The increasing demand for more highly trained fitness professionals has prodded some industry long-timers to put their heads together to unveil the first MBA with a specialization in commercial fitness.
Opening its doors for the first class in the summer of 2009, the program at the American International College in Springfield, Mass., is designed so participants can complete all the courses during two summers with additional online courses and research completed during the nine months between the summers.
"We want to show people that a future in the fitness business is possible, that there is a career path that can be followed," said Marc Onigman, owner of Stone Hearth Fitness, who is consulting with the college on the program's development.
"As the country's interest in stemming obesity and inactivity rises, the future of fitness is a bright one and the industry will need more trained fitness professionals to run clubs, gyms, physical therapy centers, corporate fitness centers and other venues," Onigman said.
Course work will go way beyond the names of muscles and how to do a squat better, instead focusing on management skills and other key business practices. Core program courses will be taught by professors at the School of Business Administration at the college and will include courses such as principles of management and organizational behavior, managerial accounting, principles of marketing, and human resource management. Commercial fitness industry experts will act as adjunct faculty to teaching industry-specific courses.
In addition, "current topics" classes will introduce key topics in the commercial fitness industry so students can apply their knowledge and concepts. Teamwork will be stressed so they can demonstrate creative- thinking and problem-solving.
In one final project, students will work in teams to prepare a comprehensive business plan that will be designed to withstand the scrutiny of investors. The teams will present their plans to the advisory board to complete the degree program.
Although for its kickoff focusing on commercial fitness, organizer Onigman noted that the board has considered the addition of a retail track -- a track that is still on the books for the future.
"It makes sense that retail owners and managers could benefit from such a program," he said. "Some of the commercial fitness courses would cross over as would others in the college's School of Business Administration."
For now, the commercial fitness MBA will launch the higher-education effort with tuition yet to be determined. An application deadline will be in the first quarter of 2009 with the exact date pending.
For more information or to receive a brochure and application, go to www.aic.edu/fitmba, which Onigman said should be live by Sept. 19. Information is also available by emailing Onigman at email@example.com.