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One benefit of a career in health and wellness is the variety of workplace options. You can work in gyms and fitness centers, or for healthcare organizations. Another option is to provide your services to large businesses. Professionals in these roles are called corporate wellness specialists.
A corporate wellness specialist helps companies improve their employees’ overall health. Generally, they do this through a workplace wellness program.
Worksite wellness programs generally have two goals: health education and health promotion.
Health education involves providing information. You might talk to the employee about their health risks based on their current level of fitness. Or you may share the connection between obesity and cancer. A wellness specialist could also explain which actions help improve employee health.
Health promotion is about encouraging the employee to take positive steps. Corporate wellness specialists motivate their clients to exercise and eat a healthy diet. They also promote the value of relieving stress and getting good sleep. Quitting smoking and stopping other habits harmful to one’s health are covered as well.
One of the best ways to learn what this role entails is to look at the job description. Most provide a list of some of the most important duties required.
Responsibilities you might find listed for a wellness specialist include:
teach employees strategies to improve physical and mental health
design, promote, and deliver health education programs to individuals and groups
work with employees to create healthy self-care routines
conduct assessments to help employees understand their fitness level and health risks
motivate and encourage employees to develop positive health habits
help employees overcome harmful health habits
develop sound exercise, nutrition, or other health programs
refer employees to outside health resources, if needed
The job description for a wellness specialist can vary from employer to employer. Read each post thoroughly to get a clearer picture of what is expected of a specific company.
Roughly four in five large employers offer a corporate wellness program (1). This is good news for workplace wellness professionals. Why? Because it means that your job prospects are wide open. You can work for either a profit or nonprofit business, for instance. Or you might offer employee wellness on behalf of a city, state, or federal agency.
You can also work in a variety of industries. Maybe you have a passion for tech, health care, or manufacturing. Companies in each hire professionals to offer worksite wellness programs to their employees.
Sometimes you’ll find this health and wellness role under a different title. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for this type of position. Other names for a corporate wellness specialist include:
corporate wellness coordinator
corporate wellness coach
corporate health coach
An employee wellness program provides many benefits. Some are benefits for the employer. Others are more directed at the employees.
One employer-based benefit of a healthy workplace is less absenteeism. Healthy employees don’t need a lot of sick days. And if they look after their health, they’re less likely to have a chronic disease. This is important since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic illness (2).
Running a full staff leads to greater productivity. It also helps improve process efficiency. Employees who feel their best typically have a better work product.
Employees benefit from these programs as well. Greater physical health means fewer aches, pains, and illnesses. Better mental health means that you’re less prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. All of this leads to a higher quality of life.
In Corporate Wellness Program: Linking Employee and Organizational Health, this book’s editors share four principles for leading a successful wellness program (3). A successful wellness specialist:
Defines health to include employee well-being. This involves creating a work-life balance for employees. It also requires reducing work-related stress or unreasonable demands.
Creates a supportive work environment. The employee’s health must be a priority for the company. Workers must feel support for engaging in healthy behaviors.
Offers health education focused on prevention. This principle centers around teaching employees how to prevent health issues. This could be by teaching stress reduction skills or ways to improve sleep. It might also involve addressing workplace issues that can hinder health. This includes workplace bullying.
Provides rewards when employees engage in healthy behaviors. Sometimes, the best incentive for changing behaviors is a reward. You might offer a gift for completing a workshop. The employer will decide what it can offer financially.
Implement these four pillars or strategies into your wellness initiative. If you do, it can help boost your results.
According to Salary.com, the average health and wellness coach salary in the United States is $63,146 (4). Glassdoor.com lists the average annual salary as $49,276 (5). Keep in mind that education can play a large role in salary. Some health and wellness jobs require a certification while others require a degree.
It’s also possible that a wellness specialist may earn a rate similar to a fitness instructor. The median pay for fitness instructors is $45,760 per year or around $22 per hour (6).
Learn more: How much does a health coach make?
Some employers want their wellness specialists to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This degree may be in health education, psychology, exercise science, or a related field.
They also typically desire someone with prior work experience. This experience could involve health coaching, wellness activity development, or the coordination of a wellness program. Some ask for three years' experience. Others want five years or more.
How can you get this type of experience? Network with individuals on a wellness committee and offer to look over their programs. They may decide to hire you for your expertise.
If you know a business owner, you could also reach out to them directly. Let them know that you’d to help develop a wellness program for their employees. Explain the benefits of doing this and how you can help.
Some agencies offer a certified corporate wellness specialist program. Others enable you to become a certified health education specialist. Depending on the employer, this type of certification may be required to apply. But they may also accept a similar certification instead.
One such option is that of a health coach. A health coach has training in several areas associated with health and wellness. This professional also knows how to work with people with varying fitness levels and health needs.
ISSA offers a Health Coach certification course. This course teaches strategies for helping clients achieve their health, wellness, and fitness goals. It also prepares you for a corporate wellness role, providing the education and skills needed to carry out corporate wellness programs.
ISSA's Health Coach certification is for personal trainers and other health professionals who want to help clients overcome physical and mental health barriers to achieve their optimal wellness.
Abraham, J. M. (2019). Employer wellness programs—a work in progress. JAMA, 321(15), 1462. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.3376
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 13). Chronic diseases in America. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, January). What attributes characterize a successful Corporate Wellness Program? : Monthly Labor Review. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2021/book-review/what-attributes-characterize-a-successful-corporate-wellness-program.htm
Salary.com, S. built by: (2022, September 15). Health and Wellness coach salary. Salary.com. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.salary.com/research/salary/posting/health-and-wellness-coach-salary
Salary: Health Coach. glassdoor. (2023, February). Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/health-coach-salary-SRCH_KO0,12.htm
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 8). Fitness trainers and instructors : Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm#tab-5
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