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New major combines helping others within a health science related career

A new major at West Virginia University will open a flexible track toward health science and non-school based community health related careers. Students in the Health and Well-being major can tailor a degree program within a diverse field, targeting a variety of roles.

The new curriculum, housed in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, is designed to help students plan their degree program while preparing for the next step following graduation. The customizable major features community partnerships, hands on learning, student research and mentorship.

Students in the Health and Well-being major may select from one of two degree possibilities. The Bachelor of Science option includes many of the necessary science prerequisites or open electives to become eligible for admission to health-related graduate programs in fields such as nursing and athletic training, or other allied health related fields such as physical and occupational therapy and chiropractic.  

An alternative career pathway includes foundation courses for those interested in community health and well-being, available within the Bachelor of Arts degree. Graduates from this program can work in a variety of settings with different clients by supporting healthy habits in several areas, including nutrition, physical activity and fitness, stress management, financial health and environmental health.

“Whether you see yourself in a hospital, recreational setting, or an aquatic facility, the Health and Well-being program can provide an academic pathway to make that dream a reality,” Valerie Wayda, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate and academic affairs.

The customizable approach within the Health and Well-being program allows students to take additional electives, leading to various graduate and professional programs and specific career goals. This is an ideal major, since, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare occupations are projected to grow by 18 percent from 2016-2026, at a faster rate than the average for all occupations.

Health and Well-being students (BA and BS) will complete foundation coursework centered on exercise and health promotion, health education and pre-health professions pre-requisite courses in the sciences and human development. These core concepts will lay the groundwork for a variety of careers in the health sciences field.

“All students will experience career exploration and hands-on learning. During their freshman year, students will complete a course providing an in-depth examination into career options and the steps necessary to meet those specific career goals. By their junior year, students will take a more robust career exploration course. Plus, all students are required to complete a personalized capstone experience based on their specific career goals,” Jack Watson, professor and interim dean said.  

This involvement, says Watson, is intended to ensure that students gain an in-depth understanding of a chosen profession. “Students will gain practical knowledge thanks to capstone projects, and hands-on learning opportunities, such as an internship or research experience,” Watson explained.

Another unique aspect of the program allows students to further modify their degree by adding an area of emphasis related to their specific career and academic goals. All areas of emphasis include an internship experience, specific to the degree program, and include adventure and outdoor learning, aquatic physical activity, fitness, recreational sport and therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation.

Students will participate in community partnerships as part of the capstone experience.

“We partner with a strong network of Morgantown area health-related professional organizations to support student placements. These organizations include athletic training and healthcare facilities, such as the WVU Student Recreation Center, Mylan Aquatic Facility, WVU Extension, local fitness clubs, WellWVU, WVU Student Life groups and clinics for PT, OT and chiropractic services,” Sean Bulger, professor and associate dean for graduate and online education, said.  

Students have opportunities to get involved with research within the college or the larger university community. They may work under the mentorship of a college faculty member through special research programs or may work with faculty members through the college-based centers.  

Students in the Health and Well-being program can opt to pick up multiple related certifications depending upon how they customize coursework throughout their degree.

Additional career possibilities include medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales representative, healthcare communications specialist, hospital administrator, healthcare project manager and allied health professional.

To select the new major, indicate Health and Well-being (HWB) as program of choice on the WVU Admissions materials. Incoming freshman and transfer students are directly admitted into the Health and Well-being major upon meeting the University admission requirements.

For more information, visit the CPASS web site.  
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