News Hub


Athletic Training and Fitness: Rewarding Careers that Build strength, Health and Wellness

Jun 1, 2018

With soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic health conditions in the United States, demand for cost-effective, quality health-promotion and prevention are at an all-time high. Recognition of the benefits of good nutrition and exercise in preventing chronic disease has created a wide-open career path for qualified athletic trainers and fitness professionals.

Students in the fitness center

Fitness careers at DVC

Shelly PiersonShelly Pierson is a member of the Kinesiology faculty at Diablo Valley College and is the program director of the personal training / fitness instruction associate’s degree and certificate programs. She also serves as the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams. The flexibility of DVC’s fitness and training programs enable students to truly customize their education plan.

Pierson comments, “Students can choose to earn a certificate, an associate of science degree, or both. While both programs offer the same core courses in exercise science, the A.S. degree program includes the general education courses necessary to facilitate transfer to a four-year college or university.”

Coursework involves gaining insight on the function of the various body systems, and how they adapt to exercise. Students will learn how to design exercise programs for clients, and how to teach proper exercise technique. Both within the classroom and through internship experience, students explore professional aspects of personal training, fitness assessments, sports psychology, nutrition, and first aid/CPR.

Student Success

Ryan Allison

Ryan AllisonRyan Allison was majoring in Administration of Justice at DVC, but an unexpected incident led him to change his major to kinesiology. “A freeway accident led me into physical therapy, and ever since then, my only goal is to help people recover from injuries and teach proper movement.”

Ryan transferred to California State University, Sacramento and obtained a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, with a concentration in therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation. He also completed Professor Pierson’s national personal training exam preparation course. He successfully passed the exam, and is now in his 10th year as a certified personal trainer.

Lori Golden
Personal Training/Fitness Instruction

Lori GoldenLori Golden had worked in health education and marketing communications for over a decade prior to enrolling at DVC. Although she already had a master’s degree in health education, Lori felt that upgrading her skills and becoming a personal trainer would be more fulfilling, and would better align her education with her professional goals.

When exploring career education programs, Lori considered a variety of factors, including quality, length and cost of the program, flexibility of the class schedule, and proximity to her home. She also talked with the Contra Costa County Workforce Development Department of the Employment Development Department, and staff suggested that she consider DVC.

Lori shares, “My experience in the personal training program has been very positive and inspiring. The knowledge of the instructors and the range of learning modalities has been really helpful to learn difficult material like anatomy and physiology. I have also enjoyed learning through practical applications, such as a semester-long internship where I shadowed students…and got to work with my own private client. The combination of these experiences makes me feel I am being well-prepared for a job in personal training…The program even includes a prep class to help you study for the national certification exam.”

Professor Pierson says, “The hands-on internship at DVC is unique. The personal training students work directly with DVC faculty and staff to earn hours of experience while educating and training faculty on fitness and wellness strategies. It is a situation that benefits both the student and the DVC employee…Our program has tight connections within the surrounding fitness community and employers therein…Students who complete our program are guaranteed a job in a fitness facility with a typical starting wage of $20 – $25 per hour.”

Reflecting on his journey that began at DVC, Ryan notes, “Life teaches you more than anything, but school prepares you for life…Don’t learn just for yourself, but so you can teach others and pass the torch. Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react.” Wise words from someone who began his career in fitness and rehabilitation after recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident, and who now helps others to achieve their own health and fitness goals.

Health and Fitness Careers

Median Salary: $40,700

Personal Trainer:
Median Salary: $72,547

Fitness Instructor
Median Salary: $53,520

Occupational Therapist
Median Salary: $98,280

Physical Therapist Assistant
Median Salary: $62,150

Physical Therapist
Median Salary: $96,680

Sports/Recreation Management
Median Salary: $62,820

Athletic Trainer
Median Salary: $57,310

Median Salary: $77,230

All salary data on San Francisco-Hayward-Oakland, CA from Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2017),, and

Fitness career pathways at DVC

  • Associate in Arts for Transfer – Kinesiology
  • Associate of Science – Kinesiology
  • Associate of Science – Sports Medicine / Athletic Training
  • Associate of Science – Fitness Instruction
  • Certificate of Achievement – Coaching
  • Certificate of Achievement – Personal Training