By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK, Sept 10 (Reuters) - As the American waistline continues its spread, fitness is shaping up as one of the hottest careers of this tepid economic recovery.

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by a brisk 24 percent in the decade to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as businesses, health professionals and insurance companies take sharper aim at the sedentary lifestyle.

"The obesity epidemic has produced a lot of noise and talk and chatter," said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which has certified more than 50,000 fitness professionals.

"Helping individuals be more active is important and fitness professionals can be at the center of that," he said.

Obesity rates have sky-rocketed in the last 20 years. More than one third of adults in the United States are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bryant said the health crisis is strongly linked to the lifestyle choices that fitness professionals, such as personal trainers and group fitness instructors, address.

Despite the shaky economy, health club membership is up more than 10 percent over the past three years, according to IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Exercise physiologist and ACE spokesperson Jessica Matthews said workplace wellness campaigns also increase demand for fitness professionals.

Bryan said the average salary for a certified personal trainer is about $53,000 and rising. A high school diploma is sufficient to begin a career in fitness, he added, although more than two-thirds of professionals have college degrees.

Matthews said the industry attracts career changers driven by the downturn to reinvent their working selves.

"In the last few years people have been coming from all different industries," said Matthews, who has worked in fitness for 12 years.

While you don't need college to enter the field, she said, continuing education is a must to remain in it.

"It's accessible, but it involves a great commitment," she explained. "There's the preparation and study for the exam, and then the requirement of continuing education to stay current."

Bryant said the individual must re-certify every two years.

Matthews, who is qualified in group fitness, personal training and yoga, said the most successful trainers are the constant learners.

The obesity epidemic is the United States is also a contributing factor.

"There's a huge push from the weight standpoint," she said. "Most people come to fitness professionals with weight goals."

Bryant said the profession is about more than aesthetics: it's about making a connection with the client.

"It's called personal training for a reason," Matthews explained. "You're an educator, a motivator, someone who holds them (clients) accountable. You coach individuals. At the end of the day it's customer service."

Husband-and-wife team Phil and Michelle Dozoirs opened their mom-and-pop gym, BreakthruFitness, in Pasadena, California, just as the economy was tipping into free fall.

"We opened in 2009, pretty much when the economy fell apart, said Phil Dozoirs. "We had both been working in gyms for 15 years, me as trainer, my wife as group exercise instructor."

The Dozoirs envisioned and created a club where people buy only what they need.

Dozoirs said his programs range from eight-week weight loss to total conditioning.

"People will pay more money for it if there's a start-finish," he said. "For us it's been really successful financially."

When he hires a new fitness professional, Dozoirs said he looks for a person with a pleasing personality who is open to learning.

"They don't have to be fit, as long as they're on the path to fitness. I believe they should walk the walk," he said. (Editing by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Loading Slideshow...
  • 10. Optometrists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 33.1 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 11,300 <strong>Median income:</strong> $94,990 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Hawaii, North Dakota, Montana Optometrists specialize in the care of eyes and vision. Their responsibilities include diagnosing eye injuries and diseases, as well as prescribing glasses and contact lenses. In order to practice, they are required to have a Doctor of Optometry degree, presently awarded by just 20 accredited programs, and must be licensed by the National Boards in Optometry. Those who meet these qualifications are often extremely well-compensated: the top 10% of optometrists earned in excess of $166,400. With vision problems becoming more frequent as people grow older, the number of optometrists is expected to rise by 33.1% between 2010 and 2020. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 9. Occupational Therapists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 33.5 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 36,400 <strong>Median income:</strong> $72,320 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire "Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working," according to the BLS. Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master's degree, which generally takes two years to complete. The number of occupational therapists is expected to reach 145,200 by 2020, as an aging baby-boomer generation looks to maintain its independence and stay active. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 8. Veterinarians

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 35.9 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 22,000 <strong>Median income:</strong> $82,040 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Montana, Colorado, Iowa "Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working," according to the BLS. Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master's degree, which generally takes two years to complete. The number of occupational therapists is expected to reach 145,200 by 2020, as an aging baby-boomer generation looks to maintain its independence and stay active. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 7. Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 36.4 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 36,400 <strong>Median income:</strong> $76,700 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Massachusetts, California, Washington Though the roles of medical scientists vary from job to job, all study biological systems to understand their effects on human health. Medical scientists often work for the federal government, at research universities or in the private sector. By 2020, the number of medical scientists is projected to increase to more than 136,000, as the population of the United States grows and ages and the demand for prescription drugs rises. Educational requirements are quite high, with most positions asking for either a doctorate or a medical degree. The annual pay of the top 10% of medical scientists was $142,800. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 6. Audiologists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 36.8 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 4,800 <strong>Median income:</strong> $66,660 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> New Mexico, Colorado, West Virginia Audiologists treat patients who have problems with their hearing, balance or ears. A doctoral degree is necessary, as is a state license, though exact requirements differ by state. Explaining projected job growth, the BLS notes that "hearing loss increases as people age, so an aging population is likely to increase demand for audiologists." There are not very many audiologists, and a projected 36.8 percent increase in jobs would bring the total number of audiologists to 17,800 by the end of the decade. Annual salaries exceeded $102,210 for the top 10 percent of audiologists. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 5. Dental Hygienists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 37.7 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 68,500 <strong>Median income:</strong> $68,250 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Michigan, Utah, Idaho From 2010 to 2020, the number of dental hygienists is projected to rise by 37.7 percent to more than 250,000. Factors driving increased demand for this occupation include ongoing research linking oral health to general health, as well as an aging population keeping more of its teeth. Dental hygienists typically do not need a professional degree or previous work experience, though they often need an associate's degree and a license. Typical job responsibilities include cleaning teeth and taking dental X-rays. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 4. Physical Therapists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 39.0 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 77,400 <strong>Median income:</strong> $76,310 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine Physical therapists assist patients by helping to address and correct dysfunctional movement and pain. They are required to have a postgraduate professional degree, typically a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and a license. Those completing these prerequisites join one of the fastest-growing professions in the country -- by 2020, the number of positions is expected to rise by 39 percent. The BLS states that "demand for physical therapy services will come, in large part, from the aging baby boomers, who are staying active later in life than previous generations did." The top 10 percent of physical therapists earned more than $107,920. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 3. Market Research Analysts And Marketing Specialists

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 41.2 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 116,600 <strong>Median income:</strong> $60,570 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Delaware, Massachusetts, New York Market research analysts work in most industries, monitoring and forecasting marketing and sales trends, as well as collecting and analyzing data on their companies' products or services. To become a market research analyst, a bachelor's degree is typically required, though many analysts have a master's degree. Citing increases in the use of market research across all industries, the BLS projects the number of positions in the field will rise to almost 400,000 by 2020. Top-earning market research analysts made more than $111,440 annually. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 43.5 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 23,400 <strong>Median income:</strong> $64,380 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Rhode Island, Florida, South Dakota Diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals and other facilities, conducting ultrasounds on patients and analyzing the resulting images. The BLS projects an increase of 43.5 percent in the number of positions between 2010 and 2020, which would raise the total number of such jobs to 77,100. Explaining the driving factors behind the growth, the BLS states that "as ultrasound technology evolves, it will be used as a substitute for procedures that are costly, invasive or expose patients to radiation." Sonographers typically need an associate's degree, and many employers prefer candidates to have professional certification. The top 10 percent of sonographers made more than $88,490 annually <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 1. Biomedical Engineers

    <strong>Percent increase:</strong> 61.7 percent <strong>Total new jobs (2010-2020):</strong> 9,700 <strong>Median income:</strong> $81,540 <strong>States with the most jobs per capita:</strong> Massachusetts, Utah, Minnesota The work of biomedical engineers typically involves designing or maintaining biomedical equipment, such as artificial organs and X-ray machines. These jobs often require a great deal of technical knowledge in fields such as biology, engineering, math and chemistry. Because of this, a bachelor's degree is typically needed. The professional requirements come with impressive compensation. The median income for such jobs was $81,540 and the top 10 percent earned more than $126,990. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of biomedical engineers is projected to rise by 61.7 percent, more than four times the projected growth rate for all jobs, which is 14 percent. To explain its growth projections for the profession, the BLS cites the baby boomer generation's growing demand for biomedical devices and procedures as it "seeks to maintain its healthy and active lifestyle." <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/08/30/the-best-paying-jobs-of-the-future-2/#ixzz258VQKtNN" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St. </a>