3 Ways to Impact Health and Fitness Without Going to Med School

3 Ways To Impact Health & Fitness Without Going to Med School

Careers in Health and Fitness

We all have goals for how we’d like to look, feel, and perform. Some of us just want to be healthy, others want to build muscles, and still others want to drop a clothing size or two. Chances are, we’ve all tried to accomplish these goals in one way or another. Maybe several ways.

When it comes to health and fitness, it feels like for every right answer you find, you get 10 wrong ones. The painstaking journey to find what works for you may inspire you so much that you feel compelled to run out and help others. But, before you take off sprinting, ask yourself one question:

What intrigues you most about fitness and public health?

How you move forward will be largely determined by your answer to that question.

When entering the world of health improvement, you have a few options:

  • You can work for yourself and build your own business.
  • You can work for someone else as an instructor, coach, or advisor.
  • Or, you can go even broader and seek to impact your community from the top down.

Each option has it’s own perks and pitfalls.

Working for Yourself

In the world of fitness and health, working for yourself usually means being a personal trainer or nutrition coach. You’ll build up a list of clients who come to you for services and advice revolving around working out, eating better, and generally improving their health and well-being. Some practitioners even mix lifestyle philosophy into their systems, giving them an edge over big-box gyms.

If you decide to work for yourself, it’s going to be a grind. Being self-employed and building a client base is hard, especially depending on how saturated the market is in your area. You’ll have to network your butt off and push marketing really hard at first (and probably for quite a while).

However, when all is said and done, you are responsible for your own success, and when you look back at what you’ve produced, you get to take all the credit. You’ll also be able to work on your own schedule, stay true to your own vision, and answer to no one (well, except for your clients).

In order to make yourself credible as a fitness entrepreneur, you’ll need to get some initials after your name or have a related degree or previous job. Basically, you need something you can leverage with potential clients to show them that yes, you are absolutely qualified to be giving them directions.

For the majority of people, this takes the form of becoming a certified personal trainer with one of five major trainer certification organizations. Most of these programs also allow for additional certification in a specialized arena such as group fitness instruction, nutrition, or general health coaching. These can be helpful if you want to freelance as group instructor or expand your services beyond personal training.

The final hurdle of being your own boss is the financial aspect. While you do get the freedom to set your own prices and deduct eligible business expenses, you also have to figure out how to pay taxes on your earnings and keep everything square with the IRS. This may not be a challenge for everyone, but it’s a necessary consideration before starting your own business.

Working for Someone Else

Entering the health and fitness world as an employee can look like a lot of things. You can work as a personal trainer for a gym or for someone else’s private business that they’re starting to expand. You can work as a group fitness instructor or even become involved in athletic coaching. You may even be interested in sales or promotion of health-related technology.

Being involved in health and fitness as someone’s employee opens up a lot of doors and removes stressors, but at the cost of some of your freedom.

Working for someone else means that you get to forego all the administrative duties. You won’t have to deal with the daily stress of running a business and you get the promise of a regular paycheck (maybe even with benefits). You may still work unconventional hours, depending on what path you take, but you’ll have to set up your schedule through your employer, rather than creating your own.

Every organization is going to have specific education or certification standards. As a personal trainer, your potential employer may have a preference in what organization you certify under. If a gym offers a branded line of classes, that may require additional training.

Looking for work as a coach with a school or sports club is a perfect opportunity for someone with management experience and a penchant for sports. Coaching lets you hone your leadership skills while making strategic in-game and training decisions.

If you have more of an office background, you may be better suited to working in health promotion. In the private employment sector, this looks like working for a health company or a fitness tech company. You could find yourself working in everything from biomechanics to app development. The market is expanding and jobs opportunities abound. And it’s no wonder — technology and the internet of things is infiltrating careers from nursing and healthcare to coaching and personal training.

Working for the Public

While both of the options above technically allow you to work for the public and impact the lives of strangers, clients don’t stay strangers very long, and you’re technically employed in the private sector.

Working for the public is a little more big picture, allowing you to influence public health from the top down. Public policy and administrative jobs offer an opportunity to improve community health and well-being without having to be hands-on with individuals clients. You’ll be working to evaluate and improve public resources or health institutes.

This is a strong choice for those who prefer regular hours and a big-picture approach. You’ll likely work in an office with some time in the field or researching, depending on what path you take. You’ll get all the benefits of a typical employment arrangement — you’re looking at salary pay, benefits, and room for growth, in most cases. The employment field is projected to grow over 16 percent in the next 10 years.  

If you want some flexibility and the ability to work on what interests you, consider going the academic route and working at a research institute or university. You’ll still have the opportunity to influence policy through data and consults, but without having to deal with bureaucratic red tape. Academia has it’s own set of flaws, though.

Positive Impact

No matter which path appeals to you the most, they’ll all allow you to improve lives for the better. Understanding what your strengths are will allow you to choose a career where you can do the most good and find personal fulfillment — it all comes down to that first question:

What intrigues you most about the fitness and public health sector?