What Does a Career in Kinesiology Entail?
A career in kinesiology and exercise science absolutely requires a kinesiology degree. Once students have completed an on-campus, online, or hybrid kinesiology program at their university or school of choice, they might add special certificates that suit a specific type of work such as wellness services, athletics, physical therapy, or exercise safety. For instance, if kinesiology students want to become personal trainers, they could earn a certificate that is appropriate for that profession and teaches them more about exercise physiology and human movement or motor development if you want to work with kids or teens. You could also put your degree to use in other ways, including working as a consultant or managing a health club. Kinesiology graduates have many choices when it comes to kinesiology jobs as personal trainers or athletic trainers dealing with sports related injuries or working for sports teams or privately with individuals. Kinesiology professionals could also choose to go on to medical school and earn a medicine degree so that they can work as a sports medicine physician who will also treat sports related injuries, though at a higher level; an exercise pohysiologist; or occupational therapist. These kinesiology jobs often require master's degrees or even doctoral degrees.
At some point in your kinesiology career, after graduation, you might desire higher pay or more responsibility in your duties. For that, you will need either a correlated undergraduate degree or graduate-level coursework. You could earn a full master's degree from a state school, or you could take a select group of courses in kinesiology topics for a graduate certificate, depending on your specific career goals and needs. Many of the courses for these types of programs are available online, though there may not be nearly as many fully online programs.
No matter what route you take to succeed as a Kinesiologist, you will always benefit from a lifetime of learning, whether online or in-person certifications and courses.
Components of A Successful Career In Kinesiology
As mentioned before, you cannot skip earning a degree if you want to work in kinesiology and in the sports industry. The most vital and fundamental component of a successful career in kinesiology is an associate or undergraduate degree. As students work toward a degree, they should consider completing an internship or working in the field. You might even be able to find a position with an athletic team on campus at the university where you are a student. This will be especially easy if you choose to enter a hybrid program, which is more flexible because it includes in-person and online learning. When you are able to integrate practical, hands-on experience with faculty and academic curriculum in kinesiology and exercise science, a graduate's resume will be primed for later success.
Once you have graduated, you may move on to achieve either a certificate in a related field or perhaps you wish to dive into graduate school. You can even take online graduate courses while you continue to gain experience in the field. Either route will provide another strong support for a successful career.
How to Become a Kinesiologist
Typical Kinesiology Degree Requirements
The kinesiology and exercise science field is concerned with physical activity. Thus, to complete these degree programs, you will take courses that relate to the biology of the human body, but also courses related to actual movement. Kinesiology degree requirements can include, but are not limited to:
- Human Performance and Nutrition
- Neuromechanics and Human Motion
- Personal Training: Strength and Conditioning
- Clinical Implications of Obesity
- Therapeutic Exercise
Typical Kinesiology Certifications Needed
To apply your kinesiology and exercise science degree, you might want to add a certification or even a professional license to your credentials. Some of these certifications will only take a few weeks to attain through online courses, while professional licensure often takes a second degree or specific qualifying coursework, depending on the demands of your jurisdiction. A few kinesiology certifications or licenses you could pursue include:
- Physical Trainer
- Physical Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Physical Education Teacher
- Yoga Instructor
- Massage Therapist
Academic Standards for Kinesiology Degrees
Kinesiology and exercise science degree programs all require that you maintain a certain level of academic excellence throughout your studies. This will vary from school to school. Some require a minimum of a 1.7 GPA, while others ask for a 2.5.
Regardless of what the minimum standard is for your degree, you should aspire to the highest GPA you can attain. This is because, with higher grades you will increase your mastery kinesiology. In fact, if you can graduate from a four-year kinesiology program with a 3.0 or better, your chances of attending a highly ranked graduate program increase greatly. Further, if you can earn academic honors such as being named to the Dean's list for a number of terms or if you graduate with honors, you can add that to your resume. Every employer is impressed with outstanding academic success. If nothing else, scholastic achievement indicates a high level of dedication to your work, especially if you achieved it while maintaining a job and taking classes online.
Exam/Experience Needed for Kinesiology Degrees
Not every Kinesiology and exercise science department in every school will require a specific exam or experiential learning experience, which will improve your chances of finding an online program, but most four-year programs will offer various practicums in their course offerings. Your practicum could be geared towards teaching students physical education, or it might be geared towards working in a therapeutic or athletic-training facility. On the other hand, you might study kinesiology with a complimentary major or minor in sports management, in which case your internship could be with a professional sports team.
Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology Online
You can start your career with an associate degree and perhaps a certificate. For instance, an associate degree with a certificate in personal training would be a great way to start a career that is sustainable and also flexible. From there, you can think of moving on to any number of bachelor’s degree programs.
Your AA degree courses might include:
- Foundations of Kinesiology
- Recreational Sports
- Pharmacology and Movement
- Anatomy and Physiology
Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology Online
A BA in Kinesiology enables you to start work in your chosen field, or expand on your work as a personal trainer, massage therapist, or some other certificate-only field. You could also work as a teacher in schools or another setting with a public health focus. As you work towards your undergraduate degree, you might think about adding courses that will set the stage for graduate studies. You could even add a few extra hours to your year by taking online electives that will broaden your knowledge.
Your coursework might include classes such as:
- Supplements and Athletic Performance
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Research Methods
Master's Degree in Kinesiology Online
Your earnings should really take off with a graduate degree. You will find that your workplace is giving you more responsibility, promotions, and pay raises. If you are working as an independent health consultant or educator, you can start to charge more and you'll find that bigger-name clients and projects are coming your way.
Graduate courses you might take include:
- Sports Psychology
- Sports Medicine Administration
- Advanced Coaching
- Social Psychology and Sports
Earning Potential for Kinesiology Degree Fields and Occupations
Starting your career with an online associate degree can set the foundation for a brilliant, well-paid, and rewarding career. Pay rates for AA degree holders are on the lower end, but the degree will allow you to start work in the field you prefer, while offering opportunities to learn and decide the best next step.
When you move on to a bachelor’s degree, your pay will rise to meet your advancing skills and knowledge. With a four-year degree, you can begin to specialize and focus on what parts of kinesiology and exercise science fascinate you the most. You might move into a business role, managing a health club, for instance. You could also delve deep into a therapeutic profession, or even laboratory science.
To maximize earnings, an online or on-campus master's degree will set the stage for your top earning years. By the time you reach graduate school, you will have firm ideas about your focus areas and your long-term goals. You could achieve an MBA with a healthcare focus, for instance, or delve deeper into physical therapy, occupational therapy, or some other field related to kinesiology.
Kinesiology Fields of Study Median Salaries
OTs help patients learn new skills, adapt to disabilities, and maneuver through old age. This field of study is therefore very broad based and encompasses the full therapeutic spectrum from mental health to physical therapy. Occupational Therapists are found working in many wings of the hospital, but also in individual homes, schools, and in the community.
This field of study looks at how to get one's body moving after a traumatic injury or disease. Physical therapy can address relatively small issues such as tennis elbow or major difficulties such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury. Physical Therapists teach people to walk with prosthetic limbs or to use their wheelchairs to their maximum benefit.
This area of health science involves getting athletes back in the game. Some practitioners are found on the sidelines of sporting events, on call to bandage ankles, or provide triage in the event of serious injuries. This field demands that practitioners diagnose and treat injuries with a moment's notice, but also that they help players rehabilitate after an injury.
Getting players back in mental shape is the goal of this field. Some players need help getting over a trauma that is now holding them back. Others need to learn how to find optimal focus under pressure. Practitioners can be PhDs or work with a master's degree in the service of heightened athletic performance.
This field covers the broad range of public health issues. Some delve into the deep statistics and data surrounding healthcare. Others work in the field as educators or consultants who hope to instill health-mindedness in communities worldwide.
Kinesiology and exercise science can be a great springboard into nursing. You can study any number of specialty areas and focus your academic and professional life to match your passions. For instance, some nurses work with orthopedic surgeons while others might work alongside occupational and physical therapists to deliver care for those in need of rehabilitation.
Every sports team needs a manager. Sports Management professionals oversee the administrative aspects of a team, including hiring staff, managing inventories, and working with the marketing team to fill the bleachers on game day. As the world of professional sports continues to grow, so will this exciting and lucrative field.
This branch of medicine deals with the physical parts that make your body move. Its purview includes muscles, bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. When an athlete is injured, an Orthopedic professional helps to repair the damage, or even replace a part. Knee and hip replacements are not uncommon for Orthopedic Surgeons.
Everyone loves their PE teacher and this field helps you get behind the games and discover how this pedagogy impacts students' mental, emotional, and physical well-being. PE teachers primarily work in schools and help build students' physical intelligence. They also teach health education and often coach a school's sports teams.
This field can come under the rubric of sports medicine. As you study, you'll learn how to optimize athletic performance for a particular sport. You can also assist athletes as they recover from an injury. Detailed knowledge of biomechanics will enable you to help an athlete's body help itself.
This field of study encompasses the various aspects that build to optimize human performance. Whether you focus on fitness training, rehabilitation, or even education, these degree programs will prepare you for success in the field.
Science of Coaching
Sometimes known as Sports Science, this field integrates the physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects of coaching athletes. Your academic work will also likely include leadership and overall team management. Degree programs might also include coursework in sports liability, marketing, and public relations.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Associates Salary||Bachelors Salary||Masters Salary|
|Science of Coaching||$42,500||$55,000||$63,000|
Kinesiology Salaries by Occupation
Students who study kinesiology and exercise science end up in a wide range of occupations. Thus, they enjoy a wide range of salary. Some might follow a Sports Medicine track and become Orthopedic Surgeons who command an average salary of $358,251. Of course, they also have MD degree programs and a specialty area. Other kinesiology majors become PE teachers and make a comfortable average salary of $42,663.
Aquatics Program Coordinator
Your specialized knowledge will help you design aquatic programs and activities to best suit the population under your care. You can monitor instructors to ensure they are providing an appropriate level of intensity for participants and you can hire an optimal team so that your aquatic center has a broad range of opportunities for members.
If you become intrigued with conducting research into kinesiology and exercise science or other health sciences, this is a great field to pursue. During the course of your studies you might become intrigued with particular issues in the field, questions that need to be answered in order to best help advance athletic performance or some aspect of rehabilitation. For instance, you might research the nervous system and what role it plays in sports or other high-impact activities.
Kinesiology is a great background for a coach. Not only do coaches know how to motivate athletes on a mental level, but they also know how to optimize physical performance on a purely physical level. Your training might help you create a training regimen for your athletes, including nutrition, mental exercises, and skill-building drills.
Community Health Worker
In this role, you will help your community adopt healthier habits so as to optimize the overall well-being of the population. You might organize recreational sports teams, provide nutritional education, or spearhead fun activities for everyone. Community Health Workers also provide one-on-one supports for people who wish to improve their overall health and fitness.
Once you have a master's degree in kinesiology and exercise science or a related field, you can consider teaching classes to undergraduates. These days, there are expanding opportunities for adjunct professors through online colleges and universities. If this is an intriguing option, consider building a career for a few years, as your experience will help create better teaching opportunities.
Health Club Manager
Your kinesiology training will come in handy as a health club manager in that you will be able to assess the best machines for your weight room, create a dynamite schedule of exercise classes, and perhaps develop teams. When you hire personal trainers or exercise instructors, your depth of knowledge will help you assess where they will fit well into your organization.
Medical Assistants work in a more clinical setting, assisting doctors and nurses with examinations and other clinical appointments. They also are found managing medical records, overseeing the appointment schedule, and performing other administrative tasks. Kinesiology and exercise science experts might look for MA jobs with sports physicians.
Kinesiology is a great background for nurses. You can get started right away as a Certified Nursing Assistant, or you might work towards becoming a Registered Nurse. Nurses can work in medicine in sports, psychiatry, or any other aspect of the healthcare field.
Movement can heal many ailments. People who are recovering from injury or disease often need to re-learn how to move their bodies or stimulate their minds. Your clients may benefit from painting, drawing, music-making, or outings to the forest or simply the local shopping mall.
You can help others learn to live independently as they recover from an injury or disease. You might also help developmentally disabled people learn new life skills and enter a whole new era of independence and autonomy. Each client will present individual challenges that manifest in physical, mental, and emotional ways.
In this occupation, you can help athletes attain their goals. Whether they need help building extra confidence or are learning new athletic skills, you can be of assistance. Sports counselors also help coach athletes through their career options. Your assistance will impact athlete's lives from nearly every angle.
These doctors are experts at hip and knee replacements, among other delicate procedures. They work on ligaments, joints, tendons, and muscles that become injured as a result of movement.
Salary by Occupation
Annual Salary by Occupation (Range)
|Occupations||Entry Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range||Late Career Salary Range|
|Aquatics Program Director||$37,400||$41,900||$49,100|
|Community Health Worker||$35,300||$39,700||$40,000|
|Health Club Manger||$30,800||$48,300||$52,400|
Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)
How long does it take to earn a kinesiology bachelor's degree online?
Your kinesiology and exercise science bachelor's degree can take as little as, say, three years, or as much as six. However, you should aim to complete your kinesiology degree within the standard four years. This is because you want to maintain the most cohesion in your knowledge base. If you take too much time off, you might not retain everything you need to know in order to pass your final courses.
How much does a kinesiology bachelor’s degree cost?
The cost of a bachelor's degree falls within a rather wide range, and prices are fluctuating. However, if you take your first two years in a relatively inexpensive community college and then finish up in a public college or university, your total cost could come in around $30,000.
However, other students might wish to attend a private college in a large, expensive city. In that case, a four-year degree could end up costing as much as $300,000. Though it’s true that those degrees will take a much longer time to pay off, they will likely land a higher paying job.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
You can't assume that every large university will have degree programs in kinesiology and exercise science. Your state's largest university might not offer it, or only offer a few related courses as part of another program. If this is the case, you will need to evaluate your long-term goals regarding your education and career. It's advised that if you are interested in studying and building a career based on kinesiology, you should find the very best program with that exact heading.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
This is a valid question that you should ask every admissions counselor you talk with. You should also ask specific questions related to attrition. That is, find out the percentage of students who enter as first-year students and then graduate. Then, find out how many of those students graduated within four to six years.
In fact, these days most educational statistics on attrition rates rely on a six-year standard. Over the years, it's become less likely that students will graduate within four years. Thus, even the government's social scientists use only the six-year bar as a measure.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Accreditation is a big word in the academic world. When your program meets certain academic standards, it can be accredited by an agency. There are a number of accrediting bodies, but for kinesiology and exercise science, look for programs that meet the standards set by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. CAAHEP accreditation means that your courses and eventual degree will be of the highest caliber. Other accrediting bodies you might look for are:
- Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition & Dietetics (ACEND)
- Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
- Canadian Council of University Physical Education and Kinesiology Administrators (CCUPEKA)
To succeed in kinesiology and exercise science, you don't necessarily need any specific technical skills. It will be advantageous to have a strong interest in movement or nutrition, and to take an active role in your favorite activities. This should not mean that differently-abled bodies needn't apply. To the contrary, if you are able to work within the confines of your body, whatever they may be, you can work with others and help them along their path.
CANFIT Nutrition, Physical Education, and Culinary Arts Scholarships
Deadline: March 31
Minority graduate and undergraduate students who are studying Nutrition, Public Health, or Physical Education are eligible to apply for extra money through California's Communities Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness Program. In fact, only California students are eligible. Undergraduate applicants need to have already completed 50 semester hours and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. Graduate students need to have completed 12-15 hours and have a 3.0 GPA.
School Nutrition Foundation
Amount: $500 - $3,000
The SNF offers scholarships to help facilitate greater professional development among school nutrition workers. Scholarships are also awarded to students or others who are members of the School Nutrition Association.
Michael Moody Fitness Scholarship
Deadline: July 15
This $1,500 scholarship is awarded to students at all levels who are pursuing, athletic training, personal training, physical education teaching and coaching, health and physical fitness, exercise science, sports and recreation management, health sciences, or physical therapy. When you apply, be sure to highlight all of your academic and extra-curricular achievements.
Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Care Career Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 Minimum (12)
Deadline: March 31
Iowa Students at all levels are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. Awards range from $1,000 to $2,500 and are limited to students from the following Iowa counties: Appanoose, Davis, Jasper, Jefferson, Henry, Keokuk, Mahaska, Monroe, Van Buren, and Wapello. The fund intends to encourage students to seek employment in Southeast Iowa. Note that you need to have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Mary Minglen Scholarship Program
Amount: $500 - $1,000
Deadline: December 1
The American Occupational Therapy Foundation oversees this scholarship program. In fact, only members of AOTF are eligible to receive this benefit. The AOTF offers a host of scholarship opportunities on a national and state-specific basis.
Professional Kinesiology Organizations
American Physical Therapy Association
If you take your kinesiology and exercise science practice into the area of physical therapy, you can join the APTA. This organization is dedicated to promoting the profession through lobbying efforts in Washington, clinical education, best-practice guidelines, and public awareness. With chapters in nearly every state, you're sure to find the professional support you need through APTA.
American Medical Society for Sports Medicine
Physicians who specialize in the treatment of athletes are welcome to join this society. Their mission is to enhance education, research, and communication among members and other colleagues in the field. They also aim to advocate for patients and their physicians by promoting relevant issues. This society is quite exclusive, so attaining membership is a badge of honor for all who achieve that goal.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Students should consider joining the AND, as they provide a plethora of resources for internships and jobs. More experienced members can also take advantage of the networking potential provided by the Academy. In fact, the organization boasts a diverse membership that includes registered dietitians, dietetic technicians, and students, too.
American Occupational Therapy Foundation
Occupational Therapists reap great rewards from joining AOTF. If you join, you will receive discounts on education, professional support, opportunities to earn certifications, scholarships, and many other OT career resources.
Choosing an Accredited College
Accreditation is a vital part of your education. It lies behind the scenes for most students but pay attention to the accreditation your school has earned. That credential might determine your fate more than you know. Employer tuition-reimbursement programs often rely on accreditation status when determining which schools to recommend for employees. If you are in undergrad and have designs on a graduate degree, your future program will assess your transcripts in light of which accrediting body certified your credits. Here are a few of the top accreditations to look for:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition & Dietetics (ACEND)
- Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
- Canadian Council of University Physical Education and Kinesiology Administrators (CCUPEKA)
Online vs On-Campus vs Hybrid
Since kinesiology and exercise science are necessarily concerned with the physical body, you might assume that all programs are conducted on-campus. However, there are online and hybrid programs, too.
If you study on-campus, you will be able to engage with fellow students and instructors in real time. This can be particularly beneficial when you are studying specific sports, exercises, or recreational activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
While you can join professional associations that will help with job placement, you still need to have support from your alma mater. Discuss the career resources your program and school offerings. Keep in mind that college and university job fairs are usually heavily weighted to opportunities in their local area. However, ask your admissions counselor how many employers travel from other parts of the state or nation to recruit from your school. This will help you assess your school's national reputation.
Why You Need to Consider How Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
Ratings and accreditations matter when seeking job opportunities. If your program has a national accreditation, your degree will be valued from coast to coast. A highly-sought accreditation will also indicate to employers that you are exceptionally prepared, and they will reward your hard work with a higher salary.
Will I need a math course to complete a kinesiology degree?
Generally, most kinesiology programs require that students complete at least one college math course. The one most often required is statistics. This will help you understand studies performed in the field and it will help you complete your other required science courses.
What types of issues will I be able to help people with using kinesiology?
Kinesiology is believed to be able to address a wealth of issues dealing with various types of physical and even mental health. First, it can affect cardiorespiratory health by increasing oxygenation and the health of the heart muscle. It may also be able to aid cognitive capacities, including mental health, by way of decreasing stress and increasing overall health. This can also increase ergonomics and general comfort and relief from pain by strengthening the correct muscles, as well as helping some patients return to sports or other activities they’ve had to give up due to injury or chronic pain. And, of course, kinesiologists can help patients achieve their weight loss goals.