Kinesiology Professions: Career Education Overview

Sep 12, 2019

Programs in kinesiology typically cover the basics of movement and exercise. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for kinesiology graduates.

Those pursuing a career in kinesiology may work in a variety of different settings related to sports, fitness and movement. Educational requirements range from a high school diploma, special certifications, training or a bachelor's degree, depending on the job.

Essential Information

Kinesiology professionals work with people of all fitness levels and backgrounds, providing them with knowledge and instruction in movement, exercise and physical fitness. A degree program in kinesiology could help individuals obtain an entry-level position in several fields, such as fitness training, physical education or research.

Career Coaches and Scouts Fitness Workers Recreational Therapists
Required Education High school diploma or equivalent (college coaches usually need a bachelor's degree) High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree usually required
Other Requirements Strong leadership skills Some workers can become certified in certain exercise routines Some earn certification offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% 13% (for all fitness trainers and instructors) 7%
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $33,780 $39,820 (for all fitness trainers and instructors) $47,860

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Individuals with an interest in physical fitness and human kinetics can consider careers in kinesiology. Many kinesiology professionals work in athletic settings, such as schools or sports facilities, but the science of kinesiology has a variety of possible applications. An undergraduate kinesiology degree could qualify individuals for a position as a fitness trainer, coach or recreational therapist.


Coaches are responsible for organizing, training and leading amateur and professional athletes. They coach teams and individual athletes in sports, such as baseball, football, soccer, hockey or basketball. Individuals who want to be coaches must be able to create practice plans, motivate athletes and provide instruction for games. Coaches work for school sports teams, youth leagues, professional sports teams and teams sponsored by various organizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment for coaches and scouts to increase 6% from 2018 to 2028, with most new jobs concentrated at the high school and amateur levels. The BLS also reported a median annual salary of $33,780 as of May 2018.

Fitness Workers

Fitness workers are responsible for teaching, leading and motivating groups and individuals through exercise. They commonly perform various duties at health clubs, community centers, resorts or other organizations. Fitness workers might develop their own exercise programs or become certified in specific exercise routines. A degree in kinesiology could help individuals obtain a job as an exercise instructor. The BLS reported an annual median salary $39,820 in May 2018 and anticipated jobs for these workers to increase 13% between 2018 and 2028 as increasing employer-related incentives could result in more people joining fitness clubs.

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists are responsible for improving the well being of ill or disabled individuals through recreational activities, such as sports or games. They could work in parks, recreation centers, long-term care facilities, nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. Recreational therapists typically must hold at least a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation, which is typically offered within a kinesiology department. Prospective therapists could earn voluntary certification offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Depending on the state, these professionals might also be required to obtain a license. The BLS predicted that employment for recreational therapists would increase 7% between 2018 and 2028. The median annual salary as of May 2018 was $47,860 per year for all recreational therapists.

Kinesiology Education Information

Individuals can choose to pursue an undergraduate or graduate program in kinesiology. Many programs offer a degree focus, such as exercise science, physical education, pre-physical therapy or sport business. Kinesiology programs typically cover subjects in anatomy, physiology, exercise, biomechanics and psychology. Depending on the concentration, kinesiology programs might also provide coursework in business, teaching or health-related subjects. Graduates of a kinesiology bachelor's degree program could find work in an entry-level position, or continue their education at the graduate level.

A career in kinesiology can open the doors to a variety of occupations, including fitness coach, trainer or recreational therapist. Each option comes with its own educational requirements, as well as certifications and licenses. The current projected job growth is average or better for all these fields.

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