Graduate Certificate Programs in Health and Wellness - Online and Campus
Updated: April 12, 2022
Health and wellness graduate certificate programs provide academic training in lifestyle coaching, wellness promotion, and evidence-based strategies for improving health and wellbeing through a variety of non-clinical modalities, such as holistic, integrative, mindful, and meditative practices. These programs are designed for recent college graduates and mid-career professionals who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, want to pursue targeted graduate studies in health and wellness, and would prefer not to enroll in a full master’s or doctoral degree program. Graduate certificate programs in health and wellness are offered by accredited colleges and universities, and they typically consist of a small cluster of graduate courses – four, five, or six courses – that can be completed in two or three semesters.
Professionals and students who may benefit from a graduate certificate in health and wellness include: counselors, nurses, social workers, physicians, and educators, who would like to add health and wellness coaching to their skillset. This includes professionals who have already earned a master’s or doctoral degree in another field. Indeed, one of the major advantages of graduate certificate programs is that they provide access to graduate training and confer an academic credential without the commitment of time, energy, and resources that master’s programs entail. In addition, for students who have not already earned a master’s degree, graduate credits earned while completing a graduate certificate program can often be transferred towards a master’s degree in the future if they were earned from an accredited institution.
Health and Wellness Explained
The health and wellness discipline represents a broad field of a study and practice that encompasses an expansive array of approaches, treatments, and therapies designed to help people improve their quality of life. Reducing stress, improving lifestyle habits, cultivating effective coping strategies, and other modalities that address acute and chronic physical and emotional issues apart from or in concert with traditional medical, pharmacological, and/or clinical mental health counseling interventions are all considered part of the health and wellness field. These modalities, and others associated with health and wellness coaching, are often referred to as alternative, complementary, or integrative treatments and/or therapies. They include, but are not limited to non-western medical practices, non-clinical psychological therapies, dietary restrictions and enhancements, and mind-body exercises that have a track record of helping people overcome setbacks and improve their physical and/or mental wellbeing.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) and its National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recognizes a number of distinct evidence-based and experimentally relevant health and wellness treatments, including dietary interventions, acupuncture and massage therapies, yoga and tai chi, mindfulness training and meditation, and homeopathy and aromatherapies. Some integrative or alternative treatment modalities, such as chiropractic and nutritional therapies, may require practitioners to hold a license. This varies by field and by state. However, integrative and complementary alternative health and wellness treatments require a practitioner who has general and/or specialized training in one or more areas of health and wellness coaching.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Programs in Health and Wellness
There are several key characteristics that can be used to identify graduate certificate programs in health and wellness. In order to be included on GraduateCertificates.com, programs must be offered by accredited colleges and universities. They must also provide graduate-level academic training in health and wellness theories and practices. Finally, they must culminate in the conferral of an academic credential/certificate. What this means is that programs classified as graduate certificates in health and wellness require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and they consist of a relatively small cluster of master’s-level courses designed to cultivate practical proficiencies in health and wellness coaching.
Programs in health and wellness are generally offered through schools or departments of health, nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, as well as by centers for integrative or holistic health housed within larger universities. Programs maybe designated as certificate, graduate certificate, or post-baccalaureate certificate programs and include, but are not limited to:
- Graduate Certificate in Health and Wellness
- Graduate Certificate in Health and Wellness Coaching
- Graduate Certificate in Integrative Health and Wellness
- Graduate Certificate in Integrative Healing
- Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health
- Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies
It is important to note that, in addition to post-baccalaureate graduate certificate programs in this field, there are colleges and universities that offer post-secondary certificates in health and wellness. Post-secondary certificate programs are designed for high school graduates and provide undergraduate rather than graduate training and instruction. In addition, some schools offer post-master’s graduate certificate programs in health and wellness, which are graduate certificate programs that require students to hold a master’s or a doctoral degree.
Health and Wellness Graduate Certificate Coursework
Core curricular requirements and elective coursework for graduate certificate programs in health and wellness vary by school and by program. For example, a program offered through a school of public health may focus more heavily on population health and health education aspects of health and wellness, while a school of nursing or medicine may have a stronger focus on pairing integrative alternative health and wellness treatments with standard medical and pharmacological interventions. However, most graduate certificate programs in health and wellness offer one or two courses that provide an overview of the health and wellness profession, its history, and its place in the larger realm of nursing, medicine, and healthcare, as well as courses in health and wellness coaching strategies, specific health and wellness modalities, and the practical application of these strategies and modalities.
This list below provides an overview of the types of courses that are commonly offered as part of a graduate certificate program in health and wellness. While the course names and descriptions draw on actual program curricula, they are composites meant to convey a general sense of what students should expect to find when exploring program curricula.
- Introduction to Health and Wellness Coaching – An overview of the field of health and wellness coaching, the history of integrative health modalities, the theories and competencies associated with wellness coaching, and the range of applications for health and wellness treatments and interventions.
- Integrative Health and Biological and Body-Based Interventions – An examination of prominent integrative health and wellness (IHW) therapies and of the five major IHW areas identified by the NIH, including alternative medical systems, body-based systems such as massage and chiropractic, mind-body medicine, herbal and nutritional therapies, and bioelectromagnetic/energy healing.
- Stress and Sleep Management – The role of stress and sleep on health across the lifespan, and the use of stress management techniques to promote wellness and improve health outcomes across the lifespan.
- Motivational Interviewing and Behavior Change – A critical analysis of theories and research findings regarding motivational interviewing techniques and their use in promoting behavioral changes that lead to better health outcomes.
- Health and Wellness Leadership – Strategies for applying health and wellness coaching methodologies in group and organizational settings, including in businesses and in the corporate world.
- Epidemiology in Health and Wellness – An examination of health and wellness from a public health perspective, and the use of public health and epidemiological research methodologies to better understand the links between health outcomes and physical, environmental, and behavioral risk factors.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Health and Wellness
Many accredited colleges and universities now offer a variety of graduate certificate programs in online formats that require few if any campus visits. This includes health and wellness graduate certificate programs. Online programs provide the same level of training and instruction as campus-based programs. However, they do so using web-based learning management systems (LMSs) that allow students to log on to receive instruction and complete assignments from anywhere with a secure internet connection. This expands the reach of graduate certificate programs to students who live beyond commuting range of the school offering the program and provides working professionals with a convenient alternative to campus-based programs.
While many online graduate certificate programs in health and wellness do not require students to attend any on-campus lectures or classes, some programs may hold one or two mandatory campus-based sessions for online students. These in-person sessions may include lectures, seminars, and/or workshops that provide opportunities for hands-on learning, networking, and face-to-face meetings with instructors. They can be a valuable addition to an online curriculum, although they may not be practical for students who are working full-time or who do not live or work within commuting distance of the school offering the program.
Another variable to consider regarding online programs is instructional methods. There are two main modes of online instruction: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous instruction takes place in real-time and requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS at specific times for lectures and virtual class sessions. Asynchronous instruction denotes learning modalities that do not take place in real-time, including pre-recorded lectures and class modules that can be accessed at a student’s convenience, 24-7.
Synchronous instruction provides students with a more structured learning environment that more closely resembles traditional campus-based programs. However, it requires students to adhere to a class schedule that may conflict with work or other outside obligations (live classes are often held in the evening or on weekends). Asynchronous instruction provides maximum scheduling flexibility, but requires more self-discipline and self-motivation as students are expected to participate in online discussion boards and submit assignments by set due dates in the absence of weekly scheduled lectures. Some programs utilize a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while other programs mainly use asynchronous instruction.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Health and Wellness
The section below contains several examples of online health and wellness graduate certificate programs. These examples are intended to provide a representative overview of programs currently offered by accredited, non-profited colleges and universities.
The Ohio State University (Ohio State) has a Health and Wellness Coaching Graduate Certificate program that is offered in a 100% online format through its College of Nursing. The program consists of 12 graduate credits of coursework, or four courses that can be completed by most students in two semesters. These courses include: Introduction to Health and Wellness Coaching; Evidence-Based Coaching in Interprofessional Practice; Motivational Interviewing; and Advanced Health and Wellness Coaching. The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, although it does not require applicants to have majored in a specific field or discipline. Students in the program learn about holistic health; lifestyle behavioral change; and the connections between emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and environmental health. Ohio State’s College of Nursing also offers an online Nurse Coaching Graduate Certificate program that provides similar training for Registered Nurses (RNs) who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
The University of Maryland offers an Integrative Health and Wellness Graduate Certificate program that is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. The program consists of a four-course curriculum that confers 12 graduate credits, all of which can be applied to the Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) program or the Master of Science (M.S.) in Health and Social Innovation program offered by The Graduate School at the University of Maryland. Students in the Integrative Health and Wellness Graduate Certificate program take the following courses: Introduction to Integrative Health and Biological and Body-Based Interventions; Advanced Skills in Integrative Mind-Body Interventions; Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching; and Clinical Application of Integrative Health and Wellness. These courses can be completed in as few as nine months, although students are allotted up to three years to earn their certificate.
Creighton University offers a five-course Leadership and Well-Being Graduate Certificate program that is fully online and does not require any campus visits. The program’s curriculum combines training in organizational leadership with instruction in the theories and practices of integrative health and wellness. Students in the program take courses in wholism as a guide for leadership and wellbeing, stress and sleep management, health and wellness research methods, and resiliency, earning a total of 15 credits that may all be applied toward the Master of Science (M.S.) programs in Organizational Leadership and Integrative Health and Wellness offered by Creighton. The Leadership and Well-Being Graduate Certificate program is designed to be completed in one year.