2020 Accredited Online Exercise Science Degrees
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.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Exercise Science Degrees
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?
No, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, degrees in exercise science, physical therapy, and strength and conditioning do not prepare a student to pass the requirements to become a certified athletic trainer. Students who are interested in this career should pursue a degree in athletic training.
- A.S. Degree in Exercise Science. Grossmont College. Accessed August 22, 2016. http://www.grossmont.edu/academics/programs-departments/es/as-degree-in-exercise-science.aspx.
- Master of Science in Exercise Science and Wellness. Liberty University Online. Accessed November 5, 2019. https://www.liberty.edu/online/health-sciences/masters/exercise-science-and-wellness/.
- DSL with a concentration in Healthcare Leadership. Regent University. Accessed August 3, 2016. http://learn.regent.edu/degree-programs/leadership/dsl-with-a-concentration-in-healthcare-leadership/.
- Exercise Science - Concentration of Physical Education. University of Wisconsin- Superior. Accessed August 1, 2016. https://www.uwsuper.edu/admissions/majors-minors/physical-education---exercise-science_majorminor1749340.
- Master of Science: Exercise Science and Health Program. California University of Pennsylvania. Accessed August 3, 2016. http://www.calu.edu/academics/online-programs/exercise-science/index.htm.
- Exercise Science. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Accessed August 22, 2016. https://www.caahep.org.
- Careers in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science. Stephen F Austin State University. Accessed August 22, 2016. http://www.sfasu.edu/kinesiology/documents/ACSMCareers.pdf.
- A.S. Degree in Exercise Science. Grossmont College. Accessed August 22, 2016. http://www.grossmont.edu/academics/programs-departments/es/as-degree-in-exercise-science.aspx