Health & Fitness Management: Job Description & Career Requirements

Education and training programs in health and fitness management typically cover topics such as injury prevention and treatment, physical conditioning, strength training, exercise techniques, and mobility support and enhancement. Find out about program curricula, and learn more about career options, job growth and salary expectations for graduates in this field.

Health and fitness management is the practice and monitoring of exercise to meet personal goals. Most often, the personal goal is simply a healthy body, although some people have more specific goals such as running a marathon, improving physical strength, or rebuilding muscle tissue in an injured limb. This article explores three careers that relate to health and fitness management: fitness trainers, athletic trainers, and physical therapists.

Essential Information

A number of career paths exist within the health and fitness management field, including athletic trainer, fitness worker and physical therapist. The general goal of health and fitness professionals is to help individuals or groups improve or maintain physical wellness. These specialized professionals work in an extensive range of private and public settings, including hospitals, schools, gyms, fitness centers and the military.

Athletic Trainer Fitness Worker Physical Therapist
Required Education Bachelor's degree in athletic or sports training High school diploma Doctoral degree in physical therapy
Other Requirements Usually, state licensure; occasionally, master's degree Often, professional certification State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 21%* 8%* 34% *
Average Salary (2014) $44,670* $36,160* $84,020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Athletic Trainer Job Description

An athletic trainer is a healthcare professional who commonly works with sports teams or individual athletes. The primary responsibility of an athletic trainer is to prevent injuries from happening or to help treat injuries when they occur. In addition to having skills in conditioning and strength training, these professionals are educated in recognizing/assessing injuries and providing the proper care when an injury happens. Athletic trainers might work closely with physicians to ensure that proper treatment is being administered to an injured athlete.

Athletic Trainer Job Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for an athletic trainer is a bachelor's degree in athletic training, sports training or a similar discipline. Some positions do require athletic trainers to hold a master's degree. In addition to a postsecondary degree, most states call for athletic trainers to be licensed. Licensure first requires becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), which is administered through the Board of Certification for Athletic Trainers.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary earned by athletic trainers was $44,670 as of May 2015. Employment of such trainers was projected to grow by approximately 21% between 2014-2024, per the BLS.

Fitness Worker Job Description

Fitness worker is a general title that can refer to a personal trainer, exercise instructor, or fitness director. Overall, these professionals are trained in exercise techniques -- such as stretching or strength training -- to assist in improving the health and fitness of individuals. Fitness workers can be found working in fitness centers, public health programs, and hospitals. They may work one-on-one or in groups to provide instruction to people who want to achieve specific exercise and fitness goals.

Fitness Worker Job Requirements

It is becoming increasingly common for fitness workers to hold a bachelor's degree in a health and fitness discipline, such as exercise science or kinesiology. Many employers might also require fitness workers to be certified. A number of certification designations exist, including the Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS), which is offered through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The BLS reported that the average annual salary earned by fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $36,160 as of May 2015. The BLS also stated that job opportunities for fitness workers, including fitness trainers and instructors, were expected to increase by about 8% from 2014-2024. This is roughly as fast as average across all occupations.

Physical Therapist Job Description

A physical therapist is a trained professional who provides treatment to individuals with physical disabilities, injuries, or conditions that affect mobility. Physical therapists work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals to develop a therapy plan that assists each patient in achieving mobility goals. These practitioners work in a number of settings, including hospitals, clinics, or private practices.

Physical Therapist Job Requirements

Working as a physical therapist requires completing a graduate degree program in physical therapy. According to the BLS, over 200 accredited programs for physical therapists were available as of 2015. All of these programs offered a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, which normally lasts 3 years and usually requires applicants to apply via the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). Additionally, physical therapists are required to be licensed by the state in which they intend to work. These professionals should be in good physical health, because they lift and move heavy equipment in addition to moving and supporting patients.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The average annual salary earned among physical therapists was cited as $84,020 by the BLS as of May 2015. The BLS also estimated that from 2014-2024, job opportunities for physical therapists would grow by roughly 34% -- much faster than average across all occupations.

Fitness instructors require the least formal education, and many different instructor courses are available for people interested in leading classes in yoga or teaching swim lessons. However, for those more interested in advanced physical training techniques, a bachelor's degree can help secure a position working with athletes. A doctorate is required for physical therapists, who work with patients to meet their health-related fitness goals.

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