For Concordia-Chicago graduate Nicole Golden, her career in fitness began when she was 30. After working as an educational consultant, she decided to follow her passion towards fitness.
“I started as a Zumba instructor, and eventually became a personal trainer. I opened my own gym in 2016, and have been working as a personal trainer since then,” Golden said. “I did go on to get other subspecialties: I have the NASM-CES, I got a master trainer designation from NASM, and as soon as I did that, I thought ‘Hey, I think I want to dive a little deeper, I want to do a little more.’ I had a little more interest in nutrition particularly, so I decided to start looking at master’s programs.”
After looking at other programs at the University of Florida and California University of Pennsylvania, Golden discovered the Sports Nutrition concentration at Concordia-Chicago.
“The deciding factor really was the curriculum. I felt like the courses looked like they were hard science, very geared toward what I was interested in, not a lot of fluff,” she said. “Ultimately that’s why I decided.”
Golden said she found that the courses provided her with a deep understanding of the science side of things.
“When you become a trainer, it’s like they’re teaching you how to become a mechanic. You look at templates, and you learn how to implement exercise programs,” she said. “But I feel like when you go a little bit deeper, like in the program at Concordia, you learn to be the engineer, you design the car.”
In addition to a solid background in science, Golden says learning how to evaluate research in the program was key.
“We learned what makes research good and bad, and then how to take these research concepts and apply them in practice,” she said. “That’s the most valuable thing that I learned from the program.”
Because of the fully online format of Concordia-Chicago, Golden had the opportunity to gain her master’s without leaving her town of Sayre, PA.
“I live in a rural area in Pennsylvania. It’s not so easy to get to a university where I can go on site and have a graduate program,” she said. “If distance learning programs didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have been able to obtain a master’s degree, because the closest program to me would have been in Scranton, which is a two-hour drive.”
Even though she just graduated this month with her master’s, Golden is already making career advancements with her new degree. She grew to have an interest in content writing while obtaining her master’s. She now writes blog articles for the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), in addition to writing a course for MedFit Education Foundation.
“I recently published an entire subspecialty course that focuses on drug and alcohol recovery, and how fitness plays a role. It’s a course for fitness instructors and trainers on how to specialize in drug and alcohol recovery,” she said. “I think I’m going to continue down that trajectory.”
In addition to writing, Golden is converting her facility, FWF Wellness, into a full medical wellness facility. Rather than general training and weight loss, her trainers will get subspecialties in topics such as stroke recovery, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiac rehab.
“That really requires a heavy science background and highly qualified staff,” she said.
Golden says she recommends the program for “any personal trainer who wants to go further and really understand and make themselves marketable.”
“There’s so much more you can do in fitness than just train. You can write. You can work with companies providing continuing education. You can teach. There are many more avenues than I think people are aware of,” she said. “I will also say that to be competitive for any of those jobs, you really have to have that graduate degree. So I’d recommend it for anyone looking for higher education.”
Interested in learning more about our master’s program? Check out our webinar hosted by program director Dr. Theresa Miyashita, that goes over everything you need to know about our Master’s in Applied Exercise Science.