Working in Health & Fitness
There are many job roles in the Health & Fitness sector that can be very rewarding and in order to find employment in the best roles, employees require a mixture of academic and professional qualifications, practical experience and professional networks.
This article outlines some of ways in which people can be successful in making their passion for health and exercise into a career.
Roles within Health and Fitness
Many people are aware of the role of a fitness instructor or personal trainer, however there are a wide range of other roles and settings in Health and Fitness.
Follow this link for generic job descriptions provided by REPs
Follow this link for more information on strength & conditioning roles
Resources for Job Hunting
Harvard School CV advice - https://hwpi.harvard.edu/files/ocs/files/hes-resume-cover-letter-guide.pdf
Qualifications in Health and Fitness
In order to become a qualified fitness professional you must hold a recognised qualification from an approved training provider. In the UK, the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) is the independent, public register that provides a system of regulation for instructors and trainers. The image below outlines the levels at which heath and fitness professionals can gain professional qualifications and how they can plan their career paths. In addition to these, many choose to study courses in Higher Education on degrees such as Sports Science or Strength & Conditioning. A degree demonstrates to employers that you have studied the topic to the highest level and can analyse scientific evidence, an ability that can be put into use in supporting your own clients and also in interpreting the latest fads and trends.
Some sports degree graduates need to complete these professional qualifications in their own time but some degrees contain a range of qualifications within the taught modules and at no extra cost to the students. One such course is the BSc (Hons) Sport, Physical Activity and Health degree at Marjon, the predecessor of which was the first course in the UK to have embedded professional qualifications.
Follow this link for a list of training providers
CIMSPA are also involved in accrediting fitness professionals - find out more here
Skills and Knowledge Required
Most qualifications in Health & Fitness include aspects of anatomy and physiology, coaching and mentoring, and exercise prescription as well professional issues such as ethical considerations. Entry level professionals will know how to assess an individuals needs and then what types of exercise to prescribe for each individual and those with higher levels of qualifications will be able to work with clients with more specific medical needs and be able to critically evaluate the guidelines that inform practice in the various job roles.
In Higher Education, related courses may cover topics such as physiology, exercise psychology, biomechanics, public health, coaching and leadership, clinical exercise, injury prevention and management and strength & conditioning.
Follow this link for more on supporting behaviour change
Follow this link for tips on writing lab reports in health and fitness
No matter how many qualifications you have, experience is vital in getting that dream job. On our degree programmes we ensure that students all get essential experience by running our own exercise clinics and by having a large network of professional partners and organisations that allow our students to work with them as part of work placements and volunteer roles. Here are a few ideas on getting that vital work experience:
Identify somewhere that you would really like to work and try to meet up with a key member of staff.
Offer your services for a short, but sustained period of work experience at a mutually agreeable time (eg one day a week for six weeks). This time-frame would enable both parties to get to know each other but not have to feel too committed or afraid to terminate the relationship.
Do your best throughout your time with them and treat every experience as a job interview.
At the end, give your thanks and be gracious and then move on to another challenge (unless they want you to stay of course!).
This way you get to be good in lots of settings, the CV gets better and you meet more people that can put your name forward for future opportunities.
This is also a good way of developing the CV and staying motivated whilst you may have to do more mundane jobs for money.
Advanced Careers in Health & Fitness
While many find satisfaction in working in more traditional health and fitness settings there are many job roles within public health, academic institutions or local authorities that require degrees or postgraduate qualifications. The websites of the following organisations are a good place to find out more about this type of work:
Along with colleagues, I'm able to offer a range of sessions for schools interested in offering their students experiences in this area. We've delivered interactive lectures on lifestyle behaviour and health, fitness instruction, nutrition and leadership skills and can do this as classroom sessions or make use of our state-of-the-art laboratory.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
So you want to work in...fitness - The Guardian (2009)
Working in the Fitness Industry - A survey 2015
"Careers in Personal Training" by training provider Future Fit Training
I always wanted to work in a role where I could support people in becoming more active. While I've always had an interest in elite sports performance, my passion has always been finding ways to get inactive people more active. After graduating from University with a Sports Science degree I then found that I needed to get my professional qualifications from trainers such as the YMCA.
Over the initial years of my career I worked at a University as a gym manager and then a large London hospital as a Rehab Manager in the Occupational Health Dept. I've also worked in a conditioning role in elite youth sport working in the academies of several professional teams.
In 2001, I started working for the YMCA where I was responsible for overseeing the delivery of many of the Fitness Industry Qualifications that the YMCA is well known for and then in 2009, I started working for the University of St Mark & St John where I teach on a range of courses including the BSc Sport, Physical Activity and Health.
Now, I'm a senior lecturer and I teach and research across a range of subjects such as health behaviour change, exercise leadership, clinical exercise, public health and strength and conditioning and I'm also involved in delivering NHS funded exercise clinics for people with Chronic Low Back Pain or Cancer. Find out more here at my profile or watch a short video I made about corporate sponsorship of physical activity schemes.