Online Exercise Science Degrees: Program Information

Learn about online programs with exercise science courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Online degree programs in exercise science are rare, but many individuals enter the field of personal fitness through short certificate programs in exercise science. These programs offer training in personal fitness and lifestyle education. While most of the coursework can be completed entirely through online study, many programs require internships. Students can take courses online as their schedules permit, but most programs must be completed in a set timeframe, generally about a year to 18 months.

These certificate programs consist of approximately 10 courses. Some allow students to choose a specialization, such as corporate fitness, personal training or wellness education. Students get foundational knowledge in exercise science through courses in anatomy and kinesiology. They learn about nutrition, exercise for specific physical conditions, sports injuries and lifestyle coaching. They may take courses that will help them establish a personal training business.

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Certificate in Exercise and Health Science

Many people find their way into the fitness industry through short skill-based certificate programs. Certificates sometimes focus on a particular area of sport science, such as injury rehabilitation, corporate fitness programs and more.

Program Information and Requirements

Certificate programs in exercise science are not self-paced, and generally must be completed within 12-18 months. Admission requires only a high school diploma and qualifying entrance exam scores.

Courses are delivered through a combination of email, discussion forums and, in some instances, streaming media. While the bulk of courses are available online, some programs will require a coordinated exercise science internship as part of their graduation requirements.

List of Common Exercise Science Courses

Programs at the certificate level often focus on a particular exercise science career specialty, such as personal training. Most programs combine courses in general anatomy with exercise fundamentals and nutrition.

Exercise Science Fundamentals

This course examines the anatomical impact of exercise on muscles and joints. Students will study methods for measuring range of motion, biomechanics and other topics helpful to developing tailored exercise programs.

Introduction to Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the science of how the human body moves. This course provides an introductory look at the systems involved in basic and advanced human movements. Students will look at how different maladies can affect these systems.

Nutrition for Fitness

This course helps provides fundamental knowledge about human nutrition, and how this knowledge applies to different exercise needs. Topics will include weight loss, sports nutrition, performance-enhancing supplements and more.

Exercise Assessment and Program Design

This course examines the methods involved in analyzing a client's specific needs and developing individual exercise programs. Special exercise populations will be discussed, including caveats for those with musculoskeletal problems, heart conditions, pregnancy and more.


Career Information for Graduates

Many positions in the fitness field are filled by graduates of targeted certificate programs in exercise science. These positions include personal and group fitness instructors, athletic directors and more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of fitness work is expected to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024, about as fast as average. As of 2015, the median salary for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $36,160.

Continuing Education Information

While certification isn't required to work in personal fitness, many employers and clients prefer someone with professional credentials. Several organizations offer certification in personal fitness. There are no specific education or training requirements, but trainers must pass a comprehensive exam, and some organizations require a skills test as well.

Advancement in the field of exercise science generally requires a bachelor's or master's degree in the field. Few schools exist that provide these credentials entirely online.

Rather than an exercise science degree, individuals can more readily find short, fully online certificate programs in the field comprised of varying topics and specializations. Courses in these programs aren't usually self-paced, so they need to be completed within a set time frame.

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