How to Make a Successful Career Change into Health and Wellness

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A Letter from Our Founders

You deserve a career that makes you excited to get out of bed every morning. But
if your current work situation isn’t lighting you up as much as you’d hoped, you’re
not alone: the majority of Americans aren’t thrilled about their jobs.

It’s a switch that many people would like to take—in fact, the majority of Americans aren’t pleased with their jobs.

A recent survey found that nearly

70 %

respondents aren’t satisfied with their work

96 %

are open to new opportunities

While those facts may seem discouraging, here’s the great news: so many people
who embark down a career path in health and wellness feel excited, energized,
and motivated by their work. At the risk of sounding cliché, there really is nothing
better than helping others and spending your time doing what you’re passionate

We’re here to help you get there. Having certified over 130,000 graduates across
140+ countries, you won’t be alone on your path. As with any major life change,
you should have a plan. In this guide, we’ll help you explore the fields you may go
into, specializations that can help you hone your skills, and how you can build a
sustainable, satisfying business.

Ready to start a career in health and wellness? We’re with you every step of the way.

Amy + Mark, AFPA Founders

Step 1

Why Do You Feel You Need a Career Change

The decision to change careers is a major life choice. Sometimes, people might think that their jobs are making them unhappy, when there are actually other factors that are coloring that perspective. Examples of those factors may include frustration with certain relationships in their lives or a sense that there’s no upward mobility at a specific employer.

To identify whether making a career change is the right choice, it’s essential to do a bit of introspection. Take some time to really understand your motivation by considering questions such as:

There are a wide variety of paths you can take in the health and wellness industry, no matter what you decide to specialize in. The first step in understanding which path is right for you is to consider what you want your day-to-day life to look like. You may examine whether you:

  • What aspects of your current career do you dislike the most?
  • What aspects do you like the most?
  • Are there skills you’re not using?
  • Is it your job that you find unsatisfying or the industry that you’re in? Or both?
  • How do you want to feel at the end of the day?
  • If you used to like your job, what changed?
  • Have your values changed?
  • Is helping others important to you? If so, are you satisfying that need in your
    current job?
  • Are you challenged enough in what you’re doing?
  • Do you see the opportunity for personal growth in your industry? If not, what
    do you see as the barriers to growth?
  • Is your industry thriving, or do you feel like you’re in a dying industry?

Be sure to answer these questions honestly and nonjudgmentally. You may even find writing down the answers is helpful in gaining clarity. Most importantly, don’t rush the process and take as much time as you need.

After thinking it through, you may find you only need to make some small adjustments to your current situation, rather than overhauling it entirely. If you do determine changing careers is right for you, you’ll be able to draw from these motivations to inspire you and help you persevere through challenges.

Understanding your motivations will put you in the best position to make choices that are right for you.


Step 2

What Opportunities
Are in the Health and
Wellness Industry?

If you’ve gone through the process of considering why you want a career change, and you’re committed to making a shift, it’s time to focus on what you’d like to be doing. If you’ve opened this guide, health and wellness are probably of particular interest or passion. Fortunately, there are plenty of directions you can go within this growing field.

Many professionals find success with starting their own consulting businesses and offering a number of services as a result.

There are a wide variety of paths you can take in the health and wellness industry, no matter what you decide to specialize in. The first step in understanding which path is right for you is to consider what you want your day-to-day life to look like. You may examine whether you:

  • Want to work part-time or full-time
  • Would like to work for yourself or for a company
  • Want to work alone or with a team
  • Want a steady paycheck and health benefits or if flexible hours are important
  • Are willing to commute to work or if you’d like to work at home

Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to any career choice. Full-time employees may not have much scheduling flexibility, while self-employed people may stress about not having a steady income, for example.

Understanding what will make you happiest in your new career will help you discover whether you’d rather opt for employment or more of an entrepreneurial path. In some cases, you can combine the two by being employed and also starting your own business on the side.

In each of the health and wellness industry specialties we’ll cover below, both paths are available to you. We’ll also touch on a few examples of specific jobs you could have in each specialty — it’s important to note these are only a small set of the many, many careers people in the field take on.

Nutrition Professional

Nutrition is a complex and ever-expanding study of how food impacts the body. For many people, deciding exactly how to eat for optimal health is confusing. The science is always evolving and much of the information, especially online, is untrue, incomplete, or even contradictory. A nutrition professional gives clients guidance and coaching that helps them navigate healthy, tailored eating plans and make meaningful changes.

Nutrition Careers


Corporate Wellness Consultant

You can work in a corporate environment alongside HR to drive wellness efforts for employees. In this role, you might work part-time or full-time in an office, warehouse environment, healthcare facility, or other location. You may assist with developing educational materials or give seminars on healthy eating habits. You could also be an on-retainer consultant who helps several companies every week with their wellness programs.

Nutritional Supplement Sales Representative

Your nutrition background will equip you to speak intelligently about a supplement’s specific benefits and the science behind them. Many people in this role travel to visit health food stores, spas, wellness centers, co-ops, and grocery stores. Nutritional supplement sales representatives often work on a commission-basis and have a flexible schedule.

Weight Loss Counselor

A weight loss counselor helps people understand the role of nutrition in supporting weight loss and overall health. Many weight loss centers, spas, and wellness centers rely on their counselors to help with one-on-one sessions and lead group discussions. Often (but not always) people who become counselors have had a weight loss journey themselves and want to use their experience to help others.


Become a Private Chef

If you love to cook and want to work closely with your clients, becoming a personal chef could be a great option. Personal chefs prepare healthy meals most of the time from their clients’ kitchens. They also have the opportunity to take a consultative approach with clients—crafting meal plans around their lifestyles, teaching them to cook, and helping them form new habits.

Start an Online Business

The internet gives you instant access to millions of people worldwide. Online entrepreneurs in the nutrition space may utilize social media, YouTube, blogs, and more to connect with people about their nutrition habits. Many business owners build courses, run digital support groups, or offer subscription-based packages. We cover some of the basics for How to Start Your Online Nutrition Business in one of our recent blog articles.

Start a Restaurant

An exciting way to serve people healthy food is to start your own restaurant or food truck. As the owner, you’ll have control over how your menus are constructed, where you source your ingredients, and what goes into a dish. If you enjoy cooking and want to reach people en masse, this could be a great route for you.

Other Career Ideas

Nutrition and wellness writer

Health food store owner

Nutrition educator

Health Coach

Health coaching is all about supporting people in developing a healthy lifestyle through physical activity guidance, nutritional advice, and behavioral change. Coaching, much like a coach on a sports team, develops skills to educate and inspire clients. Many health coaches choose to take a holistic approach by looking at the big picture of a person’s health and how multiple factors work together — for example, lifestyle, diet, emotional well-being, and family history.

Health Coaching Careers


Recovery Coach

A recovery coach may work with people on their overall health in order to support them in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Recovery coaches may work in hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, wellness centers, or even in people’s homes. In this job, you’ll have a deep understanding of the science of addiction and how to help people make lifestyle changes to overcome it.

University or College Health Coach

Students often deal with a number of factors that may have implications for their health such as stress, irregular sleep schedules, and poor eating habits. A health coach at a college or university will have the opportunity to work with students and identify areas where they can make more positive choices for their overall health.

Corporate Health Coach

More and more companies are hiring health coaches as part of their wellness initiatives. Health coaches may work in a corporate setting to lead weight loss support groups, offer smoking cessation programs, or educate people on healthy habits. Corporate health coaches may even offer extra resources, such as videos and worksheets, or form coaching groups on the side to help employees further.


Start a Health Coaching Consultancy

Many health coaches choose to start their own businesses so they can set their own hours, rates, and work with the clients they really enjoy working with. Many health coaching business owners choose to hire other accredited professionals to offer their clients a wider range of services. Owning your own business gives you the flexibility to work when and where you want and make important decisions about business growth.

Create Online Courses

By building and selling online coaching courses, you can distribute information to people whom you might not ordinarily get to reach. Course topics can run the gamut from how to raise a healthy child to ways to holistically improve bodybuilding performance. By building and selling courses, you can explore what you’re passionate about and share that information with paying customers.

Become a Private Health Coach

Private health coaches work one-on-one or in small groups with clients who are looking to improve their overall health. Many people enjoy private coaching as it allows them to foster a deep, personal relationship with their clients. It also allows them to be very specific with their guidance and plans rather than needing to cater to a group.

Other Career Ideas

Health consultant

Health writer

Mindset coaching

Health speaker or educator

Personal Trainer

Although personal trainers are well-versed in workouts and strength training, that’s definitely not the limit of their expertise. In fact, with comprehensive education and certification programs, that’s just the beginning of the personal training journey. As a trainer, you can work with clients to help manage stress, lose weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, increase athletic performance, quit smoking, and accomplish other significant health goals. Trainers work in a variety of settings and assist clients in moving toward long-term health and wellness.

Personal Training Careers


Workshop Facilitator

As a workshop facilitator, you can put together highly impactful workshops that drill down on one particular topic. These workshops often take place at wellness centers or gyms. In this role, you’ll research a particular topic and create a presentation that’s designed to appeal to a group. You might also create hands-on activities and handouts to help people absorb information.

Sports Team Trainer

As a personal trainer, you have the ability to address the needs of a specific sports team. This will give you the opportunity to learn the deeper aspects of a sport’s demands. For example, you might support a cycling team and help members with cross-training activities that keep them from overtraining their leg muscles. In this role, you’ll be part of a team’s resources that include coaches and physical therapists.

Injury Rehabilitation Specialist

Unfortunately, many people have accidents or get injured throughout the course of their lives. Trainers focused on rehabilitation may work in homes, hospitals, or rehabilitation centers alongside physical therapists to help people physically recuperate. For example, a trainer might help someone who has been in a car accident learn arm exercises to regain strength.


Your Own Gym

Many fitness trainers are excited by the idea of having their own space to train clients, employ their own handpicked staff, and create community. Gym owners may specialize in a particular type of exercise or approach. Owning a gym allows you to also host events, develop local partnerships, and set your own rates.

Private Personal Trainer

A private personal trainer will work with people individually or in small groups in gyms, outdoor settings, or even their homes. By working for yourself as a personal trainer, you’ll work closely with clients and create an exercise regime that works for them. Personal trainers often work nontraditional hours to accommodate clients before or after they need to be at their jobs or with their children, for example.

Fitness Writer

Personal trainers are extremely well-versed in the science of the fitness world through their education. If you like to write and enjoy diving into a variety of subjects, a fitness writing career might be a great choice.

Other Career Ideas

  • Program Specialist
  • Fitness Director
  • Wellness Director
  • Personal Trainer Manager
  • Athletic Performance Coach

Fitness Instructor

While personal trainers tend to work closely with clients, often one-on-one, fitness instructors thrive in group class settings. Putting together classes requires a high level of creativity and flexibility as well as knowledge about many of the most popular group offerings such as HIIT, spin, muscle conditioning, and circuit training. There are also more specialized classes that need insightful, experienced instructors, like those who lead groups in Pilates, yoga, aquatic exercises, kickboxing, stability ball training, indoor cycling, prenatal fitness, and youth fitness.

Fitness Instructor Careers


Fitness Instructor Manager

As a certified fitness instructor, you’ll have the knowledge to identify in others what makes an effective fitness instructor such as technique, enthusiasm, and skill in adjustments. As a fitness instructor manager, you’ll be able to help select a roster of instructors that’s well suited to a particular gym or studio.

Yoga Instructor

Yoga is different from most other forms of teaching as it focuses on breath, mindfulness, and balance as well as strength. Instructors may choose a number of styles from Bikram to Vinyasa. Instructors will typically spend their day teaching various scheduled classes and supporting students in balance, meditation, and breathing activities.


Open Your Own Studio

If you love teaching fitness, it’s possible you may want to take your involvement to the next level by opening your own studio. As a studio owner, you’ll decide on the branding, look, and feel of the studio and style of exercise to teach.

Teach Online or App-Based Fitness Classes

Many fitness instructors will video record their classes and put them online for people to purchase. Increasingly, people are developing mobile applications where people can take their fitness on-the-go. By simply reading the instructions or following prompts, users get the luxury of group instruction right from their phone.

Other Career Ideas

  • Kickboxing instructor
  • Corporate fitness instructor
  • Dance or barre instructor
  • Speaker or fitness writer
  • Gym manager


Step 3

What Are the Steps for Making a Career Change?

Now that you have explored the different types of opportunities available in the health and wellness industry, the next step is to find the area that fits your interests and abilities the most.

Select the Right Field

As you read through the descriptions in the previous section, what resonated with you the most? What made you feel energized and eager to learn more? You’re contemplating a career change in order to draw on your passion for a certain field, so don’t be afraid to tap into and acknowledge that enthusiasm.

Another important question is, what are your strengths and weaknesses in terms of each option? Maybe you lean toward being a nutrition professional, but your own eating habits aren’t quite what you’d like them to be. Or you like the idea of being a personal trainer but haven’t seen the inside of a gym or participated in any exercise programs for years.

You don’t need to eat perfectly and work out every day. But you do need to “live” the field in many ways. Often, health and wellness professionals are seen as examples to their clients and model the behavior that they’re recommending. Identify any changes you may need to make in your personal life as well as any knowledge or expertise you are currently lacking.

Explore Different Certifications

When you have your choices narrowed down to one or two fields, it’s time to look at your educational options. That’s where a certification program is vital. Certification from an accredited organization gives you the extensive knowledge you need to excel in the field and also assures your clients that you’ve received superior training.

Another advantage to earning a certification is that you can get your education much faster and at a more affordable price than with a four-year college degree. Plus, in a certification program, you’ll be learning only about your new field rather than studying the sometimes nonrelevant “foundation” and liberal arts courses that many colleges require.


Nutrition certifications will teach everything from vitamin A to Zinc when it comes to the connection between food and health. Certification curriculum will include how to teach healthy eating habits, strategic counseling, goal setting, and more.

Some of AFPA’s most popular certifications include our Holistic Nutritionist CertificationNutrition and Wellness Consultant Certification, and Sports Nutritionist Certification.


Health coaching certifications give you the tools you need to effectively and positively change clients’ habits. When you enroll in a health coaching certification, you’ll learn how to develop integrated wellness strategies, become an expert health advisor, and employ an evidence-based coaching methodology.

AFPA students can select from certifications such as the Health & Wellness Certification, and Holistic Health Coach Certification.


You’ll learn to apply the principles of exercise science, human anatomy, and biomechanics to design tailored exercise programs for clients. Personal trainers are also adept at conducting exercise testing that assesses cardiorespiratory function, body composition, muscular fitness, and flexibility.

There are many great personal training certification options that include Personal Trainer CertificationMaster Personal Trainer Certification, and Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification.


This type of certification will give you the skills to lead dynamic, safe, and effective group classes that significantly reduce injury risk while boosting student engagement. You’ll learn to explain and execute variations of movements in a breadth of classes, from boot camp to spin class.

Fitness instructors have a number of options for certification, including Yoga Instructor CertificationPre and Post Natal Fitness Specialist Certification, and Group Fitness Instructor Certification.

These are just a few examples of the types of certifications that are available and should give you an idea of the breadth of educational options to consider. Certification from an accredited organization gives you the extensive knowledge you need to excel in the field.

Set Your Starting Point

With certifications, you can get an initial education in a field and then move on to more advanced training that will help you deepen your knowledge or expand what you offer.

For example, you might earn a nutrition and wellness consultant certification and then jump up to a master-level certification as you begin to counsel clients. Or you could incorporate several fields together. For instance, you could earn a personal trainer certification and then go after a weight loss specialist certification if you find that many of your clients are struggling with weight issues. You can also specialize in certain populations, such as youth or seniors.

The more certifications you earn in the field, the greater your knowledge base will be and the more specialized opportunities you will find.

Decide on Other Skills You Need for Success

Certifications can bring you a long way toward establishing success in your career change, but knowledge of a particular field isn’t all you’ll need. Most likely, you’ll have to cultivate other types of skills, as well as understand your available resources and support.

For example:

  • If you’ll be running your own business, do you need to take an accounting course so that you can manage your books? Or, do you have the resources you need to find a trusted accountant to outsource to?
  • If you’ll be trying to attract clients, do you have a marketing strategy in place that includes social media, demand generation, and networking?
  • What will be the source of your income as you’re moving toward your goal? Are there ways you can economize to make the most of your savings while you transition to your new field?
  • Would you feel more confident after completing an internship? If so, what organizations, gyms, spas, or other businesses offer opportunities in your field?
  • Do you know any professionals who are doing the work you want to be doing? Can you set up an informational interview to find out more about what to expect as you move into that career?
  • Are there business-related classes that can help you have a more robust presence in the field, such as building your own website, writing, communication strategies, or sales?

Make a list of what you think you’ll need in terms of skills and resources so that you’re ready for the next step toward your career change.


Step 4

What Should Your Action Plan Look Like?

Now that you know your end goal, which area of health and wellness you want to enter, and skills that you need to learn, it’s time to put it all together into a plan of action.

Starting a new career may not be a linear progression—for example, you might earn a few certifications at once or earn one and then take on clients before getting another — but it’s helpful to put some milestone goals in place so that you can track your progress.

Think about each large milestone and then break it down into smaller, achievable tasks that you can put on the calendar.

For instance, “earning a certification” might break down into these smaller goals:

  • Compare certification programs
  • Register for a certification program
  • Take practice quizzes
  • Watch relevant videos
  • Study for the test
  • Take the test
  • Apply for relevant jobs to gain more experience

It’s helpful to break each milestone down into smaller tasks and give each milestone and related task a due date. Add these to your calendar and set reminders in your phone. Not only will that help you get organized, but you can also feel a sense of satisfaction as you move toward your big goal of changing your career. The more you can document your journey and mark down your successes, the more you’ll feel confident in the direction that you’ve chosen.

In choosing a career focused on health and wellness, you’ll not only be changing the lives of your clients and students but also your own. Make a solid plan that includes narrowing down your choices, picking a specialty, determining your strengths, and understanding your resources. Once you see how many opportunities there are in the health and wellness industry, you’ll be excited and energized for your fresh new career.


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