A wellness coach, also known as a fitness and health coach, is an inspirational, supportive counselor who helps clients establish health-related goals, from losing weight to improving cardiovascular fitness to managing stress. Health coaches serve a wide range of clients, from professional athletes to stay-at-home moms, individuals with chronic diseases to those recovering from trauma. They work with the individual to create a customized fitness plan, tailored to his or her needs, that helps achieve the results desired through regular physical activity and healthy diet. Here are some of the common questions health coaches usually answer:

What is the difference between a fitness and health coach? Health and fitness coaches have the same purpose as fitness and exercise trainers. They share a common goal to help their clients achieve wellness, but they do not practice exercise or nutrition therapy themselves. Instead, they assist their clients in achieving their personal wellness goals through an interactive and supportive partnership that includes positive feedback, educational tools and expert advice.

How do you choose between wellness coaches and other life coaches? Education and training are important elements of a coach’s success. A good fitness and health coach have at least a master’s degree in the field. A degree from a reputable school can also help. Additionally, some states require registered coaches to receive some form of continuing education in their state. Continuing education credits help clients keep abreast of industry developments and enhance their understanding of current best practices.

Why is corporate wellness coaching important? Employers have started to understand that employees who are healthy, happy and productive have lower absenteeism and sick days compared to those with health problems. Moreover, employers tend to retain employees for longer periods if their fitness and health training programs yield desirable results. Employees have come to rely on their wellness program and its employees as partners in achieving wellness goals. Corporate fitness and health coaching ensure these relationships will last.

What is the typical client scenario? Corporate wellness coaching is most often used by companies with several types of employees. These might include sales people, front line staff, administrative professionals and managers. At times, even complete strangers may use a wellness coach. In any case, clients range from small business owners to large corporations.

Who are the ideal clients for wellness coaching? Coaches should have excellent interpersonal skills, drive and positive attitudes. Coaches are expected to foster open communication, support change and set high expectations for results. Most clients are dissatisfied with their current health or how they feel about their career, so being able to address these concerns is critical.

How do you select a health coach? You can contact local agencies that specialize in corporate wellness coaches, or you can search for services on the Internet. Be sure to seek a coach who is accredited and has experience working with your specific industry. Additionally, look for wellness coaches who offer a free initial consultation and follow-up sessions. If the initial consultation costs are not a problem, look for coaches who charge a monthly fee for ongoing appointments and services.

As a final note, many wellness coaches are self-employed. Look for a provider that is certified by the National Association for Sport and Exercise (NASEA). This certification verifies the provider has a certain level of training and expertise in sports and exercise psychology. And most importantly, remember, if you don’t feel you can handle the emotional aspect of a coaching relationship, keep looking.

What is a wellness coach certified? It’s important to know what it takes to get into the wellness coaching field. Many training programs consist of three years of education, plus the practical skills of one or two years. These professionals are expected to have knowledge in nutrition, anatomy, physiology, psychology, mental health, and business leadership. In addition, health coaches are expected to have extensive background in the legal aspects of business management and leadership.

Once you’ve figured out what it takes to become a wellness coach, what are some of the specializations available? Sports medicine, rehabilitation, exercise science, and wellness coaching are all great options to consider. These coaches can also help others with weight loss and medical fitness issues. There is a huge variety of topics within each specialty to help others achieve their goals, and well-trained coaches will be able to help their clients find the solutions that work best for them.

For those employers who might not be quite ready to consider a full-time wellness coach, there are plenty of part-time jobs that can be offered to qualified coaches. Health and wellness coaches can open their own private practice, or they may work as consultants for larger companies. Some companies hire coaches to train their employees in health awareness and nutrition, and some even pay them to motivate and inspire their employees. A good example is Weight Watchers, which recently announced the hiring of several new coaches who’ll help their clients lose weight and improve their overall mental health.