The USF College of Public Health’s graduate certificate in health and wellness coaching provides an alternative career option for individuals looking to work in health care.
Associate vice president of health and wellness, Dr. Rita DeBate, said a health and wellness coach is someone who serves as an ally for an individual or group in facilitating lasting ‘behavior changes’ toward improving health and well-being.
DeBate, who also serves as a coach for USF’s Success and Wellness Coaching program, said a review of counseling center data revealed 25 percent of students requesting assistance from areas such as stress management, time management, procrastination, medication management, and relationship issues. Having a certified health coach working with those students frees up the counselors to see more students in need of counseling—which spurred the push for this new graduate certification program at the COPH.
“Many times, especially now with chronic diseases being the leading cause of death in the U.S., it’s multifactorial,” she said. “Someone might need to work on stress, diet, physical activity, and medication management, all at the same time. A physician will tell them you have to manage stress and take medication, but they don’t help with ‘How do I accomplish all this?’”
That’s where a certified health and wellness coach plays a vital role, according to DeBate.
“The certified health and wellness coach is someone who then advocates and inspires them through a client-centered process to empower the individual/group to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness,” she said.
DeBate said a referral can be made from the physician to meet with a health and wellness coach.
DeBate is serving as an instructor for the certificate program alongside Dr. Jennifer Bleck, COPH alumna and assistant professor in the College of Public Health who also manages the USF Success and Wellness Coaching program.
This year, DeBate said they welcomed 18 graduates and 24 undergraduates into the first course: Health and Wellness Coaching, Core Principles.
“Anyone who has a bachelor’s degree can enroll,” Debate said. “It can be a current graduate student, someone who is non-degree seeking, or even a current community health care practitioner who wants to advance his or her skills.”
The certification process can be completed in one year, according to DeBate, and those enrolled will take a core concepts course, followed by advanced methods and a health coaching practicum.
“In the core concepts class, you do buddy coaching, a case study, an audio tape of you coaching someone and you take an exam,” she said. “So, in the certification process we’re having all those pieces in there, plus you’ll need 50-100 hours of supervised coaching, it’s not just about the exam.”
The earning potential for a health educator can range from about $40,000 to upwards of $70,000 per year, according to DeBate.
“This profession is growing exponentially,” she said. “It will lead to fabulous jobs. [Students] are going to be very marketable in Tampa Bay and outside of Tampa Bay if they want to work with people in a health profession. I think they will be very satisfied in their job choice.”
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health