Associate's degree programs in exercise science are generally offered in the on-campus format due to the hands-on nature of the work, though some hybrid programs may be available. In addition, some courses require on-campus visits or internships, while other courses may require access to specific exercise equipment. The educational and certification requirements for fitness trainers vary by specialty. Certification is usually voluntary, but may be preferred by employers.
Associate's Degree in Exercise Science
Individuals with an interest in personal training or aerobics instruction careers may enroll in exercise science or fitness specialist associate's degree programs. Students learn how to design client-specific workout regimens, develop long and short-term nutritional plans and lead exercise classes for individuals with special needs. Related fields of study include kinesiology and nutritional science.
Program Information and Requirements
Due to the hands-on nature of fitness education, most associate's degree programs are offered in a hybrid format. Students may complete roughly half of their coursework online via web conferences, while remaining classes are completed on-campus or as part of a professional internship.
A computer with Internet capabilities is necessary for streaming audio and video content. Some programs may require access to various pieces of exercise equipment. Students typically receive their degree within two years.
General education requirements include courses in psychology, history and math. The majority of a student's curriculum is focused on exercise science and fitness counseling.
Introduction to Exercise Science
Students explore the fundamental theories and principles of health and fitness. Concepts include cardiovascular improvement, proper body movement, biomechanics and ideal weight management.
Students learn to design exercise regimens based on an individual's fitness goals. Some programs also discuss assessment measures, such as body mass index and resting heart rate, used to determine an individual's fitness needs.
Diet and nutrition are important components of any exercise regimen. This course teaches students how to assess dietary needs and create nutritional guidance plans for a variety of individuals.
Recipients of an exercise science associate's degree may obtain positions as personal trainers or fitness instructors. As of March 2021, personal trainers made $24,000-$71,000 annually, while fitness instructors made $29,000-$101,000 annually, as reported by PayScale.com. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed personal trainers and instructors is projected to increase by 15% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than most careers (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Many fitness companies, private gyms and athletic organizations require employees to attain various forms of certification. Personal trainers and fitness instructors who have completed associate's degree program coursework are eligible to take the National Federation of Personal Trainers' Certified Personal Trainer Examination.
Some associate's degree program graduates pursue bachelor's degrees in exercise science, kinesiology or sports medicine. These programs are typically campus-based and may be completed within four years. However, credits from an associate's degree program are often transferable, meaning some bachelor's degree students may receive their degrees in 2-3 years.
Hybrid associate's degree programs in exercise science are available for those who are interested in online coursework in this area. Students take general education courses, as well as exercise science courses through which they learn how to create individual exercise programs. Graduates can pursue careers as personal trainers or fitness instructors.