

Eager to learn more about PHCI Master Coach Certification? From enrollments, to pricing and even the course outline. All your answers can be found here.


To recap, here's the 4 steps you can take to become NBHWC certified:

  1. Graduate from an NBHWC approved training program
  2. Log 50 coaching sessions
  3. Hold an Associate's Degree or higher or complete 4000 hours of work experience
  4. Pass a National Board Certification Exam

Start your journey towards becoming NBHWC certified, and enroll in PHCI's Master Coach Certification today!

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