Fitness and Nutrition: Online Diploma

Educate yourself about online programs in fitness and nutrition. Find information about certificate and diploma programs, required curriculum and career prospects.

Essential Information

Online diploma programs in both fitness and nutrition are rare; online certificate programs are more common. When choosing an educational program, keep in mind your career goals. For example, for fitness trainers, certain employers prefer to hire individuals who hold professional certification (not to be confused with an educational certificate program), and certification may require a bachelor's degree. Certificate programs cover the basics of the field, such as introductory anatomy and the essentials of nutrition.

Overview of Online Certificate Programs in Fitness and Nutrition

There are few diploma programs dedicated to both fitness and nutrition available online. Certificate programs in fitness and nutrition, however, are more plentiful and provide an alternative credential for many students. An online fitness and nutrition certificate program often includes classes in anatomy, health and dietary science. Some programs are also focused on sports nutrition and wellness. Students can learn how to maximize the athletic potential of their clients and develop fitness and dietary plans that allow them to meet their health goals.

Program Information and Requirements

During an online certificate program, schools typically allow students to tailor their course load to meet their individual needs and schedules. Some departments also allow students to communicate with instructors via telephone, in addition to an online interface. Most programs take six months to complete. Many certificate programs are offered completely online, but other programs may only offer about half of the required classes remotely.

Most schools have specific hardware and software requirements for online courses. Students generally need a certain amount of memory on their computer, access to a CD-ROM/DVD player and a high-speed Internet connection.

Common Fitness and Nutrition Coursework

Classes in fitness and nutrition explore ways that exercise and diet can help alleviate obesity and illness by instilling healthy habits. In addition to science-related courses, students develop the leadership skills that are essential to attracting and retaining clients of all ages and fitness levels. The legal liabilities of a career in fitness work are also discussed.

Anatomy and Physiology

Students learn the inner workings of the body, including the impact of disease and environmental factors. Classes teach students about the major organs and structures like the digestive and nervous systems.


The basic principles and theories of nutrient intake and metabolic processes are analyzed in this class. Students also consider current nutritional developments and diet fads. Some classes examine the unique nutritional needs of athletes and ways to use diet to enhance performance.

Exercise Physiology

Students examine how the body responds to exercise. Training practices and weight control methods are also explored. Students can study how the muscles react to both aerobic and anaerobic activity.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates of certificate or diploma programs in fitness and nutrition can often find job opportunities as personal trainers or fitness instructors for health clubs or private clients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities in the fitness industry would grow by 24% between 2010 and 2020, which was a greater rate than the average growth for all occupations ( The BLS reported that as of May 2012, there are 234,070 fitness trainers and aerobic instructors working in the United States, and these workers earned an annual mean wage of $36,900.

Continuing Education and Certification

The BLS stated that many fitness workers pursue an associate's or a bachelor's degree in order to advance into managerial positions. Popular majors for fitness workers include kinesiology and exercise science. Students may also pursue a minor in business or management to prepare them for managerial duties as a group exercise director or head trainer. Some personal trainers develop a dedicated client base over time and use this following to start their own fitness businesses.

Many professionals must also seek certification to work as a fitness trainer or an instructor at a gym or health club. For example, the International Society of Sports Nutrition administers a Certified Sports Nutritionist designation to those who hold a bachelor's degree and pass a certification test ( According to the BLS, many certifying agencies require students to pass both written and practical exams. Fitness professionals usually must also be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to work with clients.

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