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 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.
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.
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