Schools with Fitness Science Programs: How to Choose

Graduates of fitness science programs may work as fitness trainers, physical education teachers, laboratory scientists, medical professionals, or researchers. Students may enroll in health and fitness associate degree programs that teach fitness training, or they may find bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in exercise and sports science that deal more with the biological processes of fitness.

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Programs in fields related to fitness science include those in fitness training, physical education, exercise science research or orthopedic medicine. Programs are offered at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels through the public health, kinesiology, human performance and education departments of both 2-year colleges and 4-year universities.

Top 10 Schools with Fitness Programs

Fitness programs are offered at the institutions listed here.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition* (2015-2016)
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $13,856; Out-of-state $43,476
University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's In-state $14,171; Out-of-state $30,504
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $47,682
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's In-state $15,192; Out-of-state $44,365
James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's In-state $10,018; Out-of-state $25,152
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $15,054; Out-of-state $30,214
University of Georgia Athens, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $11,622; Out-of-state $29,832
University of Delaware Newark, DE 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's In-state $12,520; Out-of-state $31,420
The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $9,806; Out-of-state $34,676
University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $42,634

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

There are a number of things to consider when selecting a fitness science program.

  • Programs in physical education should prepare students for the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing Exam or the Board of Certification (BOC) exam.
  • Schools with fitness facilities open to the general public enhance the student's knowledge.
  • At undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate levels, programs offering practical experience in clinical medical settings or laboratories offer students an advantage.
  • Programs are offered at both public and private institutions, and tuition costs can vary widely; some schools offer tuition discounts to local or in-state students.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Health and Fitness

Graduates of this 2-year program should be able to perform fitness assessments and design fitness programs in a variety of settings. Some will apply their studies to a more advanced degree in the field. Preparation for national certification exams is an integral part of most programs.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Exercise and Sports Science

Typical degree programs offer concentrations in exercise and biosciences, exercise and nutrition, K-12 physical education and physical rehabilitation. In addition to general education and kinesiology classes, students may take a variety of different courses depending on if they pursue a scientific track or physical education track.

Master of Science (M.S.) in Exercise Science/Kinesiology

The master's degree program in exercise science is primarily for students who want to get into medicine or research. Extensive research and clinical studies are part of most programs. Students may specialize in particular disease management programs. Most programs require a master's thesis for graduation.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Exercise Science

Doctoral degree students investigate the effects of exercise on the body down to the cellular level. Laboratory research rotations and a dissertation are integral to these programs. Graduates often go into research careers for pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and medical research facilities.

A career in fitness science can be pursued with an associate's, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a relevant field. Some individuals may opt to pursue an educational career and prepare to teach physical education, while others may focus on exercise science or kinesiology.

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