Faculty Senate approves new health coach certificate

Zane Satre

The Faculty Senate passed the new health coach certification at its meeting Tuesday, clearing it to move forward for approval by the Board of Regents.

A relatively new specialty, health and wellness coaching encompasses aspects from existing fields like physical training, nutrition and mental health.

Tim Bigelow is the chair of Faculty Senate’s Academic Affairs Council.

“Basically, the health coach interested in both nutrition and exercise, and rather than being like a counselor, they are more alongside the clients,” Bigelow said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health coaching job market has swelled in recent years and will experience 20 percent growth in the next five years.

Iowa State hopes to capitalize on this expansion by offering its own health coach certificate to students, making them more competitive after graduation.

There are currently no national standards for health coaches and requirements for a certificate vary among different organizations that offer them.

“It’s very loose at the present,” Bigelow said, “It’s not nearly as structured as physical therapy or some of the other medical fields that have more structure to them.”

Most of these certificates are also obtained either online or through distance learning programs.

“There are a few universities that have this type of program, but most are more of a master’s program,” Bigelow said. “Others, you just send them the money and they send you the book. You study it and then you take the exam, which is not as rigorous perhaps, but that’s what they do.”

Iowa State hopes to offer a more comprehensive certification by utilizing its human nutrition, kinesiology and psychology programs.

“[Health coaching] usually involves some sort of counseling, some sort of nutrition and some sort of physical activity,” Bigelow said. “Iowa State is strong with that.”

Iowa State’s proposed certificate would be available to students majoring in either food science/human nutrition, kinesiology or psychology. To obtain the certification, students would be required to complete 23 credits of specific courses within these areas, as well as a practicum experience.

The university currently offers undergraduate certificates in community leadership and public service, Latin American studies and occupational safety.

According to Bigelow, all of the required classes for the health coach certification are in place, but it is not certain how soon the program would be implemented. Final approval for the proposal will come from the Board of Regents.