Helping others become healthier and more active is your ultimate goal. Now you need the education and training to make it happen. But where do you begin? An online exercise science degree program could be the perfect starting point. Not only will you gain the skills necessary to help others make positive life changes, but you’ll walk away with a degree that opens the door to a wide range of careers in personal training, coaching, and healthcare.
If you’re ready to start the journey to your new career, there is no better time to begin than now. From understanding your education options to breaking down cost accreditation, keep reading to find the top online exercise science degree programs and take away the information you need to make an informed decision.
Best Online Exercise Science Degree Programs of 2021
With more people taking action to improve their physical health, the demand for exercise science professionals is likely to grow. Today’s online exercise science degree programs can help meet this increased demand. While this is good news for the field, it’s important to remember that not all education programs are created equally.
To help you in your search, we’ve compiled a list of the best online exercise science programs in 2021. These schools provide affordability, flexibility, and the accreditation needed to seek certification and/or licensure after graduating. Check out two of the top options for this year below.
Online Exercise Science Degree FAQ
Whether you’re just starting your academic journey or you’re a seasoned professional looking at graduate programs, plenty of online exercise science degree options exist at every level to meet your needs. Getting to know a program before you apply is essential. To help you make an informed decision, we answer some of the most common questions about the process below.
Paying for Your Online Degree in Exercise Science
Finding ways to save money on your online exercise science degree is a worthwhile endeavor, especially since the cost of higher education continues to rise each year. Making use of scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantships can help save money while student loans can bridge the gap of your remaining balance. Here are your financial options.
Scholarships & Grants
Colleges and universities, health and wellness organizations, professional associations, foundations, and government agencies all provide a variety of scholarships and grants. Since these don’t need to be repaid, they should be your top option. You can learn more about scholarship and grant options via our guide.
Federal and state governments provide a variety of student loan options based on your degree level and whether you are dependent or independent of your parents/guardians. After exhausting other funding options, student loans can help you cover any remaining amounts.
After filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may qualify for work-study funding. This allows you to take a digital job at your university and earn an hourly wage. At the graduate level, you may qualify for research and/or teaching assistantships. These usually provide tuition remission and/or a stipend. Lastly, it may be possible that you find a paid internship or fellowship but know that these are always highly competitive.
Accreditation Standards for Online Exercise Science Degree Programs
Within the world of programmatic accreditation for online exercise science degree programs, there are several names to know. These include the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), and the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES).
In addition to programmatic accreditation, you also need to ensure you find a college or university that maintains institutional accreditation. It exists in both national and regional forms, with the latter typically being more rigorous and favored by four-year institutions. National accreditation, conversely, is often sought by vocational colleges and trade schools. If unsure whether your school or program has accreditation, you can search the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Getting Your Professional License & Certification After Your Online Exercise Science Degree Program
Here’s what you need to know about licensure and certification for some of the top careers an exercise science degree can lead to.
- Fitness Trainers & Instructors: A wide variety of certifications exist to help fitness instructors demonstrate their proficiencies in many different types of exercises. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies sets accrediting standards for certifying agencies and provides a list of approved organizations.
- Coaches & Scouts: Certification requirements typically vary by employer, with many public high schools requiring coaching staff to be certified. Some colleges may also request candidates complete this step. The National Association of State Boards of Education provides information specific to individual states.
- Recreational Therapist: After completing your bachelor’s degree and supervised internship, you can qualify to take the Certified Therapeutic Specialist examination provided by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. The council provides specialty certifications in physical medicine/rehabilitation, behavioral health, geriatrics, developmental disabilities, and community inclusion services.
- Exercise Physiologists: Louisiana is the only state currently requiring exercise physiologists to hold licensure, but many professionals prefer certified professionals. Both the American Society of Exercise Physiologists and the American College of Sports Medicine provides options.
Careers & Salary Outlook for Exercise Science
The job market for exercise science degree graduates looks promising over the coming decade as more individuals focus on their health and wellbeing. Here’s what you can expect to earn in some of the most common careers for exercise science degree holder.
- Fitness Trainers & Instructors: Roles for fitness instructors will grow much faster than the average for all jobs between 2019-2029 at 15%, leading to 57,600 new jobs.
- Coaches & Scouts: More than 34,300 new coaching and scouting jobs are projected to join the U.S. economy, leading to a 12% growth in the career.
- Recreational Therapist: Expect to see an 8% growth in recreational therapy jobs over the coming decade, increasing openings by 1,700.
- Exercise Physiologists: Jobs for these professionals are projected to grow by 11%, leading to the creation of 2,200 new jobs.
How much can you make with an online exercise science degree?
Exercise science graduates may earn less than other individuals in the healthcare industry, but still bring home healthy pay each year. Those who possess certifications can typically command a higher salary than those who don’t. Here’s what to expect.
- Fitness Trainers & Instructors: Average earnings for 2019 topped $40,390.
- Coaches & Scouts: In 2019, these professionals brought home median salaries of $34,840.
- Recreational Therapist: The median pay in 2019 for recreational therapists was $48,220.
- Exercise Physiologists: Exercise physiologists earned median annual salaries of $49,170 in 2019.
Degrees Related to Exercise Science
After completing your online exercise science degree program, you may decide you want to pursue something a little different for your next degree. Plenty of related degrees exist in both campus-based and online formats, giving you lots of options to consider. Some of the most popular options are highlighted below.
Related Degrees to Consider
Studying kinesiology provides you with a knowledge of how human bodies move and how those movements can improve or weaken our health and fitness. They often help athletes determine how to improve performance outcomes. These programs exist at every academic level, with many offered through distance learning.
- Exercise Physiology
While similar to kinesiology, this degree focuses more on how our bodies respond to physical activities rather than what it takes for us to move in healthy ways. Associate through doctorate programs can be found both online and in-person.
- Sports Management
If you’re interested more in the administrative side of the health and wellness industry, a sports management degree could provide you the necessary education. These programs help you develop skills needed to manage athletes, act as a recruiter, and perform other business-level activities. You can attend an online or campus-based program.
Resources for Exercise Science Students & Professionals
- American College of Sports Medicine
The ACSM supports members by providing certification and continuing education programming, events and conferences, and several different journals and bulletins.
- American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine
Virtual and in-person meetings, online education, fellowships, research publications, and newsletters can all be accessed through an AOSSM membership.
- Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer
The National Association of Sports Medicine provides a glimpse into how you may spend your days if you become a personal trainer.
- Exercise Science: Thoughts from a Graduated Student
Want to know what students think after finishing their degree? Check out this video from a graduate.
- National Academy of Kinesiology
The NAK publishes several journals and professional documents each year alongside providing a doctoral program review.
- National Athletic Trainers’ Association
Joining NATA gives you access to a career center, continuing education opportunities, info about education programs, a national convention, and an online forum.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
NSCA supports members by providing certification opportunities, professional development, education, and event programming.
- What is it Like Being an Exercise Science Major?
This YouTube video shares the experiences of a student currently working toward their exercise science degree.