Exercise Science Degree Guide

Exercise Science Degrees expose graduates to health, sports, and fitness professions. These degree programs equip learners with the knowledge and skills to support health, enhance performance, and prevent diseases. Exercise science focuses on how the body moves while diving deep into the physiological functions of the body. Students learn about cell molecular behavior and how the body organs, ligaments, and cells function cordially. Exercise science graduates solve some of the greatest health concerns related to lifestyles, such as diabetes and obesity.

Exercise science is an independent discipline, though it’s closely related to athletic training and kinesiology. It studies how our bodies respond to physical exercise by combining research into sports nutrition, psychology, biomechanics, and behavioral strategies.


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Liberty University

M.S. in Exercise Science and Wellness

Impact the world of sports, fitness, and wellness with Liberty University’s Exercise Science & Wellness Master’s Degree.

  • Four Unique Concentrations
  • Complete in 1.5 Years
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Liberty University

M.S. in Human Performance

Learn how to develop health and wellness programs and improve physical education and community nutrition.

Table of Contents

What is Exercise Science?

Exercise Science is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and programs within this discipline empower students with a wide range of capacities:

  • Working in a variety of fitness, health, and rehabilitation facilities
  • Working with different populations in terms of age, fitness level, and medical history and background.
  • Creating durable interpersonal relations and communication skills
  • Developing practical and scientific skills that prepare learners for advanced studies and further exercise science educational opportunities

Exercise Science vs Athletic Training

Athletics training and exercise science are similar in dealing with enhancing physical fitness to boost general well-being. However, they differ in several ways. One main difference is exercise science professionals create wellness and fitness routines for people across a variety of professions, while the main task of athletic trainers is injury prevention and rehabilitation among elite athlete populations.

Exercise Science vs Kinesiology

Kinesiology focuses on how body movements occur by analyzing physical performance and functions. Exercise science looks into how the body responds to physical exercise. Exercise science degree students learn to implement personalized physical exercises safe for different conditions. Students learn how to analyze the performance of a healthy body and what goes wrong when someone falls ill.

A degree in exercise science offers graduates an opportunity to explore a range of career paths, including health sciences. The degree programs combine health and fitness to inform how physical exercise can prevent and treat illnesses and promote general well-being. As a graduate, you will have the necessary skills to execute the following tasks:

  • Helping athletes perform better and gain endurance
  • Enabling patients to recover from injury and illness
  • Assisting students to develop and maintain healthy habits
  • Helping workers minimize occupational injuries
  • Strategizing on disease prevention and intervention
  • Improving lifestyles and nutrition
  • Enhancing the performance of people across various ages and occupations
  • Managing illnesses and impairments

Why Are Exercise Science Experts Important?

Exercise is crucial in maintaining good health and well-being. Therefore, experts in exercise science play a significant role in promoting wellness. While one may exercise independently, an expert will help you understand the best exercise based on age and underlying ailment.

There are many reasons why exercise science experts are important. Exercise science experts Improve the general health of patients. By combining fitness and diet, they help make suggestions to patients that will improve their health. Exercises play a big role in improving mental health, enhancing quick recovery, and maintaining good health.

Exercise science experts use stress test tools to evaluate a patient’s metabolism and cardiovascular function. The results help in designing a fitness plan that meets the patient’s health goals.

Experts in Exercise Science Develop Individualized Exercise Programs and Prescriptions. Customized exercise programs aid in meeting the unique healthcare needs of patients. Exercise routines are not one-size-fits-all. A routine for an expectant mother or a construction engineer may not work for an athlete.

Exercise science experts help prevent injuries and aid the recovery process. Experts have a deep understanding of physiology and human anatomy, which helps develop techniques to prevent injuries. For example, experts understand how a meniscus tear can occur’ therefore, they guide on safe exercise routines which are less likely to cause the tear.

Experts help individuals achieve desirable results through specialized nutrition. Nutrition has a significant impact on human health and well-being. The food you consume determines your recovery process when diagnosed with a lifestyle disease. Exercise science experts guide diabetes, hypertension, or obese patients with the right exercise and diet to improve their health. The right nutrition helps athletes, students, accountants, doctors, engineers, constructors, and other professionals perform optimally.

Lastly, exercise science experts optimize athletics performance. Team managers and coaches who hire exercise science experts can develop targeted training routines. Experts help athletes to focus on how they use their energy as well as how to maintain it. The training helps optimize each athlete’s performance, leading to effective team performance.

Degree Options in Exercise Science

Colleges across the United States offer exercise science degrees at different levels. The degree programs are available online and in person, depending on the learning institution.

The different exercise science degrees include:

Associate Degree in Exercise Science

Students undergo a 2-year associate degree program where they acquire offering general education in human anatomy, nutrition, and physiology.

Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science

A bachelor’s degree in exercise science allows you to pursue advanced courses such as nutrition, biomechanics, or physiology. Some bachelor’s degree programs offer coaching, counseling, kinesiology, and other choice concentrations.

Master’s Degree in Exercise Science

A master’s program in exercise science offers more specialized training compared to bachelor’s degrees. You may get advanced training in applied kinesiology, epidemiology, and sports psychology. Master’s degree students undertake training on research methods and have to complete a research project and an internship.

Doctoral and Professional Degrees in Exercise Science

Most likely, you will become a professor and researcher in exercise science after attaining a Ph. D degree. Students undertake advanced scientific and statistical research methods. As is standard, a dissertation is also a requirement to earn your Ph.D. These advanced degrees produce more specific professionals, such as physical therapists, after undertaking a Doctor in physical therapy training. To earn professional degrees, you will have to complete numerous clinical hours under a licensed practitioner’s supervision.

Are There Online Options?

Yes, many colleges and universities offer online degrees in exercise science. Get your desired associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral-level degree from your preferred higher-learning institution. Americans indicate a growing interest in active lifestyles amidst the 24-hour economy. More people are turning to exercise professionals for guidance which you can offer using your online degree in exercise science.

Online degree programs in exercise science equip learners with foundational concepts such as nutrition, movement, coaching, counseling, exercise program design, behavioral strategies, and business management. Institutions such as Maryville University, Missouri, offer online bachelor’s degrees in exercise science. Mary vile gives students access to a state-of-the-art program taught to be experts in the industry. Visit the learn.org website to find other colleges offering online degrees and enroll.

What You Will Learn (Curriculum Overview)

A degree in exercise science provides learners with academic content and first-hand training on the science of movement. Students utilize science, practical application, and research methodologies to study exercise’s effects on health, well-being, and performance. Students are equipped with knowledge on recognizing and evaluating the human body’s metabolic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary functions. The scientific knowledge guides in planning and implementing exercise and nutrition programs to maintain and enhance health, fitness, and quality of life.

Colleges may offer slightly different courses for a bachelor of exercise science degree. But below is a list of common units you will encounter:

Introduction to Healthcare and Science

The main focus of this unit is introducing students to various career opportunities in the healthcare industry. Learners understand the educational requirements of each career, the nature of work, and the options available for career development.

Introduction to Exercise Science

Students will be introduced to the scope of exercise science and understand different terminologies and sub-disciplines. The courses introduce students to career opportunities available in exercise science.

Medical Terminologies

You will learn about the language of medicine and how to build and analyze medical words and terms.

Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Physiology

Students learn about the physiology and anatomy of the human body; the muscular and skeletal systems. Learners will understand how to identify common structures and analyze the physiologic aspects of movements.

Personal Health and Wellness

The course exposes learners to issues relating to the personal health of individuals. It pays attention to physical, cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and environmental aspects.

Motor Learning

Students learn about the different approaches to motor skills and will gain an overview of different learning theories.

Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries

Students learn about the prevention and management of injuries related to sports and physical activity.

Evidence-Based Research

The course teaches evidence-based research principles and applies them to clinical practice.

Kinesiology and Biomechanics

The course includes the study of musculoskeletal actions, sports skills, and training techniques. Students learn how to apply mechanical principles to human performance patterns.


Students learn about nutrition and energy consumption in different exercise routines, diet training, and how to make food recommendations.

Exercise Physiology

Students learn about the body’s response to exercise-related stresses. Some of the topics covered include neuromuscular, respiratory, and bioenergetics responses.

Health Promotion and Illness Prevention

The unit looks into strategies to enhance wellness and prevent illnesses and injuries. It focuses on proactive measures for health rather than reactive responses.

Other courses you will undertake in your exercise science degree include:

  • Psychology
  • Chemistry of health sciences
  • Basic life support and first aid
  • Professional development

The University of Illinois, Springfield, offers a wide range of courses in its bachelor’s degree in exercise science. You may apply to study for an in-person program at the institution or any other college of choice.

What do Exercise Science Professionals in Sports Do?

Exercise science experts in sports help athletes improve their performance, recover from injuries, and maintain general well-being. Below is a list of tasks performed by exercise trainers:

Strength and Conditioning Coach in Sports

One can work in high schools, universities, and professional sports teams to develop specific training and conditioning programs. The programs increase sports performance for athletes, such as endurance, flexibility, and strength. Graduates may need a master’s degree and licensing from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers work with athletes in convenient spaces, such as at home, work, or the gym. They provide exercise prescriptions based on the health and fitness status of the clients. You require an undergraduate degree in exercise science and certification for the American College of Sports Medicine to practice as a personal trainer.

Sport Nutritionists

Exercise scientists may choose to advance their studies in dietetics and complete a 9-month internship under the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Passing the ADA exam is a requirement to get your certification.

Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist

Sports teams hire exercise specialists to guide physical rehabilitation for athletes with cardiac and pulmonary-related injuries.

Aerobics Instructor

Aerobics instructors hold exercise sessions for participants who are mostly organized in groups. Group members may have different fitness levels and medical issues or may have common health and fitness concerns. You may work with professional sports teams, students, hospitals, and commercial fitness centers. A minimum of an undergraduate degree and recognized certification are required to become an athletics trainer.

Sports Therapist

Your work will provide first-hand responses to injuries related to sports. You will oversee the rehabilitation of the patient to full fitness. Sports therapists administer safe exercise routines to prevent injuries from occurring.


Featured Kinesiology and Exercise Science Programs

  • 100% Online Courses
  • Top-Ranked Program
  • 1.5 Year Program

Liberty University

M.S. in Exercise Science and Wellness

Impact the world of sports, fitness, and wellness with Liberty University’s Exercise Science & Wellness Master’s Degree.

  • Four Unique Concentrations
  • Complete in 1.5 Years
  • Transfer Credits

Liberty University

M.S. in Human Performance

Learn how to develop health and wellness programs and improve physical education and community nutrition.

What Are the Benefits of a Degree in Exercise Science?

As discussed earlier, a degree in exercise science earns you a wide range of careers. With either of the exercise science degrees, you stand a chance to earn better salaries.

You help people gain the full benefits of exercise. Working in a corporate program will improve employee well-being, resulting in reduced health insurance costs for the company.

Are There Accreditation Agencies for Exercise Science?

Graduates pursue certification as advancement to their degree. The credible certification bodies in exercise science include:

Are there Regional Accreditations in Exercise Science?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers professional accreditation for various sports science disciplines. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) offers programmatic accreditations. Regional accreditations require an institution’s degree to meet the expected standard. The difference with programmatic accreditation is that programmatic accreditation requires specialized educational programs to meet the set standards to best prepare students for the workforce.

Will Salaries Be Higher in a Specific Field with an Exercise Science Degree?

Different occupations attract different salaries within the exercise science discipline. Below is a list of expected salaries earned by different professionals. The salaries are according to BLS data as of 2020.

Bachelor’s in Exercise Science Degrees

  • You can become a recreational therapist with a median annual salary of $47,710.
  • Coach in a professional or amateur team with an annual salary of $36,330.
  • Referee or sports official with an expected annual salary of $28,940.

Master’s in Exercise Science

  • You may become an occupational therapist with an expected annual salary of $86,280.
  • Rehabilitation counselor support people in achieving emotional, physical, and developmental independence. The expected annual salary is $37,530.
  • Physician assistants work with medical teams, while some provide care for athletes. The expected salary is $115,390 annually.

Doctorate Exercise Science

  • Physical therapist help patients improve their motions. The median annual salary is $91,010.
  • College Lecturers. Most colleges and universities hire individuals with a doctorate in exercise science. The median salary per annum is $80,000.
  • Physicians and Surgeons who specialize in care provision to athletes. They offer advice on injury prevention and treatment of injuries. The expected annual salary is $208,000.

What Will I Learn in an Exercise Science Program?

Exercise science will teach you how to relate physical exercise with health, functional capacity, and diseases. You gain in-depth knowledge in health and physical activity, physiology, anatomy of the human body, motor skills, and principles of epidemiology.

You will learn how to work in different settings, such as:

  • Clinical and healthcare facilities
  • Professional fitness centers
  • Commercial wellness facilities
  • Learning institutions

Length of Programs

Associate degree

The programs will take you two years, from which you may proceed to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

You will earn your degree after 4 years of study at an accredited college.

Master’s Degree

Different colleges have carrying durations, but the average length of a master’s degree in exercise science is 2 years. Ball State University, Indiana, offers a 2-year master’s program for in-person students who choose to specialize in kinesiology. Loyola University, Chicago, offers a comprehensive 5-year program from bachelor’s to master’s degree in exercise science. Research a university near you to find out how long their exercise science degree takes.

Standard Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science

Some of the common bachelor’s degree courses that are taught include:

Legal Issues in Fitness and Sport

Basic principles, legal terminology, and risk management approaches, as well as the applications of legal principles to the protection of employees, and employers in kinesiology-related fields. Case studies in contemporary ethical issues related to sports are often used as learning opportunities.

Nutrition and Performance

Students learn general guidelines for individuals engaging in active lifestyles and .how nutrition and performance relate and are taught how to develop routines and diets to enhance performance. Current practices recommended for athletes at every level are also be discussed.

Sport Engineering and Human Performance

Designed to discuss the limitations of human performance, this course also explores the equipment engineered to enhance athleticism and results. This course will challenge students’ thinking using science that governs biomechanics and human physiology as well as the data that drives equipment development.

Sports Psychology

Students learn how to meet the athletes’ emotional, psychological, intellectual, and physical needs for general well-being.

What is the Career Outlook for Exercise Science Graduates?

There is a predicted growth in salaries and employment rate for exercise science graduates.

Field Growth + Salaries

According to BLS data, the median salary as of 2021 was $ 47,940 per year, with an hourly rate of $23.05. The number of jobs in the disciple is expected to increase by 1,900 between 2021-2031. The percentage job outlook between 2021-2031 is at 9%, a rate higher than the average growth rate.

Career Paths

Exercise scientists may choose to follow a wide range of career paths. 3 examples of high-demand careers include;

Fitness Trainers

You may work with corporates or individuals to help them acquire their health and fitness goals. You could work in fitness companies, gyms, clients’ homes, or a place of convenience per the employment contract.

Athletics Trainer

You can become an athletics trainer by attaining accreditation from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). You will then need to pass a comprehensive test issued by the Board of Certification (BOC).

Community Program Director

Your task will be to develop exercise routines for recreational, sports, family, social, and cultural programs for a given community. It could be a community of people living with diabetes, the elderly, or any other social setting.

Styles of Practice

There are 3 common styles of practice that exercise science degrees graduates may choose to follow. They are:

Corporate Practice

Exercise science professionals may join the corporate world by seeking employment with organizations that need their services. Such organizations include hospitals, gyms, colleges, and communities.


The second style of practice is working as a teacher or lecturer in high schools or colleges. This involves training learners in the exercise science discipline.

Private practitioners

The third is a private practice or own business. An exercise science expert may offer freelance services to individuals, corporates, and other institutions. The expert may also register their business and hire other experts to provide a broad range of services within the exercise science discipline.

Exercise Science Degree by State