2022 Best Online Master's in Exercise Science Degrees

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 6/7/2022
2022 Best Online Master's Degrees in Exercise Science Badge

An online Master’s in Exercise Science can help you learn the skills you need to succeed in careers as a kinesiologist, personal trainer, exercise physiologist, or other positions in the health and wellness industry. Jobs in this sector are projected to continue growing over the next decade, including a 23% growth rate for fitness trainers and instructors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best online exercise science programs in exercise science feature rigorous coursework, robust student support and educational resources, and satisfied alumni with a high starting salary. These programs help students gain mastery over a range of topics, including nutrition, psychology, sports medicine, biomechanics, and more.

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2022 Best Online Master's in Exercise Science Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Concordia University - Irvine 94 94 $55,913
# 2 #2 American Public University System 92 $54,121
# 3 #3 United States Sports Academy 88 $51,420
# 4 #4 Texas Woman's University 84 $49,391
# 5 #5 Texas A&M University - Commerce 78 $46,564
# 6 #6 Georgia Southern University 77 $45,899
# 7 #7 Point Loma Nazarene University 76 $45,822
# 8 #8 University of Florida 75 $45,356
# 9 #9 California Baptist University 74 $44,989
# 10 #10 University of Northern Colorado 73 $44,599

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2022 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 Concordia University - Irvine

  • Salary Score: 94
  • Median Starting Salary: $55,913
  • Locations: Irvine (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Concordia University – Irvine (CUI) is a small private institution that offers an online Master of Science in Coaching & Exercise Sciences. In general, the curriculum teaches students about coaching, sports, and exercise physiology. Some core classes for this degree include Ethics and Sport, Principles of Coaching and Leadership, and Legal Aspects of Sport. To graduate, students must complete a culminating project. Program graduates may go on to explore careers in coaching, athletics administration, and fitness instruction.

At CUI, classes for this program can be completed entirely online through a digital learning platform. Students have access to resources, including summer intensives and help building a professional portfolio.

#2 American Public University System

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Median Starting Salary: $54,121
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The American Public University System (APU) is a large, private, for-profit, institution that offers an online Master of Science in Sports and Health Sciences requiring 36 credit hours. The curriculum delves into human bioenergetics, nutrition, exercise science, and movement. Some core classes include Advanced Exercise and Sport Psychology, Motor Learning, and Nutrition for Sports Performance. To graduate, students must complete a culminating capstone project. Then, graduates can feel prepared to enter careers as professional trainers, fitness instructors, performance enhancement specialists, and more.

At APU, courses use Open Educational Resources and are completely asynchronous. This means that students have the opportunity to study remotely at their own pace.

#3 United States Sports Academy

  • Salary Score: 88
  • Median Starting Salary: $51,420
  • Locations: Daphne (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The United States Sports Academy (USSA) is a small, private institution that offers a Master of Science in Exercise Science requiring 33 credit hours. The faculty design the curriculum to teach exercise, sports, and health fields. Some possible concentrations for this degree include Recreation Management, Sports Psychology, Personal Training, NCAA Compliance, Sports Hospitality Management, and Esports Management. Students also have different options for educational pathways, including internship, thesis, and non-thesis options. Graduates of the program may go on to explore careers as fitness instructors, coaches, and kinesiologists.

At USSA, classes for this program are entirely online and asynchronous. This means that students, such as working professionals, can study at their own pace. The program typically takes 15 months to complete when studying full time.

#4 Texas Woman's University

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Median Starting Salary: $49,391
  • Locations: Denton (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) is a medium-sized, public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Kinesiology in Coaching and a Master of Science in Kinesiology in Sport Management, each requiring 36 credit hours. The curriculum focuses on coaching, team management, and sport marketing. Some core classes include Methods of Research, Applied Statistical Principles, and Sport Psychology. Students typically take 12 to 18 months to complete these degrees when studying full time. Program alumni may pursue careers as coaches, athletic directors, trainers, sports administrators, and managers.

At TWU, classes for this degree are entirely online. Online students may experience a varied and diverse sports industry if they live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. TWU also offers professional support, specifically for women in the sports field.

#5 Texas A&M University - Commerce

  • Salary Score: 78
  • Median Starting Salary: $46,564
  • Locations: Commerce (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas A&M University – Commerce is a medium-sized, public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Health, Kinesiology, and Sports Studies requiring 30 credit hours. The curriculum covers sports coaching, conditioning, and physical fitness. Students may also pursue a core concentration in Sports Coaching. It typically takes one year to complete this program when studying full-time. Graduates may become coaches, athletic administrators, sports trainers, and more.

Courses for this degree are fully online and asynchronous, meaning that students can study at their own pace. Online learners also have access to professional training and mentoring from distinguished faculty.

#6 Georgia Southern University

  • Salary Score: 77
  • Median Starting Salary: $45,899
  • Locations: Statesboro (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Georgia Southern University (GSU) is a large public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Kinesiology with an exercise science concentration and a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a coaching education concentration. Each requires 36 credit hours and take approximately 14 months to complete with a full-time schedule. The curriculum for these programs aims to provide students with a broad understanding of physical education, coaching, biomechanics, sports performance, and more. Some core classes for these degrees include Scientific Foundations of Human Performance, Human Performance and Nutrition, and Data Analysis in Kinesiology. Students must also complete a thesis, or comprehensive exam, for the exercise science concentration and a practicum in coaching for the coaching education concentration. Graduates of the program may go on to explore careers as coaches, exercise therapists, fitness instructors, and more.

At GSU, online students have access to useful resources, including graduate advisors and program coordinators.

#7 Point Loma Nazarene University

  • Salary Score: 76
  • Median Starting Salary: $45,822
  • Locations: San Diego (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) is a medium-sized, private, Christian college affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. It offers an online Master of Science in Kinesiology in Integrative Wellness and an online Master of Science in Kinesiology in Sport Management. Both programs require 30 credit hours each and can take one year at a full-time pace. The curricula emphasize health and wellness, lifestyle medicine, coaching, and physical education. Some core classes include Foundations in Kinesiology, Mind-Body Medicine, and Lifestyle Medicine and Integrative Health. To graduate, students must complete a research project or applied project. Alumni may become coaches, sport scientists, athletic directors, personal trainers, and health educators, to name a few.

PLNU offers online students access to spiritual counseling, career tools, and support from faculty and staff.

#8 University of Florida

  • Salary Score: 75
  • Median Starting Salary: $45,356
  • Locations: Gainesville (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Florida (UF) is a large public university that offers an online Master of Science in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology requiring 30 credit hours. The curriculum covers exercise physiology, athletic injury prevention, biomechanics, motor control and learning, sport and exercise psychology, strength and conditioning, and sport management. Some optional specializations for this degree include athlete development and integrative strength and conditioning. To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours, which can take as little as one year with a full-time schedule or 1.5 years with a part-time schedule. Graduates may go on to enter careers as personal trainers, exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning specialists, and more.

At UF, students use Canvas to access online coursework, which is asynchronous. Students have access to online resources including video chats, message boards, academic advising, free professional development, and counseling.

#9 California Baptist University

  • Salary Score: 74
  • Median Starting Salary: $44,989
  • Locations: Riverside (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

California Baptist University (CBU) is a medium-sized, private institution that offers an online Master of Science in Kinesiology requiring 30 credit hours. The curriculum trains students in biomechanics, exercise and sport psychology, performance nutrition, exercise and fitness education, and advanced exercise physiology. To graduate, students must complete a "culminating experience," which may consist of a thesis, comprehensive exam, or graduate project. Graduates may enter fitness, sports, and health and wellness industries.

At CBU, classes for this program are entirely online and take the form of virtual lectures, HD videos, and instructor tutorials. Students typically complete the source of study within 12 months when studying full-time.

#10 University of Northern Colorado

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $44,599
  • Locations: Greeley (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is a medium-sized public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Science requiring 30 credit hours. The curriculum aims to impart students with knowledge about port finance, program management, marketing, law, events and facilities, and fundraising. Some core classes include Sport Promotion and Marketing, Sport Facility and Event Management, and Critical Thinking and Ethics in Sport Administration. To graduate, students must complete all program requirements, including either a comprehensive examination or a thesis. Graduates may choose careers in team organizations, sponsorship, apparel and licensing, and more.

At UNC, classes for this program are fully online. Students have access to resources including graduate advisors, tutoring, and career support.

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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.

Requirements

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.

Curriculum

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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