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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Wellness

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Wellness

Value
The best online master’s degree in wellness for value is California University of Pennsylvania, a renowned public university specializing in liberal arts, science and technology, and professional studies, which offers an online Master of Science degree in exercise science and health promotion, with a focus on wellness and fitness. This university ranked among PayScale.com’s top 2012 ROI Rankings, with an annual return on investment (ROI) of 4.3%, and an annual ROI of 4.9% for students receiving financial aid. As CalU.edu proudly mentions, a crucial touchstone of the university’s mission is to “help every student develop a degree of character while preparing for a meaningful career.” The Princeton Review even named Cal U one of the best regional universities in the Northeast.

Flexibility
The online master’s degree in wellness at California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best flexibility. Students gave CalU a high score for most flexible class schedules on College Prowler, and the Graduate Programs page of the school’s website explains how students at CalU can have the best of both worlds — the convenience of a flexible learning environment, and the richness of a full graduate curriculum.

Career Support
California University of Pennsylvania knows the positive influence a strong career services program can have on a college student, who will soon start making important decisions about jobs and a career. At CalU.edu, students can explore the Career Advantage Program, an exclusive resource created specifically for CalU students to have an advantage in making informed, enduring decisions about their career paths after graduation. By enrolling in this invaluable organization, CalU students are able to identify their interests, skills and values, choose a major, explore career options, gain experience, and learn how to implement their career plan. For all this, California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for career support.

Financial Support

California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best financial support for its online master’s degree in wellness. The Financial Aid section of CalU.edu reports that approximately 96% of all CalU students receive financial aid, perhaps because of the easy access to clear and thorough information for students on the university website. Here, students can research all-things-financial-aid, like how financial aid works, and what kinds of aid to apply for, as well as what web resources are available, and how to apply for a Cal Card, to manage student loans.

Technology Support
The award for best online master’s degree in wellness for technology support goes to California University of Pennsylvania. CalU’s University Technology Services department features a comprehensive Help Desk, offering answers to FAQs, downloads, and assistance with logging on to CWIS, the CalU intranet. Full-service assistance is also available via the clearly posted tech support staff contact information.

Student Engagement
California University of Pennsylvania seems to have given much thought to the importance of developing programs to encourage student engagement and, in fact, the university website’s Get Involved section aims to enable students to do just that. Here, students can find a multitude of ways to get involved, with an outline of the many clubs, organizations, associations, and leadership programs available for students, as well as a list of upcoming events and activities. For its many outstanding efforts, California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for student engagement.

Disability Support

California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for disability support. The dedicated Office for Students with Disabilities at California University of Pennsylvania is of the philosophy that “a responsible partnership between the University and its students with disabilities will facilitate the prospects for academic success.” On this department’s web page, students can find information about available accommodations, applying for services, documentation and assessment reports, and staff contacts.

Library and Research Support
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for library and research support. CalU supports using innovative technologies to help students access the many academic resources that the university’s Manderino Library has to offer; among these unique resources are the option to live chat and text-message librarians with questions, online searching of the many e-libraries and extensive special collections, and a handy list of external references for easy web research. Students showed their appreciation for these innovations by ranking CalU in the Best Library category of top universities, on College Prowler.

Learning Support
The award for best online master’s degree in wellness for learning support goes to California University of Pennsylvania. At the Office of Student Retention and Success of CalU, among the many innovative resources available here, students can access services like scheduling and placement testing, tutoring, first-year seminars, and academic assistance programs. This department also offers online web advisors and “Student Success Facilitators” in the on-campus office.

Faculty Credentials
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for faculty credentials. According to the CalU.edu web page specifically for this degree program, online faculty is required to complete an eCertification course preparing them to use the tools needed to teach in a web-based environment. They also have a wide variety of expertise in their respective fields of study, with more than 75% holding earned doctorates in their chosen discipline. Also on this web page, students can research faculty bios individually, or contact professors directly, for more information.

Faculty Accessibility
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for faculty accessibility. Students looking for academic advising at CalU are invited to take advantage of the university’s extensive advisory and consultation services, and are reassured that faculty maintain regular office hours for student consultations. And, apparently, CalU knows the benefits of keeping class sizes small: according to College Prowler, students gave CalU a high score for having one of the best student-to-faculty ratios, among top U.S. universities.

Alumni Engagement
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for alumni engagement. CalU’s renowned alumni community maintains a visible presence on CalU.edu and also on various social media sites, and also keeps alums connected through online networks and directories, and with media galleries and web interviews. Alums of CalU are eligible to receive discounts on insurance and car rentals, and they can even continue to use the university’s Career Services department resources, after they’ve graduated.

Prior Learning Options
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for prior learning options. At CalU’s Office of Student Retention and Success, the Prior Learning Assessment can help those who need prior learning consideration, or would like to transfer credits from prior education. Here, students with prior learning experience can find all of the information they’ll need regarding the application process, including placement testing, transferable credit information, and direct contacts for web advisors for additional assistance.

New Online Student Orientation
California University of Pennsylvania wins the award for best online master’s degree in wellness for its new online student orientation resources. With exceptionally thorough resources and a corresponding web page, new online student orientation at CalU is simple yet comprehensive. New online students can access the latest news about admission, computer requirements, email and communication requirements, and online advisement, among other resources, all from the same landing page.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Wellness

Online master’s degrees in wellness are designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to promote healthy lifestyles in themselves and others, and to conduct research in the discipline. Health and wellness may be a specialization in a broader master’s degree program in nutrition or sports management, or it may be a stand-alone program called wellness promotion. Individuals who may benefit from earning an online master’s degree in wellness include nutritionists, fitness trainers, health educators, and related professions who have an undergraduate background in exercise science, exercise physiology, physical education, health promotion, health education, or a related area.

Students whose undergraduate background is in an unrelated discipline may need to take undergraduate prerequisites or graduate-level foundational courses to get up to speed on the fundamentals of human anatomy, physiology, metabolism, and nutrition. Most master’s degree programs in wellness can be completed in approximately two years of full-time study, but program length varies depending on the number of credit hours required by your university. Students who have completed prior graduate work at another accredited school may be able to transfer credits into the program, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to graduate.

Class Curriculum

Curriculum for a master’s program in wellness focuses on the student’s specialization, if any. For example, a specialization in chronic disease may require courses in obesity prevention and treatment, diabetes prevention and treatment, and chronic disease case studies, while a more generalized program will require in-depth courses in general nutrition, physiology, and strength and conditioning. Students may have the choice to follow a clinical/practitioner track or a research track, depending on their career goals, which will also determine the types of courses they take. A few courses you may encounter include:

  • Advanced Exercise Physiology. In this course, students take an in-depth look at theories relating to how the body adapts when undergoing certain types of conditioning. The course emphasizes the how the body responds physiologically to exercise regimens and sports training, work environments that entail physical labor, and implications for preventing disease and rehabilitating people after injuries.
  • Nutrition in Sport and Exercise. This course explores how nutrition regimens can optimize the body’s ability to perform well during exercise. Students also learn how nutrition relates to how energy is released during physical activity or athletic performance and how energy is metabolized.
  • Wellness Promotion. In this course, students learn how to promote health and wellness to various population groups, including adults and children, athletes, those with chronic illnesses, and people from different cultural backgrounds. Students also learn how health and wellness promotion focuses on the health of the whole person — physically, psychologically, and socially — and may even touch on environmental considerations that can effect health and wellness.

While the majority of course work in an online master’s degree program in wellness can be completed online, some courses may require a student to report to a campus to participate in labs, where they learn and apply advanced laboratory concepts. Students in a research track generally complete a comprehensive exam and a thesis, while students in a clinical/practitioner track complete a supervised clinical internship, as well as several practicum experiences in different health and wellness settings.

Building a Career

With an online master’s degree in wellness, students may be qualified to advance in their current line of work at gyms, fitness clubs, wellness spas, corporate fitness units, community health centers, or in private practice as strength coaches, health and fitness consultants, nutritionists, or dieticians. Others may work in high school or collegiate athletics. Still others use their master’s degree as a stepping stone into future doctoral study in health and wellness as they pursue careers in teaching, research, and scholarly writing.

Many nutritionists and dieticians have advanced degrees, and most states require these professionals to be licensed, registered, or certified, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment for nutritionists and dieticians is projected to grow 20% through the year 2020, which is faster than average. These professionals reported a median yearly salary of $53,250 in May 2010, the BLS noted.

Another career path for those with master’s degrees in this field is health educators. Health educators promote healthy behaviors and create programs that encourage people to make healthy life choices. They work in a variety of settings, including healthcare facilities, colleges, public health departments, nonprofits, and private businesses, according to the BLS. Job growth for health educators through 2020 is projected to be 37%, which is much faster than other occupations. Health educators reported a median yearly salary of $45,830 in May 2010.

Even though projected employment growth is positive for some of the best jobs in health and wellness, remember that having a master’s degree does not guarantee that you will be able to find a job, as job availability will depend on where you live and the state of the economy. Salaries will also vary based on a number of factors, including your level of experience, the size of your employer or client base, the region of the country you live in, and other considerations.

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