The pandemic shaped the way the world works and, more importantly, how we work in today’s world. 62% of Americans agree on health being more important and relevant to them post-pandemic. Therefore, exercising is not just for passing the time, it’s for living life to the best extent.
Exercise Science aims to change people’s lives for the better. And, it’s all-encompassing – whether you’re a healthy athlete or you have a chronic condition, exercise science can tailor-fit programs to help you live your life easier and longer.
A Master’s degree in Exercise Science is a fulfilling pursuit. In the process, you can either expand your knowledge base on physical well-being or specialize in a fitness niche to stand out from the rest. Regardless, you get to improve people’s lives for the better as a result.
Overview of Exercise Science Master’s Degrees
Why are Exercise Science Professionals Important?
Exercise Science is an evidence-based discipline that finds solutions to numerous health problems we may not realize until it becomes evidently demobilizing. Therefore, exercise Science professionals improve lives, not just lifestyles. As physical fitness and overall well-being are becoming top priorities, both for professional athletes and the average person, exercise science degree holders help facilitate the best path toward these goals.
However, given the rise of fitness content readily accessible on the internet, you may not completely be sold by their relevance and viability in the fitness industry. Whether the overwhelming volume of this content is credible is questionable. Compared to those who have a degree or a Master’s in exercise science, viral content online can be unrealistic and highly generic at best or misinformed at worst.
Exercise Science focuses on these key areas that differentiate them from the rest:
Exercise Science vs. Athletic Training
Athletic training is part of the healthcare profession. Certified health professionals work with physicians and other medical professionals to focus on injury prevention or treatment for athletes.
Conversely, coaches create wellness and exercise routines for everyone across different fitness capabilities. These exercises extend outside of physical conditioning as exercise professionals, such as wellness directors, health educators, and recreation coordinators, also create sustainable programs that bring positive psychological effects.
Anatomy and Physiology
Exercise Science professionals not only learn the human body’s structure but moreso how different parts contribute to overall mobility. This also includes how different organs and systems respond to different diets and training such that they function to the best of their capacity.
Nutrition and Kinesiology
To optimize performance, nutrition is a major factor that coaches design. This goes beyond the usual calorie counting. Coaches create diets that address the specific conditions that their clients have not only for their illnesses but also the changes that diets need to adapt to as the body ages.
Part of adapting is kinesiology or the “movement science” which identifies specific obstacles that hinder one’s desired performance. Each body will have different hindrances and best options to overcome these. Hence why customization, by a professional coach, is so important.
Exercise Science Degree Overview
An Exercise Science degree is a continuous exploration of the limitations and capabilities of the human body. As a student, you investigate ways of countering health problems across different conditions. This study can go even more specific such as the appropriate selection of food and supplements all the way down to the timing of intake.
There are four types of Exercise Science-related degrees that students can pursue: an associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate degree.
Associate of Applied Science in Exercise Science
An Associate’s degree is widely available even at community colleges. This program equips students with practical instructions to apply exercise physiology, personal training, and nutritional coaching. It also has courses in business leadership to prepare students for careers as physiologists and trainers.
Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science
A Bachelor’s degree in this field can be used as a foundation for a career related to exercise science or for further studies in medicine. More advanced topics in exercise psychology, anatomy, kinesiology, and bio-mechanics are expected to be covered.
Master of Science in Exercise Science
For Masters students, in particular, most universities offer both in-classroom and real-world applications of the course. Since this is a Master’s degree, students are expected to learn advanced exercise physiology, health sciences organization and leadership, and even research methods to advance the field itself. This degree is also more academic. Hence why students are required to have a background or prior instruction in subjects like biology, physiology, and psychology.
Doctorate in Exercise Science
Even more advanced than a Master’s degree, a doctoral-level program prepares professionals for researcher or educator roles. The outputs of the degree impact the field as a whole as you do more research on the different subjects within Exercise Science.
What You’ll Learn
A Master’s program in Exercise Science will heavily be research-based. Schools offer a thesis and non-thesis option where core competencies remain the same, with the shared goal of developing a high level of competency in the field. The thesis option is best for those who plan to proceed to a doctorate degree in the subject matter.
The core courses equip students with tools and methods in research about sports science, data analysis, and evaluation of cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular adaptations. Depending on the track students take post-masters degrees, they can opt for electives focusing on independent studies and critical analysis of research if they aim to pursue further studies. If not, other electives include contemporary coaching, special topics in sport science, and the development of recreation programs.
Overall, a Master’s degree will advance a Bachelor’s degree in the following ways:
- Students can understand and analyze research-based literature in the field;
- Learn and apply innovative problem-solving approaches;
- Be equipped to pursue a doctoral degree in the field aside from a full-time professional career;
- Contribute to valuable work in athletic, clinical, educational, and fitness organizations;
- And acquire more advanced professional certifications related to Exercise Science such as being a Certified Conditioning Specialist, Registered Clinic Exercise Physiologist, and Certified Health Fitness Specialist.
Field & Career Placement
There is a multitude of career options for Exercise Science professionals, especially with the recent rise in demand. It is deemed so essential that more than 84% of companies are starting to invest in workplace wellness programs or incentives for their employees!
Education and Instruction
The education and training industry is one of the major ones that hire exercise science professionals to coach and train other professionals on the field. This may include personal training or in-classroom instruction on both a high school, collegiate level, and certification level. Due to the renewed interest in fitness, Exercise Science professionals can also be sports and fitness marketing or management consultants as more enterprises expand and compete.
Preliminary Entry Degree
For those who are planning to pursue a more advanced degree, exercise science can serve as the preliminary instruction. Students can then use this to apply for physical therapy programs, graduate studies, nursing, and other allied health and wellness professions.
Health, Fitness, and Sports Coaching
The employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow by 13% until 2028 because of the wide recognition across different industries of the importance of health and fitness programs. Coaches can pursue jobs in the healthcare or sports industry as athletic trainers, nutritional coaches, or rehabilitation facilitators. Given the trends, Exercise Science professionals can be expected to penetrate other settings like military rehabilitation, corporate fitness, and elite training facilities.
What is an Exercise Science Professional?
Overview of Available Licensing
There is no licensing specifically for Exercise Science professionals, just for the more specific professions that Exercise Science graduates want to pursue. Certifications and licenses will allow graduates to differentiate themselves from the rest or operate in certain states that require a license.
For example, some states require Exercise Physiologists to be licensed in order to practice but a lot of the certifications related to Exercise Science are optional. The American Society of Exercise Physiologists offers an exercise physiologist certificate given that the applicant has a Bachelor’s degree in the field and passes the exam. To continuously hold the certification, exercise physiologists need to take education classes.
The American College of Sports Medicine also offers certification for Clinic Exercise Physiologists given that the applicant passes the examination together with rendering a minimum number of hours of clinical experience.
Certifications that gain you a job advantage include:
- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
- Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES)
- Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
- Certified Specialist in Speed and Explosion
- Certified Wellcoach
Although these certifications are not required, advancing your career will be made easier with these. This is especially true for Exercise Science degree holders that often have a broad knowledge and skill base.
Overview of Occupations
As we have seen in the fields and career placement of Exercise Science degree holders, they mostly enter into health and wellness industries albeit in different settings.
Broadly, they enter into the following occupations:
Exercise Science professionals can attain certifications in medical exercise specializations and corrective exercise specialists. As the field touches on a wide array of medical topics like biology and chemistry, it makes exercise science degree holders eligible to work with and in health careers. This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medicine.
Starting when you attain your Bachelor’s degree, you can attain the following certifications that allow you to be an instructor in the field. These certifications include certified health education specialist, tactical strength and conditioning facilitator, EXOS performance specialist, and EXOS fitness specialist.
- Coaching and training
Exercise science degree holders can also become professionals in coaching and training such as being fitness trainers, scouts for college or professional sports teams, recreational therapists for those with disabilities and injuries, and exercise physiologists.
What are the Benefits of an Online Degree in Exercise Science?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18% of jobs will soon require a Master’s degree. To increase your chances of employment and career development, a Master’s degree will soon be necessary than it is optional.
These are the following benefits apart from being a competitive candidate in today’s workforce:
A multitude of Specialization Options
A Master’s degree is the best platform to choose a niche or specialty. Taking one online gives you access to multiple options from different universities. For example, PennWest California alone offers 24 different Master’s degree options related to Exercise Science. Not only are you granted access to options abroad, but you are also exposed to world-class experts as instructors know no geographical bounds.
Convenience and Cost Efficiency
Traditionally, graduates would have to choose between their full-time work and pursuing further education. With the convenience of online classes, you don’t need to trade one for the other. Apart from the benefit of time, online learning is also good for your finances as onsite fees no longer apply. You get access to international and competitive training at a lower cost.
While pursuing a Master’s degree, certifications are also more accessible and convenient to attain. Therefore, advancing your career is also made easier. Master’s degree programs often prepare you enough to qualify for various fitness certifications since the degree concentrations embed the course needed for the certification exams.
The certifications that are made easier for you to attain include being a certified personal trainer, performance enhancement specialist, and corrective exercise specialist.
Expansion of Professional Network
Of course, when you’re at the doors of international institutions with access to world-class instructors, you are given windows of opportunity to meet people in the field. Faculty members are often nationally-recognized experts and your classmates may be potential business partners or professional resources.
The learning environment that you will be exposed to is simply more competitive than if you were forced to choose a Master’s program out of geographical circumstances.
What Will I Learn in an Exercise Science Master’s Program?
Length of Programs
The length of the programs may vary depending on your university’s required total credits, your choices of concentration, and the time commitment (part-time or full-time student). For example, if you’re required to complete 7 core courses with 2 concentrations, you can opt to finish between 12 to 24 months.
Other universities, such as Northeastern University, allow for a competition of 12 to 18 months. Their program offers two concentrations, clinic exercise physiology or physical activity and public health.
In general, your time commitment can range from 9 to 18 hours per week which will affect how fast you can complete the program as a whole. Of course, with the flexibility of online Master’s degrees, these hours can be allocated in the most optimal way possible for your benefit.
Some universities will offer more core subjects other than what is listed but the subjects below are what you can expect to encounter. On top of this standard curriculum, students can choose among the different concentrations offered by their university of choice. Each concentration will have its own set of subjects and requirements.
Research Methods and Statistics in Exercise Science
This course covers research methods including research planning and designs, data collection, statistics, and dissemination of research.
Facilities and Event Management
Students are taught the operations and management of athletic and recreational facilities including strategies to run successful sporting and workplace settings.
Functional Movement and Motor Learning
In this subject, students investigate motor control and motor skills of daily activities, rehabilitation, and athlete performance. The topics include training the body to move efficiently, preventing injuries, and overall improvement in mobility.
Fitness and Sports Nutrition
Students match the role of nutrition to human performance optimization with topics such as advancement manipulation of macro and micronutrients, ergonomic aids, suppmentation, and nutrition in changing environments.
The course teaches the physiological principles of the cardiopulmonary system including its structure and operations, diseases, and exercise-induced responses.
Advanced Exercise Physiology
The course covers advanced studies on physiology such as the neuromuscular, metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory, and endocrine responses to exercise across different fitness levels and health conditions.
Electrocardiography, Clinical Assessment, and Prescription
Students focus on the identification and management of diseases by learning how to interpret results, evaluate programs, and prescribe exercise and nutrition programs for different clinical conditions.
What Are The Standard Entrance Requirements to Enroll?
A Bachelor’s degree in any allied health, exercise science, psychology, sports management, or other related wellness programs are generally accepted. Apart from the degree itself, students should have achieved a minimum grade requirement which is usually at least a 2.8 GPA.
Other than the degree itself, some universities require certain subjects during the candidate’s undergraduate program to be accepted. These subjects include anatomy and physiology coursework.
Application Process / Timeline / Cost
Depending on the university, the cost can range from $75 to $100.
The application process preparations may be more tedious depending on the university since some of them require two letters of recommendation apart from a personal statement. This may take the candidate more time to acquire.
Most graduate school deadlines fall in the latter half of each year from October to December but crucial factors such as admission deadlines should be consulted with your university of choice.
All universities will most likely require a transcript. This is the official document that shows your attendance at the university as well as the grade you achieved. Since most schools have a minimum GPA requirement, a transcript will the proof of that attainment.
Most universities require a personal statement that outlines your interest in the program and how it’s aligned with your future goals. Along with this is your professional resume or curriculum vitae detailing your professional experience, skills, and background.
Other information may include ways you plan to handle the coursework of the program, personal strengths, and academic goals.
GRE or MAT scores
Universities may or may not require the submission of these scores. However, you can add these to the list of requirements you’re submitting for consideration.
What is the Career Outlook for Exercise Science?
Field Growth and Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 Median Pay for Exercise Physiologists is around $47,940 per year with a Job Outlook or growth of 9% until 2031. This is faster than the average growth of other occupations.
The top industries that employ the most exercise physiologists are general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of Other Health Practitioners, and offices of Physicians but the highest paying industries for this profession are the Federal Executive Branch (OEWS Designation), colleges, universities, and professional schools, and companies.
As mentioned before, being an Exercise Physiologist is just one of the many occupations of an Exercise Science degree. Fitness Trainers and Instructors, as part of the long list of occupations, earn a median pay of $40,700 per year which is expected to grow 19% until 2031.
Along with the other trends, professionals with these Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are expected to experience a surge in demand and overall growth in the field.
Career Paths and Job Titles
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the top occupations and careers in Exercise Science:
- Exercise Physiologist – develop fitness and exercise regimens for both healthy clients and those with chronic illnesses.
- Strength and Conditioning Coach – create programs specifically for athletes and sports teams to prevent injury and optimize performance.
- Wellness Director – develop programs for large organizations and communities for overall physical and mental well-being.
- Personal Trainer – focus on individuals’ training and nutritional needs by committing to be their personal trainer.
- Health Coach – develop lifestyle and healthy habits through health goals and strategies to target behavior towards holistic improvement.
Exercise Science is becoming a need more than a luxury. Before more people discover this rich field, take advantage of online Master’s degrees, get ahead, and improve more lives than ever before.