Is an Exercise Science Degree Right for You?

People who are interested in how the human body functions, particularly how it changes and adapts during physical activity, would thrive in an online bachelor’s degree program in exercise science. The ideal student for such a program is not only physically active, but is also concerned about the obesity epidemic in the U.S. The degree is a good fit for those who want a career that involves educating the public about the health benefits of living a more active lifestyle or helping athletes recover from injuries and reach higher levels of physical fitness.

Advice for Earning Your Exercise Science Degree Online

When looking for a high-quality exercise science program, you will want to verify accreditation for both the institution offering the program and for the program itself. Program accreditation may be offered by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which accredits programs that meet the standards set by the Committee on the Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES). Because of the physical nature of the program, students should only enroll in programs that require an internship in exercise science where they can apply the knowledge they learn in their online program in real-world settings.

Required Courses

Students in an undergraduate exercise science program study principles of kinesiology and management. By the time they graduate, students should have the skills they’ll need to succeed in coaching, personal training, and health and wellness education. Courses you may encounter in such a program include:

  • Exercise Physiology
  • Motor Learning and Development
  • Health Psychology
  • Biomechanics
  • Sports Nutrition

Common Career Paths

Careers in exercise science are available in corporate, clinical, and community settings, as well as in commercial fitness and wellness centers, according to CAAHEP. Salaries for the various job titles available can vary significantly depending on your experience, employer or client base, or the region of the country you live in. A sampling of potential careers includes:

Fitness trainers and instructors

  • Expected Growth: 24%
  • Average Annual Salary: $36,900

Fitness trainers and instructors help plan and lead exercise activities at health clubs, gyms, exercise studios, hospitals and schools, and sometimes even at a clients’ homes. They advise people on how to properly do certain exercises and may lead personal or group fitness classes.

While a bachelor’s degree isn’t always required to enter the field, two- and four-year degrees are becoming increasingly common in the industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Athletic trainer

  • Expected Growth: 30%
  • Average Annual Salary: $44,010

Athletic trainers are responsible for diagnosing, preventing, and treating injuries in people of all ages and levels of athleticism, including professional athletes, children, and seniors. Trainers apply protective devices such as braces or athletic tape, offer first aid or emergency care, create rehabilitation programs for athletes, and keep records of injuries.

A bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in athletic training may lead to careers at colleges and universities and increase chances of advancement. The job outlook and salary average provided above were drawn from the BLS.


  • Expected Growth: 29%
  • Average Annual Salary: $36,680

A degree in exercise science may lead to a career as a coach if you have experience playing a specific sport, such as football or soccer. Coaches help amateur and professional athletes improve the skills they need to succeed at the position they play in their sport. They plan and organize practices, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their players and the teams they compete against, and instruct players on technique and strategy.

While a degree isn’t always required for entry-level coaching positions, head coaches at high schools typically have bachelor’s degrees in a relevant area like exercise science, the BLS explained. The above employment growth and average salary statistics are available through the BLS.

Sports Physical Therapist

  • Expected Growth: 39%
  • Average Annual Salary: $81,110

Students who complete bachelor’s degrees in exercise science may do so in preparation for Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs. Sports physical therapists help athletes regain function in their bodies after an injury, like a broken bone, strain, or sprain; recover after a surgery; or help athletes exercise despite limiting conditions like arthritis or back pain. You must be licensed in your state to practice physical therapy, and sports physical therapists may choose to pursue board certification in sports physical therapy by taking an exam, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary average can be found through the BLS.

Health/Fitness Club Manager

  • Expected Growth: N/A
  • Average Annual Salary: $46,000

Health and fitness club managers lead the day-to-day operations of a fitness center, work with personal trainers and other staff to ensure they are providing services that are in line with the principles of the fitness center, and ensure that all exercise equipment is maintained and that the facility maintains a clean and inviting environment. Managerial and business experience is ideal for this type of role, as these types of managers must be able to draw up an annual budget, manage revenue, and develop staff members, but an educational background in exercise science is also relevant. A job outlook for this particular field is not available from the BLS, but the salary average above was provided through job search site, which draws its data from job postings received on the site.


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