Wellness Program Planner

More and more businesses are offering some form of health promotion or "wellness" program to their employees. Wellness program planners are in demand.

Wellness programs can encompass a range of health topics, including stress management, nutrition, and fitness. "Wellness is really dealing with the whole growth of the individual -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually," says Cameron Johnston, creator of WellChoices seminars.

Wellness program planners can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, non-profit agencies, corporations, and fitness facilities. But one element of the job remains the same: helping people.

"The thing that I like best about my job is that what I do can truly impact the quality of life for those with whom I work," says Amy Dimberio, president of Wellness Strategies.

And both the individual and the program sponsor profit from such efforts. According to the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA), corporate wellness results in lower health-care costs, reduced absenteeism, decreased injuries, and higher productivity, among other benefits.

Anne Helmke is director of member services for the National Wellness Association (NWA). She, has noticed an increase in employment as consultants and in hospital or university settings.

Susan MacConnie is an advisor for the exercise science and wellness management program at Humboldt State University in California. In her opinion, the wellness industry is in a state of transition due to changes in health care.

"As we try to move more towards preventative measures for health, there will be more opportunities, but the location may shift. There may be more community programs. It may be insurance companies, it may still be corporate-type programs. Some of them may even be in...physician's offices," she says.

Deborah Jones, chairperson of the Health, Work and Wellness Conference, says there's a trend towards combining wellness with related areas, such as organizational development and occupational health and safety. Although this requires a consultant to be well versed in each area, it also presents more opportunities.

The Wellness Work

What exactly does a wellness program planner do? As a consultant, Dimberio develops and implements wellness programs tailored to meet each client's needs. She also creates her own marketing materials, sales presentations and proposals.

"The majority of my days are spent developing programs, implementing on-site programs, and marketing my business to new clients by making sales calls and initiating proposals."

The sales calls are the hardest part of Dimberio's job. "Calling on employers and trying to encourage them to offer on-site wellness programs can be very, very challenging and oftentimes extremely frustrating," she says.

Johnston's primary focus is helping individuals through his WellChoices seminars. He provides half-day and whole-day wellness and stress management seminars to groups ranging from eight people to more than 100. There is no typical day for him, and he enjoys the flexibility, variety, and travel that giving seminars provides.

As the director of wellness for Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic, Janice Joyner oversees both patient and employee wellness activities.

"I would describe my job as helping people make lifestyle changes to improve their health or to prevent illness," she says.

"These [changes] include learning about good nutrition, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and developing mental and spiritual fitness as well."

Joyner spends time each day talking with individual patients and employees to assist them with meal plans, exercise programs, and stress management techniques.

Wellness Wages

Joyner points out that salaries can depend on two things: the level of training -- including education and experience -- and the job setting. Health-care settings usually provide better pay than fitness clubs or corporations.

She estimates that salaries range from $20,000 for consultants holding a bachelor's degree to $40,000 for those with a master's degree.

Words of Wisdom

Wellness program planners can come from a variety of backgrounds. Joyner was originally a community college counselor, and later a clinic manager at an outpatient obesity treatment center.

Dimberio worked for an HMO developing and implementing wellness programs for six years before starting her own wellness and health education consulting business. Johnston's background includes 20 years in the pastoral ministry, while Jones started out as a dietitian.

A degree in health science, health education, or wellness can provide valuable skills and credibility. Joyner advises having an area of specialization, but taking other courses to prepare for more than one role.

"For someone just starting out, try to get experience in lots of different areas of the field," suggests Joyner. "Avoid being trained to do only one thing -- like just write exercise prescriptions, or just do meal planning."

Dimberio suggests spending time with someone already working in the field to learn more about the career itself, since there are many different areas of focus. "It is also important to gain as much experience as possible through volunteer opportunities and internships," she adds.

Jones recommends doing some research into what has worked, what hasn't, and why. Networking is important, since it enables a consultant to draw from experts in different fields. She also suggests that planners work for a corporation first before working on their own as a consultant.

The bottom line: "Wellness works," says Jones. "It's a win-win situation for employer and employee." And the wellness program planner can come out a winner, too.


International Association for Worksite Health Promotion
Has chapters across North America

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733