Fit Careers

Health and fitness science-related professional options for students

Nye Story

They asked and Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) responded.

Wilmington area high school coaches and athletic department staff asked the college if it was interested in developing a health and fitness science program.

“That’s what kind of started the conversation and that’s when we looked into starting a program and considering if it would be a good fit for us,” says program director ALLISON NYE.

The Health and Fitness Science program offers students a choice of three curriculum tracks — one in which the student received an associate’s degree from CFCC the other two that offer Bachelor’s degrees from the University of North Carolina Wilmington through an articulation agreement which paves the way to smoothly transfer CFCC credits to the university portion of the program.

Nye, who’s been a physical education instructor at CFCC since 1996, says those completing the program with a group fitness instructor or personal training certification can go right to work. Those who continue their education at UNCW may major in exercise science or healthful living/fitness educations.

The program combines lecture and hands-on, application-style curriculum. Classes are currently held at the downtown campus. Starting in the fall, some will also be offered at Southeast Area Technical High School.

The program has two full-time and one part-time faculty but plan to hire more as the program grows.

Nye says opportunities in exercise science-related fields — including personal trainers, fitness directors, exercise and sports nutritionists, exercise psychologists or physiologists —are growing and the demand may rise as people realize the importance of exercise for preventative care, take a more general interest in their health, or recover from medical conditions.

Many of the students have played high school sports while others enrolled to prepare themselves for career changes. They range in age from 17 to 37. The majority, at least for now, are looking to be a personal trainer or earn group exercise certification. But some students have other aspirations, such as one current student who wants to be a doctor and another, a physical therapist.

“We’re a good foundation for both of them,” Nye says.

Nye says program staff have learned the importance of advising students early on in the program and ensuring they understood what classes they needed to take in which order for each of the three tracks.

In addition, they want to be sure high school counselors have all the information they need to advise students about the program.

Program members constantly evaluate what works and what needs improvement, including in the area of student recruitment and retention.

Team members have frequent conversations about fitness and equipment trends. They work with local fitness professionals, partnering with valuable and reliable businesses that can provide work-based learning.

The team stays up to date by monitoring valid and reliable organizations such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, and other resources. They’re also tied closely to UNCW since many of their students will transfer there.

The open enrollment program began last fall with its first cohort of students, who will cycle through five semesters. COVID meant staff and students needed to wear masks and remain socially distant and class sizes were reduced. There are about 15 students in the program.

“But overall, we still kept the integrity of the program by having the students show up in-person,” she says. “That was important to us … that we still kept contact with them face-to-face.”

“With it being the first time seeing these students and the first time we had started this program; it was really critical for us to still see them and still make sure we made that connection.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to

Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for our WILMA newsletters and announcements. 

Categories: Health