Bachelor's Degree in Fitness: Program Options

Bachelor's degrees for those interested in health and fitness careers include a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science or a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Both of these programs include lecture-based courses and clinical work in exercise techniques and physical fitness.

Essential Information

An exercise science degree program teaches students about the ways exercise can factor into a healthy lifestyle or be used for a specific purpose, such as athletic training. It is intended for those who wish to pursue careers in an allied health field, or enroll in a graduate program for fitness, nutrition or human health.

In a kinesiology program, students focus on a particular specialty, such as fitness or education. Many applicants choose kinesiology programs in order to prepare for jobs in rehabilitation or physical therapy. Those who wish to enroll must have graduated from high school or earned a GED certificate.

  • Program Levels in Fitness: Bachelor of Science degree
  • Fitness Program Fields: Exercise Science, Kinesiology
  • Program Specializations: Fitness and education concentrations are available in kinesiology programs
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent GED; a strong GPA and minimal SAT or ACT scores
  • Other Requirements: Clinical training may also be required

Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science

Bachelor's degree students with a major in exercise science receive a well-rounded education--with classes in languages, mathematics and humanities--in addition to learning about the body and how it works.

An exercise science degree program teaches students about the ways exercise can factor into a healthy lifestyle or be used for a specific purpose, such as athletic training. This program, sometimes called exercise physiology, introduces fitness enthusiasts to health and wellness. Common courses include:

  • Activity for special populations
  • Recreational management
  • Athletic training techniques
  • Biomechanics of movement
  • Care and prevention of athletic injuries

Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the study of human motion, with a particular focus on improving health through movement. Most bachelor's degree programs for this field offer specialty areas to train students for specific career tracks; for example, a fitness concentration can prepare individuals to act as personal trainers, while an emphasis in education prepares graduates to teach physical education.

Courses cover many of the same topics as in an exercise science degree program, but may also include subjects such as sports in America and exercise prescription. Bachelor's degree programs in kinesiology may vary by specialty area. Common courses include:

  • Philosophy of physical activity
  • Biomechanics of movement
  • Motor learning and control
  • Exercise prescription
  • Sports in America

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in exercise science or exercise physiology is intended for those who wish to pursue careers in an allied health field, or enroll in a graduate program for fitness, nutrition or human health. Those with a background in exercise science may also seek jobs working with athletes in terms of physical conditioning or treating sports-related injuries.

Careers for individuals completing a bachelor's degree in exercise science or exercise physiology may find work in hospitals or health care clinics, fitness clubs or other physical wellness settings. Although some additional coursework or certification may be needed, possible careers include physical therapist assistants, assistant coaches, athletic trainers, nurses or exercise and nutrition consultants.

Kinesiology graduates who complete teacher training requirements can seek licensing to teach physical education, while other graduates may apply for certification as personal trainers. Many applicants choose kinesiology programs in order to prepare for jobs in rehabilitation or physical therapy.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Those with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology have a solid foundation for entering the fitness industry as a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or another type of wellness professional. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment of fitness trainers and instructors to grow 13% from 2012-2022; this growth may be due to more people discovering the health benefits of exercise. The median annual salary for fitness trainers was $34,980 as of May 2014, according to the BLS.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Those who wish to become a personal trainer or fitness instructor can obtain certification from several agencies and organizations in the U.S. For example, the National Athletic Trainers' Association offers membership and accreditation through the Board of Certification (www.nata.org). Kinesiology programs also prepare individuals to pursue teacher certification in physical education. For those interested in continuing education, a bachelor's degree program in kinesiology can be used as a platform to pursue a graduate degree and become a physical therapist.

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