Health & Fitness Management Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Info

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What will you learn in a health and fitness management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Health and Fitness Management: At a Glance

Degrees in health and fitness management are for people who want a career training others in fitness. With a degree in health and fitness management, you can become a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, physical education teacher or a coach. Your training can also prepare you for management positions in fitness and health clubs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook in many of these fields is projected to increase from 2010-2020 to combat the national growing obesity epidemic and to help an aging population stay healthy.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? -Individuals who want to become instructors and trainers in the fitness industry
-Individuals who want to become physical education teachers
-Students seeking to pursue advanced studies in physical and occupational therapy
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Personal Trainers ($31,000)*
-Fitness Instructors ($31,000)*
-Scouts and Coaches ($28,000)*
-Middle School Physical Education Teachers ($53,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 4-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements Internship Internship
Prerequisites High school diplomaHigh school diploma or associate's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Health & Fitness Management

While you can earn an associate's degree in health and fitness management, you may also have the opportunity to choose a track in health and fitness management within a kinesiology or exercise science degree program. With an associate's degree, you can pursue a career as a one-on-one personal trainer or group exercise instructor. Credits earned in an associate's degree may be transferred towards a bachelor's degree program.

Pros and Cons


  • According to the BLS, the demand for fitness trainers and instructors will grow by more than 20% from 2010-2020 - faster than average.
  • The growing emphasis on health and fitness will increase the need for trainers and instructors.
  • Multiple career opportunities with corporations, health care facilities, gyms, yoga studios or government organizations.


  • You will likely need additional certification from exercise organizations before you are able to become employed.
  • For some positions in this field, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement.
  • Even if you work for a gym, you may be tasked with building a client base.

Courses and Requirements

Your program will provide you with the knowledge and skills to assess the fitness needs of individuals and groups to develop a plan to help them reach their goals. Courses will cover areas in anatomy and physiology, strength training, nutrition and cardiovascular exercising. An internship may be part of the program. In addition, your coursework should prepare you to take trainer or instructor certification exams from one or more exercise organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine or the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Online Degree Options

You can find online programs that offer associate's degrees in exercise management in a hybrid format. Hybrid programs allow students to take some courses online and others on-campus. Keep in mind that associate's degree programs are different than certification programs offered by organizations online. Be sure that your program is accredited by the state and/or national accrediting institution.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a high demand for personal trainers and instructors for baby boomers and senior citizens. You can stand out by choosing electives that make you aware of the special needs of aging populations. Upon graduation, you can earn certification in an area of personal training or fitness instruction, including yoga. In addition, if you choose to work in a nursing home or health care facility, it is likely that you will need to be licensed.

Other Degrees to Consider

With an associate's degree in physical therapy, you can become a physical therapist assistant or technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physical therapy assistants is expected to grow by 45% from 2010-2020. The program will require you to take courses in anatomy, sports medicine and physical therapy techniques. Upon graduation, you will likely need to become licensed to work under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Bachelor's Degree in Health & Fitness Management

With a bachelor's degree in health and fitness management, you can pursue a career as a coach, physical education teacher, personal trainer or fitness instructor. The 4-year degree may give you an opportunity to focus on niche areas of fitness - including specific sports or health-related areas. Your bachelor's degree may also prepare you for graduate programs in related fields.

Pros and Cons


  • Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the rate of childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years. There will be a consistent need for coaches and fitness instructors to combat the growing rate of obesity in children.
  • You may receive personal satisfaction helping others become more fit and healthy.
  • As awareness of sports-related injuries becomes more prevalent, the demand for athletic trainers will increase. According to the BLS, employment for athletic trainers is expected to increase by 30% from 2010-2020.


  • Competition is tight when seeking coaching positions for college and professional sports.
  • Jobs in coaching and scouting may require experience playing sports as well.
  • Because of the popularity, competition for jobs is extremely competitive.

Courses and Requirements

Similar to the coursework in an associate's degree, you will take courses related to anatomy, exercise science and nutrition. In addition, you will receive advanced instruction on exercise science and learn how the body moves. You will take courses in:

  • Program design and management
  • Treatment of injuries
  • Exercise pharmacology
  • Working with special populations

Many personal trainers are charged with seeking out their own clients, and you may find coursework in marketing and interpersonal communication beneficial. If you are interested in becoming a middle or high school physical education, you may have to take additional coursework in education.

Online Degree & Course Info

You will find online bachelor's degree programs in fitness management; however, you can expect the program will require an internship that will provide you with hands-on experience. In addition, your program may prepare you for a personal training certification exam. You may find that courses are offered year-round, which will allow you to complete your program on an accelerated timetable. In some cases, you may be required to already have an associate's degree when applying to an online bachelor's degree program.

Stand Out with This Degree

With this degree, you can enter a variety of fields and work with different clients. You can build your skill set based on the area you want to pursue. Honing your interpersonal skills will prepare you to work one-on-one with clients and help to motivate them. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 4 in 10 adults combine alternative therapies with exercise. Exploring alternative medicine will teach you about supplement use, naturopathy, massage, meditation, tai chi, pilates and yoga.

Although your program will likely include one or two courses in nutrition, optimal health is often described as a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. Furthermore, clients will often need instruction on how to fuel their bodies for the best performance. You can choose a minor in nutrition or look for additional certifications in nutrition that will complement your education in fitness.

Other Degrees to Consider

You may consider a degree in health education - sometimes known as health promotion or health communication. In this primarily administrative field, you develop strategies to communicate health information to targeted populations. This field is less one-on-one than personal training, but the elements of health promotion and wellness are the same. You will have the opportunity to work in hospitals, clinics or other organizations that promote health and nutrition. According to the BLS, employment in the field is expected to grow by 37% from 2010-2020.

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