Nutritional Sciences

Are You ~Really~ Good at Living Your Best Life? There’s a Career for That.

Are You ~Really~ Good at Living Your Best Life? There’s a Career for That.
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Katherine Gustafson profile
Katherine Gustafson May 21, 2019

Career choices? You got 'em. But that's just one reason to pursue an MS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.

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“Wellness is the New Luxury,” reads a recent Forbes headline. Indeed, retailers are zeroing in on a strong trend in wellness by selling everything from athleisure apparel to spa treatments. The global personalized retail nutrition and wellness market is valued at almost $25 billion, and the global wellness market overall is now worth more than $4 trillion and growing rapidly.

The growth of interest in health and well-being reflects an increasing focus on exercise, fitness, and nutrition. Health and fitness club revenue has reached almost $90 billion around the world. Meanwhile, the nutrition and dietetics industry is pulling in revenue of $11 billion.

The numbers add up to one thing: A robust career market for personal trainers, wellness coaches, nutritionists, and many roles in sports, exercise, nutrition, and other elements of wellness.

A Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology (MS NEP) degree can unlock the door to these opportunity-filled fields. As a cross-disciplinary program that delves into both nutrition and exercise, the MS NEP prepares graduates to work at the intersection of several areas of wellness, such as preventive health and disease management issues, sports performance, and physical fitness and metabolic health.

You can work as a holistic nutrition coach or weight loss counselor, a personal trainer or athletic performance coach, or any number of other options that integrate these related fields. But the breadth of opportunity is just one of the reasons to pursue an MS NEP degree.

Here’s a full list.

1. You’ll be employed (and stay employed).
With the wellness industry booming, job growth in related fields is strong. The career outlook for nutritionists is a bright one, with the field expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, twice the average growth rate for U.S. occupations. Job growth for exercise physiologists is also promising, with 13 percent growth predicted by 2026.

2. Let’s talk salary.
The median salary for dietitians and nutritionists is $60,370, while exercise physiologists make a median of $49,270 per year. Athletic trainers can look forward to earning an median of $47,510 per year while fitness trainers and instructors can expect $39,820. Certifications and specializations can bump you up above these ranges, as can pursuing private practice or jobs in leadership.

3. You’ll be certification-ready.
Coursework in MS NEP programs often prepares students to obtain credentials and certifications for aspects of nutrition and exercise. Your program may prepare you to get a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN) credential, Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP) certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA).

4. Career choices? You got ’em.
An MS NEP degree prepares graduates for careers in industry, the nonprofit sector, government agencies, or even corporate wellness programs. You can work with athletes, sports teams, or the general public. You can work in fitness centers, weight control centers, workplace wellness programs, public health agencies, community centers, or health services. You can go into business for yourself in private practice or continue your studies afterward to pursue a PhD degree.

5. You’ll receive hands-on learning and research with your degree. You may have the opportunity to participate in practicum with athletes or to play a part in ongoing research projects. You may be required to do supervised fieldwork, as in the degree program at Columbia University Teachers College.

6. You’ll be at the forefront of a developing field.
Perspectives on nutrition and health are changing quickly, driven by a thriving and dynamic research agenda. With a growing understanding of the genetic basis of how health and eating effects the body’s microbiome, experts believe that personalized nutrition and healthcare strategies will be one of the hottest elements of nutrition research by 2020. An MS NEP degree can help you get a foot in the door to what’s definitely an intriguing and promising field of research.

6. You can pursue work in healthcare without a medical degree.
With a graduate education in nutrition and exercise physiology, you will be able to find a role in hospitals, occupational therapy practices, and other healthcare institutions. Your degree could also position you for a healthcare career that takes a patient-centered, holistic approach to wellbeing. Integrative health brings together conventional and complementary interventions to focus on diet, functional movement, and exercise can help patients get more from medical treatment.

7. Teaching’s an opportunity, too.
There are many areas of education that you can enter with an MS NEP degree, including becoming a community health educator (median salary of $46,080 per year), a high school health teacher ($60,320), or a nutrition education specialist ($41,059).

8. You have the option to go beyond direct service.
Many careers that MS NEP graduates pursue are focused on serving individuals directly, whether as a nutritionist, dietitian, personal trainer, wellness coach, or other direct-service professional. However, there is plenty of work for those with this training in areas such as quality control, research and development, policy formation, and marketing and public relations.

An MS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology provides a pathway into countless areas of health and wellness, from personal training to integrative medicine. The interdisciplinary, hands-on nature of these programs prepares students for careers that help people pursue healthy, active lives.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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