The Best Exercise Science Degree Careers in 2021
Hello, and welcome to another insight article by Trainer Academy.
In this one, we want to introduce you to the potential career prospects of health and exercise science jobs.
By that, we mean trainers with a university of college degrees in exercise science or related academic fields.
If you are a coach looking for exercise science degree jobs or are thinking of getting one, then this article is for you.
Aside from getting a college degree in exercise science, there are some personal training certifications from reputable bodies that are highly recommended and a must-have to enhance your professionalism.
Use the links below to access them:
Read this: How To Become A Personal Trainer
We’re going to break down each of the exercise science majors and apply our knowledge to give you some valuable insight.
So with that said, let’s get right into it.
As the title suggests, an exercise science degree is a tertiary higher learning qualification that focuses on sports science and medicine.
It equips candidates with the skills and knowledge to practice within the fields of health and fitness at the highest possible level.
Sports science degrees and kinesiology are focused on the understanding of human movement science or biomechanics. This allows practitioners to provide corrective therapy or implement performance enhancement protocols.
Unlike health and fitness certifications, which only allow candidates a relatively narrow scope of practice, degree holders can diversify and up-scale their operation and significance within organizations as well as a private practitioner.
The time and intensity of earning a degree in fitness allow a great deal of leverage, and with it comes a wealth of opportunity and income.
Trainers and coaches with degrees rank amongst the top earners in the fitness industries due to their ability to leverage their credentials and their potential to assume lucrative and authoritative positions in sports, health, and fitness.
Of course, having a degree means nothing without any passion or dedication to the field of practice.
It’s very common for highly qualified individuals to sit on their qualifications and never advance themselves beyond academic savviness.
So getting a degree is certainly a step in the right direction, but harnessing the power it provides is still up to the hard work you choose to do.
Let’s look at some common examples of career fields where exercise science degree holders can operate.
Read also: The Best Personal Trainer Certifications
The most popular career field in health and fitness is, of course, that of a personal trainer.
As a personal trainer, your job is to assess the exercise readiness of a client, identify and establish realistic goals, and the planning and instruction of exercise and fitness programs.
The entry barrier for this job description is pretty low, and as a consequence, the industry is fairly saturated and competitive.
That’s because the scope of practice of a PT is more on an advisory and guidance level when it comes to exercise science.
Having a degree in exercise science can certainly provide some much-needed leverage, as well as expand what you are allowed to do as a PT.
Just citing your credentials alone can open doors and gain you access through mere pre-selection bias.
Pre-selection bias is a concept in social psychology whereby a person’s status is determined using presumed indicators of success as opposed to having them present their own value.
Having a degree does this in many cases.
What that means is as a personal trainer, you would be able to leverage employment opportunities into higher positions than usual.
For example, a certified PT applying for a position in a gym would only hope to start on the floor and work their way up, but a PT with a post-grad qualification could easily land a managerial or even executive position within the gym or the organization as a whole.
PTs with degrees also have the potential to tap into higher income bracket client prospects.
As a personal trainer, having a degree allows you to stand head and shoulders above your competition, both due to market perception of your value and the significant surplus in knowledge and skill.
Having said that, being a PT after having done the work and time to graduate from college may be considered low hanging fruit in a sense.
What we mean by this is that a successful and lucrative PT career doesn’t require a degree. Having a degree gives you the opportunity to engage with other more exciting and higher-earning career prospects such as training athletes.
Check out the following to help you add more value, experience, and recognition to your degree certificate.
An educative piece: The Best Nutrition Certifications
As a qualified degree holder, working as an athletic trainer is more in line with the potential your credentials hold.
Elite athletic performance requires meticulous attention to detail, a significant level of knowledge, and a diverse array of skills, the level of which a mere certification won’t afford you.
That’s why jobs in athletic performance usually have an exercise science degree as a requirement for applicants.
Working with athletes focuses on three primary aspects.
The first one is performance enhancement. Focusing on an athlete’s current abilities and unearthing the latent ones for better stats and performance on the field is goal number one.
Second to this is injury prevention, colloquially referred to as “prehab.” This is a system of training, usually based around strength and conditioning protocols aimed at fortifying the musculoskeletal system against injury.
Injuries will happen, but as a specialist in your field, your job is to minimize the risk as well as the recovery time.
Lastly, an athletic trainer is tasked with rehabilitation.
As we mentioned, athletes will get injured, but when that happens, you need to be equipped to deal with working them back to their former glory and beyond.
Rehabilitative protocols are essential for an athletic trainer to have in their repertoire, but for the next career path, rehab is pretty much the name of the game.
Holding a certification in strength and conditioning will further enhance your qualifications and job experience.
You should check out the S&C certifications from the following certifying bodies:
A loaded piece: The Best Group Fitness Certifications
A physical therapist or physiotherapist is a rehab, recovery, and corrective exercise specialist.
Physiotherapy is typically implemented as a recovery protocol for victims of trauma but is also used for those recovering from illness as well as disabled people.
While manual therapy (biomechanical manipulation, fascial release, exercise instruction) are the primary forms of therapy, a physio’s job might be as simple as providing advice and education.
Physiotherapy is aimed at injury recovery and correction of dysfunction, but sometimes can be implemented as an ongoing or maintenance based treatment.
A career in physiotherapy is very lucrative since it aligns you within the field of healthcare practice.
Healthcare practitioners are often in the highest income bracket of society, and when it comes to physiotherapy, there’s no shortage of opportunity.
Being a physio also puts you inline to work within another lucrative industry. That industry is professional sports.
With the heavy physical toll and high rate of traumatic events, physiotherapy is valued and sought after in the world of top-flight sports.
This translates into one of the highest-earning potentials in this article, especially considering how closely linked physiotherapy is to medical practice.
Check out: The Best Fitness Certifications
Exercise and Sport Psychologist
Speaking about sports, one aspect that is necessary for success in the field besides physical preparedness is psychological readiness.
Getting an athlete’s head in the game is just as crucial, if not more so, than getting their body ready to compete.
As a sports psychologist, you won’t just be working with the athlete or athletes in question; you will also advise and instruct coaches, managers, dieticians, and physiotherapists.
Sports psychology works on optimizing an athlete or team’s attitude towards competition, as well as boosting morale in times of failure or defeat.
A sports psychologist is especially important when it comes to rehab and recovery for injured athletes.
The excessive pressure of competition and expectations from fans, teams, and investors, such as sponsors, requires a dedicated mental health maintenance approach.
With this in mind, a career as a physiotherapist can put you in line for some big earnings.
An occupational therapist is a professional health and wellness coach who deals with promoting good lifestyle habits as they relate to specific occupations, career fields, or population groups.
As an occupational therapist, you will essentially be helping people do better at their job or their current lifestyle, whatever that may be, by optimizing their approach to health and fitness.
Health and wellness are amongst the biggest factors when it comes to productivity and job performance.
As an OT, you could potentially land yourself a position as a corporate wellness specialist in a successful company.
Silicon Valley tech companies have an established tradition of incorporating dedicated wellness departments and activities as part of their employee management.
Occupational therapy has one of the broader scopes of practice in comparison to other careers in this article.
Besides exercise and nutrition, you will be dealing with: medical, social and psychological, and cultural issues, helping enhance these aspects for better attitudes towards the work environment.
Fields that OTs commonly operate in include:
- And many more
With this variety in scope, the potential earnings for an OT can vary tremendously depending on which field you end up pursuing.
You can easily obtain certification in nutrition within a few weeks to brush up on your knowledge from these top nutrition bodies.
Learn more: The Best Health Coach Certifications
A physician assistant, as the title suggests, is a qualified healthcare practitioner who supports activities conducted by a qualified physician or surgeon.
As a PA, you will be mainly dealing with medical encounters and liaising with other specialists on behalf of the doctor you assist.
These liaisons would include professionals such as dieticians, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, as well as personal trainers and athletic trainers in some cases.
A physician assistant trains under a similar curriculum to medical doctors, but in a shorter, more condensed format than the latter.
The field of physician’s assistant arose during World War ll as a way to fast track the availability of doctors during the heavy demands of qualified practitioners.
Physician Assistants are licensed medical practitioners who can diagnose and treat most medical conditions.
As you would imagine, a PA wouldn’t earn as much as a doctor; however, being in the medical field already presents excellent income opportunities.
The high average annual income can see this a PA can expect to earn. According to the U.S. News & World Report, working as a physician assistant is considered the second-best job in the healthcare sector and the third overall.
We could chalk this up to the fact that a PA earns close to what a licensed physician would earn, with less on-the-job pressure.
Physical Education Teacher
As a physical education teacher, you will be working with children for the most part. From kindergarten to senior high, you are what many commonly refer to as the gym instructor.
The big burly, physically intimidating member of the teaching staff, perpetually dressed in sportswear, is how this career field is often portrayed in popular media.
The reality of a phys ed teacher is, however, a bit more complex and significant than a high school movie portrayal.
Your understanding of childhood development and the physiological and psychological factors that affect children in sport is crucial.
You will essentially be guiding children through their musculoskeletal development, which will dictate their biomechanics as adults, as well as molding their attitudes towards teamwork, discipline, and competition.
This makes physical education a much more significant responsibility that the archetype of a gym teacher would suggest.
Aside from these seven career options, there are a lot of things to think about in and around getting a degree in exercise science, so let’s take a look.
Area of specialization
One thing to consider when looking at jobs for exercise science majors is the area of specialization you need to follow.
That’s because exercise science is more of a foundational focus than a specific field; you will need to branch out and specialize for your preferred practice.
Some of the most common jobs with exercise science degrees include:
- Medicine (Doctorate)
- Occupational Therapy
- Developmental Psychology
- Sports Medicine
As you can tell from this list, most of the career fields we mentioned require specialization in order to be eligible for exercise science major jobs.
That means in order to truly harness the professional potential of exercise science. You will need to further your studies, essentially making it a prerequisite to more advanced qualifications.
Another important consideration is the fact that earning a degree often has several levels of qualification required before you can be a licensed practitioner in a given field.
A bachelor’s degree is one thing, but you might need a master’s degree or even a doctorate (Ph.D.), depending on which path you choose to follow.
For instance, a physician assistant, physiotherapist, or occupational therapist are all fields that require post-grad studies in order to qualify as a licensed professional.
In some cases, you will also need to undergo some form of apprenticeship or internship before you can spread your wings and engage in a career.
But then, you can start off your career from the basic by getting a certification which is easy to pass, if you obtain your study materials through Trainer Academy.
These study materials are by-products of intense research accumulated from years of experience spent in the personal training industry to help you ace your exams in flying colors.
Click the links below to get started.
- NASM MVP Study Package
- ACE MVP Study Package
- ISSA MVP Study Package
- NSCA CSCS MVP Study Package
- NSCA MVP Study Package
- ACSM MVP Study Package
Salary and Income Potential
When entering the health and fitness field, or any career field for that matter, understanding how much you could earn is an important first consideration.
As mentioned, working in the health and fitness industry can be leveraged for higher income opportunities, either by allowing access to better-paying positions or leveraging your credentials as a value that places a premium on your services.
We can go on and on about how good you can make it as a trainer with a degree, but let’s allow the figures to speak instead.
|Occupation||Average Annual Salary|
|Exercise and Sports Psychologist||$70,000|
As you can see, the highest-earning job prospect as a degree holder in exercise science is that of a physician assistant, followed closely by physiotherapy.
We already pointed out that a career as a healthcare or medical practitioner is one of the highest-earning paths you can take, and the stats prove it.
We also find that being a personal trainer is one of the highest income prospects despite being a field that doesn’t actually require a degree as the others do.
Working as a phys-ed teacher is the lowest paying job opportunity in our spotlight, but in many cases, it can also be the most rewarding if you consider the long term social benefits you’re providing. A career as a phys-ed teacher is also often a stepping stone for greater things.
Income is influenced by several factors aside from just your credentials.
The level of experience can change how much of an income you are able to net. Having experience is one of the most bankable traits in your possession.
Another way income is affected based on location. Operating in a high-income metropolitan area vs. operating in a low-income area directly impacts how much you can hope to earn.
In that case, relocating for better opportunities is a fair enough consideration and can pay off in a big way with all other things in place.
Similar read: Personal Trainer Salary
Other Careers in Exercise Science
Aside from the seven we’ve mentioned, having a qualification in exercise science can place you in numerous other fields of practice. Here are a few of those.
- Athletic Director
- Community Program Director
- Exercise Science Lecturer/Professor
- Health Coach
- Massage Therapist
- Recreation and Sports Director
- Registered Dietician
- Registered Nurse
- Sports Coach
- Sports Facility Manager
- Strength and Conditioning Coach
As you can tell, the possibilities are many when it comes to a career in exercise science.
One interesting one to consider is being the very person who educates future exercise scientists as a university or college lecturer.
As with many other careers, your degree in exercise science would serve mainly as a foundation or prerequisite to the fields of study required to level up as any one of these specialists.
Having said that, it’s also important to consider the fact that some exercise science careers don’t require you to go the full stretch in college or university. So let’s take a look.
Is A Degree For You?
As much as a degree can boost your credentials, which you can then leverage into other opportunities, it might not be necessary, and in fact, might be holding you back in terms of time and financial resources.
We are all aware of the perils of student loan debt and how this can essentially throw a curveball at your life ambitions. It can lead you to question what to do with an exercise science degree when faced with such a limiting factor.
So careful consideration must be made when entering into the world of higher learning for the sake of a health and fitness career.
As we mentioned, being a personal trainer is one career avenue that doesn’t require a degree. Sure, having one is leverageable, but there are many easy ways to boost your value as a trainer and earn top dollar without having to go through the work and get a degree.
Your ability to market your value and niche your brand is tantamount to success and high income.
Similarly, there are many exercise science-based careers that don’t require a degree. A simple certification and some entrepreneurial drive can help you up the food chain with the following careers:
- Aerobics Instructor
- Bodybuilding Coach
- Fitness Coach
- Fitness Facility Manager
- Group Fitness Instructor
- Massage Therapist
- Nutrition Coach
- Physiotherapy Assistant
- Transformation Specialist
In order to work in any of these fields, you simply need to gain the relevant certification.
We advise that you combine getting certified along with some sort of business-related training such as marketing, sales, or business management. This is especially important if you’re going the private route instead of working as an employee.
Having a degree in these fields is not pointless; it just requires a careful assessment before making such a big investment.
We hope you gained some valuable insight from our article on careers with exercise science degrees.
At the end of the day, no matter which field you choose to work in, whether or not there is a degree involved, you need to get a baseline qualification.
We’ve compiled a list of our top ten personal trainer certifications, which you can check out here. It’s a good place to start when deciding what sort of credentials you should be going for.
Stay tuned as we bring more insight into jobs for exercise science majors and many other useful topics.
We also have some reviews detailing the best certifications right here. These ones provide some insight into the different avenues you can follow through to achieve your career goals.