About two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and approximately one-half of those are obese. That puts one-third of all Americans at dangerously overweight.
According to market data, America has 72 million dieters. However, many of them never come close to reaching their weight-loss goals or, after meeting their goals revert back to their old lifestyle and put the weight back on. A 2006 New England Journal of Medicine study found that most people in weight-loss programs are back to their original baseline weight in three to five years.
Obesity is the number 2 cause of preventable death in the United States (number 1 is tobacco, number 3 is alcohol). The medical costs associated with being overweight top $150 billion annually. In addition, people spend over $60 billion annually on non-medical attempts to control weight.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the struggle to lose weight creates plenty of job opportunities for compassionate, enthusiastic people with a deep desire to help others feel healthy and live well.
In selecting our top weight-loss careers, we focused on job satisfaction, salary, and demand for the occupation. Many of the occupations are easy to enter.
The occupations are listed alphabetically. Some focus on the medical side of weight loss. Others on the social and lifestyle changes needed to succeed at losing and keeping off weight. Regardless of your talents and interests, there is a career here for you!
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Twenty Great Weight-Loss Careers
1. Bariatric Nurse
Bariatric surgery improves lives. A growing number of people turn to gastric-bypass surgery to lose a significant amount of weight and live a longer, healthier life. On average, former gastric-bypass surgery patients are 100 pounds lighter. They feel better and are more active.
The increasing obesity problem in the United States has increased the demand for bariatric nurses. They work at bariatric treatment centers and also for surgeons specializing in obesity.
Bariatric nurses provide patient care for the morbidly obese and bariatric-surgery patients. Bariatric nurses participate in pre-operative plans and provide post-operative recommendations. They educate obese patients about diet and nutrition. They also identify complications in bariatric patients. Quality nursing care and effective patient teaching often lead to positive patient outcomes.
The Certified Bariatric Nurse program provided by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery evaluates the professional competence of bariatric nursing practitioners. Candidates must be currently licensed as an RN and complete at least two years of nursing care for morbidly obese and bariatric-surgery patients.
Median annual salary in 2012 for a clinical bariatric nurse: $73,000 (Simply Hired).
2. Dietitian and Nutritionist
Dietitians and nutritionists have the challenging and rewarding opportunity to create healthy, yet tasty food and nutrition programs. They help people improve their eating habits. Some dietitians and nutritionists participate in important research projects.
Some dietitians have a specialty, such as working as a community dietitian, clinical dietitian, outpatient dietitian, management dietitian, or a consultant. They work in hospitals, clinics, private practice, hospitals, schools, and business settings.
Corporate dietitians oversee a food service to promote healthy eating habits. Many companies hire dietitians to help lower their health costs. The American Dietetic Association is a good resource for those considering becoming a dietitian.
Registered dietitians typically have more education and training when compared to nutritionists. Some dietitians and nutritionists have a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related field. Some dietitians have a master’s degree.
Registered dietitians are required to have a bachelor’s degree and complete coursework accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as to complete an ACEND-accredited, supervised practice program and to pass a national examination. Some registered dietitians have additional certifications in a specialized area of practice.
Median annual salary in 2011 for dietitians and nutritionists: $54,470 (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]).
3. Exercise Physiologist
Just about anyone can say they’re a personal trainer; however, an exercise physiologist is a healthcare professional with a degree in exercise physiology and/or has been certified by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP).
Board-certified exercise physiologists develop individualized exercise programs to increase the physical endurance, strength, and flexibility of their clients. Exercise physiologists oversee the evaluation, improvement, and maintenance of the health and fitness of their clients.
Exercise physiologists work in athletic and healthcare settings in colleges and universities, fitness facilities, corporate wellness programs, rehabilitation clinics, and hospitals.
Median annual base salary for exercise physiologists: $45,136 (Salary.com)
4. Group Fitness Instructor
This job is a great fit for people with a zeal for fitness. The job helps keep instructors in shape and gives them the opportunity to help others make fitness a way of life. Many group fitness instructors have another job and work part-time as group fitness instructor. However, some group fitness instructors teach full-time.
Group fitness instructors lead groups in fitness activities, including aerobics, water aerobics, weight lifting, Pilates circuit training, dance-style training, strength training, and other fitness activities. Many group fitness instructors have several jobs, conducting classes at several clubs or studios.
Many group fitness instructors begin as students. Some health clubs require group fitness instructors to have a bachelor’s degree in physical science or exercise science. A large number of schools, companies, and organizations offer training and specialty courses. Some colleges offer group exercise instruction curricula. There are more than 300 certification programs in the United States, including the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Group Fitness Instructor self-study course bundles and the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) Group Fitness Instructor certification course.
Group fitness instructors work at gyms, health clubs, country clubs, recreation centers, fitness centers, resorts, colleges, and community centers. The company, 24 Hour Fitness, has more than 5,000 group exercise instructors nationwide. The classes are often held early in the morning and in the evenings. Group fitness instructors often work on weekends.
Group fitness instructors certified in several programs usually have an easier time getting a job. Also, leading several types of fitness programs makes the career more exciting and rewarding. Ask health facilities managers which certifications they prefer. It’s vital that the basic certification and specialty certifications are recognizable and have a good reputation.
Most group fitness instructors are not on a salary. Most group fitness instructors have a full-time job in a different field. Some group fitness instructors also work as personal trainers, or as a wellness coach or a front desk staff member.
Median annual salary of ACE-certified, full-time group fitness instructors: $47,659; and part-time instructors: $12,451 (2010 ACE salary survey of fitness professionals with personal or group fitness instructor certifications).
Median annual salary in 2011 for fitness trainers and aerobic instructors: $31,030 (BLS).
Education and certification play big roles in determining salaries in this field.
5. Healthy Cooking Class Instructor for Kids
Organizations such as Springboard, a national provider of before- and after-school programs and activities, hire cooking instructors to teach kids how to make healthy meals.
They work in a fun environment. They’re great jobs for those looking for rewarding part-time work.
These organizations typically prefer certification; however, applicants with good references and credentials can apply for these jobs.
6. Jenny Craig Customer Service Coordinator
Jenny Craig customer service coordinators play a vital role supporting clients while working in a fast-paced environment. They communicate with clients in person and via the telephone. They greet clients in the lobby, provide program information, and assist in stocking inventories and processing food orders for clients.
The customer service positions only require a high school diploma or a GED. The company reports the customer service coordinator position is an excellent entry-level job with numerous growth opportunities. Customer service coordinators receive a salary and a benefits package that includes medical, vision, dental, and prescription drug plans.
7. Jenny Craig Weight-Loss Consultant
The popular Jenny Craig weight-loss program focuses on active living, eating habits, and personal motivation. The Jenny Craig program emphasizes motivational coaching and personal attention.
Jenny Craig weight-loss consultants evaluate their clients’ challenges, progress, and achievements during weekly one-on-one meetings. They also provide advice over the telephone.
Jenny Craig weight-loss consultants are required to have a high school diploma and either sales experience or some college credit. Jenny Craig weight-loss consultants may have to work some nights and weekends.
Jenny Craig Weight-loss consultants receive an hourly wage and a commission on products they sell. The total hourly rate plus commission ranges from $7 to $15 per hour. The employee benefits package includes medical, vision, dental, and prescription drug plans.
Weight-loss consultants get a monthly review and a quarterly audit of their performance expectations. A minimum quota for commissioned sales is part of the performance expectations.
8. Lifestyle & Weight-Management Consultant
Lifestyle and weight-management consultants create individualized lifestyle programs to meet their clients’ goals and needs and to enhance their readiness for changing their lifestyle. They help clients improve their overall wellness. They identify the barriers preventing clients from reaching their weight and lifestyle goals and design a plan to help their clients meet their objectives. Figuring out what motivates clients is an essential part of the job.
The occupation doesn’t require a degree; however, some employers prefer a degree in an area such as nutrition, health, or fitness. Some positions in the field require a master’s degree in fitness, nutrition, or a similar field. Certification can help people become competitive in the field.
Health and wellness organizations such as AFPA and ACE provide certification. The LEARN Institute for Lifestyle Management provides a Lifestyle Counselor certification program.
An advanced-level ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach certification demonstrates an individual has the knowledge to create long-term weight management programs that include the three vital components for long-term weight management success: exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle change. The program teaches students to asses their clients’ fitness and their readiness to change, as well as learn their unique training needs.
Candidates for the ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach certification program are required to have one of the following:
- ACE Personal Trainer certification
- Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist certification
- Group Fitness Instructor certification
- NCCA-accredited personal trainer or advanced, fitness-related certification
The program also accepts people with at least a two-year degree or comparable work experience in exercise science, fitness, healthcare, nutrition, human resources, wellness, or a related field. Some colleges, universities, and vocational schools offer courses that prepare students to obtain an ACE certification.
AFPA provides a weight-management consultant certification program focusing on a holistic health approach to weight management. Candidates for the program are required to have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field.
9. Medifast Senior Counselor
Medifast senior counselors mentor and manage center counselors. They teach the science of weight loss and healthy eating habits. They also provide individualized nutritional counseling to members and detailed weight management work plans. Finally, they support, motivate, and educate members regarding Medifast personalized programs.
Candidates either need a four-year degree in nutrition, psychology, behavioral science, social work, or a nursing degree/CNA, or they need to be a registered dietitian/certified nutritionist. They also need at least four years’ experience in the counseling, nutrition, or wellness fields. Senior counselors have flexible hours, including day, evening, and weekend hours.
10. Nurse Practitioner at a Weight-Loss Center
These jobs require compassion for people who suffer from obesity and morbidity issues. These nurse practitioners provide educational support and medical care to patients in bariatric programs and other types of weight-loss programs. They perform a broad range of tasks.
They create comprehensive medical status reports and perform physical examinations. Experience is an advantage, but some weight-loss centers train the right people.
11. Nutrisystem Call Center Weight-Loss Counselor
Nutrisystem weight-loss counselors basically help Nutrisystem members meet their weight-loss goals. They motivate members and answer their questions about food and weight loss.
These positions are available on a full-time and part-time basis. They prefer candidates with knowledge of fitness, nutrition, health, and weight-loss maintenance. Nutrisystem prefers those with a bachelor’s degree; however, they do consider candidates with an associate’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, healthcare, or a related field.
Nutrisystem provides an hourly rate plus full benefits. They also receive commission for additional products sold to customers and new customer sales.
12. Personal Trainer
Most personal trainers are enthusiastic about being active, healthy, and fit. They also have a desire to help others achieve their goals.
Personal trainers get satisfaction from helping clients set and achieve their goals. Personal trainers tend to be active, vibrant, healthy people. Keeping people motivated is one of their major tasks. Personal trainers work with a diverse group of people.
Personal trainers design customized training programs and work with clients one-on-one or in small groups. Training often includes weight and cardiovascular machines.
Personal trainers typically have flexible schedules and good earnings potential. Job satisfaction comes from helping people achieve and maintain a good fitness level. Personal trainers work at fitness centers, corporations, and country clubs, as well as on a freelance basis.
Most personal trainers are certified and many have a bachelor’s degree in a fitness-related field such as athletic training. Certification makes it easier for personal trainers to get a job and certification helps freelancers get clients. Certification is provided by ACE, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the International Sports Sciences Association.
Median annual salary of ACE-certified, full-time personal trainers: $53,323; and part-time: $18,650 (2010 ACE salary survey of fitness professionals with personal or group fitness instructor certifications).
13. Pilates Instructor
Pilates is one of the fastest-growing trends in fitness due to its muscle-strengthening and body-toning benefits. It’s one of the hottest exercise trends for men and women.
It’s best to do some homework before selecting a course because Pilates training is not standardized. Pilates certification includes Pilates mat certification and comprehensive Pilates certification which covers all the Pilates equipment. Professional certification and advanced training are available for people seeking to specialize in the sports-specific or rehabilitation aspects of Pilates.
Industry associations and organizations offer professional certifications. People seeking certifications are required to complete a training program and pass a standardized exam. The Pilates Method Alliance offers a certified Pilates teacher exam.
Basic mat instructor certification costs from $100 to $300. The training occurs over two weekends or as a one-weekend, intensive course. The comprehensive Pilates instructor certification courses vary widely. Comprehensive certification takes more than a year to complete and typically many hours in a studio as an apprentice teacher. Some programs require up to 900 apprentice hours during a year. Comprehensive certification usually costs $3,000 or more.
Certified Pilates instructors teach classes at health facilities, community centers, wellness centers, hotel facilities, and private Pilates studios. They also teach at workshops, colleges, universities, and community colleges. Some Pilates instructors have their own Pilates center.
In 2012, certified Pilates instructors make from $16.75 to $32.50 per hour (PayScale); median annual salary: $43,000 (Simply Hired).
14. Weight-Loss Camp Counselor for Children
It’s a great opportunity to help children lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. Jobs are available for graduates, college students, teachers, and coaches. Many of these camps provide training for camp counselors.
Weight-loss counselors are involved with obesity treatment, personal and athletic training, nutrition, and children’s health. Counselors show kids how to eat healthily and encourage them to participate in physical activities.
Weight-loss camps have positions such as behavioral coach, camp counselor, nutrition instructor, camp counselor/culinary instructor, and camp counselor/fitness instructor.
The salaries vary by the camp, but a fitness specialist/trainer and a culinary and nutrition instructor can make from $2,750 to $4,250 for a summer.
Counselors and instructors typically make from $2,500 to $3,500 during a summer.
A health coach can make from $4,000 to $6,000 for a summer, with some additional time spent prep-reviewing camper enrollment forms.
15. Weight-Loss Coach
Weight-loss coaches empower clients to change their unhealthy lifestyles. They motivate clients to stay on track and find fun ways to burn calories. They figure out what skills clients need to lose weight and they teach them how to plan nutritious meals.
Weight-loss coaches also celebrate their clients’ success. They search for clues in their clients’ lifestyle to discover why their clients are overweight and what prevents them from losing weight.
They also help clients with emotional eating and food addictions. Weight-loss coaches are particularly helpful for overweight individuals who lack motivation to lose weight or have been unsuccessful in trying to lose weight. Typically, people working with a weight-loss coach become more motivated to lose weight.
Median salary in 2012 for weight-loss coaches: $35,000 (Simply Hired).
16. Weight-Loss Counselor
Of all the aspects of an effective weight-loss program, weight-loss counseling is one of the most vital. Weight-loss counselors do their best to figure out the causes of a person’s weight issue and help them overcome them. They tailor the weight-loss plan to the individual. Weight-loss counselors provide clients a well-balanced diet and an exercise schedule.
Many weight-loss companies provide training. The larger the weight-loss company, the better the training and salary. Certification often provides a higher wage and makes it easier for weight-loss counselors to advance in their careers.
The Cooper Institute is one of the leading providers of certificate licensing. AFPA provides a Weight Loss Management Consultant certification, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Some certification programs can be completed via the Internet. A degree can increase the chances of getting a job. Some weight-loss counselors have a bachelor’s degree in health and nutrition science.
Weight-loss counselors typically receive an hourly wage and commissions, with about 50% of their earnings coming from commissions. The national hourly pay rate for the profession in 2012 is from $8.07 to $39.73 per hour (PayScale).
17. Weight-Loss Telephone Coach
Join the increasingly popular field of weight-loss coaching by telephone. Most diet companies provide the service as part of their program.
Some of the counselors are successful customers. However, many telephone weight-loss coaches are healthcare or counseling professionals with a degree.
Some of these coaches are dietitians, nurses, and certified fitness counselors. Professionals get paid up to $20 per hour. These jobs are available on a full-time and part-time basis.
18. WeightWatchers Meeting Leader
WeightWatchers meeting leader positions are available to people who have reached their weight-loss objectives through the WeightWatchers program. Thousands of people have turned their drive for WeightWatchers into a satisfying career, making a positive impact on people seeking to lose weight.
Meeting leaders guide and support WeightWatchers members in their effort to meet and maintain their individual weight objectives. Team leaders keep members motivated. They ensure that members feel invited to participate in meetings. They inspire members to make positive changes.
WeightWatchers meeting leaders may qualify for healthcare benefits and paid vacation time, depending on how many meetings they attend each week. Meeting leaders must be a Lifetime Member and within two pounds of their goal. Based on nine WeightWatchers team leaders’ salaries, the average annual salary is about $25,890.
19. Wellness Coach
Many people have a strong desire to be well, but have a difficult time converting to a healthy lifestyle. This is why wellness coaches are needed. They help their clients build better health habits.
Wellness coaches may cover subjects such as fitness, nutrition, weight management, and emotional health. Wellness coaches help clients overcome barriers and reach their fitness goals. They help people change their lifestyle in a positive way.
Wellness coaches provide personalized support, encouragement, and motivation. They incorporate health education and counseling skills. Wellness coaching combines traditional life coaching, lifestyle fitness coaching, good nutrition, green living, and exercise.
Wellness coaches work with their clients in person, by telephone, or email. Many wellness coaches do much of their coaching via the telephone. Wellness coaches work with individuals and teach classes and seminars. Some wellness coaches work at companies, gyms, and hospitals. Wellness coaches sometimes work with doctors, personal trainers, dietitians, and other health professionals.
Wellness coaches don’t need a special degree, but an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a health discipline such as nutrition, physical education, or nursing helps. Certification also helps. Private education agencies provide most of the wellness certification programs. Well Coaches, a health and wellness coaching certification program, is endorsed by ACSM.
Wellness coaches receive from $25 to $100 per hour. Median annual salaries in 2012 with less than one year’s experience: $29,163 to $38,654; and with 10 to 19 years’ experience: $35,759 to $75,503 (PayScale).
20. Zumba Instructor
Zumba, a dynamic Columbian dance-fitness program, includes aerobic, Latin rhythms, and dance elements. It combines dancing, exercise, and fun. It’s one of the best ways to get fit and have a good time. Zumba fanatics gain long-term health benefits from calorie-burning, energizing workouts.
The choreography integrates scoa, samba, hip-hop, merengue, salsa, mambo, and martial arts, as well as some Bollywood and belly-dance moves. Zumba also includes lunges and squats. Zumba toning targets the abs, arms, thighs, and other areas.
The Zumba Academy and other entities offer Zumba instructor courses. Zumba instructors must get a Zumba license. The license allows Zumba instructors to use the trademarked term in their class names, descriptions, and advertising materials. It helps if students have dance or fitness instructing experience.
Some instructors take a Zumba Gold course to learn how to teach Zumba to older adults who don’t have the level of fitness required for a standard Zumba fitness class.
Visit the Zumba website for a list of classes and registration information. Participate in a few Zumba classes to see if it’s right for you.
Some Zumba instructors have their own Zumba coaching center, whereas others work in community and corporate centers.
Beginning Zumba instructors earn from $15 to $25 per hour. However, instructors at private Zumba parties receive from $100 to $150 per hour.
Zumba professionals working full-time in the United States earn from $25,000 to $50,000 annually.
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Here is a short video about Zumba for beginners: