What is an Exercise Science Major?
Exercise science is the study of how physical movement affects the body, and can also include the impacts of diet and nutrition on overall physical health. For those interested in this field, relevant college majors include exercise science and physical education. A bachelor's degree in either of these fields prepares graduates to work in a broad range of careers related to health and fitness promotion.
Many colleges and universities in the U.S. offer exercise science degree programs. Read on for details of coursework common in these programs, and information about potential careers for those who pursue a bachelor's degree in exercise science or physical education.
Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science
A 4-year bachelor's degree in exercise science teaches students how to create and execute exercise programs that are both safe and effective for a variety of individuals. Students learn to promote wellness within individuals of different fitness levels and abilities, including those who are obese, pregnant, or diabetic. Common coursework includes kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, fitness testing, nutrition, rehabilitation, injury prevention and sports performance, and sports ethics. Bachelor's in exercise science programs often conclude with an intensive internship.
Graduates are well-prepared for a variety of health and wellness careers and may take the exam to become certified fitness instructors through the American College of Sports Medicine. They are also qualified to pursue graduate education in another health-related field, such as medicine, physical therapy, or chiropractic medicine.
Bachelor of Science in Physical Education
A bachelor's program in physical education prepares students to become K-12 physical education instructors within a public or private school system. This program generally takes 4 years to complete, and degree-specific courses complement general education classes. Core coursework typically includes physical education instruction, education psychology, teaching technologies, first aid for sports, and biomechanics. Coursework provides students with a strong background in health and wellness and gives them the necessary skills to pass on this information to others through teaching and technology. A significant focus is put on designing programs and curriculum for different age groups and fitness abilities.
Depending on a person's state of residence, further credentials - such as teacher licensure - may be necessary to work as a physical education leader in an educational setting. Graduates may also continue their education with a Master of Science in Physical Education.
Popular Exercise Science Jobs
Graduates with a B.S. in exercise science often become personal trainers and fitness instructors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fitness trainers and instructors earned a median annual salary of $39,820 in 2018. This profession is expected to see a 13% increase in available jobs from 2018 to 2028, which is much higher than average growth for all professions.
Other career options for this major include:
- Wellness program manager
- Clinical rehabilitation supervisor
- Exercise specialist
- Athletic director
- Conditioning coach
- Personal trainer
Graduates with a B.S. in Physical Education commonly become physical education teachers. According to the BLS, elementary teachers (including physical education teachers) earned a median annual salary of $58,230 in 2018, while high school teachers (including physical education teachers) earned $60,320 that same year. Jobs for elementary school teachers are expected to grow at a rate of 3% from 2018 to 2028, while high school teaching jobs are predicted to grow at 4% during that same time.
Other popular career options for this degree include:
- Director of activities
- Director of recreation
- Director of intramural athletics
- Athletic coach
Individuals wanting to coach other individuals, such as adult athletes, in physical fitness, health wellness, sport injury recovery, or nutrition, may be interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in exercise science. Individuals wanting to become a physical education teacher for grades K-12 will need to earn a bachelor of science in physical education and a teaching license.