In recent years, more and more people have come to appreciate the many physical, emotional, and financial benefits of focusing on health and wellness. This shifting perspective is increasing the demand for professional fitness trainers who have the expertise to guide people on the road to health through physical exercise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job opportunities in the exercise science field to increase by 15% over the next decade. Trainers working in and outside the gym will find they can earn certifications, land better jobs, gain credibility with clients, and earn higher salaries if they have some level of formal education in exercise science. The following is a list of the most popular accredited online schools for exercise science degrees. Continue on for more details on relevant certifications, accreditation, career paths, and answers to frequently asked questions about the field.
Online Bachelor’s in Exercise Science with the Highest Return on Investment
These are the top online bachelor's degrees in exercise science based on return on investment (ROI). ROI is an estimate of accumulated earnings 10 years after graduation, once student loans are paid off. Since the cheapest degree isn’t necessarily the best investment over time and the costliest doesn't always guarantee the best outcomes, ROI factors in both earnings and debt to help prospective students decide if a particular degree is really worth it. Most programs on this list have ROI amounts higher than the nationwide average, which is $281,400. For example, the top-rated American Public University System has a relatively low tuition and high earnings, yielding an ROI of $421,100.
ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.
Best Bachelor's Degrees in Exercise Science Rankings Details
American Public University System
Charles Town (WV)
Median Salary: $44,305
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Median Debt: $28,130
At American Public University, the Bachelor of Science in Sports and Health Sciences degree requires students to choose one of the following concentrations: coaching studies, exercise science, fitness and wellness professional studies, or a general concentration. Students will learn about exercise, fitness, nutrition, and health in the context of their concentration in this program.... The curriculum aims to prepare students for careers in personal training, coaching, and other fitness-related roles. Students must complete 37 credit hours in their major as well as a three-credit final project for this 120-credit program and can expect to complete their degree in as few as 15 months depending on transfer credits.
Students use the Brightspace learning management system to take asynchronous classes at their own pace, interact with professors, engage in forums, and share messages. The school accepts up to 90 transfer credits, and helps students set up payment plans, access financial aid opportunities, and apply for scholarships from a range of organizations.
APU accepts applications online at any time, and there are monthly course start dates. Support services for students and alumni include tech help as well as mock interviews, resume reviews, and internships.
Cost per Credit: $285
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 42%
Federal Loan Recipients: 97%
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,746
St. Louis (MO)
Median Salary: $38,829
Annual Tuition: $16,000
Median Debt: $21,500
At Maryville University, the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science offers concentrations in wellness management or strength and conditioning. In this 128-credit program, students take courses on anatomy and physiology, nutrition, exercise physiology, stress management, and workout program design. They also complete a capstone project and a 400-hour practicum. The curriculum is... designed with the help of fitness professionals to ensure students learn in-demand skills. Online students have access to web-based tools such as the Human Performance Lab, which delivers interactive videos.
Using Canvas, students can view course syllabi, engage with learning materials, participate in online discussions, and take quizzes. They complete coursework at their convenience while meeting weekly milestones. Through the Early Access program, students interested in pursuing a graduate degree can take 12 credits of graduate-level coursework that applies to their bachelor's and master's degrees. Graduates can apply for positions as health educators or exercise physiologists and may work in schools, senior care facilities, sports facilities, and corporate wellness programs.
Students can apply online and may start their program in the fall, spring, or summer semester. Online students are provided with a host of resources, including a dedicated student support adviser and 24/7 technical support.
Cost per Credit: $500
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 72%
Acceptance Rate: 92%
Federal Loan Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 1020 - 1240
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 581
Median Salary: $33,993
Annual Tuition: $15,104
Median Debt: $22,500
At Cameron University, the Bachelor of Science in Sports and Exercise Science is a four-year degree program offered entirely online. In addition to completing general education requirements, students take courses on the physiology of exercise, the care and prevention of athletic injuries, facility management, biomechanics, and motor learning. This 124-credit degree requires 40 credits... of advanced-level courses.
The school uses the Blackboard learning management system for its online course delivery, and this application lets students participate in discussions, upload assignments, view announcements, and more. A bachelor's degree in this field positions students to pursue careers in coaching, training, and wellness in settings such as schools, government centers, gyms, or senior centers. Cameron University offers over 100 institutional scholarships, including a Sports & Exercise Science Tuition Waiver.
Students can apply online at any time. Once accepted, they need to meet virtually with a faculty member in their program before they start taking courses. The school offers academic advising and other student support services for enrolled students.
Cost per Credit: $472
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 21%
Federal Loan Recipients: 85%
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 476
River Forest (IL)
Median Salary: $33,993
Annual Tuition: $13,280
Median Debt: $25,000
The Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at Concordia University Chicago provides students with an education rooted in the Lutheran faith that focuses on health promotion and disease prevention. Courses in this program include Physiological Basis of Exercise, Applied Kinesiology, and Nutrition, Exercise, and Behavior. This 100% online degree can be completed in as few as 16 months... with transfer credits
At Concordia, students take courses through an online learning management system called Moodle, which allows them to engage with professors and study at their own pace. All courses are limited to 20 or fewer students to create a more personalized learning experience. With a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, graduates can pursue careers in the fitness, wellness, and sports management fields. The school accepts financial aid packages and offers scholarships to help students cover the cost of their education. Once enrolled, students enjoy the same tuition rate for the entire length of their program.
The school accepts applications on a rolling basis, and classes start every five weeks. Concordia University Chicago offers a range of student support services including academic counseling, career services, post-graduate networking opportunities, and multicultural student engagement.
Cost per Credit: $415
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 49%
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Federal Loan Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1170
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 173
California Baptist University
Median Salary: $33,993
Annual Tuition: $20,842
Median Debt: $27,000
At California Baptist University (CBU), students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology or a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in kinesiology. These programs require 49 or 50 credit hours in the major, and they take an average of 18 months to complete. CBU offers a global education in the context of traditional Christian heritage. The school prefers... students have at least 24 transfer credits or a high school diploma.
Students complete their courses using Blackboard, and these degrees help them prepare for careers in sports medicine, fitness, athletic training, and nutrition and wellness. These programs are ideal for people who want to work in education or pursue a master's degree in the field. CBU encourages students to complete the FAFSA to qualify for student aid packages, and the school offers grants, scholarships, veteran's benefits, and employer tuition assistance. It is also a Yellow Ribbon Military friendly school.
Interested students can apply online, and an admissions counselor will contact them to answer questions about enrollment, registration, and how to pay for their education. Once accepted, students will work with a One-Stop Advisor as they complete their degrees.
Cost per Credit: $613
Credits Required: 136
Graduation Rate: 55%
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Federal Loan Recipients: 95%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1200
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,691
Concordia University - Saint Paul
Saint Paul (MN)
Median Salary: $33,565
Annual Tuition: $12,600
Median Debt: $24,250
At Concordia University-Saint Paul (CSP), the Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science offers courses on kinesiology concepts such as human movement, exercise, and fitness management. To earn their bachelor's degree, students must complete 120 credits, which includes 49 credits specific to their major. Courses take seven weeks to complete.
Online students access course materials, engage... with peers, and take tests through the Moodle learning management system. These courses are delivered asynchronously, meaning that students can work at their own pace and don't have to attend any live classes. This degree prepares students for careers in coaching, personal training, rehabilitation, and wellness. It also prepares students for advanced study in aging, athletic training, biomechanics, sports management, and more. According to data from College Scorecard, students with a bachelor's degree from CSP earn 44% more than the national average. The school offers financial aid packages, scholarships for veterans, and reduced tuition for active members of the military.
Students can apply online at any time. Once they are accepted, they can attend an online orientation, and they have access to student support services such as 24/7 library access and technical support.
Cost per Credit: $420
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 59%
Acceptance Rate: 55%
Federal Loan Recipients: 99%
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,469
University of Kansas
Median Salary: $32,925
Annual Tuition: $14,550
Median Debt: $20,500
At Kansas University Edwards Campus, the Bachelor of Applied Science in Exercise Science is a degree completion program for fitness professionals or anyone who wants to pursue a career in exercise science directly out of the program. This degree prepares students to work in fields such as nutrition, personal training, corporate wellness, coaching, and fitness. This program can also... provide a foundation for people who want to work in cardiac rehabilitation or strength and conditioning. The degree requires 51 program-specific credit hours, and students must complete a total of 120 credits to graduate. Transfer students are expected to have completed general course work at another school.
Students use Blackboard to facilitate their learning. Most classes are synchronous, but some lectures are recorded. Courses cover exercise therapy, biomechanics, biochemistry, and kinesiology. In addition to traditional student aid packages, students in this program have priority access to scholarships and internships through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Students can apply online to start during the spring, summer, or fall semesters. The Welcome and Success Center offers a range of resources for students, including meetings with academic coaches and help to enhance career skills.
Cost per Credit: $485
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 93%
Federal Loan Recipients: 86%
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 580
California University of Pennsylvania
Median Salary: $32,162
Annual Tuition: $13,776
Median Debt: $26,500
The online Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science degree at California University of Pennsylvania helps students turn their passion for fitness into a career. This program can be completed entirely online in three years. Graduates can pursue careers in the fitness and wellness industry as personal trainers, speed coaches, and more. Courses focus on topics such as anatomy, physiology,... wellness, sports marketing, finance, nutrition, health, and fitness motivation.
Students use the Atlas learning management system to access their courses, and they can apply for scholarships, loans, and grants to help cover the cost of tuition. The school has partnerships with wellness certification associations, and the majority of the faculty have doctoral degrees in their field. Students can transfer in credits as long as they complete 30 of the final 60 credits at Cal U, and the school has transfer admission counselors to guide students through the process. Students can also earn credits for some professional experiences.
The school accepts applications from prospective students at all times, and students can start at four different times throughout the year. They can access help from face-to-face or virtual support through the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC).
Cost per Credit: $328
Credits Required: 168
Graduation Rate: 51%
Acceptance Rate: 96%
Federal Loan Recipients: 97%
Average SAT Scores: 900 - 1100
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,257
Median Salary: $29,685
Annual Tuition: $12,369
Median Debt: $25,000
At Asbury University, the Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Wellness teaches students how to develop wellness programs, design community health education plans, and promote healthy lifestyles. The degree requires general courses, including Foundations of Christian Thought as well as specialized classes such as Health Care Services, Trends and Policy in Health Care, Health... Promotions, and Nutrition Health. This degree requires 124 credit hours, and students can transfer in up to 75 credits. The school focuses on both academic excellence and spiritual vitality and provides online chapel services for students.
Students take classes using the Discovery online learning management system. This degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers, including health promotion specialist, health promotion coordinator, and wellness educator. Asbury offers grants and institutional scholarships, including a $2,000 per year scholarship for out-of-state students.
Prospective students can apply online for this program, and the school offers four start dates for its eight-week courses. After applying, students schedule an in-person or phone meeting with an adviser who will help them build a degree plan. Advisers also help students register for classes and order textbooks online.
Cost per Credit: $399
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 62%
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Federal Loan Recipients: 99%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 451
Eastern Oregon University
La Grande (OR)
Median Salary: $28,236
Annual Tuition: $11,925
Median Debt: $23,611
Eastern Oregon University (EOU) offers a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Performance program with concentrations in exercise science. In these programs, students learn about the mechanics of the human body and psychological processes that affect physical health. These 180-credit degrees take four years to complete when enrolled full-time and prepare... students for jobs in school and community programs or graduate studies in health education. Online students can participate in internships, capstone projects, and hands-on learning opportunities in their community. The Bachelor of Arts program includes foreign language requirements, while the Bachelor of Science requires 12 additional science credits.
EOU uses the Canvas learning management platform to deliver online courses and lets students study at their own pace. One-on-one learning enhances the value of this degree, and students can transfer in up to 135 credits. This degree prepares students for work in growing fields such as personal training, which has a median salary of about $40,000 and is expected to grow by 13% through 2028, and health education, which has a median annual salary of $46,000 and a projected growth rate of 11%. The majority of students at this school get financial aid packages.
Students can apply online at any time but must meet application deadlines if they want to start in a specific semester. Student resources include enrollment counselors, student support, career support, and tech support services for online students.
Cost per Credit: $265
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 33%
Acceptance Rate: 98%
Federal Loan Recipients: 98%
Average SAT Scores: 940 - 1133
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,189
Online Exercise Science Degree Overview & Career Information
Online exercise science degrees can be found at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students enrolled in an associate degree program will spend two years taking general education courses as well as classes that cover such topics as anatomy and physiology. Once they complete their degrees, graduates may be able to find entry-level jobs in such places as hospitals, health clubs, and recreation centers. They may also be prepared to move on to a bachelor's program. At the bachelor's level, students will take more advanced courses in personal training, anatomy, strength and conditioning, and other subjects. Jobs available to bachelor's degree graduates may include personal trainer and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist. A bachelor's degree will take two to four years to complete, depending on how many college credits a student has when they begin their program.
Exercise science degrees are also available online at the graduate level. A master's degree helps to prepare individuals to become specialists in their field through classes that cover the topics of nutrition, biomechanics, and human performance. A master's degree will take around two years to complete, and students will need to have a bachelor's degree and background knowledge of physiology, biomechanics, and statistics in order to be admitted. Online doctoral programs in exercise science are an option for those who wish to have a career in sports psychology, research, or physical therapy. These types of programs may require some face-to-face class time due to the rigorous academic nature of the program. Students will need to complete a dissertation. In order to be admitted to a doctoral program, applicants will need either a master's or bachelor's degree in a related field.
Online Associate Degrees in Exercise Science
An online associate degree program prepares individuals to transfer to a four-year degree school or for an entry-level job in health clubs, sport and recreation centers, and hospitals.
Applicants must have a GED or high school diploma for admittance and will have to submit their official transcripts. A minimum GPA may be required and some schools may require SAT, ACT, or other test scores as part of the application process. Comprised of 60 credit hours, the program is usually completed within two years at a community college or vocational school.
Coursework for an online associate degree in exercise science includes general education courses such as English composition and humanities. In addition to distribution requirements, online exercise science associate degrees generally include coursework in a variety of the following fields: anatomy, physiology, physics, biology, community health, first aid, and nutrition.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Exercise Science
An online bachelor's in exercise science can be a good educational foundation for individuals hoping to work as personal trainers, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists, or strength and conditioning coaches. In addition, it can lay the groundwork for further education in a graduate degree program.
Offered online through colleges and universities, exercise science programs usually take between 36 and 48 months to complete, and require around 120 semester credit hours or 180 quarter credit hours, including an internship to gain practical experience. Applicants will need to have a GED or a high school diploma. Many schools have minimum GPA requirements for admission.
Online exercise science bachelor's degrees include courses in strength and conditioning, personal training, electrocardiography interpretation, and anatomy and physiology. By taking these classes, students can gain a working understanding of human physical activity through a nutritional, biomechanical, and physiological lens. Usually, there is a hands-on practical application portion of the program in the form of an internship or volunteer opportunity, which affords students the opportunity to apply theory in real-life situations.
Online Master's Degrees in Exercise Science
An online master's degree in exercise science is a great choice for individuals hoping to have careers as exercise or rehabilitation specialists of all varieties. They will obtain valuable knowledge of human performance, biomechanics, nutrition, and clinical physical activity among a diverse range of people. To learn more about online master's programs in exercise science, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Exercise Science
Additional graduate work in the form of a doctorate is a good choice for individuals who hope to become a clinical research scientist or a professor. Many programs necessitate a hybrid online and face-to-face format due to lab requirements and frequent meetings with a designated advisor for dissertation work. Some online programs facilitate "intensive weeks" where students attend back-to-back classes a few select weeks out of the academic school year to complete the physical training portion of the degree in a shortened time frame. During this time, they can meet with advisors and network with peers and professionals alike. Applicants to doctoral programs need to hold either a bachelor's or a master's in a similar field from an accredited college or university, demonstrate a minimum GPA, provide letters of reference from employers or scholars to attest to work ethic and capability, and achieve a sufficient GRE or MAT score. Ranging from 66 to 72 credit hours, the program takes an average of 36-48 months to complete and includes completion of a dissertation.
Online Certificates in Exercise Science
An online certificate in exercise science program involves understanding the human body and the effects that diet, health and exercise have on a person's overall health. Exercise science certificate programs often have a specialized focus that allows students to concentrate their studies on a particular field within exercise science. Options may include group fitness, health coaching, intercollegiate athletic administration, and eating disorders. Admission requirements for an online certificate in exercise science will vary by program. Graduate-level certificate programs typically require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Additional requirements may include a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and prerequisite courses. Most exercise science certificate programs consist of 9-12 credits of coursework and include topics such as sports physiology, nutrition education, strength and conditioning, and kinesiology.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in this field are expected to increase over the next several years as the need for preventative care grows. Opportunities will be available in many fields including healthcare, education, sports and leisure, group exercise, personal fitness, and non-profit work. Some jobs in the field require certification or licensure, and some states (including Louisiana) also have licensing requirements or pending legislation for requirements. Trainers and instructors, coaches, and exercise physiologists are some of the positions that may require certification or licensure.
Students who earn an online certificate in exercise science will increase their knowledge and skills and be prepared for new career opportunities. Some certificate programs are also transferable toward a degree, so students may also choose to continue their education. Others may choose to pursue industry certification or licensure.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Exercise Science Degree
Many colleges, universities, and programs gain regional accreditation to demonstrate their quality. Third-party accrediting organizations evaluate programs based on a variety of agreed-upon standards. Additionally, students that attend an accredited school can easily transfer credits to another institution or graduate program. Employers may look favorably upon candidates from accredited programs due to the educational quality that accreditation indicates.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits programs in the health sciences field throughout the country. This ensures that programs meet rigorous professional and occupational standards. There are currently 44 exercise science programs that are accredited by the CAAHEP, but no fully online programs. Health sciences employers may look favorably upon applicants that attended a CAAHEP accredited program, and some jobs may require it.
Specific Training Requirements for Exercise Science
The American College of Sports Medicine provides certifications for exercise science professionals. Certifications include personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and exercise physiologist. Clinical certifications include clinical exercise physiologist and registered clinical exercise physiologist. All certifications require a combination of education, experience, and successful completion of an examination. Often, employers require individuals to be credentialed from this or another credentialing agency.
Careers in Exercise Science
Depending on the level of education obtained, there are various types of careers available for someone who has an online degree in exercise science. With an associate degree, an individual can find jobs as a trainer, coach or PE teacher, though some additional certification may be required. At the bachelor's level, individuals may be prepared for entry or mid-level positions in fitness, including strength coaching, training, exercise physiologist in cardiac rehab, or clinical exercise specialist. Daily responsibilities include meeting with potential clients, creating treatment plans and exercise regimes for clients, and facilitating exercises.
Individuals with a graduate degree, either a master's or doctorate, may be eligible for teaching at a collegiate level or taking on senior roles in fitness and healthcare. Increasingly, hospitals are requiring exercise physiologists to hold a graduate degree. Additionally, professionals with a doctorate may advance to research positions or high-level administrative jobs in the fitness or wellness departments at hospitals. Day-to-day duties at this level range from academia tasks to program implementation and management.
Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise Science Degrees
How much can I earn with an online degree in exercise science?
Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that careers in exercise science are expected to grow by 15% through 2029, which is much faster than the average growth rate for most occupations. This is due to the fact that healthcare and insurance organizations increasingly recognize the comprehensive benefits of physical activity. The health and exercise incentives these organizations are providing for their employees has increased demand for trainers and exercise professionals. The median annual salary for careers in the exercise science field average $40,390, although this can vary widely. Students who specialize in exercise physiology—using exercise to help people who are injured or sick to recover—earn a median annual salary of $49,170.
What can I do with an online degree in exercise science?
Graduates with degrees in exercise science can choose among a wide variety of career options in the health and human performance fields. These include personal training, coaching, and pursuing research opportunities in private health agencies, fitness centers, nonprofit research centers, college athletic programs, and other educational institutions.
Can I become an athletic trainer with a degree in exercise science?
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