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Exercise Science Degree

 “I have a tremendous passion for fitness, I love challenges and I am a very driven guy” – Lou Ferrigno
Lou Ferrigno, a bodybuilder and fitness expert who is best known for playing the role of Hulk (1978) has become an iconic symbol for fitness. He has trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has helped numerous A-list celebrities get in shape. Lou’s physical fitness career has inspired many to follow his path.

With the rapidly-expanding physical fitness industry, the demand for exercise science majors is increasing. Many students are pursuing college education in this field to prepare for a career in physical fitness. Alongside traditional on-campus programs, distance education has also made the availability of online exercise science degree programs easier. Now you can equip yourself with a college degree in exercise science online.

Why Choose Exercise Science?

The history of exercise and physical fitness dates back to the Roman era, when maintaining fitness was a way of life. In modern times, the demand for exercise has increased dramatically due to rising obesity issues, unhealthy diet, and other health illnesses. Many people have turned towards physical fitness trainers to help pursue a healthier lifestyle. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment growth rate for fitness trainers is expected to grow 13%, with over 200,000 new job openings expected from 2012-2022. While the employment prospects are positive, pursuing a career in this industry will require hard work and motivation. You can consider this occupation if you:

  • Understand that this career is mainly dependent on a “physically fit” body
  • Have a passion for healthy foods, activities, and work out, etc

Exercise Science Degree Programs

The first step in becoming a fitness trainer is educating yourself and getting a college degree in exercise science. Exercise science is offered as a major at associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. The purpose of exercise science degrees is to make sure you have an understanding of the industry, trends, skills, and knowledge to launch a career as an instructor or expert. Here are brief descriptions of exercise science programs:
Associate Degree in Exercise Science
This is a two-year undergraduate program, designed to prepare students for roles as personal trainers or consultants. The program will cover a range of general education subjects and exercise science courses. Students will gain in-depth knowledge of kinesiology, nutrition, and business fundamentals. This program is the minimum requirement for a number of professional fitness certifications. Here are some of the courses covered in the program:

  • Medical terminology
  • Nutrition
  • Biomechanics
  • Communication
  • Social sciences
  • Natural sciences
  • Humanities

Bachelor’s in Exercise Science
The program is slightly more advanced as compared to an associate-level degree, and takes around four years to complete. Students will develop a sound understanding of human physical activity, nutrition and fitness, physiological and biomechanical aspects of the field.
The coursework entails various subjects that are theoretical and practical. Alongside conceptual understanding, it is equally important for students to gain hands on training. Here are some of the subjects covered in the program:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Exercise assessment
  • Lifespan physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Exercise nutrition
  • Applications in exercise science
  • Professional development

Master’s Degree in Exercise Science
This is a graduate program, which brings together exercise physiology, research, and advanced areas of the field. The program typically takes two years to complete and can be pursued at many universities.
The coursework focuses on a range of subjects that are theoretical, clinical, and research-based. Students will spend time developing concepts and understanding the theories of exercise science. Further in the program, the focus will shift to practical implementation, hands on experience, and clinical training. Here are some of the courses covered in the program:

  • Systemic physiology and exercise
  • Exercise endocrinology
  • Energy metabolism
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Pathophysiology
  • Exercise and ageing

PhD in Exercise Science
This is a post-graduate degree that is designed for students interested in pursuing advanced career roles in the industry. The program can take anywhere from four to eight years to complete. Students will develop research skills and will be required to pursue an independent research study and develop a dissertation topic. The initial phase of the program typically consists of coursework and theoretical learning. Here are some of the courses covered in the program:

  • Research methodologies in clinical psychology
  • Exercise and physiology
  • Exercise and sports science
  • Skeletal muscle physiology
  • Statistical methods


What Skills Will You Develop?

You will develop strong:

  • Communication skills
  • Analysis and assessment skills
  • Business skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Program Outcomes


  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the basics of human physiology and anatomy
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge and skill in the field
  • Practice health and fitness exercise techniques
  • Demonstrate leadership skills
  • Assess and plan exercise treatments for clients
  • Effectively work in teams

How to Enroll

  • Complete your high school diploma
  • Select a college
  • Fill out and submit an admission application
  • Meet the minimum GPA requirement
  • Pass admission test

The requirements will vary from college to college.

Get Certified

To improve your career prospects, get a professional exercise science certification. There are a number of organizations offering certifications for different exercise science-related occupations. For example, ACE Fitness offers a health coach certification and a personal coach certification. You will have to meet the minimum requirements to qualify for certification.

Career Prospects

You can choose from a range of occupations in the health and fitness industry. Some of the career paths include:

  • Fitness trainer
  • Dietician
  • Fitness coach
  • Fitness consultant
  • Gym manager
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Personal trainer

The income level will vary from job to job. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness trainers made a median annual income of $31,720 in 2012.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What do I need to enroll in exercise science graduate programs?

A:You will need to have a bachelor degree to qualify for enrollment in a graduate-level program. The admission requirements will vary from place to place. Applicants are required to complete a bachelor-level degree. It would be helpful to pursue undergraduate studies in the same or a similar major. Please get in touch with prospective schools to learn more about the admission criteria.

Q:What are my career options with an exercise science degree?

A:There are several options for careers with an exercise science degree, depending on the level of your degree. You could become a personal trainer, if you have a high school diploma. With a bachelor's degree, you could become a coach, while with a doctoral degree, you could become a physical therapist or a sports medicine physician.

Q:what are my career options with a kinesiology and exercise science degree?

A:You can go for a variety of careers related to exercise science or kinesiology, including jobs in personal fitness training, athletic training, sports management, coaching and recreational therapy jobs. You can also purse careers in the field of education or medicine. To work in this field, you might also require state licensing.

Q:What courses are covered in an online degree in kinesiology and exercise science?

A:The program will cover a wide range of courses that will help you learn about different exercises and the human body. Some of the courses you may cover are: physiology of science, physical fitness and conditioning, bio-mechanical aspects of human movement, medical aspects of exercise, exercise psychology, health studies, and more.

Q:What can you do with an exercise science major?

A:With a major in exercise science, you can understand injury and illness prevention, examine how diet can affect the body, research questions on nutrition and exercise for the body, study various aspects of the human body, from bones and muscles to skin and tissue and learn how to condition the body. You can prepare for a variety of careers such as the following: coach, fitness trainer, athletic scout, exercise physiologist, and more.

Q:With an exercise science degree, can I work as a fitness trainer?

A:Yes, you may qualify for the position of a fitness trainer with a degree in exercise science. Fitness trainers are professionals who help clients reach their fitness goals. Fitness trainers instruct clients, demonstrate methods of participation and exercise, deign workout plans, maintain exercise equipment, and more. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness trainers made a median annual income of $31,720 in 2012.

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