A bachelor's degree and certification is required for most health educators. A bachelor's degree and state-mandated licensure may be required for dietitians and nutritionists. Fitness instructors and trainers generally do not have an educational requirement, but many possess a high school diploma.
Degrees in fitness and nutrition can be obtained at the bachelor's and master's levels. Students can specialize in several fields, including exercise science, nutritional training and physiology, and many of these courses overlap for a comprehensive understanding of the field. Certification and online degrees are available, but experience and internships help students connect textbook knowledge with practice, giving professionals a leg up in the job market.
|Careers||Health Educators||Dietitians and Nutritionists||Fitness Trainers and Instructors|
|Required Education||Bachelor's Degree||Bachelor's Degree typically required||None required but most have a high school diploma|
|Other Requirements||Certification through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.||Licensure required by most states||Different certifications are available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||12%||16%||8%|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$51,960||$57,910||$36,160|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Graduates who have completed a fitness and nutrition degree program may find employment as fitness or nutrition counselors, physical trainers, nutritionists, health teachers or corporate wellness advocates, among others. These professionals work in a wide variety of settings, including in health clubs, schools, community health centers or hospitals. Some other fitness and nutrition professionals work in retail nutrition or natural health stores. In some places, nutritionists and dietitians need proper licensure in addition to a bachelor's degree in order to practice. Health professionals who wish to teach also need proper teaching licensure.
Fitness and Nutrition Diploma Programs
At the diploma level, programs related to fitness and nutrition are typically offered as personal fitness training programs. These programs generally offer courses in wellness and nutrition, anatomy and physiology, exercise science and fitness assessment. Those who complete these programs might find entry-level positions as fitness trainers in country clubs, gyms, health clubs, senior centers and other places where people take part in recreational fitness activities. A much wider variety of career options is available to individuals who have completed degree programs.
Some schools offer bachelor's degree programs in either fitness or nutrition, while other programs blend the two fields. Many courses overlap and are needed for any type of fitness and nutrition program. Some possible courses in a fitness and nutrition program include biology, chemistry, physiology, communication, nutritional training, meal preparation, exercise methods and weight loss counseling. Other areas of study in a fitness and nutrition program might include sports training, natural health or homeopathy.
While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for entry-level positions, other prospective fitness and nutrition professionals continue to earn a master's degree. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more job prospects are available for those with experience or advanced degrees in the field (www.bls.gov). A graduate with a master's degree may work in public health, health promotion or research positions.
According to the BLS, the need for health educators, nutritionists and dietitians was expected to increase from 2014 to 2024 as America's population ages. Health educators are projected to see job growth of 12% during this time frame, and dietitians and nutritionists are projected to see growth of 16%. More people were expected to look to natural and nutritional help for keeping sickness at bay in order to help control health care costs. Hospitals, corporations and health food stores are also adding fitness and nutritional specialists to their staff. BLS data from May 2015 showed median annual salaries of $51,960 for health educators and $57,910 for dietitians and nutritionists.
Degrees in fitness and nutrition vary depending on your desired area of focus. You can obtain a bachelor's degree in a related field, acquire licensure, and complete a certification program.