In 2011, the Texas Department of State Health Services determined that 32.2% of adults and 15.6% of youths in Texas suffered from obesity. Residents with obesity also become candidates for heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and even premature death. Nutritionists in South Carolina are continuing to prevent the frequency of obesity among state residents by helping them develop daily routines centered on nutritious diets and active lifestyles.
According to current state law, the nutritionist profession is not regulated in Texas. Therefore, nutritionists are not obligated to fulfill any licensure, certification, education, experience, or training requirements in order to practice. Unlike nutritionists, dietitians in Texas must be licensed. As a result, nutritionists are excluded from using the titles of “licensed dietitian” and “provisional licensed dietitian” unless they obtain a dietitian license from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Dietitians.
Even though nutritionists are not legally compelled to have post-secondary education to work in Texas, most employers require nutritionists to have at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for hire. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 40% of dietitians and nutritionists between the ages of 25 and 44 hold a bachelor’s degree while roughly 35% hold a master’s, doctoral or professional degree.
There are over a dozen accredited institutions of higher learning that offer nutrition-related degree programs in Texas. Some programs may offer concentrations in areas such as dietetics, exercise science, community, food science, foods and nutrition, and nutritional sciences. Students that participate in nutrition degree programs will be instructed in subjects like metabolism, nutrition education, consumer sciences, food delivery systems, and medical nutrition therapy.
Examples of bachelor degree programs in nutrition offered in Texas include:
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 4,160 dietitians and nutritionists were employed throughout the state in 2010. However, government projections predict that by 2020, this number will rise to 5,160, which indicates a 24% growth increase for these professions. Top places of employment for nutritionists include nursing care facilities, general and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, colleges and universities, and offices of physicians. Local employers may include:
The median hourly wage for nutritionists working in the United States is $26.88 and the median annual salary is $55,900. In Texas, nutritionists are earning a slightly lower median hourly wage of $26.27 and a median annual salary of $54,600. Pay earning potentials are often contingent an individual employee’s level of education, amount of work experience, geographic location and professional credentials. Additional wage and salary statistics for nutritionists in Texas according to percentile include:
As Texans we know that living in a state where everything is bigger has its ups and downs. We're the biggest state in the contiguous US, the Cowboys won the Superbowl five times and are the most valuable team in the world, our trucks are bigger, and unfortunately so are our waistlines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 nearly 32 percent of Texans were obese. Statistics from one-year earlier show that more than 19 percent of young people in the state aged 10 -17 met the unenvied criteria for obesity. But there’s good news: Health coaches are here to help.
Health coaches are quickly filling a gap that exists between modern medicine – pills and surgical interventions – and a preventative holistic approach that involves a multidisciplinary understanding of the link between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy mind and body. It's not just yoga buffs and locavores who are realizing this. Multinational corporations are increasingly turning to health coaches to improve the longevity and productivity of their workforces. And so is the government, with an interest in reducing and preventing healthcare expenditures.
To find an example of this you need look no further than the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). After extensive research and analysis, the DSHS has identified five key ways to improve the health of Texans:
One of the most important common denominators for these five strategies is the health coaching profession. Just ask Doctor Vik Rajan, a health coach based out of Houston. He provides his patients with a holistic approach to health care, offering services that improve his clients' diet, levels of exercise, and chronic disease management (and even better – prevention). Dr. Rajan provides his services to individual clients as well as corporate contractors, and can be seen as a shining example of the health coaches who are improving the lives of Texans statewide. And just like Dr. Rajan, you are also well poised to take advantage of the growing demand for health coaches in Texas.
Even though there aren't any national or statewide requirements for becoming a health coach, your employers and clients will expect you to be knowledgeable, experienced and to have the degree and certification to prove it. The beauty is that you are free to choose from a wide variety of focus areas for your education and professional certification, from exercise science and kinesiology to nutrition and dietetics.
Health coaching is a multi-disciplinary field that combines elements from biology, nutrition, physiology, mental health, and more. As you work towards building your portfolio of credentials you could find yourself studying topics that include:
Degree Options for Health Coaches – Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees
Texas is home to a large number of choices of relevant degree programs at every level. In addition to campus-based education you can also find related degrees offered online. If you have already earned an undergraduate degree you may be able to apply these credits towards a program that is relevant to a career in health coaching.
The following lists are not comprehensive and represent only a sampling of the relevant degree programs offered by schools in Texas:
Associate's Degrees – Appropriate for some entry-level health coach jobs.
You can also find degree programs in the culinary arts, business, biology, health, and nursing at two-year colleges in virtually any large or medium-sized city in Texas.
Bachelor's Degrees – The most common requirement for most health coach jobs.
You can also find bachelor’s degree programs in human biology, nursing, physical education, and health at colleges and universities in virtually any large or medium-sized city in Texas.
Master's Degrees – The ideal choice for those with a bachelor’s degree in another area looking to make a career change.
You can find master’s degree programs in public health, health, physical education, and nursing at most large to medium-sized graduate colleges and universities throughout the state.
Non-Degree Professional Health Coach Certification Programs
Professional certification is also usually at least a preferred – if not required – credential that employers and clients expect. Professional certifications are sponsored by different national organizations, and can be completed in a matter of weeks or months. These are a good option if you want to explore the health coach field without committing to a full college degree or build your portfolio of credentials by earning certification in addition to your degree. Each national organization determines its own admission and certification requirements, which usually include completing a series of online courses and passing a final exam.
There are many types of certification organizations with varying levels of accreditation. At the time of this writing the American Council on Education (ACE) is the only organization that is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The ACE health coach program offers three certification routes that are tailored to your professional career goals:
You can find detailed information about these programs in the ACE Certification Candidate Handbook.
You can pursue your career as a health coach along several paths:
The following companies in Texas are just some of those that are known to hire health coaches for their workforce wellness programs:
The following job vacancy announcements, sourced in September 2016, represent the types of employment opportunities available to properly credentialed health coaches in Texas. These job vacancy announcements are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide an assurance of employment.
Health Coach with American Specialty Health in Southlake – This is an example of a position with a company that hires health coaches to place with its corporate contracting clients. ASH offers a range of fitness, exercise, specialty population health management, and general population health management options. Your primary duty is to create and maintain an environment that is supportive and encourages behavior change towards more healthy lifestyles for your clients. ASH is looking for candidates with these qualifications:
Health Coach Associate with Aetna in Sugar Land – An example of a position with a healthcare organization, your main duty in this position is to assist in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of your clients as they work with you to obtain or maintain optimal health. This includes using motivational techniques, coaching, and relevant information to help engage your clients.
You must have at least three years of experience working in a clinical setting that includes at least one year with nursing/disease management and one year of nursing/medical/surgical care. Aetna desires that you possess these qualifications:
Health Coach with The Lyons' Share in Dallas – Based out of her office in Dallas, this is an example of an independent business started by health coach Megan Lyons. She offers one-on-one health coaching sessions that focus on improving exercise and nutrition, food intolerance testing, corporate wellness packages, healthy kitchen clean-outs, as well as a subscription-based membership for access to the latest information about health and wellness. Professionally, Lyons touts these credentials:
Additional State Resources for Health Coaches in Texas
Browse through the following resources to find additional relevant information about opportunities and strategies for becoming a health coach in Texas:
Government Programs and Initiatives
Professional Organizations and Associations