You Can Do These 6 Jobs With An Exercise Science Degree

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If you want to take your passion for fitness to the next level—and do so in a way that directly benefits other people—consider pursuing an exercise science degree. The field combines technical, scientific and social skills, which allow to fulfill a career as a fitness instructor, occupational therapist or exercise physiologist.

When you start your exercise science career in high school, you’ll qualify for additional jobs with an appropriate degree. Some roles, particularly in research and academia, require a master’s or doctoral degree.

Keep reading to learn about the roles, specializations, and certifications you can pursue as an exercise science graduate.

What is exercise science?

Exercise science studies how the body responds to physical activity. This discipline includes biomechanics, motor development, exercise physiology and sport psychology. Explores the overlapping effects and benefits of nutrition, exercise, and fitness in the field.

The exercise science curriculum also delves into social and psychological topics related to movement. Students will examine team performance, sport psychology, and the lifelong effects of physical activity.

Exercise science majors become experts in the human body as it relates to exercise. May conduct and analyze tests to determine customer needs and goals. You can also create training programs or fitness plans and carefully monitor the progress of clients. Exercise science professionals empower their clients through education and practice.

What can you do with an exercise science degree?

Careers in exercise science include a variety of roles, all focused on improving people’s overall well-being through physical fitness. Exercise science professionals work in the fields of athletics and coaching, research, and medicine. As a few examples, they may specialize in cardiac rehabilitation, athletic performance, or fitness for certain groups.

Before starting an exercise science program, consider your long-term goals. A well-rounded undergraduate degree in customer-focused or entrepreneurship prepares you to enter the workforce. Earning a graduate or doctoral degree will equip you for specialized careers in health care or research.

Science skills exercise skills

No matter what industry you pursue, you must have a passion for health and fitness and want to help others achieve their best. Whether you work to facilitate the performance of elite athletes or help seniors regain their independence, you must be compassionate, patient, and encouraging.

Exercise science jobs typically require you to be on your feet and take an active role. You can expect to work with clients and may need to lift them or help them perform exercises.

Finally, you should have a solid understanding of the scientific concepts related to physical activity, including anatomy and physiology, psychology, and motor control.

Careers in exercise science

You can enroll in an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s in exercise science program, and each degree level offers its own career opportunities. Advanced clinical and research roles typically require at least a master’s degree. Explore six common jobs for people with exercise science degrees below.

Salary information for this section is available from US Bureau of Labor Statistics In November 2023.

Fitness instructor

Average Annual Salary: 45,380 dollars
Minimum Required Education: High school diploma
Job Overview: Fitness instructors work with individuals or groups to improve their physical health. They develop exercises, demonstrate exercises and motivate their clients. This path lends itself to entrepreneurship; With further education you can become a fitness manager or gym owner. Working as a fitness instructor provides experience and income to support further studies.

Exercise Physiologist

Average Annual Salary: 51,350 dollars
Minimum Required Education: bachelor degree
Job Overview: Exercise physiologists help people improve their physical fitness through targeted programming and health education. They assess the client’s needs and goals, such as improving flexibility, strength, or cardiovascular health. Exercise physiologists conduct and analyze tests, then develop, implement and monitor compliance with exercise plans. Exercise physiologists often work with clients who have chronic health conditions.

Health education specialist

Average Annual Salary: 59,990 dollars
Minimum Required Education: bachelor degree
Job Overview: Health education specialists promote wellness in their communities. Their influence depends on their workplace. In public health departments, these specialists may influence policy decisions or create campaigns related to nutrition or vaccination. In contrast, nonprofit workers may focus on finding local supports or developing educational materials focused on a specific disease.

Occupational therapist

Average Annual Salary: 93,180 dollars
Minimum Required Education: master’s degree
Job Overview: Occupational therapists usually treat disabilities, illnesses, or injuries. By developing, improving or rehabilitating physical abilities, they help people achieve independence. Occupational therapists teach clients and their families how to use adaptive equipment or make their homes safer and more accessible. Learn more in our guide How to become an occupational therapist.

Athletic trainer

Average Annual Salary: 53,840 dollars
Minimum Required Education: master’s degree
Job Overview: Athletic trainers prevent and treat musculoskeletal issues. They help a variety of populations, including children, professional athletes, and soldiers. Athletic trainers may collaborate with physicians to implement medical injury rehabilitation programs for specific clients. Emergency care is provided if injuries occur despite preventive efforts.

Physical therapist

Average Annual Salary: 97,720 dollars
Minimum Required Education: Doctoral degree or professional degree
Job Overview: Physical therapists prevent, manage, and treat injuries, illnesses, and chronic conditions. Collaborate with health care professionals to assess patients, develop treatment plans, and evaluate progress. Physical therapists use equipment, stretching, exercises, and other hands-on techniques to improve patients’ functional range of motion. It qualifies undergraduate students in exercise science for three years Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

To learn more, see our guide How to become a physical therapist.

Specialization in exercise science

Careers in exercise science are all focused on physical activity, but you can specialize your career path in an area that particularly interests you. Common areas of focus include:

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Personal training
  • Performance improvement
  • Team performance
  • Health training
  • Athletic training
  • Recovery

Exercise Science vs. Kinesiology: What’s the Difference?

Kinesiology and exercise science are closely related, but they differ in scope. Exercise science programs typically fall under kinesiology departments. However, program scope varies by college, so explore the curriculum before enrolling. You may be able to achieve your goals with either degree.


Kinesiology studies human movement in everyday life, examining anatomy, physiology and biomechanical processes. Kinesiology students examine healthy behaviors, including diet and exercise, and ways to apply these principles to improve a person’s physical or mental well-being.

because of kinesiology careers Covering many concepts, students can often choose a specialty. Common areas of focus include sports management, nutrition, physical education, inclusive exercise and rehabilitation. Kinesiology degrees Prepare graduates for careers in research and development, education, clinical health care, health promotion and management.

Exercise science

Many schools emphasize exercise science as a kinesiology degree. Rather than focusing on the mechanics of movement, exercise science studies the human body’s broader response to exercise, including adaptation and performance.

If you want your career to emphasize physical fitness and its practical application to human function, pursue an exercise science degree. While these programs incorporate the science of kinesiology, they will better equip you for movement-based roles in exercise physiology, strength and conditioning, and personal training.

Professional organizations for exercise science

Joining a professional organization will enhance your skills in highly technical exercise science. Many organizations offer professional certifications, which establish your expertise and encourage you to continue learning and improving. You can also find educational materials and networking opportunities.

Many exercise science associations focus on a specific skill set. With so many groups to choose from, be sure to rely on nationally known or accredited organizations.

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

ACE, one of the most respected professional organizations in the field, offers certifications in personal training, group fitness, health training and medical practice. The group offers continuing education through online courses, research studies and webinars.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

NASM It hosts accredited certification programs for personal trainers and fitness trainers. Members get support with client management, fitness tracking and performance tracking.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

NSCA It offers certification, professional development opportunities and educational materials such as articles, courses and journals. NSCA provides research grants and scholarships to support its members.

Frequently Asked Questions About Applied Science Jobs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the highest paying job in exercise science?

Some of the highest paid exercise science professionals work as physical therapists. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $97,720 in May 2022.

What career opportunities are there for an exercise scientist?

Exercise science professionals work as researchers, professors, coaches, entrepreneurs, and medical personnel. They often use their expertise to help individuals improve their physical well-being as fitness instructors, physical therapists, or occupational therapists.

Are exercise science and kinesiology the same?

Exercise science is a part of kinesiology. Kinesiology broadly studies human movement, including mechanical and biological processes and how people interact with their environment. Exercise science focuses on how the body responds to physical activity.

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