Best Master’s in Kinesiology Online Programs

Explore this year’s best online master’s degrees in kinesiology that have the flexibility and quality you need to pursue advanced careers in sports and physical fitness.

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Last Updated: 09/21/2021
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If you’re employed in the exercise, sports training, or physical therapy fields and want to take the next step in your career, earning an online master’s degree in kinesiology can help you get there. Not only can this advanced degree expand your career options and increase your salary potential, the convenience and flexibility of online learning means you can keep working while you earn your master’s and complete coursework at times that best fit your schedule.

This guide takes a comprehensive look at the best master’s in kinesiology online programs available from top colleges and universities in the U.S. We’ve also included helpful information and advice on choosing the right program, financing your degree, and the jobs available to kinesiology master’s graduates. Keep reading to find out how to advance to the next level in your career by earning a quality master’s in kinesiology degree online.

Grad School Spotlights: Best Online Master’s Degrees in Kinesiology for 2021

To help you get started on finding the right master’s in kinesiology online degree for you, we’ve spotlighted three of the very best programs currently available. Our selections are based on accreditation, affordability, curriculum comprehensiveness, study flexibility, and access to quality student support services. These spotlights preview our full program rankings list coming soon, so be sure to check back.

A.T. Still University

A.T. Still University, a private osteopathic medical school, offers an online, post-professional MS in Kinesiology designed to prepare current health and fitness professionals for advanced careers in kinesiology, exercise science, and other closely related health and fitness fields. The program’s curriculum combines core subject courses and coursework in one of five specialized tracks: Adaptive Sports, Corrective Exercise & Orthopedic Rehabilitation, Exercise and Sport Psychology, Geriatric Exercise Science, and Sports Conditioning. Coursework is completed online, but the program does include a four-day in-person residency at the university’s Human Movement Institute on its Mesa, Arizona campus.

An applicant to the MS in Kinesiology program must be a licensed healthcare professional (e.g., PT, RT, RN, PA, ATC, etc.) or a training professional with NCCA-accredited certification (e.g., ACE, ACSM, NASM, IFPA, Cooper Institute, etc.) or possess a bachelor’s degree along with at least two years of professional experience. Admission is competitive and based on the applicant’s academic record, prior experience, application content, and personal motivation.

The current per-credit cost (including tuition and a technology fee) for this two-year, 42-credit hour program (45 credit hours for dual-track students) is $585. A.T. Still University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its Graduate Program in Kinesiology is officially recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Hardin-Simmons University

Hardin-Simmons University’s MS in Kinesiology, Sport & Recreation program features a fully online program that can be completed in as little as one year. The 30-credit hour curriculum consists of three core courses (applied professional experience, evidence-based research, and research methods and statistical analysis) and seven elective courses. Students can fulfill elective requirements by completing courses in one of two concentrations (Recreation and Sport Administration or Exercise Science and Human Performance) or through their own choice of courses offered by the program. All students are additionally required to take and pass a comprehensive examination during the last semester of their graduate work.

Admission into the program requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Candidates are evaluated on an individual basis. Factors considered include the applicant’s undergraduate academic record (including GPA), letters of recommendation, resume, written statement, and personal interview. GRE test scores may also be requested. The current tuition cost is $495 per credit.

Hardin-Simmons University, a private, Baptist-affiliated institution located in Abilene, Texas, is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

University of South Dakota

The Online MA in Kinesiology and Sport Management with a specialization in Sport Management degree from USD combines theory and practice in the fields of exercise science and the sports business to prepare graduates for a variety of careers throughout the sports industry. The curriculum is designed for the “adult learner/working professional” and is available in both 12-month, full-time and 24-month, part-time formats. Students in this non-thesis program complete core coursework in graduate research and design along with eight courses covering topics that include sports facility and risk management, budgeting and finance, marketing and promotions, and the legal aspects of sports. Students also participate in an online seminar program that features student presentations and discussions. All coursework is delivered and completed online.

The current per-credit tuition rate for this 30-credit hour degree program is $470.45. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited program earned with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Additional application requirements include a 500-word statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s scholarly abilities.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Kinesiology Master’s Degree Program

While every program varies somewhat in its academic approach, the fundamental goal of all online master’s in kinesiology degree programs is to prepare graduates for successful professional careers through effective education and training in all disciplines and areas of the kinesiology field. These include exercise physiology, biomechanics, psychology of physical activity, motor behavior, motor learning and development, sport management sports medicine, history of physical activity, and many others. All kinesiology degree programs provide a detailed list of learning outcomes similar to the following:

  • Ability to articulate an advanced understanding of all aspects of the kinesiology field (i.e. the form and function of the human body and fundamental principles of human movement).
  • Commitment to and modeling of practices that reflect principles of the kinesiology profession, including advocating for active, healthy lifestyles, adhering to applicable law and professional ethics, and dedication of service to others.
  • Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, essential theories and principles, practices, and ethical considerations related to kinesiology.
  • Understanding of and ability to identify important issues related to kinesiology and the ability to apply advanced qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct research (i.e., modeling of research projects, collect and analyze data, etc.) to address those issues.
  • Demonstrated awareness of appropriate levels of leadership and independent judgment in one’s professional employment and practices and in the application of ethical principles in a variety of populations and contexts.

Common Courses in Kinesiology Online Master’s Programs

Research Methods and Statistical Analysis

Introduces fundamental concepts and applications of evidence-based qualitative and quantitative research methods, study design, and statistical analysis associated with those designs. Specific topics include the selection of appropriate research methods, critical analysis and application of research literature, creation of research proposals, data collection and analysis, and more.

Exercise Physiology

Explores the basic physiological principles of exercise and the practical considerations in the development of conditioning and strength training programs. Topics covered include the cardiovascular function and response of the human body during physical exertion and the impact of exercise training on the human body’s performance and overall health.

Exercise and Sport Nutrition

Introduces the foundational nutritional principles and practices related to exercise and sports performance. Prepares students to provide sound advice and planning to clients concerning general health and nutritional requirements, loss of body fat and lean mass gain, dietary and nutritional supplementation, and aerobic and athletic performance improvement.

Exercise and Sport Psychology

Examines psychological theory and research and their application to exercise and sports performance. Emphasizes the cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial factors impacting exercise and sports behaviors. Specific topics include socialization, feedback and reinforcement, injury rehabilitation, and the psychology of coaching.

Thesis/Capstone Project

Some master’s in kinesiology online programs culminate in the completion of either a master’s thesis or capstone project, typically at the option of the student. Students completing a thesis or project create and carry out independent research after which they prepare a written report in the form of a manuscript (i.e., thesis) or other academic product (i.e., capstone project) such as a scholarly journal article, conference presentation, or developed program curriculum.

Popular Specializations for Online Kinesiology Master’s Degree Programs

Master’s in kinesiology programs usually offer two or more specialization or concentration options that allow students to tailor their studies to their unique academic and professional interests. Specialization titles vary among programs but commonly include one or more of the following options described below. Keep in mind, though, that schools with master’s in kinesiology programs may or may not offer all of their specialization tracks online.

Coaching

Coaching, particularly on the high school, postsecondary, and professional levels, is a popular career goal for many master’s in kinesiology students. Online programs offering this specialization include Southern Arkansas University, which features a curriculum preparing graduates to meet the competencies outlined by the National Standards for Sports Coaches.

Exercise Physiology

Exercise physiology is the study of the physiology of human exercise and is considered one of the allied health professions. Exercise physiologists analyze patients’ physical histories and conditions and develop exercise programs to help them fight disease and improve overall health. The MS in Exercise Science at Aurora University is one example of this specialization.

Geriatric Exercise Science

Geriatric exercise science concerns the physiological in psychological principles and practices related to exercise and movement science of elderly adults. It’s an important area of concern and practice within the larger kinesiology field given the ever-growing elderly population. Geriatric exercise science is offered as a specialization through the MS in Kinesiology program at A.T. Still University.

Sport Conditioning and Performance

Students opting for this specialization learn to identify and evaluate exercise practices and health-related behaviors of athletes to develop health regimens and advanced physical training programs for them. One example of this online offering specialization is Louisiana State University’s MS in Kinesiology with Health Promotion and Sport Performance specialization.

Sports Management

The sports management/sports administration specialization prepares leaders of sports programs for schools and professional organizations alike. Content includes sports programming, facilities management, finances and marketing, sports law and ethics, and more. Examples of online programs with this specialization include Houston Baptist University’s MS in Kinesiology – Sport Management and Hardin-Simmons University’s MS in Kinesiology, Sport, & Recreation with Recreation and Sport Administration Concentration.

FAQs About Earning Your Master’s in Kinesiology Online

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in kinesiology?

Specific admission requirements for master’s in kinesiology online programs vary among schools. However, you find many of those requirements to be similar to the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree

All programs in this guide require U.S. applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Degree requirements vary for international students. Contact individual programs for details.

  • GPA

Most programs set a minimum cumulative GPA for applicants’ bachelor’s degrees and/or previously completed graduate-level coursework. Specific GPA figures vary by program.

  • Standardized test scores

GRE or MAT test scores may or may not be required. Many schools waive standardized test requirements for applicants meeting one or more qualifications, such as a particularly high undergrad GPA, or allow students the option of submitting test scores to bolster chances for admission.

  • Professional experience

Some programs require applicants to possess some level of professional work experience in kinesiology or a closely related field. Two years minimum is not uncommon.

Other common application submittal requirements include official transcripts of previous postsecondary academic work, resume, letters of recommendation, and writing statement explaining the applicant’s academic and professional goals. Some programs also require a personal interview.

How long do kinesiology master’s degrees take to complete?

Degree completion time varies among programs. However, most online master’s in kinesiology students complete their programs in a year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. Programs with a thesis or capstone project often allow additional time beyond didactic coursework to complete the culminating activity. Keep in mind, however, that all programs designate a maximum time limit for degree completion, so be sure to confirm your program’s limit before enrolling.

How much do online master’s degrees in kinesiology cost?

Degree costs also vary from program to program, sometimes significantly. Factors most commonly impacting program costs include total program length and whether the program is offered by a public or private institution. Private colleges tend to charge more than public colleges. Also, public schools often charge a higher – sometimes much higher – tuition rate to out-of-state residents, though there is a strong trend among these schools to apply their lower in-state rate to all online students regardless of residence. Below are the current tuition rates for three master’s in kinesiology online programs to give you an idea of what your program might cost:

Augusta University

MS in Kinesiology

Total Credits: 36

$230/credit

Concordia University Chicago

MS Applied Science: Human Movement Science

Total Credits: 30

$475/credit

Southern Arkansas University

MS in Kinesiology – Coaching

Total Credits: 33

$293/credit
(in-state);
$459/credit
(out-of-state)

Can I earn my master’s in kinesiology 100% online?

Most online master’s in kinesiology programs feature didactic coursework that is accessed and completed entirely online and with no on-campus or in-person requirements. Others, like the A.T. Still University program spotlighted above, include one or more short-term residencies typically attended on the school’s main campus. Some programs also include optional internships that require in-person participation.

Getting Financial Aid for Your Online Master’s in Kinesiology

Most college students need help funding their degree programs. Fortunately, there’s a variety of financial aid resources available, the most common of which are described below. Putting together your financial aid package takes time and effort, so start well before you intend to enter your kinesiology master’s program.

  1. Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships and grants are the most attractive types of financial aid because they’re essentially free money (i.e., you don’t pay them back). Scholarships are available from external sources like professional associations, public service groups, and even individual sponsors as well from colleges and universities themselves. Contact your school’s financial aid department to find out about scholarships and grants you may be eligible for, and be sure to visit EduMed’s scholarship guide to learn more.

  1. Student Loans

The most common type of financial aid, student loans are available from state and federal governments and private lenders. For detailed information on student loans and how to land one, check out EduMed’s 2021 Student Loan Handbook.

  1. Other Options

Other potential sources of financial aid include graduate internships, fellowships, and assistantships as well as work-study and employer tuition reimbursement programs. If you’re a military veteran, don’t forget your eligibility for education benefits under the GI Bill.

Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in Kinesiology

Accreditation is the process through which U.S. colleges and universities and the programs they offer are determined to meet certain minimum standards of academic quality. It’s crucial that you only consider degree programs that are properly accredited, and there are two common forms of postsecondary accreditation in the U.S. Institutional accreditation concerns the vetting of colleges and universities themselves. Institutional accreditation of U.S. schools is administered by several regional and national non-governmental accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Programmatic accreditation refers to the vetting of specific degree programs within the larger postsecondary institution. Currently, no professional organizations offer programmatic accreditation for master’s in kinesiology programs. However, some kinesiology master’s programs are recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as providing the required strength and conditioning education and training to qualify students for NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer and/or NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning certifications.

Information on current institutional accreditation and NSCA recognition status is normally displayed on degree program websites. If not, check accreditation status by visiting the websites of the individual accrediting agencies and NSCA program recognition status using this ERP school list.

What Can You Do with an Online Master’s Degree in Kinesiology?

Ten of the most popular job titles open to kinesiology master’s graduates are listed below to give an idea of the range of career opportunities available. The specific jobs you’ll be eligible for depend to a great extent on your chosen specialization, concentration, or elective course focus. For example, students specializing in exercise science or a similar field often work in areas like health and wellness management or training and conditioning. Students opting for sports management specializations establish or advance careers in coaching or sports program administration in the education and professional sports fields.

  • Athletic Director
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Fitness Trainer/Instructor
  • Health and Wellness Director
  • Physical Education Teacher
  • Physical Therapist
  • Sports Coach/Scout
  • Sports Manager/Administrator
  • Sports Marketing Director

How much can you make with a master’s degree in kinesiology?

The chart below offers a look at current median salaries for several occupations common to master’s of kinesiology online graduates. In most cases, these figures are substantially higher than median salaries for all occupations combined. How much you’ll earn as a kinesiology master’s graduate, however, depends on factors like geographic location, specific employer, amount of professional experience, and specialization.

Career Median National Annual Salary (2020) 10th Percentile 90th Percentile
Athletic Trainer $49,860 $32,980 $75,810
Coach/Scout $36,330 $19,340 $81,940
Exercise Physiologist $50,280 $36,070 $78,170
Fitness Trainer / Instructor $40,510 $21,640 $76,550
Physical Therapist $91,010 $63,530 $126,780

Online Exercise Science Master’s

Exercise science focuses on the human response to exercise and its underlying mechanisms. It is a subgroup of the larger field of kinesiology, which deals with the broad study of human movement and how that movement impacts overall health. Students interested in specific areas of exercise science or physiology may want to consider an exercise science master’s. Visit EduMed’s Online Exercise Science Degree Programs guide to learn more.

Online Master’s in Nutrition

Master’s in nutrition degree programs combine both the physical and biological sciences to prepare students for advanced careers as dieticians and nutritionists. Online nutrition master’s programs are plentiful, with many available 100% online. To find out more about these programs, check out EduMed’s 2021 Guide to the Online Master’s in Nutrition.

Online Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Online DPT programs combine online coursework with in-person practice components like clinical experiences, fieldwork, and labs to provide students with the advanced knowledge, training, and clinical competencies to be eligible for state physical therapist licensure. Find out more about online DPT programs by visiting EduMed’s Online Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs guide.