||Career Growth Tips for the 21st Century: A Resource Guide to
Len Kravitz, Ph.D. and Christine Rockey, M.S.
Much of the success of fitness professionals in the 21st century will rely on a better understanding of the health needs of target populations and conscientious planning and implementation of appropriate wellness programs. Preparing for the new millennium may entail enhancing your skills and knowledge through training programs, specialty courses or higher education. This article highlights present avenues and career opportunities for health and fitness professionals (HFP). In addition, for each tract a career resource guide is presented which provides professional opportunities, education, current events, training courses, articles, and a plethora of useful information for HFP. All resources linked are listed at the end of the article and can be accessed directly if you CLICK HERE.
Expanding Role of Health Fitness Professionals
The role of HFP is interlaced with assessing, interpreting, prescribing and designing health and physical activity programs for people in numerous settings. Opportunities exist in colleges, universities, community health agencies, club fitness (profit and non-profit), worksites (business and industry), medical settings (hospitals, clinics, and health maintenance organizations), hotels, country clubs, government institutions, and recreational programs. Within the last decade, the HFP has become more involved with enhancing the quality of life for deconditioned, disabled, and older populations.
Evolving Professional Tracts
Four evolving career tracks for HFP are 1) Health and Fitness, 2) Alternative Wellness, 3) Health Rehabilitation, and 4) Specialty Areas. Career paths in each of these areas follow (See Side Bar 1 for Comparative Salaries).
Health and Fitness
The dynamic growth and enthusiastic interest in fitness the last few decades has sparked an expansive evolution of the health and fitness industry. Impacting this increased membership is the dramatic emergence of the 50 yr and older population into commercial fitness centers (Grantham, Patton, York, & Winick, 1998). An increased visibility and knowledge about health and fitness through the media has led to a much more informed consumer. The employment of qualified professionals has significantly improved the credibility of health and fitness delivery systems. The major tracts in this area are the fitness industry, corporate wellness, wellness and personal training.
Fitness Industry (Note: includes resources for careers, internships and resume writing)
Career opportunities in the fitness industry include fitness club owner/manager, fitness director, aerobics director, special programs director, aquatics directors, teachers, exercise physiologists and personal trainers. Additionally, career opportunities in residential spas (defined as facilities that include a fitness and nutrition component) include fitness director, health and fitness instructors, and personal trainers. An emerging field is medical health and fitness programs which serve as an advocate for hospital- and physician-based fitness centers.
For a useful health and fitness resource, each year Club Industry, The Business Magazine for Health and Fitness Facility Management, publishes a magazine edition listing the names and contact numbers of the top 100 fitness clubs and chains in North American. For resources contact:
Club Industry c/o
1300 Virginia Dr. Suite 400
Ft. Washington, PA 19034
International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)
263 Summer St.
Boston, MA 02210
International Spa and Fitness Association (I/SPA)
901 N. Pitt St. Suite 220
Alexandria, VA 22314
For employment opportunities contact:
Health and Wellness Jobs
Health Promotion/Wellness Carrrers
Human Kinetics Jobs and Careers
ACSMS Health & Fitness Journal
351 West Camden St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
3923 West 6th St. #407
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Medical Fitness Association
915 Elmwood Ave.
Evanston, IL 60202
YMCA of the USA
101 North Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
For General Careers, Jobs, Resume Suggestions
Military Fitness Jobs
Best Jobs USA
Careers, Jobs and Resume Writing
Careers, Jobs and Resources
General Jobs by City
Frequently Asked Questions About Careers
Jobs: Military (Air Forcie)
For Internship Experiences
Norhtern Arizona University Internships/Jobs
Internships in Health Promotion
National Center for Health Fitness
The initiative established by Healthy People 2000 (USDHHS, 1991) to improve the health of all Americans through an emphasis on prevention, not just treatment, serves as a cornerstone for the direction of corporate wellness in the 21st century. As such, private, public and government industry may become pivotal players in helping Americans choose healthy lifestyles, while offering more employment opportunities for HFP. In addition, the marketplace is becoming much more global, offering several international career opportunities in worksite health promotion centers that offer health education, fitness programming, fitness assessment, lifestyle activities and behavior modification programs. For employment opportunities in corporate wellness contact:
Association for Worksite Health Promotion (AWHP)
60 Revere Dr., Suite 500
Northbrook, IL 60062
Fee for Job Opportunity Bureau usage
The National Center for Health Fitness
FitWell Associates Inc.
Aside from the workplace, the HFP may seek employment opportunities in wellness settings including schools, medical sites, YMCAs, YWCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and community centers. Additional wellness opportunities can be found in nursing homes, recreation departments, aquatic centers, health management systems, and lifestyle management organizations. For employment opportunities in wellness programs, contact the listings above as well as:
National Wellness Association
P.O. Box 827
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Fee for online service
Johnson & Johnson Healthg Care Systems has developed an auto reply that will responsd to most current listing of job opportunities with the J&JHCS system. This email may be very useful for jobs with them: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Center for Health Fitness
HealthCare Jobs (Monster Healthcare)
Personal training is enjoying a surge of growth with entrepreneurial professionals who want to make a full-time career helping people improve the quality of their life through a personalized approach to exercise participation. Success in this field includes having some essential skills necessary to run a business, and to promote, market, and sell the service. As a profession, personal training is branching out and establishing working ties with allied health care professions. For periodical information, resources, certifications and conventions on personal training contact:
Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
IDEA: The Health and Fitness Source
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
Alternative wellness careers include massage therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, herbology, osteopathy, and yoga, to name a few. One popular tract many HFP have selected in this area is massage therapy, as it is a successful means to enhance their financial earnings. Massage therapists need a inclusive background in anatomy and physiology which many HFP have completed.
Defined by the American Massage Therapy Association as "a profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques and may apply adjunct therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of a client," massage therapy is becoming more and more popular with consumers. One of the many branches of massage therapy is sports massage. HFP may find the transition to sports massage a smooth one.
Other types of massage therapy include Therapeutic, Holistic, Swedish, Neuromuscular, Cranio-sacral, Bodywork, Oriental, Shiatsu, and Reiki. There are over 60 programs in the United States and Canada that have received accreditation or approval from the American Massage Therapy Associations Commission on Massage Training Accreditation. Opportunities exist in private practice clinics and offices, health clubs and fitness centers, chiropractics offices, nursing homes and hospitals, spas, salons, resorts and cruise ships, on-site at workplaces, and in homes. For resource information contact:
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
820 Davis Street, Suite 100
Evanston, IL 60201-4444
A myriad of occupations can be found in health rehabilitation for HFP who wish to return to higher education. Some career opportunities include occupational therapy, physical therapy, therapeutic recreation, athletic training, cardiac rehabilitation, and dietetics. A brief review of some of these popular professions follows.
For a list of medical and health care jobs contact.
Medical and Health Care Jobs
Medscape Job Center
According to the U.S. Labor Board of Statistics, occupational therapy is one of the fastest growing health professions in the nation. The American Occupational Therapy Association defines occupational therapy as:
the use of purposeful activity or interventions designed to achieve functional outcomes which promote health, prevent injury or disability and which develop, improve, sustain, or restore the highest possible level of independence of any individual who has an injury, illness, cognitive disability, or other disorder or condition.
Occupational therapists work with all age groups. Some of the more frequent health problems treated are strokes, mental illness, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, hand or head injuries, burns, and the effects of aging. Not only are the types of health care problems varied, so are the settings in which occupational therapists work. These settings include general and psychiatric hospitals, school systems, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, private practice, and community centers. An opportunity for some HFP who wish to continue their vocation, but have an interest in occupational therapy, is to consider becoming an occupational therapist assistant. These are programs at the two-year associates degree level or through a limited number of certificate programs. For resource information contact:
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
4720 Montgomery Lane
P.O. Box 31220
Bethesda, MD 20824-1220
*For a list of accredited educational programs, include $5.00 in check or money order.
Physical therapists work in in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation, community health, industrial health, athletic training, research, education, and administration. They develop and implement treatment programs for those recovering from injury, surgery, or disease; teach patients to use artificial limbs and other assistive devices; and provide the patient with at-home suggestions to continue the rehabilitative process after the patient is out of the physical therapists care. As with occupational therapy, physical therapy offers a two-year program for physical therapy assistants. For more information on this field contact:
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
1111 N. Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
An athletic trainer works to prevent, recognize, manage, and rehabilitate sports injuries. The five primary areas of practice for an athletic trainer are: 1) prevention of athletic injuries, 2) recognition, evaluation, and immediate care of athletic injuries, 3) rehabilitation and reconditioning of athletic injuries, 4) health care administration, and 5) education and counseling. An athletic trainer can work in many venues. These may include high school or college sports teams, professional sports teams, hospitals, physical therapy clinics, research facilities, and corporate health clubs. For more information contact:
National Athletic Training Association (NATA)
2952 Stemmons Fwy.
Dallas, TX 75247
A degree in exercise science may well prepare a student for an entry-level position in cardiac rehabilitation. Further education in the field of medicine, nursing, physical therapy, health education, and behavioral sciences may be beneficial. Also, most times, a person in cardiac rehabilitation will be required to take advanced life saving courses and understand potential exercise and drug interactions.
Cardiac rehabilitation specialists strive to prevent cardiovascular disease and to help those who have already developed the disease continue to live full and productive lives. Most hospitals offer cardiac rehabilitation.
These professionals interact with primary care physicians, cardiologists, and nutritionists.
At this time, no licensure or specific certifications are required for cardiac rehabilitation specialists. However, the American College of Sports Medicine offers a clinical tract of certifications that would benefit a candidate in this field.
For more information contact:
American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR)
7611 Elmwood Ave., Suite 201
Middleton, WI 53562
American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP)
The College of St. Scholastica
1200 Kenwood Ave.
Duluth, MN 55811
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
P.O. Box 1440
Indianapolis, IN 46206
Specialty areas include a multitude of opportunities for HFP not discussed in any of the above categories. Some of these alternative tracts may entail additional education or training. Table 1 presents a compendium of employment opportunities for the HFP who wishes to apply his/her ability in a traditional or related fields. For more information on different vocations associated with the fitness industry, contact Fitness Management and obtain the Fitness Management Source Guide.
3923 West 6th St. #407
Los Angeles, CA 90020
For more information on various Sports Careers associated with the fitness industry contact:
Franklin Covey Co., Sports Marketing Division
7250 North 16th St., Suite 402
Phoenix, AZ 85020
Sports Releated Jobs Online
NEW SECTION ADDED on Higher Education
Teaching and Higher Education
Two partner fields of exercise science are health education and physical education. Degrees in this area require taking a specialized core of training to prepare professionals for teaching assignments in grades K-12. Professionals in these allied fields may also be asked to perform some coaching assignments as part of their employment.
There are a number of teaching opportunities for exercise science professionals to teach at the community college level. Most of these opportunities require having a Masters Degree in the field. Professionals following this path primarily teach sports skills classes (e.g., tennis, volleyball, badminton, etc.), lifetime physical activity classes (e.g., group exercise, jogging, weight training, etc.), and introductory classes in health, nutrition, and exercise science. For more information about programs and job opportunities contact:
American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)
1900 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 22091
Academic Jobs Online
Physical Education and Related Areas
A specialization in the advanced education tract reflects an interest to do advanced research in a particular area of exercise science. Individuals with advanced educational training may choose from a number of disciplines including exercise physiology, biomechanics, health epidemiology, motor control/development, teacher education, sport psychology, cardiac rehabilitation, environmental physiology, exercise biochemistry, neuroscience, occupational physiology, pediatric exercise physiology, psychology and behavior, therapeutic exercise and exercise and aging. Advanced expertise in these areas usually leads to employment at universities, colleges, national institutes, hospitals and medical research centers. To learn more about graduate programs around the country that offer advanced education in the field of exercise science contact the American College of Sports Medicine
P.O. Box 1440
Indianapolis, IN 46206
For employment opportunities in higher education contact:
The Chronicle of Higher Education
1235 Twenty-Third St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Higher Education Jobs.com
Opportunities in Physical Education and Related Areas (OPERA)
American Association of Community Colleges (Careerline)
University Alliance Educational Jobs
University Job Bank
California State University Employment Bulletin Board
Cal Berkeley Career Center
The health and fitness industry is a dynamic, expanding, and maturing field. As the health care model in American continues to remodel itself, HFP are certain to be important providers of many fitness, health and wellness delivery systems. The development of effective communication skills is essential to be able to educate, motivate and empower individuals to change and maintain health behaviors.
Some of the basic tenents of the profession will remain soundly in tack. The overall goal to improve the quality of life of others will remain a prevailing theme. Also, the elimination of negative health behaviors for some segments of the population will guide much of the planning and implementing of appropriate wellness programs. Perhaps one of the more exciting challenges facing HFP for the new millennium is knowing that many changes are coming. Career planning now will best prepare you for the new opportunities of the future.
References (other than addresses/web cites listed):
Grantham, W. C., Patton, R. W., York, T. D, and Winick, M. L. Health and Fitness Management.: A comprehensive resource for managing and operating programs and facilities. Chicago: Human Kinetics, 1998.
USDHHS. Healthy People 2000: National health promotion and disease prevention objectives. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.
Table 1. Specialty Areas in Health, Fitness and Related Areas
Adult Education Coordinator
Aquatic System Management
Biomedical Equipment Technician
Cruise Ship Fitness Director
Exercise Equipment Designer
Fitness Product Marketing
Fitness Software Developer
Gerontology Movement Specialist
Health and Fitness Writer
Occupational Safety Specialist
Shoe Company Consultant
Sports Conditioning Coach
Teacher, Special Education
Youth Program Coordinator
Side Bar 1. Salaries in Health, Fitness and Related Areas*
Occupation Average Salary
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist (B.S. Degree) $28,781
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist (M.S. Degree) $32,298
Advanced Education $30,00 - $100,000
Athletic Trainer $32,000
Dietician $20,000 - $40,000
Fitness Director $32,694
Fitness Instructor $10.00 - $29.00/hour
General Manager of Fitness Club $50,426
Massage Therapist $35.00 - $65.00/hour
Occupational Therapist $47,095
Occupational Therapist Assistant $31,126
Operations/Facility Manager of Fitness Club $31,029
Personal Trainer $20,000 - $30,000
Program Director of Club $20,000 - $40,000^
Physical Therapist $48,000
Physical Therapist Assistant $30,000
Therapeutic Recreational Specialist $45,000
*Average national salary shown unless otherwise stated. Note, salaries vary widely throughout the country
and depending on setting.
Salary information obtained from organization web sites;
Club Industry (1997). Salary survey, 13(9), p. 23.
IDEA Source (1997). 1997 IDEA compensation survey, 16(1), p. 57-60.
Represents 57% of respondents
^Represents 65% of respondents