Everything You Want to Know Before Taking the NBHWC Certification Exam

Becoming a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), also known as NBHWC Certification, should be one part of your professional goals if you wish to stand out in the health and wellness coaching industry.

Particularly if you’re interested in working in the healthcare industry, getting board-certified is a crucial first step to securing the right credentials and obtaining employment.

However, having a certification in health and wellness coaching can also enhance your status as a practicing coach and expand your career options, regardless of the industry you ultimately want to work in.

Who certifies Health and Wellness Coaches?

The designation of NBC-HWC is granted by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) in collaboration with the National Board of Medical Examiners.

The board is composed of sought-after leaders in the industry. Together with other certified health and wellness coaches, they develop the professional standards and criteria, validate trends through rigorous research, and facilitate the certifying examination known as the Health & Wellness Coach Certifying Examination (HWCCE). 

What does it mean to be a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC)?

Having the NBC-HWC designation indicates that you have the necessary expertise in the field and can truly perform the functions demanded from the job. It also gives your clients a sense of confidence about your skills, and faith that you will be able to support them in creating the changes they seek.

To become board-certified, you’ll want to, at a minimum, select a training that’s NBHWC-approved, is built around their competencies, and can demonstrate that it will provide robust instruction and supportive feedback to prepare you to sit for the HWCCE. After completing the training, the final steps to becoming board certified are to log a certain number of coaching hours and then to apply for, take, and pass the HWCCE exam through NBHWC.

Now let’s dive into everything you want to know about the HWCCE exam, including how to prepare before taking the test.

A.   Complete an NBHWC-approved course


1.    Find an organization that offers an NBHWC-approved training program.

Education is, indeed, an integral step to prepare you for the certifying examination.

Your first step towards getting that certification for health and wellness coaching is to make sure that you complete an NBHWC-approved course.

There are plenty of institutions and organizations that offer training on becoming a health and wellness coach.

However, any education becomes inadequate if the competencies in the curriculum are not aligned with the standards of the NBHWC

These standards include required instructional time, synchronous and asynchronous activities, coaching activities, practical skills development, and evaluation. There are also specific faculty requirements to guarantee the qualifications of the instructors.

2.    Check how the Program Topics correspond to the HWCCE.

The Health and Wellness Certifying Examination covers four categories: coaching structure, coaching process, health and wellness, and ethics/legal.

Coaching structure involves the staging procedure, climate, and session routines before, during, and towards the end of the coaching period. 

The coaching process contains the proper manner of conducting the session from start to finish highlighting the effective ways of establishing a client-centered relationship, communication strategies, and psychological techniques.

On the other hand, health and wellness cover the science behind the coaching, including chronic diseases, health risks, preventions, behaviors, etc.
Finally, the ethics/legal component covers professional conduct, the confidentiality of clients’ records, federal and state regulations involved in the health and wellness coaching industry, and the like. 

Since the HWCCE is a half-day assessment that covers the above mentioned content, the right NBHWC-approved training program should adequately address these topics in order to properly prepare students to pass the exam.


3.     Look for a Program with Differentiated Instructions on health and wellness coaching. 

While it’s true, having foundational knowledge of health, wellness, and effective coaching techniques are the fundamental building blocks to starting your career in the industry, there’s more to consider.


Hands-on experience and practical knowledge are critical training components that that will allow you to get into the rhythm of conducting successful coaching sessions and become confident in your skills.

To guarantee both the theoretical and practical aspects of learning are covered, make sure you choose a program that offers diversified or differentiated instructions.

4. Learn how the lessons are delivered.

If a course only has one mode of instructional delivery such as only offering pre-recorded lessons with no live learning component chances are you won’t be able to practice the right competencies in that program. 

A course that offers both synchronous and asynchronous learning sessions, with varied learning materials (videos, audio, written resources, etc.) and peer coaching sessions, can supply not just the knowledge you need but the experience that should go along with it.


B.   Master the Health and Wellness Coaching Skills 

One of the requirements for taking the HWCCE is to provide a completed coaching log after finishing your training.

Once you’ve completed your NBHWC-approved course, you can proceed to conducting your coaching sessions and recording them in your coaching log.

To qualify for the exam, you’ll need to complete 50 coaching sessions (a minimum of 20 minutes each) which should focus on coaching facilitation.

These sessions can be done face-to-face or through a virtual platform.

Some programs offer intensive hands-on activities on coaching and personalized evaluation to accurately gauge the skills required. This is critical, as your first sets of coaching sessions are run through guided simulations.

If you wish to get ahead and be well equipped with top-notch coaching skills, find a program that employs an individualized approach in instruction and assessment.


After all, collaborative and personal interaction with your trainer offers more opportunities for support and feedback than self-directed learning.


C.   Preparing to Pass the NBC-HWC Exam

Now you’re well on your way to taking the HWCCE! But how exactly do you prepare for it?

Similar to any other exam, you’ll want to allot ample time to review everything you’ve learned from the course.

To pass the HWCCE, we recommend:

  1.     Taking some practice tests.
  2.     Reviewing the exam study materials.
  3.     Connecting with Health and Wellness Coaches who successfully completed the HWCCE.
  4.     Regularly conducting coaching sessions.

While blocking certain days and times for studying is standard practice for preparing for an exam, we also highly recommend joining at least one virtual community of successful certified coaches.

Your network of coaches can be instrumental in gaining mentors and learning industry secrets that will help you not only when it comes to acquiring your certification, but also when it comes to how to successfully perform your job.

Last, ensure that you are consistently practicing your coaching skills by conducting regular sessions.

Whether it’s paid or pro bono, increasing your experience will give you a better perspective on different types of clients while also giving you a deeper of understanding of the content outline of the HWCCE.

Not sure which NBHWC-approved course to take?

If you want a clear-cut roadmap to becoming a certified health and wellness coach (NBC-HWC), then you can simply take the Pathway Program.

An NBHWC-approved course, Health Coach Institute’s Pathway program offers effective coaching methodologies, real-time and differentiated learning experience, extensive individualized feedback, evidence-based practices and coaching trends, a professional community, a fun, robust, and engaging learning experience, and the avenue to the successful coaching career you desire. 


As the interest and demands for health and wellness coaches continue to grow, it is even more important to stand out from the crowd and consider the myriad benefits of board certification.

But with so many emerging programs for Health and Wellness Coaching continuing to crop up, it is critical to choose one that is certified by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) and provides a learning process that goes beyond paper.

With the Pathway program, you don’t simply get a preparatory course for an NBHWC certification. You’ll also receive additional tools (HCI’s exclusive Empowered Well-Being Model) and learn advanced coaching techniques (Appreciative Coaching and Motivational Interviewing) to uplevel the impact you can make as a coach. If you’re ready to prepare for NBHWC Certification, check out our Pathway Program today!

HCI Logo

Become a
Health Coach in
6 Months!

Get Program Info:

We want to hear from You