Master's degree programs in exercise science are not typically provided online. However, students can earn a master's degree in human movement or physical education online. A Master of Science in Human Movement program covers a wide array of traditional exercise science topics, such as motor development, exercise physiology and biomechanics. Although the majority of coursework can be completed online, students are often required to complete a 1-week residency or internship on campus that includes lab-based activities and presentations.
Master of Science in Physical Education programs can include concentrations in exercise science and are offered entirely online. Students, however, may want to take advantage of research and internship opportunities that allow them to acquire hands-on experience in the fields of physical education and exercise science.
Master's Degree - Human Movement
Students enrolled in an online Master of Science in Human Movement program study corrective exercise principles and techniques adapted from the certification curriculum created by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The program provides students with a comprehensive understanding of human movement science, physiology, kinesiology, anatomy, functional assessment and exercise program design. Often considered a post-professional program, students are typically required to have at least two years of work experience prior to enrollment.
Typically composed of about 42 credit hours, an online master's degree program in human movement can be completed in as little as 18 months. Students can choose to specialize in subjects like geriatric exercise and sports psychology, exercise science or sports conditioning. Required courses also help prepare students for the NASM Performance Enhancement and Corrective Exercise certification exams.
Common Courses for a Master's Degree in Human Movement
Coursework required for a master's degree in human movement is intended to enhance students' knowledge, skills and abilities in regards to designing and maintaining exercise programs for a variety of populations. Many of the courses develop students' research skills.
Students study the biomechanical properties of connective tissues and joint structures. Histology and morphology are discussed, while special emphasis is placed on sport and exercise movement. Biomechanics of ligaments, joint capsules, bones and peripheral nerves are also covered.
Exercise and Sports Related Nutrition
This course focuses on teaching students how to educate clients and facilitate nutrition recommendations to maintain health, improve performance or alter body composition. General nutrition requirements for body fat loss, general health, lean mass gain and athletic performance are discussed.
Concepts of Corrective Exercise
Students gain an overall understanding of corrective exercise, including proper execution of tissue activation, lengthening, inhibitory and other integration techniques to help clients reduce the risk of injury and achieve their movement goals. Special attention is paid to appropriate exercise selection, exercise modification, exercise application and monitoring of kinetic chain checkpoints.
Master's Degree - Physical Education
Coursework required for a master's degree in physical education combines pedagogical instruction with the scientific elements of human performance and exercise science. Students receive advanced training in a variety of areas, such as skill assessment, instructional strategies, sport psychology and risk management. Graduates are prepared to continue their education in a related doctoral program or pursue a number of careers in the fields of education and fitness.
This type of master's degree program typically requires two years to complete. The curriculum usually consists of approximately 30 credit hours that are composed of a core curriculum of study and a number of elective courses. Some programs even offer a specialty concentration in exercise science.
Common Courses for a Master's Degree in Physical Education
Online courses for a graduate-level physical education degree train students advanced concepts in pedagogy and curriculum design. Courses in human movement are common, and students may be able to pursue independent study options.
Scientific Principles of Movement and Performance
This online course covers the fundamental principles of exercise physiology and biomechanics. The physiological portion emphasizes the integration of body systems in order to respond and adapt to the demands of physical activity. Biomechanical focus includes the body while moving and the physical forces that produce motion.
Curriculum in Physical Education
Students explore the influences that the principles, procedures and challenges of education philosophy can have on physical education. Students learn how to apply educational philosophies to the construction of course curricula and educational design for specific situations.
Lessons present general concepts of motor learning and control. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of available literature in motor behavior, motor learning and movement control.
A graduate degree in human movement can lead to advanced careers for a variety of fitness professionals, including strength and conditioning coaches, fitness directors, personal trainers and club owners. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), salaries and wages for exercise science and sports medicine professionals vary widely due to market demand, geographic location and employment setting. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2015, the median annual salary for fitness training and aerobics instructors was $36,160, with the top 90% earning $70,180 or above (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projected employment opportunities for fitness workers to grow 8%, as fast as average for all careers, between 2014 and 2024.
In addition to teaching physical education at the kindergarten through high school levels, graduates with master's degrees in physical education may advance into administrative roles as athletic directors or directors of physical education. According to the BLS, school administrators at elementary and secondary institutions earned a median annual salary of $90,410 as of May 2015. Physical education teachers are required to adhere to the same state teaching certification standards as teachers in other academic areas. Individuals seeking more information about certification requirements should contact their state board of education. Graduates can also find a number of career opportunities within the fields of fitness and recreation, such as coaching, activity direction and fitness instruction.
Most fitness professions require individuals to become certified. A number of organizations offer various certifications. The NASM, for example, offers certifications in health fitness, clinical exercise and specialty training. Certification typically requires renewal every two years by completing continuing education credits.
Exercise science master's degree programs are not widely available online, but a master's degree program in human movement or physical education may suit the student's learning goals, both of which can be completed online. Both programs cover some scientific concepts about the human body, preparing students for careers as fitness professionals.