Careers in Exercise and Fitness

There's More Than Just Personal Training

Dietician consulting with a client
Dietician consulting with a client. lostinbids/Getty Images

The fitness industry is booming more than ever and, with so many people passionate about fitness and health and so many people who need help generating their own passion, it's no wonder that there's growing interest in fitness careers.

Being a personal trainer or a fitness instructor is always an option, but there are other options out there. Expand your horizons and learn about other ways to help people get healthy and fit.

Health or Wellness Coach

While personal trainers focus mostly on exercise, Wellness Coaching goes beyond personal training. Wellness Coaches look at the big picture, working with clients to develop health and fitness programs by looking at the obstacles that stand in the way of success.

This is often more of a collaborative experience, with the coach encouraging the client to come up with their own goals and ideas.

A Wellness Coach offers advice and guidance about:

When meeting with clients, you'll get to know them--find out what it is they need help with such as weight loss, eating habits, exercise and fitness, stress reduction, quitting smoking, etc.

You'll help people manage conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes and you can even choose to work with special populations such as teens, kids, families, seniors, etc.

Benefits of Being a Wellness Coach

  • Flexibility - You can work with your clients in person or by telephone, email or Skype or all of the above. Many Wellness Coaches do most of their work on the phone, which allows them to work with people in a variety of areas and situations.
  • Opportunities - You can work with individuals or in a corporate environment, write books or articles, teach seminars and classes and work with personal trainers doctors, dieticians, and other health professionals.
  • Income - How much you make will depend on where you live and your experience and background. Most sessions run from $50 to $100 a session.
  • Personal Satisfaction - You'll feel good about helping clients reach their goals and you'll form relationships that go beyond basic personal training.

Education

You don't need a special degree to become a Wellness Coach, however at the very least, you'll want to get certified.

There are many coaching certifications and degrees available and the research can get frustrating. Your best option is to choose a well-known, accredited program. One great choice is the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC), a group who has created national standards for Wellness Coaches.

Another great choice is the American Council on Exercise which offers a certification that's accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and is also approved by the ICHWC.

To get certified, you'll typically pay upwards of $300 and get a home study program and take the exam at your leisure.

Keep in mind that you'll also have to keep your certification up by doing continuing education, so that's an added cost.

Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant

This certification, offered by a variety of organizations like NESTA, ACE, and AFPA, teaches you how to develop weight management programs for clients that cover nutrition, exercise and lifestyle change.

In this job, you work with clients to overcome barriers to health and fitness, so you're not just taking clients through workouts and sending them on their way. 

As a weight management consultant, you delve much deeper into the psychology of weight management and learn more about how your clients are impacted on a daily basis by being overweight or obese. You'll also learn more about the science behind obesity and the impact it has in every area of our lives, financially, emotionally, etc.

This kind of certification is often an add-on to a personal training certification, giving you a specialty you can hone in on.

The Benefits of Being a Weight Management Consultant

  • Higher level of support - Instead of just training people with exercise, you're able to look at all areas of someone's life with a deeper understanding of what may keep them from losing weight.
  • Flexible - You have control over your own practice, so you can set your own hours, work one on one, on the phone, or through Skype.
  • Higher fees - Because you have a specialty certification, you can often charge more per session.
  • Rewarding - You also get the good feeling from helping people change their lives.

You do have to build your own practice, which is always one drawback to working for yourself, but if you're already a personal trainer, you have a pool of people to work with.

Group Fitness Instructor

Group fitness is a popular career choice because you can do it part-time and teach whatever kind of class interests you the most. Income will vary depending on where you work and how many classes you teach. Some of the options include:

There are many certification options out there for group fitness, so check out this list of certifying organizations to start your research now.

One drawback to becoming a group fitness instructor is the money. You'll usually get paid by the hour and, depending on where you live, you'll make anywhere from $10 to $30 or more per class. It's hard to make a living off just being an instructor.

It's also not very flexible. You'll have to teach on the same days and times each week and worry about getting a sub when you're sick or out of town.

More Career Options

If you're feeling ambitious, you could always go for an advanced degree at a university in something like Sports Medicine or Exercise Science. These degrees will allow you to pursue careers or other degrees such as:

You'll also find there are a wide variety of certifications that can take you above and beyond personal training.

Becoming a Health and Fitness Specialist, a Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist or even a Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer will give you the education you need to work with special populations who require more focused help.

You can learn more about these certifications at The American College of Sports Medicine.

The great thing about fitness is that it offers plenty of options for career choices, whether you want to pursue a degree or ease into it by getting a certification.

Many people get into exercise and get so excited about the results, they can't wait to share that enthusiasm. If you're one of those people, take a chance and give fitness a try.

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