In associate's degree programs in health and exercise, students learn how to design treatments and exercise routines with the goal of improving athletic performance, overall health and wellbeing. Most programs require students to take traditional courses and complete an internship prior to graduation.
Most programs last two years. Upon graduation, credits can be transferred to 4-year institutions and could serve as preparation for certification exams. Only a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) equivalent is needed for admission.
Associate of Health Exercise Sciences
These programs are inter-disciplinary, integrating courses in medicine, science and health. The curriculum combines the study of the body's musculoskeletal system with topics in nutrition and bio-mechanics. Coursework covers subjects like biology, chemistry, exercise regimen design and implementation, coaching and exercise prescription, physical fitness assessment and nutrition plan development. Elective class options include outdoor recreation and team sports. In total, students must complete 65 credit hours to graduate. Some core subjects are:
- Exercise physiology
- Fitness analysis
- Strength training and conditioning
- First aid and CPR
Popular Career Options
Graduates of these programs can find employment as fitness workers at gyms and health clubs, country clubs and resorts. Others opt to be self-employed. Sample job titles include the following:
- Personal trainer
- Group exercise instructor
- Weight management consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of fitness trainers and instructors is predicted to grow by 13% during the 2018-2028 decade (www.bls.gov). In May 2018, these professionals earned a mean annual salary of $44,580.
Students who complete associate's degree programs might be interested in pursuing 4-year degrees in exercise science to prepare for graduate study in fields such as occupational or physical therapy.
Many group exercise instructors and personal trainers earn certification from sports and fitness professional organizations. In fact, several employers encourage or require their instructors to hold these credentials. Certifying bodies include the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). These organizations' certification exams can include both written and practical components. Re-certification is usually required after two years.
If you want to dedicate your career to promoting wellness and helping others stay fit, an associate's degree in health and exercise science can provide the general and health-specific education to start working in the field or pursue more advanced medical education.