Many colleges and universities in the United States offer degrees in health and wellness. Programs of this type are often appealing to individuals interested in pursuing a wide variety of healthcare and fitness-related professions. It’s an ideal major for those who want to help others maintain and improve their overall wellbeing. While curriculums vary by institution, graduates typically possess the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for jobs in patient care, health administration, biomedical research, and other related fields.
It’s important to realize that salary potential can vary significantly depending on the occupation sought. Work location can also greatly impact job availability and pay. States with the highest-paying employment options for healthcare practitioners and technical workers include Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Hew Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. States with the lowest annual mean wages for these occupations include Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Healthcare support professionals, on the other hand, can expect the highest wages in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Alaska, North Dakota, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and South Carolina. Salaries for these workers are generally lower in Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Maine.
In many cases, health and wellness professionals require some amount of higher education (at least an undergraduate degree if not a master's or more advanced degree for advanced practice). There are, however, entry-level opportunities available to those with high school diplomas or GEDs. Notably, these positions tend to pay significantly less.
Generally, colleges and universities throughout the nation offer programs in health and wellness at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate levels. Prospective students should consider their career goals carefully before selecting a degree type, as every profession has unique education standards.
Associate degrees are generally offered by community colleges, which is notable because these academic institutions tend to charge lower tuition rates than traditional four-year colleges and universities. These programs often consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes students approximately two years to complete. Students typically receive instruction in personal and community health, nutrition, and physical fitness. These topics are often covered broadly, providing a basic introduction to the field and a good foundation for future learning.
Many health and wellness professionals possess bachelor’s degrees. These programs usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Students can expect to study a range of healthcare topics, from nutrition to bioethics and exercise physiology. Coursework also helps those enrolled develop various administrative skills, especially related to healthcare payment systems and health information management.
It's also common for professionals in the field to continue their education by enrolling in further education. Master’s degrees in health and wellness generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can finish within about two years. Prospective students should expect to further develop their knowledge and skills. Graduates are generally prepared to pursue positions that seek to improve and support health and wellness initiatives in the United States through implementation and evidence-based strategies.
A PhD or doctorate are the terminal degrees in the field. These programs are highly advanced and may take full-time students four to seven years to complete, but they can lead to the most advanced positions available. These degrees generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours, with components of traditional classroom instruction, independent research, and writing. Most provide highly specialized instruction, with concentrations available in a wide variety of areas. Examples include behavioral health, education, psychology, and nutritional science. Graduates generally qualify for career opportunities in research and/or academia.
In most cases, earning a degree in health and wellness is worthwhile for individuals seeking careers in fields related to healthcare, fitness, nutrition, and overall wellbeing and helping people deal with various health issues or health problems. While it may be possible to obtain entry-level employment in some common health professions without a degree, the majority of healthcare employers expect candidates to possess some level of higher education, though there is a broad range of options. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many careers in health and wellness require at least a bachelor’s degree. As a result, completing academic degree programs of some kind is often an important part of preparing for employment in this field.
Notably, however, the worth of a degree often varies based on several factors such as the specific career path chose, location, and personal interests. Prospective students and professionals should research potential careers carefully before determining whether a particular degree in health and wellness is appropriate.
Overall, the outlook for healthcare occupations is very good. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment for workers in this field is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in the United States. Approximately 1.8 million openings are projected each year between 2022 and 2032. The median annual wage for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations was $77,760 in May 2022, which is higher than the median annual wage of $46,310 for all occupations in the nation. Healthcare support occupations, on the other hand, had a median annual wage of only $33,600 in May 2022.
Notably, projections vary by job. Some professions are expected to perform better than others. While the anticipated growth for nuclear medicine technologists is almost nonexistent, employment for occupational therapy assistants and aids is expected to increase by 23%, while full occupational therapists work outlook is slightly different. As a result, it’s a good idea to spend time researching your chosen occupation in order to gain a more accurate understanding of employment outlook.
The first step to getting a job in health and wellness is to determine your ultimate career goals. With so many employment opportunities available in the field, it’s important to identify which occupation or occupations you are most interested in pursuing.
Once you know your preferred profession(s), you will need to research all associated hiring standards. These can vary significantly from one occupation to another but, once you are familiar with employer expectations, you can more easily determine which additional steps will be necessary to obtain the job of your choice. This is particularly relevant when selecting a degree program level but can also prove useful when picking major and minor areas of study, elective courses, internships positions, extracurricular activities, and/or professional certifications.
After obtaining the necessary degree(s) in health and wellness, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to pursue associated professional credentials. Depending on your chosen career path, this may even be required. Personal trainers, for examples must often obtain certification from reputable organization prior to providing their services. Additionally, internships or practical experiences may help prepare you for professional employment. These opportunities allow you to gain hands-on experience that can be highly valuable during the hiring process.
There are many health and wellness careers that offer high salary potential. Pay can vary significantly across the field, however. Those with a master's degree are most likely to make the highest income working for health care facilities. Some of the best-paying professional opportunities available include the following.
While the positions mentioned above are some of the highest paying options available to health and wellness professionals, individuals with backgrounds in this field may qualify for many other occupations as well. Even those with limited education and experience are likely to find relevant entry-level employment, with academic requirements ranging from high school diplomas to bachelor’s degrees. Despite offering lower salary potential, these professions can function as a great means of gaining additional experience that may lead to more advanced employment opportunities in the future.
Some less lucrative health and wellness jobs include: