The ISSA Health Coach Certification is a superb option for any fitness professionals who also want to learn about health coaching. It teaches you how to have a positive impact on the health and wellness of your clients and gives you the practical knowledge to be able to know how to communicate with all types of potential clients. 

This article breaks down ISSA’s Health Coach Certification. Our ISSA Health Coach review should help you decide if this certification program is right for you versus the other options out there. 

We review:

  • Requirements of the ISSA Health Coach
  • ISSA cost and quality
  • Average income for a ISSA Health Coach

After reading this ISSA Health Coach Certification review, you should know whether to pick the ISSA Health Coach. 

ISSA Health Coach Certification Information

9.3
ISSA Health Coach Certification Information
  • Exam cost: $1,188 (purchased with study materials)
  • Study material cost: $99/month for 12 months
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam passing score: N/A
  • Exam pass rate: N/A
  • Average completion time: 1-3 months
Pros
  • Excellent well-rounded curriculum
  • Inexpensive compared to other health coach certifications
  • Good CEU opportunity 
Cons
  • ISSA Health Coach isn’t NBHWC approved (Although HCI Pathway Program is)
9.3
Our Score
Body Science Foundations9
Behavioral Coaching10
Client Health Screening10
Goal Setting10
Nutrition Coaching9
Stress & Mindfullness Techniques10
Fitness Training7

About ISSA

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) remains one of the top fitness certification agencies in the world, with over half a million people certified since ISSA began in 1988. 

ISSA not only offers some of the best online certifications, they also have some of the best certification bundles. The organization is known for their business skills that they include in their certifications. Often, fitness programs teach you how to coach, but not marketing and how to find clients. ISSA is different in this regard. You get not only the knowledge about whatever given topic you’re learning, but also an education in how to sell your services. This is why many ISSA professionals make more on average than their counterparts from ACE, NSCA or NASM. If you want to build a thriving career as a health professional, you need to know how to conduct your business. 

Is ISSA legit?

ISSA is very legit. They created one of the first fully online personal training certifications which was DEAC accredited. Recently, they’ve also partnered with NCCPT to offer a fully NCCA accredited certification for their ISSA Certified Personal Trainer.

The ISSA Health Coach is not a NBHWC approved program, so it’s not the ideal certification for anyone looking to become a board-certified health or wellness coach, but this is an incredibly thorough and capable certification for any personal trainer who wants to add health coaching to their skillset. 

Also, if you do need a NBHWC approved program, ISSA also offers an option through the HCI Pathway Program. 

How much does the ISSA Health Coach certification cost?

ISSA has two offerings. The basic ISSA Health Coach Certification costs $1,188. This presents excellent value for what you get. 

ISSA also partners with the Health Coach Institute (HCI) to offer the possibility to become a Board-Certified Health Coach through the HCI Pathway Program. This costs $4,500. 

The Health Coach Institute does also offer a third choice, a combined Health and Life Coach Certification, which costs $5,950. 

Is the ISSA Health Coach worth it?

The ISSA Health Coach is worth it, especially for any current ISSA personal trainers looking to fulfill CEU requirements and add health coaching to their repertoire. 

This course is relatively inexpensive when you compare it to other health coach certifications, which are usually well above $2,000, and you can also bundle it with ISSA’s other certification programs for an even bigger discount. With the ISSA Health Coach, you can learn how to help your clients reach their health goals. You’ll learn how to enact lifestyle change, and take your passion for health and wellness and instill it onto others. 

Further, being an ISSA-certified health coach not only equips you with the practical knowledge to communicate effectively with potential clients, but it also empowers you to build a strong and supportive community around wellness. 

Quality of Study Materials

ISSA employs a Guided Study option which takes you through a variety of online video modules with sections from the textbook and quizzes at the end of each chapter to test your knowledge. 

The video lectures are also available in audio format. 

ISSA also gives you plenty of forms in their curriculum which you can use on the job, which makes your job simpler. You get things like the well-being assessment sheets which you can easily fill in.

Along with the Health Coach, you get good customer support through the ISSA website, and we’ve noticed that ISSA is always quick to reply if you have any questions as you go through the material.

Unlike some health coaching certifications, with the ISSA Health Coach, you can complete the course at your own pace and sign up anytime. This is different if you pick the Health Coach Institute’s Pathways Program, which is only available twice a year and follows a strict 6-month schedule. 

Final Exam

Once you pass each chapter quiz, you can go on to take the final. This is an open-book un-timed exam. If you don’t pass the first time, you get one free retake as well. This means that the ISSA Health Coach certification exam offers a rewarding opportunity for individuals looking to join the growing field of health and wellness, without the added financial burden of re-taking the exam. By allowing individuals to focus on their learning and development without the fear of failure, you can have a higher overall chance of success, versus other exams which make graduates pay a re-take fee if they fail the first time. 

Average Income

Average health coach income in the US is $58,907 according to Salary.com. If you combine health coaching with your current personal training business, you stand to make a lot more money. Usually, your first year in the health and wellness industry will be the most challenging. Then, as you progress, you’ll make more and more as you build momentum and a client base.

Health and fitness professionals’ salaries will vary based on experience, your own coaching skills, ingenuity and a bit of luck.

Heslth coach careers take time to build, just like all businesses.

The Textbook

The ISSA textbook covers all of the topics you need to know as a budding health coach in 400 pages and 22 chapters. 

Fundamentals of Health Coaching

The first chapter covers the role of the health coach. This is necessary as you need to know where you fit into the healthcare continuum of allied healthcare professionals. Then ISSA gives you an overview of how to use evidence-based practices, such as motivational interviewing, Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, goal setting, active listening, and positive psychology.

Finally, ISSA depicts all the basic social determinants of health. A client’s state of health is determined by certain economic and social conditions. For example, if someone wants to eat healthier food options but the only stores near their house are fast food, it becomes more tempting to choose those options. 

Client Coaching and Communication

Next, ISSA defines coaching. You learn what coaching is and what it isn’t. If you’re going to be a coach, you need to know your boundaries.

Then the ISSA Health Coach covers the topic of “Why people need coaching.” This is helpful to understand when you’re pitching your services to clients. Some people innately know they need a health coach, but others will need a bit of convincing to make the changes.

You also find out ISSA’s client-centered approach to coaching. To be a successful coach, you need to listen to your client’s needs and desires rather than simply enforcing your own ideas upon them. 

ISSA goes into verbal and nonverbal communication, how to recognize both kinds and use them effectively. 

Then you learn some basic positive psychology and the PERMA model. The PERMA acronym (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Achievements) can be utilized to cover all your bases as a coach.

All the coaching skills in this chapter will be useful for different clients. You need to treat each client as an individual, and different approaches will work for different people. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Now, ISSA gets into proper scope of practice in the health coaching profession. You must know what you can and cannot do as a health coach. 

The ISSA Health Coach discusses cognitive behavioral coaching and the GROW model and how to use it. This gives you an easy acronym to follow as a template. 

Finally, you learn the Stages of Change Model. Any personal trainer will already be familiar with this as it’s taught in most personal training programs. If this is your first certificate, you will certainly need to learn this along with everything else. Every client through different readiness levels when wanting to implement a new practice and the current stage that they are in will give you details on how to coach them properly and lead them into the next stage. 

Psychological Skills Training

Here you learn how to use empathetic language when communicating with clients. ISSA covers Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is a famous pyramid consisting of all the elements humans need for a successful and fulfilling life. 

Then ISSA teaches Big Five personality theory, motivational interviewing, and how to solve psychological resistance to healthy living practices. 

Learning some of these psychological tools will really up your game when it comes to dealing with all sorts of clients, who all have unique personality traits that you will need to contend with.

Exercise is Medicine

Exercise offers numerous benefits for overall health. As a health coach, you need to know these, so you can use these to help your client achieve optimal health. Certain clients will have barriers to working out and one of the ways to overcome these barriers is through convincing them that exercise is a necessity for healthy living.  Knowing these benefits of exercise can also be a way to not only convince your client to implement more exercise into their weekly routine, but also get them fired up to include more physical activities in their lifestyle.

In the ISSA Health Coach you learn the specific health benefits of exercise and the strength of evidence that exercise contributes to these benefits. 

Chronic Conditions Overview

ISSA covers several chronic conditions in multiple chapters. You have chapters on hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, orthopedic conditions, and cancer. 

This includes how to health coach clients with chronic disease.

You learn how each of these health conditions is diagnosed, what are the effects of each disease, and how to coach clients with the particular condition.

There are certain modifications clients will have to make to accommodate each of these, whether it’s a nutritional change or change in training. 

Basic Exercise and Physical Activity Recommendations

Here ISSA goes into the basic exercise and physical recommendations for overall health based on age. This gives you a basic template of what amount of exercise and movement people need to achieve health. 

Components of Fitness

Then the ISSA Health Coach covers fitness concepts like overload, SAID, progression, RPE, overtraining, acute training variables, heart rate training, and flexibility. These topics are not covered as deeply as you find in a personal training certification, but they do introduce topics that are important to know as a Health Coach. 

Proper exercise in the gym can really speed up the health improvement process and take your clients’ wellness to the next level, so you need to know this information.

Nutrition Coaching

ISSA discusses nutrition coaching from a health coach perspective. You learn how humans select food. Understanding this gives you a larger appreciation for every aspect of food, from taste, sight, flavor, and even cultural considerations that influence why different people eat the food they do.

Then you get content regarding how energy balance works in the body and the role macronutrients play in a diet. 

As a health coach, you’ll also be asked about vitamins and minerals, and ISSA covers these with charts that depict the right sources of each. 

Finally, the ISSA Health Coach gives you some grocery shopping tips which you can relay to your clients to make their lives easier.

Of course, meal prep at home can help people have healthy options in the fridge instead of buying unhealthy takeout options. 

If you want to learn more details about nutrition coaching, we recommend looking at the ISSA Nutritionist. 

Sleep

One of the key components of health is proper sleep, so you’ll need to know what that means and how to help clients achieve optimal sleep.

ISSA discusses the sleep stages and sleep guidelines, which can vary based on the person’s age. You also learn about sleep disorders and how to coach clients to achieve better sleep hygiene.

Without proper sleep, it’s almost impossible to achieve ideal health, so just a few extra hours of sleep a night can really make a difference in the lives of your clients. 

Stress Management

Another key indicator of health is being able to manage stress. ISSA teaches the different types of stress. Some stressors, in the proper amounts, actually lead to greater health. Other stressors only lead to bad outcomes.

ISSA also goes into the stages of stress, physiology and psychology of stress.

The ISSA Health Coach then goes into practices you can use to mitigate stress, techniques like breathing practices, mindfulness, and time management, Eisenhower matrix, and realistic goal setting.

This section of the ISSA Health Coach gives you access to perhaps some of the best and most useful content you will learn in this textbook. Every person deals with stress. All your clients will have certain strategies they use, whether maladaptive or correct, and you’ll need to reinforce their good habits and correct the bad ones with some of these stress relievers. 

Genetic Influences

Genetics do play a role in each individual’s response to exercise, nutrition, and so on. The ISSA Health Coach depicts how genetics affects weight. However, we feel this is probably the least practical chapter in the ISSA textbook. Clients may ask you about genetic testing. However, this is a relatively new field with less research behind it than some of the other tried and true health coaching tactics you will use in the field. 

Client Assessments

An essential part of wellness coaching is assessments. You need to know how to conduct a full wellness assessment of any new client and know how to interpret the results. 

ISSA also describes how to do a nutrition assessment and a physical fitness assessment in your coaching sessions. 

At the end of the chapter you also receive helpful forms you can fill out for each of these assessments.  

Goal Setting

Proper goal setting will also be a cornerstone in your health coaching toolbox. ISSA depicts how to set SMART goals, which you will remember from your personal training certification.

Two new topics ISSA adds that you won’t find in a normal CPT are using commitment devices and building self-reliance.

Both of these new topics are a welcome addition to the Health Coach Certification. Using a combination of these goal-setting tools, you can provide accountability, inspiration, and mentorship for your clients who lack overall motivation. 

Professional Practices & Ethics

In Chapter 21, the ISSA Health Coach goes into how to create an inclusive and diverse practice. You also learn when to refer clients to other fitness and healthcare professionals.

ISSA includes their Code of Ethics, which you must follow as a certified ISSA Health Coach.

Finally, you learn about liability and how to avoid litigation. 

​Embarking on the journey of becoming a health coach can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career path, as you have the ability to positively impact the lives of numerous individuals by guiding them towards achieving their wellness goals. But you need to understand all the legal implications of being a health coach, so this chapter is an integral part of the curriculum. 

Business Development

In the final chapter of the ISSA Health Coach, you get content regarding types of coaching and freelance opportunities for a new health coach.

ISSA also briefly describes how to create a business plan and market your services. You find out how to do SWOT analysis as well of your coaching business.

If you want to make money as a personal trainer or as a health coach, you need to know how to manage your business. 

This business development section is a welcome inclusion to the ISSA Health Coach, but it’s not as thorough as some of the other ISSA certifications, like what you’ll find in the ISSA online coach or personal training certification. 

After this, ISSA provides some example scenarios you may encounter as a health coach. 

This is great as you can use these resources to help solve any initial problems you may deal with. With confidence in your own abilities and a deep understanding of nutrition and wellness, becoming a health coach enables you to empower others on their journeys to a healthier lifestyle. 

CEU Requirements

There are no requirements to keep the ISSA Health Coach credential. However, completion of the ISSA Health Certification will give you 20 CEUs to help you renew your other ISSA certifications. Every organization has different requirements if you’re trying to fulfill your education units for other organizations, make sure to check and see if the ISSA Health Coach CEUs carry over to your other certs and courses. 

Certification Take Away

What we liked:

  • Great price, especially with bundles
  • Thorough textbook with great practical knowledge 

What we didn’t like:

  • ISSA Health Coach is not NBHWC-approved (although Pathway Program is)

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Who can benefit from working with ISSA Health Coach?

Working with an ISSA Health Coach can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals seeking to improve their overall health and well-being. Whether you are a busy professional looking to optimize your nutrition and fitness routine, a new parent wanting to prioritize self-care, or someone managing a chronic condition, an ISSA Health Coach can provide personalized guidance and support. With their expertise in areas such as exercise science, nutrition, behavior change, and stress management, they can help you set realistic goals, develop sustainable habits, and navigate any challenges along the way.

How long does it take to complete the ISSA Health Coach certification?

The ISS Health Coach certification typically takes around 6–8 weeks to complete. This duration allows individuals to gain a comprehensive understanding of the various aspects of health coaching, including nutrition, exercise science, behavior change, and client assessment. The program consists of self-paced online modules, practical assignments, and a final exam. Additionally, students are encouraged to engage in hands-on experience through internships or shadowing opportunities to enhance their skills. The length of the certification ensures that aspiring health coaches receive thorough training and are well-prepared to guide clients towards achieving their wellness goals.

References

Health and Wellness coach salary. Salary.com. (n.d.). https://www.salary.com/research/salary/posting/health-and-wellness-coach-salary

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