Those interested in working as fitness professionals in health clubs and gyms should earn an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in health and exercise science. This program can also lead to a bachelor’s degree program and career opportunities in similar fields, such as athletic training or physical therapy.
A.A. Programs in Health and Exercise Science
Students enrolled in associate’s degree programs in health and exercise science are imparted coursework that combines the study of the musculoskeletal system of the human body with topic areas in biomechanics and nutrition. Students can expect to become adept at assessing clients’ physical fitness levels, designing and implementing exercise regimens and developing nutrition plans aimed at improving athletic performance or encouraging health and wellbeing. Students can also use the coursework in preparing for the certification examinations that employers sometimes insist on from prospective group exercise instructors. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.
Coursework within a health and exercise science associate’s degree program includes classes in chemistry and biology, apart from topics in exercise prescription and coaching. Elective classes on team sports and outdoor recreation are also covered in coursework that may include topic areas such as:
•First aid and CPR
•Strength training and conditioning
Those who successfully complete these programs can seek entry-level jobs as fitness workers at health clubs and gyms. They can also be hired at resorts and country clubs, or may choose to work as self-employed consultants. These professionals may choose from various career titles such as:
•Weight management consultant
•Group exercise instructor
Certification and Continuing Education Choices
Graduates of associate’s degree programs may choose to continue their education by enrolling in 4-year degrees in exercise science aimed at careers in fields, such as physical or occupational therapy. Schools also offer bachelor’s degree programs athletic training among other related fields.
Sports and fitness professional organizations award certification to many personal trainers and group exercise trainers (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In fact, many employers prefer candidates who hold professional certification. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) are among the sports bodies that award such certification. The certification exams administered by these organizations combine practical and written components. Certification has to be re-validated every two years.