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Career Information for a Degree in Health and Fitness

Health and fitness degrees are offered at the undergrad and graduate levels. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Individuals who are knowledgeable in health and fitness have the option of being fitness instructors, directors, or educators. The amount of education required varies, ranging from high school diplomas to master's degrees. The majority of fitness jobs require certification.

Essential Information

Degrees in health and fitness prepare students for many health related careers. Courses typically offered in these programs include epidemiology, research and nutrition, and public health. The minimum education required for entry-level positions is usually a bachelor's degree. Work environments for these careers typically revolve around gyms, health organizations and schools.

Career Fitness Instructor Fitness Director Health Educator
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent Master's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certifications sometimes required Must obtain certification Certifications sometimes required
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% unlisted 12%
Median Salary (2015)* $36,160 for fitness trainers and instructors $41,929 (2016)** $51,960

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

Career Options

Those who earn a degree in health and fitness have many avenues for success. Below are overviews of three possible career choices for health and fitness graduates.

Fitness Instructor

Fitness instructors assess a client's level of physical fitness and help them achieve fitness goals. They also demonstrate exercises and help clients to improve their exercise techniques in a variety of activities. They may keep records of their clients' exercise sessions and assess their progress.

Certification may or may not be necessary for fitness instructors, since requirements depend on the workplace. Certification includes passing written and practical exams, having a high school diploma and knowing how to do CPR.

Typical work environments include physical fitness centers and health clubs. Some instructors are self-employed, and many opportunities exist for part-time, seasonal or volunteer jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $36,160 per year as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment levels from 2014-2024 are expected to grow by 8%.

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Fitness Director

Fitness directors supervise and maintain their health or fitness centers. They develop new programs for members, advertise their health centers to the public, evaluate and purchase fitness equipment and manage staff members.

Because they're managers, directors may need to pursue a master's degree and management courses in order to be qualified for the job. As of January 2016, PayScale.com states that the median salary for fitness directors is $41,929.

Health Educator

A health educator informs the public about important issues, such as disease prevention and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Health educators may work in a variety of settings, including universities and hospitals. Health educators may work in nonprofit organizations, private businesses or public health institutions. They may give lectures, create health-oriented resources or provide counseling. Health educators involved in programs must be able to prepare materials and lectures according to their audience's needs, and they may need to evaluate programs for future use.

In a medical setting, health educators may collaborate with physicians and nurses in order to give the best care for patients. Educators may inform patients about lifestyle changes and medical procedures. In a school setting, health educators may work as teachers and design curriculum best suited to the school or university.

The BLS stated that the employment for health educators was expected to grow by 12% from 2014-2024, but those with graduate degrees have better chances for advancement into management positions. Health educators may pursue certification. The BLS also stated that the median annual salary for all health educators was $51,960 as of May 2015.

The qualifications differ for fitness directors, fitness instructors, and health educators. A health and fitness degree and/or certification is mandatory, but management jobs require at least a master's degree. These individuals can work in healthcare settings, gyms, or schools.

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