The hands-on nature of physiology makes fully online programs in this specific topic rare to nonexistent. However, master's degree programs in topics related to physiology, such as kinesiology or nutrition, can be found in a fully online or hybrid format that mixes online courses with some on-campus work and lab activity. In-person exams and thesis presentations are typically included in these programs as well, and applicants will need a bachelor's degree for admission.
Educational and professional licensing or certification requirements vary by state and by job title; check with state-specific regulations when choosing an educational program.
Master's Degree in Kinesiology
Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement. Online master's degree programs in kinesiology and human movement introduce kinesiology theories through research and coursework in exercise science, sports psychology, and functional physiology. Students learn how to effectively conduct human movement research and typically complete a kinesiology project or thesis that demonstrates analytical abilities. These programs, which are available to those with a bachelor's degree, may allow students to study a specific area of kinesiology, like geriatric exercise, sports conditioning, or exercise psychology.
Program Information and Requirements
Online kinesiology programs generally require two years of study, though programs may allow part-time students to complete the degree in three or more years. Programs may be available entirely online or may require several on-campus courses or lab practices.
Online courses are usually completed through programs or websites that allow students to submit assignments and communicate with the instructor. Students should have a computer with Internet and e-mail access to participate in web-based courses.
These are a number of common courses in a 2-year kinesiology master's degree.
Kinesiology Statistics and Research Methods
Kinesiology research and statistics courses introduce students to various research techniques used in human movement science. Typically, students learn research methods and experimental concepts through independent research assignments.
Functional Anatomy and Physiology
Because this field deals with kinetic movements, anatomy, and physiology are essential to studying kinesiology. Functional anatomy and physiology courses focus on the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.
Exercise physiology courses focus on the body during physical exercise. These courses study muscle physiology, the respiratory system, physical training, and athletic performance.
While most kinesiology courses deal with the physical aspects of human movement, sports psychology courses analyze the mental aspects of exercise. Students learn mental training techniques like stress management, arousal regulation, and attention control.
Master's Degree in Nutrition
Online master's degree programs in nutrition teach students the chemical, physiological, and medical aspects of nutrition and food science. These programs are usually available to students with a bachelor's degree, though completion of prerequisite courses in physiology or organic chemistry may be required. Some programs may be designed for beginning students, while others are intended for registered or registration-eligible dietitians and nutritionists. Areas of study in an online master's degree nutrition program include health promotion, health education, and sports nutrition.
Program Information and Requirements
Typically, online master's degree programs in nutrition require two years of study. While most programs can be completed entirely online, some courses may require students to complete in-person assignments or proctored exams. Independent research projects or thesis papers may require students to participate in additional in-person research studies.
Online master's degree programs require students to have Internet and e-mail access. Online courses are usually conducted through an interactive website that allows students to communicate with instructors. Tests, assignments, and discussion groups may be completed online, while some programs require students to complete a final, proctored exam on campus. In some online nutrition programs, students must complete a final thesis project that is submitted online or in-person.
Common courses in a nutrition master's degree program are outlined below.
Advanced Nutrition Concepts
Advanced nutrition courses discuss research methods, statistics and theoretical concepts of nutrition, dietetics, and food science. In an online advanced nutrition course, students study the chemical, biological, physiological, and pathophysiologic aspects of nutrition.
Nutritional therapy courses introduce students to the relationships between nutrition and disease. These courses study the epidemiology and pathology of nutrition-based sicknesses and ailments. Students learn how nutritional therapy can prevent and maintain overall biological health.
Health Promotion and Education
Online health promotion and education courses teach students how to properly present health and nutrition information to others. These courses teach students how to discuss disease prevention, proper nutritional habits, and community nutrition in a variety of academic or professional environments.
Sports and Exercise Nutrition
In an online sports nutrition course, students learn how nutrition affects exercise, athletic performance, physical stamina, and endurance. These courses show how nutritional deficiencies can negatively affect the body and how proper nutrition and dietary plans can improve physical strength and fortitude.
Career Information for Graduates
Individuals with a master's degree in kinesiology can pursue a number of fitness- and exercise-related careers. Graduates can become exercise kinesiologists, occupational exercise consultants, fitness program directors or kinesiology instructors. A master's degree also allows graduates to pursue research opportunities in applied kinesiology. Because of the diversity of career options, annual earnings for graduates vary significantly. According to Payscale.com as of October 2016, exercise physiologists earned a median annual salary of $41,856, fitness directors earned a median of $42,913, and wellness/fitness center program directors earned a median of $45,503.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 59,740 nutritionists and dietitians were employed as of May 2015, earning a median annual salary of $57,910 (www.bls.gov). Employment opportunities for nutritionists and dietitians are expected to increase 16%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024.
Continuing Education Information
Individuals with a master's degree in kinesiology or human movement can pursue advanced research-based or instructional careers by earning a Ph.D. in human movement, kinesiology, physiology, or a related field. The American Physiological Society (APS) also provides continuing education and career development resources for physiology professionals. Exercise physiologists can find professional development and continuing education opportunities through the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP).
Dietitians and nutritionists are required to be licensed, certified, or registered in most states. Though licensure and certification requirements vary by state, most states require a combination of supervised experience and formal education. The American Dietetic Association and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals both provide information for professionals seeking licensure, certification, or registration.
Online master's degree programs in kinesiology and nutrition are available for bachelor's degree program graduates looking to earn a 2-year degree related to physiology. For those who choose to become dietitians or nutritionists, some form of credentialing is required in most states, and graduates can also pursue advanced learning through doctoral programs and continuing education resources offered by professional organizations.