Distance learning degree programs in exercise science are most readily available at the graduate and postgraduate levels. Students in these programs can earn either a master's degree or a post-master's certificate in the field. Although courses can be completed entirely online, some programs may require on-campus orientation prior to the start of the program.
Online master's degree programs in exercise science, which is the study of human movement, can take 1-2 years to complete. Students interested in enrolling in a master's program in exercise science should have a bachelor's degree, preferably in a health or physical education discipline.
Some online graduate programs allow students to choose a concentration, such as wellness and fitness or rehabilitation science. Many master's programs in exercise science prepare students for becoming fitness professionals and earning National Academy of Sports Medicine certification.
Students enrolled in an online master's degree program in exercise science are required to complete core courses; additional coursework is required in the chosen concentration track. Graduate students can expect to take the following exercise science courses:
- Human movement
- Exercise physiology
- Performance enhancement
- Rehabilitation topics
Post-master's certificates in exercise science are designed for individuals who hold a master's degree in exercise science or a related field. Students enrolled in an online exercise science certificate program are generally working professionals who require a flexible learning environment.
Typically, postgraduate certificate programs allow learners to choose a concentration, including injury prevention or sports psychology. Some online exercise science programs prepare graduates for becoming a certified physical trainer or sports medicine specialist.
Core class requirements and credit hours vary depending on the program and school. Students completing a postgraduate certificate program may take the following classes:
- Corrective exercises
- Sports psychology
- Fitness and injury prevention
- Program design in physical fitness
Online programs offer a flexible schedule for the learner and provide a parallel education to on-campus programs. Frequently, distance learning exercise science programs are designed in a cohort style. Cohort programs accept a small number of students who start and complete the program at the same time.
Students in a cohort program learn in an interactive peer group. Regular virtual discussion and communication between students and professors is common in a distance learning cohort program. While most work can be completed online, some exercise science programs require a one-time on-campus orientation.
Online graduate programs in exercise science assume that students have prior educational experience in the field, so they include advanced coursework and give students the opportunity to focus on a particular interest area. Even though this coursework is completed remotely, students are expected to engage with fellow students and instructors through virtual communication platforms.