Four Health Care Careers that Promote Healthy Living

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Want to make a difference? Learn more about wellness professions that aim to improve people's health and well-being.

By Charyn Pfeuffer    

Does losing weight, eating right, and staying fit come easily to you?

If you answered "yes," you could very well be the catalyst of change for many Americans.

According to the nonprofit American Council on Exercise (ACE), losing weight and seeking wellness, nutrition, and stress management programs will be top fitness trends for 2012.

This means that the need for health and wellness professionals will likely increase as Americans aim to adopt healthier lifestyles.

If you think a health and wellness career could be for you, check out these four careers - and their education requirements - to see what wellness position you could thrive in.

Career #1 - Registered Nurse (RN)

Do you want to play a hands-on role in helping patients understand various medical conditions? A career as a registered nurse could be a good fit.

Helping to keep hospitals and doctors' offices running smoothly, these caring professionals perform a variety of tests, administer treatments and medications, educate patients, and help them throughout their rehabilitation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"The nursing wave of the future is found in health coaching, where nurses coach individuals on how to reach their health goals," says Dwayne Adams, a registered nurse and health coach professional from California.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Educational requirements: You can prepare to pursue a nursing career by completing an associate's degree program or receiving a diploma from an approved nursing program. Then you usually need to complete a national licensing examination, according to the Department of Labor.

Career growth forecast: The registered nursing field is projected to see a 22 percent job growth from 2008 through 2018. Nursing positions in physicians' offices are estimated to have the most growth at 48 percent, according to the Department.*

Average earning potential: $67,720*


Career #2 - Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)

As a physical therapy assistant, you can help provide relief to those suffering from pain or limited mobility. Working with physical therapists, you could improve a patient's quality of life through a variety of exercises and therapeutic methods such as massage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Physical therapy can be a good opportunity to demonstrate the importance of continual exercise for a patient's overall well-being.

"We, as physical therapists, need to teach our patients that exercise is not a 'quick fix' to an injury, but instead, it needs to become a lifelong commitment that will help them prevent further injuries and will improve their overall health," says Meredith A. Fess, a physical therapist and facility director at Progress Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistant Program.

Educational requirements: While many physical therapy assistants can learn the ropes on the job, you could also prepare for this career by earning an associate's degree from a program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association, according to the Department of Labor.

Career growth forecast: Careers in the physical therapy assistant occupation are projected to grow 35 percent from 2008 through 2018. This increase could be attributed to growing baby boomers and elderly populations who may need rehabilitative services.*

Average earning potential: $49,810*


Career #3 - Psychologist

As a psychologist, you could study what goes on behind the cerebral scene to understand behavior and how people relate to one another. In order to better interpret mental processes, psychologists usually observe and predict behaviors by testing with scientific methods or principles, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"A large part of behavior (including those related to the obesity epidemic) begins in the brain," says Dr. Deanna Cole, a licensed clinical psychologist in Maryland. "Psychologists can play an integral role in helping people fight their weight battle and achieve holistic wellness by educating them about the mind-body connection."

Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

Educational requirements: According to the Department of Labor, a doctoral degree is generally needed to pursue a psychologist career in a private practice. A master's degree is usually sufficient for seeking a career as an industrial-organizational psychologist. With a bachelor's degree, you could have the opportunity to assist psychologists in community mental health centers, vocational rehabilitation offices, and correctional programs, notes the Department.

Career growth forecast: Careers in the psychology field are projected to grow 12 percent from 2008 through 2018. Growth could be marked by the increased need for psychological services in schools, hospitals, and mental health centers.*

Average earning potential: $86,510*


Career #4 - Fitness Worker

Do you enjoy exercising and want to share your passion with others? As a fitness worker, you could instruct and motivate people in a variety of settings, like health clubs, hospitals, universities, yoga studios, and more. You could even lead individuals and groups to get fit as a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, or fitness director, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Marc Sickel, for example, is a certified athletic trainer and founder of Fitness for Health in Maryland. Sickel helps children and parents increase their physical activity by implementing age-appropriate training and fitness programs for their children.

Educational requirements: For most fitness workers, certification is usually critical, and programs depend upon their specialty. For example, if you're a yoga or Pilates teacher, you may need to pursue different credentials than a personal trainer. In addition, many employers could require a bachelor's degree in a related health or fitness field for careers in exercise science or physical education, according to the Department.

Click to Find the Right Fitness Program.

Career growth forecast: Fitness trainers and aerobics trainers are expected to see a 29 percent job growth from 2008 through 2018. Aging baby boomers, a demographic more focused on health and fitness, will help drive employment in health clubs and fitness facilities.*

Average earning potential: $35,920*

*Unless otherwise noted, all average earning potential information and job outlook information are from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics.


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