Wellness Management Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

About this article
Master's and doctoral degrees in wellness management can lead to a variety of careers in the planning and management of healthy living services. Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD degree and potential careers in this field.
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Studying Wellness Management: Degrees at a Glance

Wellness management is a growing industry based on the theories of healthy living and disease prevention. Professionals in the wellness management field work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and healthcare facilities, government programs and community organizations, private businesses and educational institutions. Some entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree, although certain positions in government or public health agencies may require a master's degree and licensing/certification.

Similar to many professions in health services, wellness careers were expected to be in high demand over the next decade, due to an increased interest in preventative healthcare and healthy living. The employment outlook for wellness careers varies by position. For example, employment of dieticians and nutritionists was expected to grow by 20% from 2010-2020, while health educators were expected to see a faster-than-average 37% increase, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Despite promising career opportunities, competition may be great among applicants to secure a spot in the relatively small master's degree and PhD programs at various academic institutions.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Professionals from a variety of disciplines who want to work with clients or students to create and maintain healthy lifestyles
- Individuals who are new to the healthcare services industry and seeking a career change
- Bachelor's degree holders who want to specialize in wellness management
- Those who want to work in wellness management, policy and research
- Master's or bachelor degree holders, particularly those with a background or interest in nutrition, health, dietetics or kinesiology
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Health educator ($52,000)*
- Nutritionist ($55,000)*
- Wellness program manager (salary varies with experience)
- Health specialty professor ($99,000 - may vary with experience)
Time to Completion Typically two years (full-time) 3-4 years (full-time) beyond the master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Satisfy coursework requirements
- Internship
- Thesis or capstone project
- Satisfy coursework requirements
- PhD qualifier exams
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Teaching or research assistantship
Prerequisites - Typically a bachelor's degree in a related or unrelated field
- Resume
- GRE/GMAT scores
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Prerequisite courses in topics like nutrition, statistics and/or psychology
- GPA requirements
- All of the master's requirements plus
- Knowledge of the core issues/topics in wellness management
- Writing sample
- Transcripts from master's or bachelor's degree programs
Online Availability Yes None found as of September 2012

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

Wellness Management Master's Degrees

Wellness management master's degree programs prepare students for careers in health promotion and fitness. Students in a master's degree program can expect a curriculum that combines business- and health-focused courses. In addition to coursework, students typically complete an internship. Master's candidates do not necessarily need a wellness background; however, students typically have bachelor's degrees in health, human services or business. Depending on the school, degrees may be represented as a Master of Arts (or Master of Science) in Health and Wellness Management or similar title.



  • You may not need a related degree for admissions (although prerequisite courses may be required).
  • Since nearly all careers in healthcare services were expected to be in high demand from 2010-2020, employment opportunities appear positive - particularly for those with graduate degrees.*
  • A master's in wellness management can lead to a variety of career paths.


  • Even with a master's degree, students who do not have relevant work experience may have a more challenging time finding a job upon graduation.
  • Depending on your state, some careers (for example, public health educators or nutritionists) require certification or licensure.*
  • A bachelor's degree is the baseline education requirement for certain wellness careers, including health educator jobs.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

A typical wellness management master's program consists of required 'core' courses, electives and an internship. Courses typically feature a mixture of business, health and administration topics. Additionally, students participate in an internship, where they can apply their education in a real-world setting, and complete a capstone research paper (thesis) or project.

Sample courses may include:

  • Statistical methods in health, physical education and recreation
  • Foundations of wellness
  • Wellness administration and management
  • Health and wellness programming approaches
  • Health risk management
  • Human resource management in wellness programs

Online Course Options

Online course options exist for working professionals or other students interested in distance learning. Some schools also offer online degree programs in a traditional or accelerated format.

Students who are interested in online degree programs should not that curriculums and graduation requirements are often very similar (if not the same as) traditional on-campus programs. As a student in an online degree program, you will likely participate in an internship (which may be satisfied in your local area) and devote several hours to independent study each week.

Stand Out with this Degree

If your program does not offer an internship component (or if you simply want to gain more real-world knowledge), consider volunteering at a healthcare facility or for a wellness-related organization. Not only will you gain valuable professional experience and increase your marketability, but volunteer positions may introduce you to a new network of professionals you wouldn't otherwise encounter.

You may also want to consider specializing in particular topic that interests you and tailoring your electives around this niche. For example, if you are interested in running your own business someday, you want to pursue a business minor or business electives in accounting, marketing or administration.

Wellness Management PhD Degrees

Wellness management PhD programs emphasize research and scholarly contributions to the fields of exercise, nutrition and health living. When researching PhD programs, consider that related programs may use names other than wellness management (such as exercise, nutrition or dietetics) in their titles.

PhD programs are usually selective, enrolling only a handful of students each year. Applicants will likely need a strong foundation in wellness topics. Graduates with a PhD in wellness management often seek careers in research, private industry, academia and government.



  • A PhD is often required for careers in academia and research.
  • The majority of professionals in the wellness management industry have bachelor's or master's degrees. A PhD can set you apart from other applicants in this field.
  • It is common for schools to match their PhD candidates with faculty mentors who have similar research interests.


  • PhD programs are relatively small and can be quite selective regarding admissions.
  • Outside of academia and research, you may be over-educated for wellness management positions.
  • Students who delay or depart from the workforce to obtain a doctoral degree may have a harder time reentering the job market upon graduation.

Common Courses and Requirements

Generally, PhD candidates need to complete academic courses, pass preliminary examinations in their field, and research, write, and present a dissertation. Depending on the nature of your program, you may be encouraged or required to work as a research or teaching assistant. As a student in a wellness management PhD program, you can expect courses on the following topics: lifespan and aging, technology and health promotion, public health policy, chronic disease prevention, grant writing, statistical research methods and energy balance.

Online Course Options

Fully online PhD programs in wellness management are not available at this time. However, similar courses and degree programs offer distance learning options. A limited number of Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degrees are available online, some of which provide a specialty in health and wellness. Students who are interested in this type of program should be aware that psychology prerequisites and offline components (including in-residence weekends) may be required to earn the degree.

Stand Out with this Degree

To boost your academic credentials, consider the following options:

  • Apply to work as a fellow/graduate assistant. Graduate assistants work part-time in exchange for tuition waivers, housing stipends or financial aid. Although assistantships may be competitive, they can provide professional experience for future academics and scholars.
  • Consider obtaining a professional certification. If you are lacking formal professional experience, consider elevating your credibility with a wellness certification from a nationally recognized organization.

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