Best Online Master's in Exercise Science Degrees

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 11/17/2021

A desire to improve the quality of life for people by focusing on the relationships between mind, body, and human movement is the foundation for a career in exercise science. Prospective students can earn their master’s in exercise science online in a wide range of specializations. Read more about the benefits of specializations, joining professional industry associations, and certifications available to master’s in management students below.

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2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Master's in Exercise Science Degrees

2020 Best Online Master's in Exercise Science Badge

The 18 schools on this list are the best value options for obtaining an online master's program in exercise science based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. Graduates of the #1-ranked school, University of Florida, earn a median salary of $115,384 after earning their MS in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. The George Washington University, ranked #2, offers an MS in Exercise Science in Strength and Conditioning and has the highest reported alumni salary, at $117,227.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of Florida $8,250 $115,384
# 2 #2 The George Washington University $31,500 $117,227
# 3 #3 The University of Texas at Tyler $14,328 $106,200
# 4 #4 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi $11,662 $101,200
# 5 #5 Tennessee Tech University $13,485 $98,800
# 6 #6 Northern Kentucky University $10,448 $96,675
# 7 #7 University of Southern Mississippi $8,624 $95,036
# 8 #8 Texas Woman's University $10,474 $93,342
# 9 #9 Florida Atlantic University $16,000 $95,250
# 10 #10 University of Hawaii at Manoa $24,928 $96,346
# 11 #11 University of Northern Colorado $17,400 $83,700
# 12 #12 Sam Houston State University $7,769 $71,400
# 13 #13 Liberty University $12,430 $71,987
# 14 #14 Aurora University $8,475 $67,400
# 15 #15 California University of Pennsylvania $15,480 $66,500
# 16 #16 University of Wyoming $7,776 $60,700
# 17 #17 Jackson State University $8,316 $55,300
# 18 #18 Lindenwood University $8,415 $46,200
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Exercise Science Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 University of Florida

  • Annual Tuition: $8,250
  • Median Salary: $115,384
  • Locations: Gainesville (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Students can earn an online Master of Science in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology (APK) at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The program’s research concentrations include Physiology of Exercise, Athletic Injury Prevention, Biomechanics, Motor Control and Learning, and Sport and Exercise Psychology. The degree requires a total of 30 credits, made up of concentration courses and elective courses. Students may also elect to further specialize in either integrative strength and conditioning science, or athlete development. Courses are delivered through the Canvas learning management system, where students can also find opportunities to connect with their classmates through video conferencing and message boards. Program participants are required to take a final examination and complete a culminating project in the form of an independent research study or internship. Those who work while in school may be able to apply their real-world experience to satisfy this requirement. The program is offered on a part-time or full-time schedule and takes approximately 1.5 years to finish. To apply, students must submit an official application, transcripts from their undergraduate degree (a minimum 3.0 GPA is strongly preferred), as well as a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Academic advising and career development resources are available.

#2 The George Washington University

  • Annual Tuition: $31,500
  • Median Salary: $117,227
  • Locations: Washington D.C.
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The George Washington University offers a 36-credit Master of Science in Exercise Science – Strength and Conditioning program online. The program focuses on the science and theories behind resistance training to boost athletes' performance and promote healthy living through exercise-based prevention. Most of the exercise science degree curriculum is delivered virtually through live and asynchronous classes on the Blackboard learning management platform. However, students must also complete a mandatory three-day on-campus capstone during their second year and at least eight hours of professional enhancement training, which can be in the form of seminars, training programs, or conferences. Graduates will have the foundation needed to take the exam for the certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) credential through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The program's admission requirements include a graduate school application, academic transcripts, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. Applicants do not need to have a related undergraduate degree but will need to complete an exercise physiology course before enrolling. There are multiple resources for graduate students studying online, including career and employment services, disability support services, and technical support.

#3 The University of Texas at Tyler

  • Annual Tuition: $14,328
  • Median Salary: $106,200
  • Locations: Tyler (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Kinesiology at the University of Texas at Tyler may be completed on campus, completely online, or through a combination of both online and on-campus coursework. The graduate program is offered to students looking to enter the field or those who wish to advance in their current careers as physical or athletic trainers. In addition to coursework in biomechanics, exercise physiology, and research design, students must complete a six-credit thesis or internship course. Students who opt for an internship rather than a thesis must pass a comprehensive exam before completing their online exercise science degree. In total, 36 credits are required. Coursework is accessible through the Canvas learning management system and may include video lectures, labs, quizzes, written assignments, and presentations. Students have access to a number of resources and services, including technical assistance, career development and networking opportunities, mental health counseling, and accommodations for students with accessibility concerns. Interested students can submit an online application, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and academic transcripts for consideration. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree in a related field and have at least a 3.0 GPA.

#4 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

  • Annual Tuition: $11,662
  • Median Salary: $101,200
  • Locations: Corpus Christi (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The master’s in kinesiology at Texas A&M Corpus Christi focuses on sport and exercise science. The 36-credit program offers both a thesis and a non-thesis track. The non-thesis track requires the successful completion of a comprehensive essay. Students can opt to take the full exercise science degree online or through a hybrid experience with both on-campus and online courses. Online coursework, including video lectures, assignments, quizzes, discussion forums, and grades, is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. A professional field experience is also included in the curriculum. Most students complete the program in two years. However, students have the option to take on more coursework each semester to expedite their degree. Texas A&M offers resources, including an athletic training center and labs for biomechanics, motor development, and exercise physiology. Distance learners also benefit from services such as academic advising, technical support, and tutoring. Graduates may pursue career opportunities in a variety of fields related to athletics, including biomechanics, exercise physiology, sport leadership/management, nutrition, sport psychology, and strength and conditioning. There are six start dates for the program. To apply, prospective students must submit an online application, official transcripts, and a personal essay.

#5 Tennessee Tech University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,485
  • Median Salary: $98,800
  • Locations: Cookeville (TN)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Tennessee Tech University offers a fully online Master of Arts in Exercise Science. The program is available with five concentrations: Adapted Physical Education, Elementary and Secondary School Physical Education, Elementary and Secondary School Physical Education with K-12 Licensure, Fitness and Lifetime Wellness, and Sport Management. The curriculum emphasizes practical outcomes, and some concentrations include field experience. Students are required to complete 30 credits for this degree, with the exception of the K-12 Licensure concentration (which requires 20 additional credits to be earned in the teacher education program) and the Sport Management concentration (which requires three additional credits). This concentration is for students who want to pursue an administrative career in the sports industry, perhaps with a college or professional team. Learning is asynchronous, and students can access course material 24/7 through TTU’s iLearn learning environment. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and a minimum MAT score of 370. They also must provide two letters of recommendation, a letter of intent, and a writing sample. An interview — either face-to-face or by video conference — may also be required. Online students have access to TTU’s Student Success Center, Center for Career Development, Women’s Center, and academic advising.

#6 Northern Kentucky University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,448
  • Median Salary: $96,675
  • Locations: Highland Heights (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Students of the online Master of Science in Exercise Science at Northern Kentucky University receive a comprehensive education in areas such as exercise physiology, research design, strength and conditioning, human performance data analysis, and clinical pathophysiology. The program is designed for health care professionals as well as strength and conditioning professionals who already have an undergraduate degree. A total of 31 credits are required for the degree, and the program provides a flexible completion time. Students can choose a thesis or internship track. The program prepares students for certification as either clinicians or strength and conditioning coaches. The program is fully online, and courses are delivered in a seven-week, accelerated format. Coursework is asynchronous and is delivered via the Canvas online learning management system. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum average GPA of 2.5 and completion of undergraduate courses in exercise physiology, biomechanics, and research methods in a kinesiology-related area. All students are assigned an academic advisor with whom they stay in contact for the duration of the program. Distance learners have access to the university’s student support services, various student organizations, testing services, the bookstore, and career services.

#7 University of Southern Mississippi

  • Annual Tuition: $8,624
  • Median Salary: $95,036
  • Locations: Hattiesburg (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Kinesiology offered at the University of Southern Mississippi is available with a concentration in Physical Education. The online program is designed for teachers, coaches, and instructors who wish to advance their careers in the field of physical education. Students receive a comprehensive study of motor development and learning, methods of teaching physical education, program design, kinesiology, research techniques, and the legal aspects of sport. To complete this degree, students must take a minimum of 36 credits. Students can be admitted during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. No in-person classes are required, as the program is fully online. Learning is asynchronous, but students may be asked to attend online lectures at certain times. There are both thesis and non-thesis options, and coursework is completed through the Canvas online learning management system. Online students have access to academic support, tutoring, and technical support, and they can get Microsoft Office 365 at no charge. USM students also have free access to more than 55,000 eTextbooks. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and must submit transcripts along with exam scores from the GRE, Praxis II, ACSM/NPAS, or ACSM. Also required are a statement of purpose, resume, and three letters of recommendation.

#8 Texas Woman's University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,474
  • Median Salary: $93,342
  • Locations: Denton (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas Woman’s University offers a Master of Science in Kinesiology with multiple emphases, two of which can be completed fully online: Coaching and Sport Management. Both concentrations require students to complete 36 credit hours, which can, if taken full-time, be completed in 12-18 months. The Coaching concentration is designed for coaches who wish to advance their careers. The program covers team management as well as technical and tactical skills. A thesis is not required. Students who opt for the Sport Management concentration will have a curriculum that provides training and further education for those who wish to pursue careers in marketing, business, or operations. Students receive a firm foundation in communication skills and the legal aspects of sport management. Students who study locally have access to opportunities in the sports industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a culminating experience, students can choose between a thesis, an internship in a sports-related organization, or a comprehensive exam. Students at TWU have access to academic counseling, legal services, health services, counseling, career assistance, and other services. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in public health, health promotion, kinesiology, or another related field. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for the last 60 hours of the student’s undergraduate program.

#9 Florida Atlantic University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,000
  • Median Salary: $95,250
  • Locations: Boca Raton (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Exercise Science offered at Florida Atlantic University has an online option available for students who choose their concentration in Health Promotion. The program is designed for those who wish to pursue doctoral studies or careers in physical fitness and health promotion in corporate, community, clinical, and commercial fields. The curriculum covers subjects such as human physiology, exercise and aging, skeletal muscle plasticity, sport nutrition, and strength and conditioning. Both a thesis and a non-thesis option are available. A total of 18 credits in courses must be completed to graduate. The program can be completed fully online and in three semesters; those who choose the thesis option may take longer, depending on the length of the thesis. Most students complete the degree in two years or less. Students have access to academic support, advising, tutoring, career services, counseling, faculty mentoring, and math and writing assistance. To be admitted to the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree. Students with an undergraduate GPA that is below the minimum 3.0 must have above-average GRE test scores. Additionally, all graduate students in this program are required to have an up-to-date CPR card.

#10 University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Annual Tuition: $24,928
  • Median Salary: $96,346
  • Locations: Honolulu (HI)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The University of Hawai`i at Mānoa offers a Master of Science in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science degree that is fully online through their Rehabilitation Counselor Education Program. Both rehabilitation professionals and those new to the field receive a comprehensive education in providing rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities. The curriculum covers areas such as human growth and development, theory and practice of counseling, cross-cultural counseling, ethical issues, and medical and psychosocial aspects of disability. The program includes two internships. The program includes both synchronous and asynchronous formats, and the synchronous classes are held in the evening to accommodate working professionals. A total of 48 credits are required to complete the degree, which takes 36 months. Students who wish to pursue a license in mental health counseling in addition to the master’s must take an extra 12 credits and do fieldwork under the supervision of a licensed professional. Admission to the program is only in the fall. The GRE is not needed for admission into the program, but transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended must be submitted. Additionally, a resume and statement of objectives should accompany the application.

#11 University of Northern Colorado

  • Annual Tuition: $17,400
  • Median Salary: $83,700
  • Locations: Greeley (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Northern Colorado offers a Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Science with an emphasis in Sport Administration. Students of the program study various aspects of sports business, including finance, management, marketing, events and facilities, fundraising, ethics, and legal issues. The degree can be taken online or on campus. A total of 30 credits of coursework is required for the program, and nine of those credits are electives. The degree can be completed in 12 months. The curriculum includes an internship that allows students to practice what they learn in the program. Students can choose the thesis or non-thesis option; those who opt for the non-thesis option must complete a comprehensive examination that includes a written literature review and analysis paper. Students can start the program in the fall, spring, or summer term. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a written statement are required. GRE scores are not required. Online coursework is delivered via the Canvas online learning management system, and students have academic advising available to them. Learning is asynchronous, but there are deadlines for completing assignments.

#12 Sam Houston State University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,769
  • Median Salary: $71,400
  • Locations: Huntsville (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport and Human Performance gives students a comprehensive understanding of the interrelationship between movement, exercise, training, and rehabilitation. This knowledge can be used clinically and practically in the areas of personal training, coaching, corporate wellness, and commercial fitness. Enrollment takes place in the fall, spring, and summer. The program is offered online, but one to two lab days on the university’s campus are required each semester. A total of 30-36 credits are needed to complete the degree. Students can choose from three plans: non-thesis (36), non-thesis with a practicum (36), or thesis (30). Students taking a non-thesis option must pass a comprehensive exam. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or a related field, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of interest. GRE scores are required, but this requirement is waived for students who have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, and a minimum 3.25 GPA in exercise physiology, functional kinesiology/biomechanics, and motor learning. Distance learners at SHSU have access to academic counseling, career counseling, other counseling services, resume and cover letter assistance, money management services, personal coaching, and technical support.

#13 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,430
  • Median Salary: $71,987
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Wellness with two concentrations: Fitness and Performance, and Nutrition and Wellness. The program is designed for professionals to advance their knowledge of physiology, biomechanics, and sports nutrition. The degree is available fully online in eight-week courses. A total of 33 credit hours are required, and students can transfer in up to half the credit requirement. The degree can be completed in 18 months. LU also offers an online Master of Science in Human Performance with four concentrations: Clinical, Fitness and Wellness, Nutrition, and Strength Training and Conditioning. The degree can be completed mostly online, but two-week-long, on-campus intensives are required. The degree can be earned in 18 months. Eight start dates are available each year, and courses are delivered in eight-week formats. Learning is asynchronous. Coursework for distance learners at LU is delivered via the Blackboard online learning management system. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0. Official college transcripts and proof of English proficiency must be provided. Online students have access to technical support, academic advising, writing assistance, webinars, and tutorials.

#14 Aurora University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,475
  • Median Salary: $67,400
  • Locations: Aurora (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

An online Master of Science in Exercise Science is offered at Aurora University with two concentrations: Clinical Exercise Physiology and Sports Performance. The curriculum includes coursework in research methods, program organization and administration, sports nutrition, exercise physiology, and sports psychology. Students of the Sports Performance concentration study strength and conditioning, while those in the Clinical Exercise Physiology track learn about improving cardiovascular health and managing overall fitness. A total of 30 credits are required, and the program can be completed in one to two years. Each course runs 8 to 16 weeks via the Moodle online learning management system. Previously earned graduate credits with a grade of B or higher can be transferred and applied toward the degree. To be admitted to the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related area. Those with a bachelor’s in an unrelated major must take prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, exercise physiology, and college algebra. Transcripts must be submitted from all previously attended colleges and universities. Students with a GPA of less than 3.0 must also submit a personal statement, and such applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Distance learners have access to academic advising, tutoring, and writing assistance.

#15 California University of Pennsylvania

  • Annual Tuition: $15,480
  • Median Salary: $66,500
  • Locations: California (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Students enrolled in the fully online Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion at California University of Pennsylvania can choose from eight different concentrations: Applied Sport Science, Group Fitness Leadership, Nutrition, Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation Science, Sport Psychology, Wellness and Fitness, Tactical Strength and Conditioning, and Wellness Coaching. The degree requires students to complete 36 credits, or students can add a second concentration for a 48-credit program. Additionally, students can add 12 credits of courses to become certified in each of the concentrations. The degree and certificate can be earned in 12-18 months. Students can study full- or part-time. Online classes are generally 30 students or less, giving students the opportunity to interact with instructors and one another. Learning is generally asynchronous, but some synchronous courses are required, depending on the concentration. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.50, and official transcripts must be submitted. Those who have a GPA under 2.50 may also need to submit a resume, two professional references, and two professional letters of recommendation. An interview may also be required. Distance learners have access to resources like academic advising, peer mentoring, and the student success center.

#16 University of Wyoming

  • Annual Tuition: $7,776
  • Median Salary: $60,700
  • Locations: Laramie (WY)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Wyoming offers a Master of Science in Kinesiology and Health (non-thesis) with a concentration in Physical Education Teaching. The program focuses on the practical application of knowledge in various settings, including schools, health centers, private companies, research laboratories, and school laboratories. Kinesiology and health courses are chosen by the student under the guidance of an advisor. The program consists of teleconferencing and videos, and course material can be sent and received via email. A minimum of 36 credits are required, and students can complete the degree in three, four, or five years. Students must write a culminating paper on a subject they choose in collaboration with a faculty advisor. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a major in sport science, health, or physical education teacher education with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Students who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-related subject can be admitted conditionally, with the proviso that they complete undergraduate coursework in kinesiology or health during their first year of study at UW. Additionally, applicants should provide three letters of recommendation and a letter of intent. Services for online students include academic advising, career services, counseling, and various student organizations.

#17 Jackson State University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,316
  • Median Salary: $55,300
  • Locations: Jackson (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Jackson State University offers an online Master of Science in Sport Science with a concentration in Sport Management. Students learn how to manage sports organizations and operations such as sports facilities, collegiate and professional organizations, parks, sport companies, and various sports and recreation facilities. Coursework in the program covers areas such as ethics of sport, sport psychology and sociology, research methods, economics, business statistics, marketing, finance, and administration. Students can choose either to do an internship or complete a thesis. All students must take a comprehensive exam. A total of 36 credits are required to complete the degree. Coursework is delivered via the Canvas online learning management system. Students applying to the program must provide official transcripts for all four-year institutions of higher learning they have attended, and they must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Those with a GPA of 2.50-2.99 may be admitted conditionally at the undergraduate level, but they must attain the required status during the first semester of full-time study or during the first 12 credits of part-time study. Academic support, career assistance, and technical support are available to distance learners.

#18 Lindenwood University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,415
  • Median Salary: $46,200
  • Locations: Saint Charles (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Lindenwood University offers a Master of Health in Health Sciences with a specialization in Fitness and Wellness. The program can be taken on campus or online, and it consists of courses that provide a comprehensive understanding of nutrition, health promotion, recreation, fitness, physiology, and business management. The curriculum includes areas of study like statistical analysis, research methods, community health, health behavior, therapeutic management, and strength and conditioning. A total of 33 credits are required to complete the degree. Students can choose a thesis or a non-thesis option. Coursework is delivered through the Canvas online learning management system, and students can access coursework at any time on any day. Online access makes it convenient for students to work ahead and review material they have already studied. Applicants to the program are accepted on a rolling basis. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required, butGRE scores are not. It is preferred that applicants have a four-year degree in exercise science, kinesiology, health promotion, or another related area. Distance learners at LU can have academic and technical support, tutoring, access to library services, and counseling.

What can I do with an online master’s degree in exercise science?

Upon completion of a master’s in exercise science online, students may pursue a wide variety of careers in the health and human performance fields. Career options include training, teaching, coaching, and research opportunities in private health agencies and organizations, corporate or private fitness centers, nonprofit research centers, college athletic programs, and other educational institutions.

Graduates of an accredited master’s in exercise science online program also have the option of continuing on to pursue advanced studies in physical therapy or medicine. Students who wish to further expand their knowledge and career prospects may elect to apply for a doctoral program in physical therapy or occupational therapy, or they may wish to enter medical school.

Online Master's in Exercise Science Degree Overview

A master’s in exercise science online program prepares graduates to support and enhance human health and wellness through the application of strategically designed physical exercise. The field also focuses on enhancing physical performance among athletes, as well as rehabilitating physical injuries and preventing disease through exercise.

Students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related program of study may wish to pursue a master’s degree in exercise science to advance their knowledge, improve their skill set, and earn additional certifications. Additionally, earning a master’s in exercise science online often proves to be a valuable networking opportunity, giving students the ability to interact with and learn from recognized industry professionals in their field.


Students interested in pursuing a master’s in exercise science online must first complete a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the school, admission to a master’s program may require the maintenance of a minimum of 2.5 to 3.0 grade point average (GPA). To be successful in any graduate-level exercise science program, students also should have completed prerequisite coursework in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and exercise physiology. Submission of test scores from graduate admissions tests such as the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) or Praxis test may also be required for admission.


Online master’s programs in exercise science typically include core courses such as applied physiology and kinesiology, needs assessment and program development, fitness strength and training, epidemiology, and health behavior. Within many exercise science master’s degree programs, students also have the option of selecting one or more areas of concentration, such as rehabilitation science, sports psychology, sports management, or physical education. Some online master’s programs also include a research component, which will involve courses in research and statistical methods and may require a research project.

How to Choose an Exercise Science Master’s Program

When selecting a program for a master's in exercise science online, prospective students should first consider the following: program accreditations, program structures, and the concentration availability. Students who plan to sit for licensure or certification exams must ensure online degree programs are accredited by the appropriate certifying body. If an online master’s program does not have the appropriate accreditation, graduates will not be qualified to sit for licensure and certification exams.

Students who wish to complete their master’s in exercise science online also must consider which program structure is most appropriate for their educational needs, schedule, and learning style, as well as the subject matter concentration they wish to pursue. Because many graduate students must work at least part-time throughout their studies, appropriate program scheduling is of the utmost importance for success. Students should also consider whether they prefer a full- or part-time online program, cohort studies, and asynchronous or synchronous learning options.

The Importance of Accreditation for Master's in Exercise Science Programs

When weighing options for master's in exercise science programs, it is important to consider program accreditation. Accreditation signifies that a school meets national education standards for particular subject matter areas. For example, students who wish to pursue licensure as certified athletic trainers must attend a program of study accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. It is important to note that programs without proper industry accreditation do not prepare students to sit for certification or licensure exams in their field.

What kinds of master's in exercise science specializations are available?

Most areas of specialization in the field of exercise science require certification to safeguard both the exercise professional and those they work with. Here are just a few of the possibilities:

Certified Personal Trainer: A certified personal trainer usually works one-on-one with a client. After assessing the client’s goals, needs, and fitness level, the trainer develops a customized fitness program that will help the client meet specific objectives, whether it’s losing weight, building strength and endurance, or simply maintaining health and fitness. The trainer then helps implement the fitness regimen through coaching, training, and monitoring. Trainers make sure their fitness programs are safe and fun, as well as effective, for their clients.

Certified Athletic Trainer: A certified athletic trainer often works in tandem with athletes, coaches, and other healthcare professionals to help athletes achieve peak physical condition. This typically involves assessing each athlete’s condition, assisting in goal setting, and creating and implementing fitness and nutrition regimens. In some cases, a certified athletic trainer may be asked to collaborate on the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent or chronic injuries and medical conditions so that the athlete can safely and effectively return to optimum health.

Corrective Exercise Specialist: Many people suffer from muscular issues that impede their functional movement and often cause physical injury, particularly in the feet, knees, and hips. These issues can be resolved through corrective exercise. A corrective exercise specialist assesses and determines the root cause of these muscular weaknesses and faulty movements that lead to poor posture, imbalances, and lack of body coordination. By applying their knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics, corrective exercise specialists can address and fix movement issues that will improve their clients’ overall health and physical performance while also helping to prevent further injury.

Certified Specialist in Speed and Explosion: From youth league players to high school team members to professionals, many athletes of all levels would like to improve their speed, agility, strength, and power. Certified specialists in speed and explosion can help these athletes achieve their goals by strategically applying their knowledge of strength training, power training, plyometrics, and more. Certified specialists often design and help implement customized fitness programs that involve sprints, drills, and other forms of training with a focus on dynamic movement, flexibility, coordination, and response time.

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist: Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists typically work one-on-one with athletes in pursuit of enhanced athletic performance. Often applying sport-specific knowledge and testing, these professionals use their scientific knowledge of physiology and kinesiology to design and implement safe, effective strength training and conditioning programs. Certified strength and conditioning specialists may also offer guidance regarding nutrition and injury prevention, and may also collaborate with other relevant healthcare professionals when needed.

Certified Exercise Physiologist: A certified exercise physiologist works with all kinds of individuals, from people with chronic health issues to professional athletes in peak condition. Using professional evaluation tools, an exercise physiologist’s primary function is to assess a patient’s cardiovascular condition and metabolism. Based on this data, the certified exercise physiologist then designs a fitness plan that will help the patient or athlete meet his or her goals, whether it’s dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes or pulmonary disease or simply increasing strength, fitness, and flexibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I finance a master's in exercise science program?

Although a master’s degree is an expensive investment, there are several financing opportunities available for students, including federal financial aid, student loans, private loans, work-study programs, and scholarships. The American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine offer limited scholarships to exercise science students who meet their requirements.

How much can I earn with an online master’s degree in exercise science?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers for fitness trainers and instructors — just a couple of occupations open to graduates of master's in exercise science programs — are projected to expand 39% through 2030, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. As healthcare and insurance organizations increasingly recognize the profound benefits of physical activity, incentives to improve health through physical exercise will foster the need for highly educated trainers and health professionals. The median annual salary for exercise physiologists is $54,020. However, the annual salary is highly dependent on graduates’ chosen occupations, employing institutions, and experience in the field, where the highest 10% of wage earners are averaging $78,170 per year.

What professional industry associations are available for physical educators?

Graduates of a master’s in exercise science online programs have the option of joining a variety of professional industry associations to further their education and network with industry experts. Professional exercise science organizations and associations include:

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world with more than 50,000 members. ACSM focuses on advancing scientific research as it relates to exercise science and sports medicine. The organization strives to provide ongoing education and practical application tools to industry professionals.

American Society of Biomechanics (ASB): Composed primarily of clinicians, scientists, researchers, and students, ASB focuses on improving the collective understanding of human biomechanics. The organization aims to develop biomechanics as an applied science.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA): NSCA is dedicated to advancing collective knowledge concerning the strength and conditioning profession. The association focuses on disseminating research-based knowledge and educating industry professionals on the practical application of that knowledge.

American Physiological Society (APS): APS focuses on furthering professional development in physiological disciplines through ongoing research, education, and collaboration.


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