4 Dynamic Health and Wellness Career Paths

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Person drawing out a wellness plan

The health care field is booming with career opportunities. While nursing positions and health care management roles are well-known career pathways, additional opportunities are available that you may not be as familiar with, specifically jobs within health and wellness.

Health and wellness is a great fit for people who want to be a part of the health care ecosystem, but not necessarily in a clinical role. Positions in this field are focused on improving the health and quality of life individuals, communities, and special populations such as the aging population. These are collaborative roles that often work in lockstep with a range of health care providers, businesses, and communities to create strategies to promote healthy habits, prevent disease, and more.

Most importantly, this exciting field is set to grow for the foreseeable future. There’s a forecasted 13% growth among health educator and community health care positions. In addition, health care and social assistance is set to grow into the largest occupation in the United States. This growth will create new opportunities and offer a level of career stability that’s compelling for any job seekers.

If you’re a natural communicator who’s passionate about helping others, health and wellness is a dynamic and rewarding profession. The health and wellness industry is supported by four key job roles, providing a range of career exploration opportunities.

Let’s explore these career-rich health and wellness roles!


1. Community Health Workers, Health Coaches & Life Coaches

These roles are focused on connecting people and communities with the resources and support needed to access health care. The role of a Community Health Worker is more broad and may impact an entire community, while the scope of a health or life coach is more one-on-one.

Community health workers help bridge the gap between health care organizations and the community. They’re knowledgeable about the range of support services that are available to the community at large, and work to make connections and ensure equal access to these resources. Commonly referred to by the abbreviation “CHW,” typical duties include understanding and addressing language, cultural, and socioeconomic issues that may create a barrier in certain populations being able to access health care.

A CHW is typically a member of the community they serve, either directly or laterally. Examples include the aging population, low-income communities, pregnant women, minority populations, and more. Typical support duties are customized toward the community but may include helping enroll the population for insurance coverage, advising on diet and exercise, translating medical documents, and providing an open, unbiased perspective.

Health coaches and life coaches help bring resources and fresh approaches to navigating personal wellness to their clients with the overall goal of improving quality of life and maintaining health goals. Specific goals will be set between the client and the coach and then the coach will help create an action plan to achieve each goal. The coach will work with the client along the way and help them be accountable to his or her plan. Similar to a CHW, it’s helpful to have a personal background that offers a level of credibility for your potential clients. For example, a health coach who focuses on diabetes may be a diabetic themself and be able to speak to how specific strategies will help lead to maintaining a health outlook.

Patience and empathy are key for these career paths. If you enjoy helping others, have a mind for organization, and exhibit strong leadership and communication skills, you may want to explore these roles. Hands-on experience in the field is a must for these positions. Once foundational experience is established, earning a degree and seeking out further training and certification will help you establish yourself within this profession.

Education & Training Opportunities

 

2. Health Educators and Health Education Specialists

Working in a variety of capacities, health education professionals teach individuals and communities about behaviors and techniques they can use to prevent diseases, injuries, and other health problems. On the job, you may develop programs, training, resources, and other education tools focused on certain health topics. Topics may range from strategies to better manage various health conditions, to tips for developing healthy habits. Educators might also prepare conference materials and be part of public health planning.

In addition to the programming aspects of this field, health education also involves assessing the health needs of the communities they serve, collecting data about the various health concerns, and evaluating the effectiveness of the programming.

Not only will you find positions within traditional health care facilities, but also college campuses, municipal public health departments, nonprofit organizations, and even within private businesses.

Health education positions bring together a love of education, a passion for health care, and an analytical mindset. If you have skills, interests, and talents that span the business, health care, and education sectors, this field may offer a way for you to explore each of these areas within one, dynamic role.

Education & Training Opportunities

 

3. Health Program Coordinators and Managers

Health program coordinators handle a range of administrative tasks related to their workplace, which can range from a nonprofit, public health agency, medical facility, or for profit organization. From overseeing staff, to coordinating daily activities, health program coordinators help provide the operational backbone within their organization.

Outside of traditional administrative duties, health care coordinators serve as a liaison with public health advocacy groups and community stakeholders as they work together to secure resources and coordinate services for important health initiatives. These initiatives typically address the community’s most pressing health issues and improve the health outcomes for residents of certain areas of a city or state. Demonstrating the effectiveness of the programs and health initiatives is an important component of this work. Health care coordinators may need to contribute to reports that show the impact of the programming on the community, including key achievements and areas of improvement.

Health care and public health coordinator roles typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher. As you gain experience, career pathways to management-level positions are available.

Education & Training Opportunities

4. Corporate Wellness Director

Health and wellness is not only a growing profession in the field of health care; it is becoming a valuable role within the corporate and government sectors as well. Employers are actively developing and strengthening wellness programs within their organizations to promote a healthy work culture, encourage the health of employees, and manage the rising cost of health care benefits. In order for these programs to be effective, wellness directors are essential. Within their day-to-day work, a wellness director may introduce fitness and nutrition programs, or arrange meetings and presentations focused on health habits.

Other opportunities for corporate wellness directors exist outside of traditional corporate spaces. Health and wellness is playing a stronger role within the global economy, including wellness destination travel, retreats, lifestyle products, and writing about health and wellness topics.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy motivating others to achieve their health and wellness goals, corporate wellness can be a rewarding occupation.

Education & Training Opportunities

 


Advancement in the Profession

As we’ve discussed, within each of these career-rich areas of health and wellness there are a variety of ways to enter the field at the entry level and grow into an upper-level position. Graduate school offers a reliable way to deepen your subject-matter expertise and gain the qualifications necessary to pursue a manager or director role. Common graduate programs include nutrition and exercise, public health, education, and more. There are several options for advancing your education. A master’s degree is a common and graduate certificates are a great option if you’re not ready to commit to a full master’s degree.

In addition, there are a variety of professional organizations and communities of practice for networking and ongoing professional education.

  • American Association for Health Education (AAHE)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • American College Health Association (ACHA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Public Health Association (APHA)
  • Institute for Wellness Education (IWE)
  • National Wellness Institute (NWI)
  • Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)
  • American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE)
  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
  • And many more!
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Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health Educators and Community Health Workers, (visited September 28, 2019).

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Outlook, Life Coach, January 2017 (visited September 26, 2020).

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social and Community Service Managers, (visited September 28, 2019).

O*Net OnLine. National Center for O*NET Development, Summary Report for Community Health Workers. (visited September 26, 2020).

O*Net OnLine. National Center for O*NET Development, Summary Report for Health Educators. (visited September 26, 2020).

O*Net OnLine. National Center for O*NET Development, Summary Report for Fitness and Wellness Coordinators. (visited September 26, 2020).

O*Net OnLine. National Center for O*NET Development, Summary Report for Social and Community Service Managers. (visited September 26, 2020).