2020 Best Online Master's in Exercise Science Degrees

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated July 23, 2020

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.

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.

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2020 Online Colleges Offering Exercise Science Degrees - Ranking Details

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 in the exercise science field are projected to expand 13% through 2028, 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 increase the need for highly educated trainers and health professionals. The median annual salary for all careers in the exercise science field average $40,390. However, the annual salary is highly dependent on graduates’ chosen occupations, employing institutions, and experience in the field, and the highest 10% of wage earners are averaging $75,400.

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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