Health & Wellness Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees covering health and wellness can prepare you for careers in health education, fitness or nutrition. Find out about requirements, courses and career options that you might have with these programs.
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Studying Health and Wellness: Degrees at a Glance

Health and wellness professionals are trained in holistic preventive care disciplines that integrate mind, body and spirit. Health educators may teach behaviors that promote wellness in non-profit, government, community or public health, business, academic or medical organizations. As a health and wellness professional, you might instead build a private practice. Various certifications are offered by organizations representing health and wellness subdisciplines.

In the 2010-2020 period, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected demand for fitness trainers and health educators to grow 24% and 37%, respectively, much faster than 14% for jobs overall. These associate and bachelor's degrees may support a wide variety of health care industry professions, particularly those related to health promotion, education and administration.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this Degree for? Individuals who want an entry-level position in the health and wellness field Individuals interested in professional or management careers related to health and wellness
Common Career Paths - Nutrition technician ($34,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)*
- Massage therapist ($43,000 - with certification)*
- Physical therapist assistant ($47,000 - with license)*
- Personal trainer ($53,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Health educator ($53,000 - with five years of experience)*
- Wellness program manager ($74,000 - with seven years of experience)*
- Fitness center director ($76,000 - with five years of experience)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Typically 60-70 credits, including major area subjects and liberal arts core requirements
- Internship
- Approximately 120 credits
- Internship or capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Online degrees and coursework are available Some fully online degree programs and online coursework are available

Source: * (2012 median wages).

Associate Degree in Health and Wellness

Programs may offer a generalist approach to health and wellness. You learn about the structure of the human body and how nutrients are used for proper functioning. You may become familiar with first aid and CPR procedures. Depending on your program options and elective course selections, you could make progress toward or obtain licensing or certifications in a specialty area.

Courses might lay the groundwork for a career as a wellness coach, EMT, fitness and exercise or nutrition specialist, massage therapist, laboratory technician or allied health professional. Depending on your discipline, you may be required to complete a clinical practicum, lab work or internship.

Pros and Cons of an Associate Degree in Health and Wellness


  • Opportunity to qualify for certification or licensing in an in-demand career
  • Degree may be used as basis for a 4-year degree in an allied or public health area, or for a business management degree in these fields
  • May be an inexpensive route to a relatively competitive salary
  • Programs may be available in flexible full- or part-time schedules


  • Advancement to management may require a bachelor's degree
  • Certifying or licensing organizations may require a bachelor's degree
  • A too-general curriculum or lack of focus might not give you the skill set you need to enter some occupations
  • Maintenance of certifications and licenses may require commitment to lifelong continuing education

Courses and Requirements

Associate degree curricula at community or 4-year colleges or proprietary schools may involve a general education core and required coursework in math, medical terminology, biology, anatomy and physiology plus elective courses in your chosen specialization. Your program might also include 24-40 credits in a specialty area.

You might take courses such as these:

  • Contemporary health issues
  • Principles of wellness coaching
  • Fundamentals of nutrition
  • Anthropology of health and illness
  • Biomechanics and kinesiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Medical ethics

Online Class Options

It may be difficult to complete an associate degree program completely online if your program has laboratory requirements, but some options might be available depending on your field. Online programs might be available in fields requiring clinical practicums. In this case, you would take your courses online with a school that can arrange an internship in your local area. You may want to confirm that your proposed online program is accredited by the appropriate professional organization so that you'll be eligible for certifications or licenses in your field.

Individual courses may be available, either at your school or from another school if your program will accept transfer credits. You will meet the same requirements as in an on-campus course. Students who have other commitments may find that flexible online formats are convenient. Professional organizations such as the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America® that are recognized by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council may offer courses, certifications and continuing education online.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Schools may offer residency programs for practitioners that help them build a private practice. Credentialing or licensing may be required in your health and wellness subfield. Programs may prepare you for certification requirements or licensing examinations. Academic programs may be accredited by various state nursing or other allied medical boards or national associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, such as the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Some long-term care or hospital supervisory positions in dietetic service reporting to a registered dietician may require graduation from a state health department-certified program.

Bachelor's Degrees in Health and Wellness

In a health and wellness bachelor's program, you can learn to create programs that promote healthy lifestyles. You may learn to evaluate relevant scientific literature. Multidisciplinary programs may use integrated wellness models to address needs through various allied health disciplines. With this degree, you might be able to work in a hospital, community or educational setting in a role that involves facilitating behavioral change. For example, you might be involved in screenings for health risk or programs emphasizing fitness, nutrition or stress management. Students could learn to tailor wellness activities to meet individual needs.

Specialization options might include a double major with psychology, intervention strategies, injury prevention, exercise and nutrition or a pre-professional track. This flexible major may also be attractive as a minor option for students enrolled in a range of complementary programs, such as dietetics or kinesiology.

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor's Degree in Health and Wellness


  • Well above average growth projected by BLS from 2010-2020
  • Holistic approach and exposure to alternative traditions may be appealing
  • Can support graduate study in allied health professions
  • May provide foundation for master's degree in healthcare administration or public health
  • Opportunity for specialization


  • Multidisciplinary strength of programs could turn into a weakness without focus; specialization may be advisable
  • Allied health program like nursing could incorporate some areas of health and wellness promotion while leading to equal or greater diversity of employment options
  • Some elements of program may require on-campus presence

Courses and Requirements

After meeting university general requirements, you may also need to meet major requirements before proceeding to an area of specialization. Programs may require laboratory work, internships, practicums or capstone projects.

You might find courses such as these in a bachelor's program in health and wellness:

  • Assessment interventions and injury prevention
  • Health program implementation
  • Wellness facilitation
  • Healing traditions
  • Ergonomics
  • Evaluation of health and wellness programs
  • Modalities for healing

Online Courses

Degrees, certificate programs and courses are available on campus and online. Courses, workshops and seminars leading to continuing education credits are often available through professional associations.

You'll use distance technology and various browsers and software to complete courses virtually. If your completely-online program requires clinical experience, your school can generally make arrangements with a facility in your area that can provide appropriate supervision and experience. You may want to confirm that the program you're contemplating is accredited by the organization representing your proposed career field.

Standing Out with This Degree

Graduation from accredited programs might lead to automatic registration with the National Wellness Institute as a Certified Wellness Practitioner. This degree may make you eligible for certifications not available to associate degree holders from organizations like the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) or the American College of Sports Medicine. NCHEC's Certified Health Education Specialist distinction requires a combination of education and experience to take the qualifying examination.

While enrolled, you may be able to access resources of relevant academic centers and research institutes. Student groups may also offer opportunities for networking and leadership.

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