Exercise Science Careers in the Military

Mar 05, 2020

Find out how the traits of an exercise scientist can fit in the military. Learn about the roles of rheumatologists, registered nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapy assistants, and community and recreation specialists.

When thinking about a career in exercise science, it is common to think about gym classes. However, the military is also a legitimate hub for attracting exercise practitioners who know the ins and outs of body mechanics. This article will briefly present some of the most prominent exercise science careers in the military.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Salary (2020)* Job Growth (2018-28)** Applicable Military Skills
Rheumatologist $117,689 7% (for all physicians and surgeons) Verbal Skills
Registered Nurse $108,838 12% Responsibility
Occupational Therapist $94,191 18% Problem Solving
Physical Therapy Assistant $57,663 27% Verbal Skills
Community and Recreation Specialist $45,414 8% Leadership

Sources: *US Department of Defense, **US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Relevance to Military Background

Exercise scientists understand the human body and movement, and the military can use many of these professionals in different capacities. A rheumatologist who treats vital organs often comes face-to-face with sick and dying people, an inescapable reality of many military roles. The camaraderie built in the army is prevalent in occupational therapists and physical therapy assistants, who get involved in every aspect of a patient's life so that the latter can adjust their lifestyle to their special needs or injuries. Community and recreation specialists as well as registered nurses use their leadership and communication skills to treat the injured, both on a physical and psychological level.

Exercise Science Careers in the Military


Rheumatologist roles require both a physician's expertise and a military person's courage in front of sick and dying people. As a branch of physicians, rheumatologists are medical doctors with expertise on vital organs and joint injuries. They view treatment holistically, since the treatments they prescribe can entail dietary changes as much as medication. They work in military clinics or hospitals but they can work aboard ships as well as on land. The service they provide is of vital importance to the army, and this is reflected in their hefty salary.

Registered Nurse

The high rate of military injury has created a demand for registered nurses as they provide medical care to military personnel and their families. Their main duties are similar to their civilian counterparts, as they assess patient condition, consult and update patient medical history, and administer medication. Yet, military nurses can take additional responsibility because they may also be asked to provide assistance as part of disaster relief. Consequently, this role requires eagerness of responsibility and strong verbal skills because nurses are in close contact with patients.

Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist is the embodiment of the camaraderie which characterizes the armed forces. Active military members can have disabilities, mental diseases or injuries which do not allow them to lead independent lives. Occupational therapists devise plans for them to regain this independence. Similar to rheumatologists, the treatments they prescribe extend to many everyday activities, such as socializing, exercising or eating. Occupational therapists can form close bonds with their patients because they evaluate their family and workload conditions in order to devise therapeutic plans.

Physical Therapy Assistant

Military personnel can be plagued by injuries or diseases, due to the physical nature of their profession. This is why physical therapy assistants (PTAs) are of vital importance to the health of the armed forces. PTAs work with military personnel suffering from injury or pain. They work under the supervision of physical therapists, but they are in direct contact with patients as they guide them through exercises necessary for recovery. Verbal skills are an essential tool of the trade, because military patients require not only physical support but psychological support. PTAs monitor patients' progress and report it to their superiors.

Community and Recreation Specialist

Community and recreation specialists provide much-needed recreational time for military personnel. They can organize indoor and outdoor activities, provide educational time by giving access to libraries, offer food services, and organize art or craft events. Community and recreation specialists are leaders, because they take initiatives and function as pillars of stability and support for a workforce which can have a tumultuous psychological state. Therefore, this is a role for a professional who thrives on responsibility and interpersonal skills.

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