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?
I love a great question. And this is an awesome question. When I started my “formal education”, there was no major for exercise science. The closest thing was physical education. And that was consider the major for phys. ed. teachers (in grade schools and high schools) and people wanting to go into coaching. But it didn’t get much respect and I was looking at being a doctor, dentist, or lawyer. I didn’t have a passion for any of those, but the professions were (and really still are) the most highly respected. I loved physiology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, math, and training. I had already started coaching swimming and diving, gymnastics, and track/field right out of high school. It wasn’t until I was half way through dental school that I realized that I wouldn’t be happy doing something I wasn’t passionate about. The idea of going on with that career and keeping up with the continuing education made me cringe. All the people who were advising me told me that once I was really working in the field, things would change. And I had a huge debt from dental school to pay off. But I chose to go with my passion. I went back to coaching and fitness.
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.