Food and Wellness Studies
Food and wellness studies focus on the role diet and exercise play in the overall health of a person. Learn about educational and certification requirements, career options and salary potential for food and wellness professionals here.
Is Food and Wellness for Me?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third or more of Americans are obese, a critical health problem that can may contribute to cancer, diabetes and heart problems, as well as increases in personal medical costs. However, degree programs in food and wellness studies can help you acquire the education and skills you need to evaluate an individual's diet and activity regimen and recommend healthy changes, especially from a holistic approach. These can include college majors or formal training programs in food and exercise studies, health promotion and nutrition, where you'll explore diets and fitness routines that can help mitigate a variety of health issues, such as hypertension or high cholesterol.
An undergraduate or a graduate degree in food studies, exercise science or health and wellness can help to prepare you for a variety of related careers, including a position as a clinical dietitian, nutritionist, fitness trainer or health educator. You may also qualify for a job as a health and wellness director or as an administrator in the field of wellness management. Many health educators work for schools, but they can also be employed by colleges, medical facilities or community centers.
In general, your responsibilities can include helping people create exercise plans and identify their weight-loss hang-ups. You may also develop a nutrition plan for an individual or a family that includes more wholesome foods, or simply teach people how a diet and exercise program can lead to a longer, healthier life. You can also pursue a career as a salesperson of health and wellness products.
Career Outlook and Salary Potential
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a dietitian or nutritionist in May 2013 was $55,920. Fitness instructors and health educators earned average salaries of $33,020 and $49,210, respectively. As reported by the BLS, a 21% (or faster than average) growth in jobs is expected for dietitians, nutritionists and health educators nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Fitness instructors will see an average increase of 13% during the same 10-year period (www.bls.gov).
How Can I Work in Food and Wellness?
In general, an undergraduate or graduate program in food and wellness can include topics in anatomy, medicine, science and public health. Depending on your area of specialization or major, you may also receive training in dietetics, nutrition, exercise and kinesiology. Classes in biochemistry, microbiology and physiology might also be required. While fulfilling your degree requirements, you'll learn how lifestyle can increase the likelihood of disease, acquire coaching skills to help people make healthy lifestyle choices or explore mind-body and therapeutic techniques, such as acupuncture and yoga.
A bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, clinical nutrition, dietetics or food service systems management is the usual requirement for obtaining a job as a dietitian or nutritionist. Health education specialists also need a bachelor's degree in the same or a relevant field of study. In addition to courses in exercise, natural science, nutrition and psychology, many programs include opportunities for internships. Fitness trainers may be able to get by with a high school diploma and on-the-job training; an associate or bachelor's degree in a pertinent field of study may be preferred.
A master's degree in a food and wellness-related area may qualify you for an instructional position at a community college. University professors who teach fitness, health and wellness usually need a doctorate in nutrition, food science or another closely related area. As a graduate student, you could also pursue a specialization in nutrition that could prepare you for work as a pediatric dietitian, or to provide services for pregnant women and athletes.
Certifications and Licenses
In general, a state license is required to work as a dietitian or nutritionist. Licensing criteria typically includes a bachelor's degree in a relevant major, supervised work experience and a passing score on an exam. Certification as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can be obtained through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org); the Certified Nutrition Specialist is available from the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (www.cbns.org).
After passing an exam, health educators can earn a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.(www.nchec.org). Certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a must for fitness instructors and trainers; optional industry certifications in exercise or yoga are also available, and may be preferred by some employers.