She became familiar with what she calls the "principles of prosperity" through the actions of a teacher in high school. She enrolled in college, where she became the homecoming queen and president of the freshman class. She would later go on to enter the Mrs. America pageant, becoming Mrs. California and winning third place in the national competition. She later joined the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera and became an opera singer. She would not stay with this position long, however. She went on to start a company, Success Plus, in which she became one of the first conductors of human potential seminars for corporations, becoming a successful motivational and inspirational speaker.
She went on to earn a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1973, and was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Religious Science in 1975, and became the pastor of a fifty-member congregation of that church in La Jolla in 1977. The church grew under her leadership, drawing numbers as high as 5,000 for Easter Sunday, and eventually expanded to include a grammar school, ministry school, and five teaching centers. She also began a television program in 1979, which at one time was syndicated to fifteen television stations in the country.
In 1982, Cole-Whittaker left the United Church of Religious Science and founded Terry Cole-Whittaker Ministries. She continued to be popular, drawing over four thousand people to her weekly services and traveling as a lecturer and workshop leader. In 1985, financial concerns prompted her to cease production of the television show and create a new foundation, Adventures in Enlightenment.
The Foundation later purchased land in Washington to build a retreat center and start an organic farm and started an ashram and library in India to teach Westerners traditional Indian religion.