Kinesiology Programs by Degree Level

Oct 24, 2019

The field of kinesiology is available at bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Understand what you'll need and learn from these programs and what you can do with your degree.

Essential Information

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in kinesiology emphasize coursework in areas such as biomechanics, fitness, sports psychology and motor control. Internships, research and various concentration options might be components of some programs. Specializations could include physical education, sports psychology, exercise science and more. Some schools offer the convenience of online programs or at least some online coursework.

At the bachelor's degree level, students typically only need a high school diploma to declare the major. Master's and doctoral candidates need a bachelor's degree in a related field of study and could need to provide GRE scores for enrollment. Graduates of kinesiology programs could be prepared for careers in athletic training, fitness center management, physical education instruction and physical therapy.

Bachelor's Degree in Kinesiology

Bachelor's degree programs in kinesiology introduce students to concepts in anatomy, body mechanics, nutrition and motor learning. It is common for programs to include internships or other hands-on learning experiences outside of the classroom. Some kinesiology bachelor's degree programs include teaching certification components with the purpose of preparing graduates for teaching careers.

To enroll in a program, prior coursework in related fields, most notably biology, is helpful but rarely required. Many programs require students to submit ACT or SAT scores. Kinesiology programs at the bachelor's degree level provide introductory training for students with little or no experience in the field. Common courses include the following:

  • Introduction to kinesiology
  • Understanding biomechanics
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Teaching physical education
  • Human motor development
  • Principles of fitness

Master's Degree in Kinesiology

Master's degree programs in kinesiology are intended to build competency and promote research in the field. Most master's degree programs in kinesiology include concentration options and internship experiences.

Courses in graduate-level programs in kinesiology build upon prior education while advancing skills in research. Common courses include the following:

  • Sport and exercise program management
  • Applied sports psychology
  • Ethical issues in physical education
  • Advanced biomechanics
  • The business of sports
  • Understanding motor control

Ph.D. in Kinesiology

Ph.D. degree programs in kinesiology offer terminal training in the field and are primarily pursued by students interested in university-level teaching careers, advanced research or professional coaching and training. Students entering Ph.D. programs with a prior master's degree in kinesiology often receive advanced standing. Programs involve a significant research component. Students typically focus their research and studies around an area of specialization, such as athletic training, human motor development or biomechanics.

Applicants without a degree in kinesiology may need to complete significant additional coursework. Students in Ph.D. programs in kinesiology generally concentrate their studies around their areas of research or address gaps in previous education in the field. Courses may include the following:

  • Advanced motor control
  • Advanced biomechanics
  • The physiology of exercise
  • The role of sports in society
  • Statistical methods in kinesiology research
  • Research practicum

Popular Career Options

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in kinesiology are prepared for a variety of careers in fitness and health education, including fitness training and instruction. Career options include the following:

  • Physical education teacher
  • Athletic trainer
  • High school or middle school athletic coach
  • Recreation program coordinator
  • Fitness center director

Kinesiology programs at the master's level prepare graduates for leadership positions in the field, including the following:

  • Physical education teacher
  • Athletic director
  • Fitness center director
  • Youth program director
  • Personal trainer

A Ph.D. in kinesiology program prepares graduates for advanced positions in education and athletic coaching at the college and professional levels, including the following positions:

  • Postsecondary kinesiology educator
  • Professional athletic coach or trainer
  • Physical therapist
  • Sports researcher

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no educational requirements for fitness and health educators, including fitness trainers and instructors, though individuals who hold a degree in a fitness-related field should have an edge in the job market. As of May 2018, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned an average of $44,580 per year, as reported by the BLS.

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