What is the Value of "Traditional" Health and Wellness Education?
I'm at the point in my academic career where I'm pursuing college coursework in Exercise Science. I am also studying to become certified through ACE as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. I was looking at the Answers Leaderboard and looking at the "formal" education level of the top 10 answerers. The majority of us either have college degrees or have completed some college. Of the top 10 answerers, less than half have one or more degrees related to fitness or health. It seems as though in this industry, experience (years in the industry) will outpay you faster than higher education. Do you forsee this trend continuing?
In your opinion, what kind of continuing education is "more valuable" or "more easily marketable" today in the world of health and fitness? Were you to hire a trainer for your studio, would you prefer someone with formal education or a trainer with a few (or many) nationally accredited certifications, professional memberships, and plenty of experience? Where do you think time and money would be best spent on continuing education when looking to advance one's career in the industry?
Professionally, I would hire a fitness professional who has consistently invested his time and resources in his/her profession and has shown dedication to his profession.
To answer your question regarding "where do I think time and money would be best spend on continuing education when looking to advance one's career in the industry?" Marlan, I feel strongly that it depends upon what you value and the motivation behind why one has chosen a particular continuing education course or earned a new credential.
I love learning and the credentials and the cec courses that I have taken over the years are simply a natural professional progression for me.
What is "best" is really subjective. I would suggest that you ask yourself some soul-searching questions about what you see yourself doing in the wellness and fitness industry 15-years from now and whether the cec courses you take support your vision.
What worked for me was was putting myself in position to train people with clinical conditions so that I could qualify and earn the ACSM RCEP credential. That would have never been possible if I didn't earn my masters degree in exercise science. As a consequence of earning that clinical credential I am in a position to earn the Certified Diabetes Educator credential once I accrue the necessary hours. The only fitness professionals who can earn that credential are those who hold ACSM CES and RCEP credentials.
Marlan, I recognize that I am getting older and the educational decisions that I make regarding my career are such that I can continue to work productively in the wellness and fitness industry up until I retire.
I hope my response has helped you a bit. All the best!
I see our industry as moving towards more formalized education, more standardized levels of knowledge and skill/experience, and minimum requirements requiring a certain level of formal education. Being proactive rather than reactive in my opinion would mean that there is value in pursuing both types of 'education' (certification and formal classroom) for the fitness professional. Back when personal training was a fairly new industry, and there were no such things as strength and conditioning coaches etc. you could get by with a certification alone. Nowadays, more and more Universities and Colleges (as you know) have introduced degree programs in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Sports Performance etc. To remain competitive in this field, I think that we as trainers need both types of education and continuing education. The industry is moving in that direction and we need to move with it to stay competitive and marketable.
I hope that this helps.
I am glad you asked that question because it forced me to review things I had not given much thought lately.
I come to the fitness career from a different path. My original education was in Germany, and I did not come to the USA until I was 34 years old. At that time I was pursuing a professional career with IBM as an international assignee, and fitness was something I did in my spare time. It was also my intention to return to Germany and teach even more computers how to find files and other important things.
Marrying and immigrating to the USA prompted me to review my plans and opened a window to a new world, and I decided to pursue a fitness career. Because of my educational background, sorting through my official credentials to go to a college in the US seemed daunting, and a personal trainer certification (my first one was ISSA) seemed a lot easier.
I gave this elaborate preface to explain why the 'formal education' was not even on my radar.
Obviously, over the years I have studied, studied and studied some more. Some of those studies resulted in more certifications with a piece of paper that says so. Many more of my studies has helped me with my personal development, and at this point in time, I can no longer make a distinction between personal and professional. As a trainer, I come as a package with official credentials and then all those intangibles which - I believe - ultimately helped me achieve the success I have.
If I were to hire a trainer, I would, of course, look at the certifications as the backbone of his knowledge and to determine how serious this person takes his job. After that, though, I look at the person and the experience behind it, the approach he or she takes to new situations and the skills in communication. You can always teach a person where muscles originate and insert, but you cannot teach personality.
What a great question and I look forward to reading more of the responses.
I know for myself, I'm also at the same cross roads. Wondering where do I go next, especially as Joanne pointed out, I want a career with longevity.
I find myself wanting to expand further into nutrition and coaching, while still investing in women, moms and pre/post-natal populations. These are the questions I'm asked most and ways I feel I can best assist my clients in reaching their goals. Without more of a formal education in nutrition, the advice I can give is limited. So I'm looking at going back for a masters, while also pursuing the ACE Lifestyle and Weight Management certification (currently studying for that now!).
So I think it all depends on where you want to go next and what professional goals you want to set for yourself. Neither path is wrong, its just what is best for you to reach the goals and client population you want to reach.
Good luck! And great questions!
I think that with more fitness career options comes the requirement for more formal and specialized education.
It's an interesting field, it's so wide open and limitless yet it takes a certain quality of tenacity to thrive in it successfully.
At the present moment I think it would behoove anyone wanting to get into the fitness/wellness/health world to get a degree along with a hands on mentorship. This is the key component missing in the fitness world.
I also believe we are only as knowledgable as we want to be, we are only on "the cutting edge"if we put ourselves there, we can basically become whatever we wish in this business.
I think this industry is personal, by that I mean I have seen some really smart instructors and personal trainers who had more knowledge than most and they could not, for the life of them, teach group exercise, they could not "connect" with their class and did not have the interpersonal touch to be a personal trainer, on the other hand I have seen some amazing teachers with ACE only.
It totally depends on the person. The great thing is that we have so many resources and organizations and fitness connect etc. which allows us to expand our thought processes and allows us all to continue to grow and learn.
If we HAD to have a college degree, this industry would be a lot different!
I would throw in that you should get people that have a background in lifting, running and swimming workouts.
I have met people with doctorate degrees that could explain the bio-mechanics of a squat but couldnt demonstrate one to save their lives.
Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two fields that are highly underrated for being dangerous and extreme, however no one is better than them at maximizing the change of body composition than these people.
The health industry needs to realize that professionals need to have a little sweat and blood in the gym before they can teach others.
Id highly suggest you enroll in extreme lifting regimes for a while to really understand the gym.
Take care, Danny
Not that all that physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, biomechanics, etc. etc. wasn't a great education for being a fitness instructor. If someone offered to give me a scholarship to go back to college for a third degree, I would be getting an exercise science degree. It would be a breeze with all the studying I have already done over the years. Do I need the piece of paper? No. But that isn't what drives me. I have a passion to learn and help others learn. It is bring someone else to fitness and my own fitness that drives me.
The bottom line of all this rambling is this. Follow your passion and your heart in all things in life. If you love what you do, then you will want to learn everything about it. I am a fitness instructor. And it defines me. It isn't a job, it is a lifestyle. But education is absolutely necessary to doing my work the best I can. For example, how many great athletes turn out to be great coaches? Only those that educate themselves about what they are doing and love. Being good at something can't replace understanding the how and why of doing it. If you have both the skill and the knowledge, I don't think anything can stop you from being great.