Last Updated on September 25, 2021
Exercise Science Bachelors Degree Programs
There are a number of reasons why exercise science has been one of the fastest growing majors in the United States in recent years. Exercise science is a dynamic, multi-disciplinary field of study that focuses on the holistic view of how training, diet, and nutrition affect the human body.
A bachelor’s degree in exercise science provides a baseline understanding of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, and physics as a starting point. For former athletes and those seeking an exciting career in the sports industry, a degree in exercise science might be the perfect first professional step.
In a world that is increasingly interested in health, fitness, and longevity, exercise science is the foundation from which lifestyles are built. It is the key to helping people live satisfying lives with more efficient healing and recovery, and helps aspiring teams and athletes achieve their very best.
A bachelor’s degree in exercise science is considered a fundamental building block for constructing a successful professional career in related fields which include health and wellness, physical therapy, nursing, personal training, and even advanced medical training. Exercise science is similar to other pre-med bachelor’s degrees, as it provides a foundation in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and research methods. So while some students bound for medical school may not have considered exercise science, they really should – especially for those who are passionate about being fit and living well.
These days, there are many choices available to students eager to pursue a degree in exercise science. Universities and colleges across the country offer a wide variety of programs to prospective students, and naturally some programs are stronger and more rigorous than others. New exercise science undergraduate programs are being offered every year, reflecting the growing need for professionals in this part of the workforce.
The population of the developed world continues to get older, and people are living longer. At the same time, human beings across the globe have more time and resources to focus on health and wellness than ever before. These very basic factors are expected to help health and wellness industry jobs grow by 13% in the coming decade.
Because exercise science degrees feed directly into this industry, the number of exercise science graduates will continue to grow to meet the needs of the workforce. And with the sports industry also projected to grow by a considerable margin over the next decade or so [source], those with a foundation in exercise science have a wide variety of career paths to choose from.
Obtaining an bachelor’s degree in exercise science is also an ideal precursor to a career in fields like physical therapy and occupational therapy. While these fields require up to three years of additional schooling – usually in the form of a master’s degree and a state certification – demand for graduates of physical therapy (18% growth) and occupational therapy (16% growth) will increase significantly. Since exercise science feeds into these well paying – averaging $90K per year or more – the major will continue to be more popular for the foreseeable future.
It is important to note that certifications vary from state to state to certifications and licensing requirements in each state. In order to be fully prepared and informed, be sure to research certification and licensing requirements for professions of interest in states near you.
Which courses make up a bachelor’s degree in exercise science?
Exercise science bachelor’s degree programs introduce students to a wide variety of coursework to provide the necessary groundwork for the various careers in all related fields. These will generally include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, nutrition, kinesiology, and physics.
Some examples of the types of courses that might make up the foundation of a degree in exercise science might include topics like:
- sports nutrition
- chemistry and health
- exercise physiology
- sports management
- introduction to kinesiology
- aging and conditioning
- prevention and care of injuries
- statistics and research methodologies
Beyond these core courses, students can complement their studies with specialized classes in a variety of more focused areas. These course options will vary from program to program, so be sure to examine each program’s elective options before getting too far along in the application process. Since many careers require additional graduate studies, all exercise science programs will be designed with the goal of preparing graduates for advanced degrees in related areas including physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical school, nutrition, etc.
The evolution of online learning continues
Since the start of the global pandemic last year, remote learning has become much more commonplace. Students and professors alike have learned both the positive and negative aspects of distance learning. By now, you should have a good idea about whether it is best for your future to study your degree on campus, online, or a combination of the two.
More often than not, the answer to this question is dictated by life circumstances outside of your control. If you are working full time or have family obligations that make dedicating four years to studying a degree on campus, studying an online degree might make a lot of sense.
For those who are keen to limit their expenses, online degrees are almost always be more affordable than on campus options. In the same way, studying a degree online might make a program at a more prestigious university affordable whereas it was previously out of reach.
The bigger question to consider when deciding which type of degree to pursue is whether you have the discipline to do the majority of your coursework online. Many hybrid program models still include in-person experiential learning opportunities which can be the perfect complement to online learning.
Even if the program is fully remote, keep an eye out for programs that require you to seek out experiential learning at nearby schools, organizations, and companies. Plugging in to real world situations related to exercise science – even with limited structure – can produce excellent learning outcomes that will serve you will in the future.
The on-campus experience is difficult to replicate
Of course, there is something to be said about the traditional on campus university experience, which combines in-person lectures with small group discussions and offers the chance to really bond with your fellow classmates. The opportunity to form study groups and collaborate on projects can be an effective complement to a bachelor’s degree as well. For young people who are dedicating their formative years to immersing themselves in their studies, it is quite difficult to replicate the on campus experience. However, others who are at different points in their lives might find that leaving the rest of their lives behind – or putting them on pause for several years – is simply not an option.
Five steps for choosing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science program:
- Admission requirements – Admission requirements for exercise science bachelor’s degree programs can vary a great deal from school to school. Some universities and colleges are more selective, requiring students to demonstrate prior studies or proficiencies. Others may require all prospective students to submit standardized test scores or placement exams. It is very important to research these requirements before settling on a program to gain a good understanding of what the application process entails to be sure the program is a good fit.
- What is their policy on transferring credit hours? – It is important to know how open the academic institution is to transferring credit hours, as this is a major factor for many students. For individuals who are currently enrolled in other majors or programs who are eager to change their major to Exercise Science, the ability to apply credits for previously completed coursework could be a significant factor in deciding which exercise science program is best for them. If you are unsure about the status of credits that you are hoping to transfer, be sure to consult with admissions officers and relevant department heads at schools you are considering prior to making a final decision on which program is the best fit.
- Does this program have the specialized classes that I am hoping to study while getting my degree in exercise science? Exercise science bachelor’s degree programs offer a core of courses that are required study, and these classes are designed to introduce students to the various areas of the overall field. However since there are an array of specialties to explore within the field, including fitness and training focused studies, coaching and management, applied physiology, and nutrition/dietary courses. For students who are starting a degree with the goal of exploring specialty studies, it is imperative to choose a program that features offerings in the subject areas of interest.
- Financial aid, scholarships, and tuition – tuition fees charged by a given school is always an important consideration for prospective students. However, don’t be scared away by a program with a high tuition sticker price without first exploring what kinds of financial assistance might be available for every program and school being considered. Financial aid can often offset most or all tuition at even more expensive schools for some qualified students.
- School reputation – As with any higher education degree program, the school’s reputation among potential employers can play a huge role in how successful a post-graduate career can be. To maximize the return from the time and financial cost of a degree, choose a school that is well respected within a particular field.
Exercise science career outlook
In many of the careers served by exercise science, a bachelor’s degree is just the beginning to access some of the more desirable career tracks both within and outside the sports industry.
While some exercise science graduates choose to enter the workforce upon graduation – pursuing careers as coaches, athletic or recreation directors, facility managers, or massage therapists – a significant number of bachelor’s degree holders choose to immediately pursue graduate programs which will ultimately be needed to achieve their preferred careers paths.
Still others use their degree in exercise science as a foundation from which they can begin medical school, opening a whole different world of possibilities for achieving some very lofty career goals.
The beauty of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science is that students will naturally explore the different aspects that make up these various career paths along the way, so by the time graduation arrives students are bound to have a solid idea of which track might suit them best. Some exercise science bachelor degree holders may choose to specialize in one aspect of the field during their undergraduate education, while others wait until graduate school to do so.
Career paths related to exercise science are growing so fast because health care and general well-being are becoming a more significant part of our lives all the time. So while an aging population and a growing health care industry are creating the need for professionals with a foundation in exercise science, they are also creating the need for more exercise science bachelor’s degree programs, both online and on campus. Check out our Exercise Science Career Page for more information about careers in the industry.
Exercise science degree FAQs
Comprehensive list of exercise science bachelor’s degree programs
The following is a comprehensive list of bachelor’s degree programs in exercise science–including some closely related fields–which are currently available. The purpose of this page is to provide you with easy access to degree programs that might well be a great fit for those considering a degree in exercise science. We have taken the time to write a few words about the strengths and distinctive features of some programs to help you compare your options at a quick glance. We have also included the location of each institution, and additional information where possible to help you quickly compare your options as you continue your research.