Exercise Science Graduate Studies Program Overviews

Graduate programs in exercise science are available at the master's and doctoral level. Both programs cover topics such as physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, rehabilitation, and motor control, and doctoral programs place a heavy emphasis on research.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in exercise science teach the effects of exercise on human health. Research projects and clinical training are typically major components of the program. Research becomes an even larger component of the exercise science curriculum when students enter doctoral degree programs. Specializations are common within an exercise science doctoral program so that students can concentrate their research on what interests them most within the field.

Although a bachelor's degree is required to enter either type of program, a master's degree isn't always required for admission into a doctoral program. Preferred subjects of undergraduate study can vary, but common ones include kinesiology, fitness, exercise science, physical education, and biology. At a minimum, applicants must have completed certain classes such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.

Master's Degree in Exercise Science

The curriculum for a master's degree program in exercise science includes classroom instruction, fieldwork, and research. Many colleges and universities offer master's programs in exercise science and some allow students to select concentrations such as rehabilitation or exercise physiology. Some programs focus more heavily on the clinical training aspect while others focus more intently on the research. These courses include the following:

  • Research and statistical methods
  • Exercise science
  • Kinesiology
  • Clinical exercise testing
  • Physical activity and chronic disease
  • Exercise physiology

Doctoral Degrees in Exercise Science

Doctoral programs are offered at many public and private universities and colleges. Although students spend most of their doctoral studies on research projects, students still receive classroom instruction. They learn research methods and take other core courses and electives. Some common classes may include:

  • Motor development theories
  • Cellular exercise physiology
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Energy metabolism and exercise
  • Pathophysiology
  • Advanced human biomechanics

Popular Career Options

Graduates of doctoral degree programs in exercise science typically obtain jobs within the research or university-level teaching realm. Some career options include:

  • College/university teacher
  • Researcher
  • Biomechanics specialist
  • Exercise physiologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

One career choice for graduates of a master's degree program in exercise science is athletic trainer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these allied health professionals should see a 21% increase in job growth between 2014-2024 ( Employment opportunities for athletic trainer positions are most prevalent at healthcare facilities, fitness centers, sports complexes and high schools. The annual mean income for athletic trainers in May 2015 was $44,720, reported the BLS.

Master's and doctoral level exercise science programs focus on human health through exercise and are generally structured around clinical training and research. Covering topics such as kinesiology, nutrition and rehabilitation, many programs allow students to specialize on the topics of greatest interest to them.

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