Annette Kay Donnell
If you are interested in the “how” and “why” of human movement and want a career in sports medicine, physical therapy, health psychology, physical education, or recreation, an online bachelor’s in kinesiology is a smart degree choice.
Kinesiology careers are growing rapidly as the health, fitness, and wellness industries continue to see high consumer demand. Here’s just one example of that growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the athletic training jobs will grow 16% from 2019-2029, with the median pay at nearly $50,000.
Another benefit? An online degree offers the flexibility to adapt your education to your timetable. You’ll learn from the same professors and be challenged by the same projects but with no commute and, in some cases, lower fees and less expensive tuition.
To help you start your search for the online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology that’s best for you, this guide highlights this year’s top-rated online kinesiology programs. It also answers common questions about earning your kinesiology degree online, details the curriculum, and showcases career options after graduation. Start your journey towards your career and online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology below.
School Spotlights: Top Online Kinesiology Programs for 2023
We’ve selected three top-rated online kinesiology bachelor’s degree programs based on critical factors, including affordability, accreditation, and flexibility. These leading programs will get you started, but be sure to look for our full list of top-ranked online kinesiology programs, coming later this year.
Concordia University Chicago
With a completely online program that you can log in to at any time, accelerated courses, and classes that start every five weeks, Concordia University Chicago offers an exceptionally flexible online kinesiology degree. Plus, you can complete this program in as little as 16 months.
Classes are capped at 20 participants, allowing professors to actively engage with students and allowing students to easily collaborate and network. Concordia prides itself on best-in-class, passionate, and highly experienced instructors with extensive teaching experience and unique approaches to learning.
The $431/credit hour cost (which includes the technology fee) is guaranteed not to increase while you complete the program. You’ll complete 36 hours of core courses, including applied kinesiology, physiological basis of exercise, health and fitness assessment, and exercise psychology, to give you a strong foundation for starting your career in kinesiology.
The application process is simple. You need to provide an official high-school or college transcript or documentation of successful completion of your GED and an application form.
East Central University
East Central University offers a comprehensive online Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology that starts you on a career path in recreation, athletics, healthcare, and more.
The program is completely online, although some proctored tests might be required, and closely mirrors the academic semesters for on-campus learning. Total program length is two to four years. East Central University allows you to transfer up to 94 credits, which can greatly reduce both the time and money you’ll spend on the program.
The cost for Oklahoma residents is $264 per credit, and the cost for nonresidents is $541 per credit. Financial aid is available through grants, scholarships, and direct loans. Members of the military, veterans, and Native American students all have additional support services.
This online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology requires 124 credits: 44 general credits, 23 elective credits, and 57 kinesiology credits. The kinesiology course requirements are very thorough, including sports nutrition, care and prevention of athletic injuries, motor learning, biomechanics, research and evaluation of kinesiology, theory of coaching, and two administration courses.
East Central University is accredited by the Society of Health and Physical Educators.
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota online kinesiology program offers students the same classes, instructors, and support services as on-campus students. This includes an academic advisor, free online tutoring, unlimited academic coaching, and online access to the campus library and writing center. You also have options to complete a 10-credit internship, earn an online master’s degree in kinesiology in one additional year, and learn about the distinctive and rapidly growing esports gaming industry.
This online kinesiology degree is a four-year, 120-credit program. To be eligible to attend, you’ll need to pass a criminal background check and complete 18 hours of prerequisites in the areas of biology, human anatomy, physiology, college algebra, and epidemiology. (These are included in the total of 120 credits.) Core kinesiology requirements total 47 hours and include classes such as applied motor development; sport sociology; exercise testing and prescription; research methods; and prevention, care, and legal issues for injury.
Tuition of $428/credit (includes university fees) is the same for residents and nonresidents and, on average, each student receives financial assistance of $12,800 annually. Alumni earn approximately $59,900 within six months of graduating. The kinesiology teaching option is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
What You’ll Learn in an Online Kinesiology Degree Program
Kinesiology is the detailed study of the mechanics of physical movement. With this knowledge, you can evaluate the exercises and activities of others and teach them optimal motor skills to improve a specific condition or their general health.
While each online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology has different requirements, most of them have the same basic set of courses, topics, and learning outcomes. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the key skills you’ll learn in an online kinesiology program:
- Comprehensive knowledge of how major muscles, joints, and bones play a part in physical movement, and the ability to transfer this knowledge to different populations. For instance, you’ll learn how to apply this knowledge when assisting those who want to get fit or maintain fitness, premier athletes, children, and the elderly.
- The ability to conduct assessments on cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition (fat and muscle), and then design programs specific to the client.
- Basic understanding of how select classes of pharmaceuticals affect exercise performance. For example, blood pressure medications often suppress heart rates, making it challenging to prescribe exercises that are based on heart rate.
- Competence in modifying programs to accommodate disabilities or chronic conditions such as cancer and spinal cord injuries. Common disabilities such as mobility challenges, cognitive difficulties, and vision impairment all greatly influence exercise programs. Also, chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, are becoming increasingly prevalent and affect how to optimize exercise programs.
- Proficiency in researching, synthesizing, and communicating results to clients so they know you are basing your analysis on evidence, not opinions.
Common Classes in Online Kinesiology Bachelor’s Degree Programs
This course is the basis of kinesiology, which is a detailed look at the musculoskeletal anatomy and the mechanics of how these anatomical systems contribute to bodily movements. Students learn extensive anatomical terminology.
This class teaches students how nutrition relates to active lifestyles and athletic performance. Students learn how to examine sport-specific dietary requirements and address the nutritional needs of special populations. Students also learn to teach others to stick to nutritional regimens.
Health and Fitness Assessment and Prescription
Students learn the link between health and fitness. They learn screening procedures, risk assessments, and how to select and perform health and fitness assessments to prescribe suitable exercise routines that meet the needs of diverse populations. Students also learn to retest and revise their plans as needed.
Motor learning is what enables us to master physical skills, whether that’s controlling a tennis serve, perfecting a violinist’s hand motion, or overcoming challenges when getting dressed. This discipline combines the cognitive with the physical aspects of learning new movements, from the stage in which movements are often awkward to the point of correctly and automatically performing the movements.
Strength and Conditioning
As a foundation to strength and conditioning terminology and concepts, students learn safe, effective warmup techniques and strength and conditioning exercises for the inactive to the competitive athlete. The focus is on improving one’s performance through exercise. The course emphasizes tailoring exercise program needs across populations (age, gender, and physical fitness).
FAQs About Online Kinesiology Degrees
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in kinesiology online?
The timeframe for completing an online kinesiology bachelor’s degree varies widely. More minimalist programs can be completed in 16 months. Online programs that mirror on-site programs take from two to four years. Some schools offer accelerated programs, particularly when combining a bachelor’s with a master’s. The number of credits you transfer from other learning institutions and whether you are attending part- or full-time also affects the amount of time it takes.
What are the admissions requirements for an online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology?
Generally speaking, an applicant for an online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology needs the following:
- Completed application form
- Minimum GPA of 2.5
- Official high school or college transcripts
- TOEFL or IELTS score if you aren’t a native English speaker
Many, but not all, institutions require ACT or SAT scores. Even if the school does not require it, if you have a high ACT or SAT score, be sure to include it in your submission.
Higher learning institutions look for kinesiology students who challenge themselves in high school with demanding coursework, particularly in the sciences. Applicants are strongly advised to complete the following in high school:
- English–four years
- History and social sciences–three years
- Mathematics–three years
- Science–three years
Schools also look favorably on students who take two years of a foreign language.
How much do online kinesiology degrees cost?
Multiple factors affect the cost of getting an online bachelor’s in kinesiology. Even though it’s online, residency can greatly impact the cost by $200-$400 per credit hour. In addition, private universities generally cost more than public ones. Of course, how you are funded affects your financial bottom line. For instance, sometimes employers help pay for college tuition or books. Here’s a look at the tuition cost for three online kinesiology programs to give you an idea of what you’ll pay.
California Baptist University
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
Total Credits: 50
East Central University
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
Total Credits: 124
$264/credit Oklahoma residents
University of Louisiana at Lafayette, School of Kinesiology
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology–Health Promotion and Wellness
Total Credits: 120
Can I earn my bachelor’s degree in kinesiology completely online?
Yes, you’ll find multiple kinesiology programs that are completely online. That said, some schools require one or more proctored tests where in-person attendance is mandatory. In addition, there are a few hybrid programs that either require or offer in-person practicums.
What’s the difference between a kinesiology degree and an exercise science degree?
The difference between a kinesiology degree and an exercise science degree can be confusing, but the distinction is important when planning your career path.
- Kinesiology is the study of athletic and nonathletic movement of the human body. Common specialties are exercise science, athletic training, sports management, sports medicine, and physical education.
- Exercise science is a subfield of kinesiology that focuses on human response to exercise, human adaptation to exercise, and the fundamental physical mechanisms that affect exercise. Most exercise science majors work in the healthcare industry to develop exercise programs. To learn more, visit our online exercise science degree programs page.
Funding Your Online Kinesiology Degree
When determining the price of an online kinesiology degree, remember to factor in all costs: tuition, books, additional school fees, and any travel that might be required. Add up all the costs and compare that total to the sum of your available financial resources to determine where you stand. Not to worry, though, as most of the online bachelor’s kinesiology programs offer substantial financial assistance if you know where to look.
On any college website, you can find available scholarships and grants on the financial aid page (or just use the search feature). For example, the University of North Dakota Financial Aid page includes links to scholarships, grants, loans, and employment (work-study and internship) opportunities.
- Scholarships & Grants
Most schools offer scholarships and grants, which are free money. Grants are almost always based on financial needs. The basis for scholarships varies from GPAs to specific interests, including kinesiology. Be sure to check the Financial Aid website for this information, including application due dates. We’ve put together a scholarship guide to help you learn more about scholarship opportunities.
- Student Loans
Student loans are available through the US Department of Education Federal Student Aid program. Colleges and states may have their own deadlines, so check the FAFSA Deadlines page for information. You’ll also find more information in our 2022 Student Loan Handbook.
- Other Options
Be sure to check out fellowships, which are short-term, merit-based financial assistance; these are offered across all disciplines and higher education levels, including undergraduates. Kinesiology internships sometimes are paid, which provides an income while also allowing you to apply your knowledge and skills. Remember to check for work-study programs, which pay you to work, and try to find one related to kinesiology. They’re out there! Your online college of choice should offer you free services in finding these options.
Accreditation for Online Kinesiology Degrees
Ensuring your online kinesiology degree is properly accredited in critical. Not only does it give you peace of mind, but it also tells both your prospective employers and clients that your educational background meets high-quality standards.
Credits from an accredited school are easier to transfer, which is particularly important if you plan to get a master’s or a doctorate at a different institution, and federal financial aid is only available through accredited schools. Finally, accreditation may open additional career opportunities, particularly if you work in the healthcare, recreation, or physical education industries.
When reviewing accreditation for your online kinesiology degree, you’ll want to check to see if the entire college is accredited (institutional accreditation) and whether the kinesiology program itself is accredited (programmatic accreditation). Institutional accreditation is the most important, but programmatic accreditation can also be important depending on the career you plan to pursue after graduation.
Because kinesiology is a broad field with many specialties, numerous programmatic accreditations could apply. Here is a list of some of the most popular programmatic accrediting organizations.
Healthcare and Recreation
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES)
- National Committee for the Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE)
What Can You Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology?
An online kinesiology degree can take you into multiple industries, including healthcare, recreation, administration, sports, business, and education. These fields are currently expanding, with projections for continued growth. Why? Because while COVID-19 brought much of the world to a halt, it also brought awareness to our need to maintain health and fitness. Scientists know, for instance, that regular, moderate-intensity exercise is critical to strengthening our immune systems and in turn, to our susceptibility to contagious diseases. Now that the pandemic is slowing, people want to get out and get fit. They’re eager to return to their normal athletic activities and to try new ones as well.
Even before the pandemic, the Global Wellness Institute was seeing significant growth in wellness industries, such as in wellness communities. Similar growth is expected in both physical and mental healthcare industries since physical activity helps with the prevention of cardio- and obesity-related illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. It also improves mental clarity and diminishes the ravages of mental illnesses by reducing stress and anxiety.
Moreover, as our knowledge about health and well-being grows, we are learning that exercise is not only a preventative measure but it can also be a cure to some illnesses. For instance, the Exercise is Medicine (EIM) network that started in the US in 2007 has grown into a global health initiative. This program promotes exercise as a standard in care centered on evidence-based physical activity resources, thus broadening the healthcare industry’s use of physical activity.
Understanding this growth potential, let’s take a look at popular careers you might choose as a graduate with an online bachelor’s degree in kinesiology:
- Athletic trainer
- Exercise program director
- Exercise test consultant
- Fitness and wellness manager
- Outdoor education and recreation instructor
- Physical education (PE) K-12 teacher
- Recreational therapist
- Sports consultant
- Strength and conditioning coach
How much can you earn with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology?
With an online kinesiology degree, the career opportunities are wide and so is the potential for a solid entry-level salary. For instance, an entry-level personal trainer makes approximately $39,000, while a physician assistant makes up to $99,000. To see a few specific examples, here are the average salaries for some of the careers available with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.
|Career||Median National Annual Salary (2020)||10th Percentile||90th Percentile|
|Recreation and Fitness Studies Postsecondary Teacher||$66,290||$33,140||$130,580|
Continuing Education Opportunities & Related Degrees
Given the wide choice of careers with a BS in kinesiology, it’s no surprise there are ample, high-paying opportunities with more advanced degrees. If you prefer to fine-tune your kinesiology knowledge, or if you are interested in different career paths, look at the options in this section to see if they are a suitable fit.
Continuing Education Pathways
Online Master’s Degree in Kinesiology
An online master’s degree in kinesiology offers expansive career paths. The difference between a master’s and a bachelor’s is that you will become an expert in a specific branch of kinesiology. For instance, career options include exercise and sports psychology, athletic training research, cardiac rehabilitation, and athletic director, to name a few. Be sure to research carefully to ensure the school you choose focuses on your desired outcomes. To help with this research, see our online master’s in kinesiology programs page.
Online Master’s Degree in Nutrition
By understanding how physical movements flourish or fail based on nutrition, you can more easily understand how to apply nutritional assistance and interventions to maintain or improve physiological deficits. Knowledge of nutritional kinesiology can be highly sought after. To learn about becoming a nutritional expert, check out our online master’s in nutrition page.
Online Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Programs
Kinesiology undergraduate degrees are a common base for those pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy–and with good reason. As a physical therapy doctorate candidate, you learn technical knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, as well as skills and expertise in exercise techniques, evidence-based practices, and motion activities. To learn about the best online schools in this specialty, see our online doctor of physical therapy page.
Similar Degrees You May Be Interested In
Online Exercise Science Degrees
If you’re interested in the mechanics of movement but prefer to focus on how a person responds to these movements, you might gravitate toward studying exercise science. While many of the careers are the same as with an online kinesiology degree, you’ll focus on more than just the physical activity itself; you’ll concentrate on severe and chronic responses and their adaptations. If this concentration interests you, take a look at our online exercise science degree programs page to see if one of these programs is right for you.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition
While the mechanics of physical movement may be an interest, your professional pursuits might be more aligned with nutrition. After all, physical activity requires the right fuel sources. An entry-level career in nutrition can be in a wide array of fields, including clinical dietetics, nutritional consultation, public health sustenance, food and nutrition management, or business, such as nutritional research for a specific food vendor. If nutrition is your interest, see our online bachelor’s in nutrition programs page for information on obtaining an online nutrition degree.
Online Physical Therapy Associate Degree
If your heart is set on directly helping people recover from either acute or physical injuries and challenges but you don’t care to spend the time or money on a bachelor’s degree, perhaps an online physical therapy associate degree is your answer. Like other related degrees shared here, a basic understanding and interest in kinesiology support this endeavor. For more information, see our online physical therapy assistant programs page to help you get started.
Online Resources for Kinesiology Students and Professionals
The accreditation organizations previously listed give volumes of useful resources and expert advice. We highly recommend you take advantage of the accreditor’s available resources. Then check out these additional helpful resources.
- American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT)
- American Kinesiology Association (AKA)
- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM)
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Anatomy Arcade
- Essence Health and Wellness Training Kinesiology Resources
- Human Kinetics
- National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA)
- North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM)
- PlayerFM Kinesiology Podcasts
- ProProfs Kinesiology Quizzes and Trivia
- Quizlet Kinesiology Flash Cards
- Visible Body