Health Coach vs. Nutrition vs. Personal Trainer: Which One is Right For You?

Kelly Hopper

Kelly is a Chicago-based writer with an educational background in mass communication, digital content marketing, and creative writing. Her 20 years as a business owner and operations consultant provides unique insights through storytelling and brand journalism techniques.

Looking to take your love of health and fitness to the next level, but stumped about which direction to take? We will examine three careers within the wellness field that require a similar skill-set, yet each has a distinct focus.

Personal Trainer

Whether you see yourself as a motivated mentor, food hound, or fitness guru, there’s no better time to begin a career in the health and wellness industry.

A health coach facilitates a healthy lifestyle

A health coach helps clients make lifestyle choices to improve their overall health and wellbeing. If a client wants to lose weight or gain muscle, change poor behavior, or obtain more balance in their life, a health coach can help them reach their goals. Coaches train in:

  • Fitness
  • Basic nutrition
  • Meal planning
  • Detoxing
  • Weight management

They rely on problem-solving, accountability, and motivational skills to address a wide range of lifestyle factors.

Provide information to your client and assess their needs

As a health coach, you will inform your client about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. The direction will vary depending on your client’s needs, so a proper assessment is crucial.

Assess your client’s needs by discussing their health issues, concerns, and overall goals. Provide specific information that will help them connect their behavior to their health.

A health coach mentors and offers support

For anyone who ever gave up smoking or late-night Ben & Jerry’s binging, they know making lifestyle changes is not an easy process. And it never really ends. Even when clients meet their goals, it takes a constant effort to make healthy choices. Who wouldn’t want a trusted and experienced advisor helping along the way?

All the information and mentorship in the world won’t help someone if they lose incentive mid-cycle. Offer support through individual or group sessions. Remember to:

  • Reinforce
  • Remind
  • Reevaluate

Nutritionists help people eat well

The field of nutrition is expanding in unique and exciting ways. Food awareness is at the forefront of our lifestyles. We want to live longer, avoid disease, and feel good in our bodies.

Nutritionists are the go-to for everything food, diet, and nutrition. They advise clients on a healthy lifestyle with a primary focus on nutritional intake. Nutritionists implement the following steps:

  • Evaluate the dietary needs of their clients.
  • Provide dietary advice, meal plans, and nutritional supplements.
  • Educate their clients about basic nutritional concepts.

Evaluate the client’s health and dietary needs

As a nutritionist, you will begin treating clients by assessing their goals, objectives, and needs. You will review medical history, including any medications and supplements the patient takes. You will examine the client’s lifestyle to gauge stress levels, sleep patterns, exercise, energy levels, and bathroom habits.

Give advice based on your client’s nutritional needs

Once you assess your client, it is time to formulate a plan based on their unique needs — design specific goals and solutions to achieve success.

Setting a plan may be challenging and require some creativity, as there is no one-size-fits-all option. Every program should be tailor-made and built with longevity and practicality in mind.

Educate clients about the food they eat

One vital duty you have as a nutritionist is to inform your clients. With so many fad diet schemes, supplemental vitamins, and bizarre cure-all remedies out there, it is difficult for people to know what-is-what when it comes to their dietary consumption.

Types of nutritionists

Although all nutritionists perform similar duties, there are several specialties within the field. Following are three main areas of concentration:

  • Clinical nutritionists provide medical nutrition therapy. They work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other institutions.
  • Management nutritionists plan meal programs. They work in food service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, and food corporations.
  • Community nutritionists educate the public on topics related to food and nutrition. They often work with specific groups of people, such as pregnant women.

Personal trainers build better bodies

A career as a personal trainer can be a rewarding way to earn a living while helping people achieve their fitness goals. If you have a deep passion for fitness, love working with people, and want to impact society positively, personal training may be for you.

As a personal trainer, you will provide individualized exercise plans based on several criteria. Then, implement the program during supervised training sessions using guidance and motivation.

Set up an individualized exercise plan

The first thing to do as a personal trainer is to devise a unique training regimen for your client. Age, fitness level, and underlying health issues are some factors and any concerns they have and what they hope to accomplish.

Implement an exercise plan for your client

Providing an individual exercise regime for your client is only the beginning, now it’s time for the training. Take your client through the program, explaining how the equipment or movement works and why it works.

Demonstrate how each device operates and correct any misuse. Also, explain to your client which muscle it affects and what result can expect. Will they be sore the next day and where?

Personal trainers motivate their clients

Lack of motivation is a principal reason people give for throwing in the towel on their workouts. While some clients love every aspect of working out, others need an extra push to get the job done and continue showing up.

The job of a personal trainer isn’t only about exercise. You have to get in your client’s head, find the magic motivator specific to them, and get them to succeed.

Health coach, nutritionist, and personal trainer: How to get started and how much you can earn

Health coach: certification and income potential

If you want to become a health coach, you need certification. Most notably, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC). Other credentials include:

  • National Society of Health Coaches
  • American Council on Exercise
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise

According to the Kessler Institute,  the average health coach earns $50,000 to $100,000 per year or $25 to $100 per hour. Kessler states the broad salary range is due to the field’s newness, location on where you live, and your credentials.

Nutritionist: required education and expected salary

Nutritionists generally need at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science or a related health or science field, supervised training, and further accreditation. Many states require nutritionists to be licensed. Some of the certifications available are as follows:

  • Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists: requires a master’s or doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field.
  • Certified Nutritional Consultant: designed to give entry-level nutritionists credibility in the field
  • Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition: designed for work in community or clinical settings, without conducting medical nutrition therapy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $61,270 in 2019.

Personal trainer: how long it takes and how much you make

Certifications and accreditations can take anywhere from three months to two years, depending on the program. Some of the credentials are listed below:

  • International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

The salary range for a personal trainer is $30,485 to $88,513, with an average salary of $61,613 per year, according to

Health Coach vs. Nutrition vs. Personal Trainer: Which wellness career suits you?

While each of the three fields discussed overlap in some areas, each has a specific focus, and all have a singular mission, to get individuals healthy and keep them that way.

Whether you want to inspire people to live a more balanced life, educate people on the connection between what they eat and their health, or motivate individuals to get physically fit, there is a wellness career that suits your area of interest.

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