Last Updated on September 26, 2021
Master’s in Exercise Science Programs
If you’re seeking a successful career in the sports, health, and wellness industries, a career in exercise science could be an excellent option. If you have an interest in movement, fitness, and the human body – and you enjoy helping others be their very best – a master’s in exercise science could be the ticket to the future of your dreams.
Even beyond the fitness or sports performance industries, a master’s degree in exercise science is an excellent foundation for success. As the world’s population ages and lifestyles become more sedentary, a host of professional opportunities have developed in the field of exercise science.
A master’s degree in exercise science equips graduates with the tools to professionally apply themselves in a variety of different career pathways. Exercise science combines principles of applied human physiology and how they affect health, wellness and athletic performance. These skills promise to be marketable in a wide variety of areas related to health and wellness, and also within the sports industry as athletes and continue to unlock human potential through science and nutrition.
Dr. Beau Greer, who was recently interviewed by SportsDegreesOnline.org, explains the versatility and utility of a degree in exercise science:
“Perhaps the best aspect of exercise science as an academic pursuit is its diversity. The foundations of exercise science as a discipline are the biological, chemical, and physical sciences. With the addition of field-specific content, students are well prepared for careers within the traditional outlets such as cardiovascular rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, or various roles within the health and fitness industry; however, it is just as common for students to use their academic background as a springboard into licensed professions like physical or occupation therapy, physician’s assistant programs, or medicine (e.g., MD, DO, etc.).”[source]
Topics covered in an exercise science master’s program include but are not limited to: physiology, exercise prescription, nutrition, kinesiology, metabolism, sports psychology and biomechanics.
Why Should I Pursue a Master’s in Exercise Science?
- Specialization: Hone in on the areas that interest you to set yourself up for a career doing what you are interested in.
- Increase your knowledge: As an undergrad you had exposure to a broad range of topics and through your master’s you will advance your overall knowledge in the field to the next level
- Many online options: The global pandemic has ushered in a new age of distance learning, and a silver lining of this trend is that more and more degrees are being offered either partially or completely online. Years ago the commitment to earning a master’s degree through in-person programs was substantial. Nowadays, there is an immense variety of schools offering programs that feature a significant online component, making a master’s degree in exercise science more affordable and more convenient than ever.
- Cost-effective: Many schools offering online exercise science programs have substantially lower tuition costs than in-person programs, especially for out of state students, allowing you to save your education budget.
- Increase your career prospects: Graduates of the master’s in exercise science program will open up a wide range of career opportunities for themselves. Across the field, you can find graduates happily working in an array of jobs including professional sports teams and leagues, schools, fitness centers, hospitals, nursing homes, the military, etc.
- Prepare for gold standard industry certifications: Over the course of your program you will learn about and train to excel on important national and international fitness, performance-based, or clinically-based certification exams, including strength and conditioning coaching, clinical exercise specialists, personal training, etc.
- You are your network: Reputation and word of mouth is important in this field and the classmates and professors in this course will give you an immediate network that will help you develop professionally and personally.
- Secure your future: Many studies show a projected growth in health and wellness fields, and the BLS is predicting 11% job growth for exercise physiologists and they expect a rise in demand “as healthcare providers emphasize exercise and preventive care to help patients recover from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and improve their overall health.” Your master’s degree will give you the extra edge in a growing, but increasingly competitive market.
- Focus on health: As lives and economies adjust in the post-COVID world, people are looking for ways to become healthy and stay healthy in order to improve their immune system and prevent communicable and chronic disease.
- 10.Helping yourself, while helping others: These days it is hard to find a job that is both rewarding personally and financially. However, in this field you will find many professional opportunities that allow you to help others, whether you are a coach who is teaching life lessons through soccer, or a post-rehabilitation exercise specialist training someone to walk after an accident, you will be on the front lines, helping others while doing what you love and staying in shape yourself.
What is Required to Earn a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science?
Though the introduction of online courses has made the completion of a graduate degree easier, entrance requirements vary considerably between programs. Many programs require a bachelor’s degree in a related field which will naturally include a foundation in biology, chemistry, physics, and health.
Some institutions also require GRE results from applicants, but that is becoming less popular as time goes on. Full transcripts and letters of recommendation can be expected at the time of application.
Completing a master’s degree in exercise science may seem like a substantial time and monetary commitment with many factors to consider. The below guide is intended to help you prepare for what to expect during the process.
Master’s in Exercise Science Programs – How to Apply
This is the most important part of the process as finding the right program for you can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Take the time to research as many schools as possible. Make a spreadsheet of characteristics for different programs, like cost, units, start date, standardized test requirements, etc., so that you can easily compare the different programs you are looking at and can whittle the choices down into a shortlist of the best candidate schools.
The curriculum of a Master’s program will be influenced by the faculty of said program and the professors’ expertise and experience. It can be a good idea to inspect the faculty bio pages and see each professor’s expertise and experience.
If you notice a unique aspect of a program that matches your interests, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professor to ask some questions and learn more about it. If you are able to connect with the professor who manages research and coursework in that particular area, you might learn a great deal about current and future opportunities that impact your decision. Doing this kind of diligence with a few prospective programs can often help you discover professors that can inspire you as a student and set you up for success in a field that intrigues you.
Once you have your short list figured out, complete the applications. Since many schools require letters of reference, it is a good idea to plant these seeds early during the end of your undergraduate experience and ask for letters of recommendation while your rapport remains strong well ahead of when they are needed. If any of your preferred schools require GRE results, schedule the test and begin preparation as soon as possible.
Schools have different graduation requirements, so you need to research what it takes to graduate prior to committing to the program so that you know what you are getting into.
Some school’s offer programs that are more project based, while others have options that rely more on coursework, or practice labs. For some schools, instead of a thesis or research project, students are expected to complete an internship as part of the program. There are programs which may require a project or capstone type of commitment from its students, on top of an internship.
The number and type of units is also an important consideration. Many programs offer a multidisciplinary approach and require specific units from different fields to graduate so you may want to pick the program that emphasizes the subjects that you are interested in developing. Knowing some of these details at the start of the program can help set expectations and potentially avoid later headaches.
The cost of master’s of exercise science can vary widely ($7,000 – $40,000+ per year) so calculating all fees, tuition and living expenses ahead of time is important for you to figure out what you are getting into financially.
Most public universities have discounted tuition for in-state and domestic students, so if the program you are looking at seems too expensive, try options closer to home. The average tuition in the US is one of the most expensive in the world, as international programs in English are becoming increasingly popular. You also need to consider the cost of living expenses while completing your degree. Since most degrees require a substantial time commitment each week, you have to consider the fact that there is limited opportunity for part-time work while you are completing your degree.
Master’s in Exercise Science Concentrations
Rehabilitation Science: The specialization of post-rehabilitation exercise science is becoming more important as the medical industry evolves to find more outpatient and affordable treatments for ailments. The most popular career path for master’s degree holders looking to work in this field, is working in cardiac rehabilitation units. This can be a great opportunity to teach patients how to exercise safely and manage different health risk factors.
Additionally, exercise science can be used in the treatment of chemical and psychological addiction. Using regular exercise intervals has been shown to be a potent tool to treat a variety of addictive behaviors. There is much more to learn about the potential for Exercise Science in rehab protocols.
Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention: Strength and Conditioning coaching is a viable career option at various levels of sport. Many programs prepare students to gain the proper certification and help students become job-ready. It is worth looking into whether or not the degree will prepare you for taking certification exams.
As an example, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification, the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa) Strength & Conditioning Coach (SCCC) Certification, and the CSCCa Master Strength & Conditioning Coach (MSCC) Certification are the only certifications recognized by the NCAA for working with Division I and Division II athletes.
Some progressive programs even incorporate the use of data analytics. While this is not yet widespread, a great deal of growth is expected to emerge from the intersection of exercise science and data analytics in the years to come
Your Network is Your Future
One significant advantage of studying a campus-based master’s program is the personal relationships and professional network that you will develop during your degree program.
Each and every connection and impression that you make is significant, even if they might not seem so at the time. These connections can lead to employment opportunities in the near future and also a bit further down the road. As your fellow graduates establish their careers, their networks grow and some of them might well become hiring managers themselves.
There are always other ways to build such a network, but there is no question that personal relationships can be very important for your professional network.
Online Master’s in Exercise Science and Hybrid Programs Offer Flexibility
If you are already a working professional, a big advantage of choosing a program with an online learning component is that you have a great deal of flexibility. Some students actually like studying online because it suits their learning style better — lectures are delivered via recording which can be re-watched, sped up, or slowed down to suit each individual’s needs.
Most schools that offer online master’s programs grant the same degree to both types of degree offerings. This means that there is effectively no difference in the final diploma that students receive regardless of how it was delivered
An online master’s degree in exercise science might also be more cost-effective than a traditional master’s program on campus. However, the benefits of experiential learning and networking opportunities found in traditional settings are significant. When comparing degree programs, be sure to ask detailed questions about how each university accounts for these aspects.
Between the projected growth of the sports industry and a public that is more interested in health and wellness than ever before, the timing is great to further your education and career. Be sure to visit our Exercise Science Career Page for more information about careers in the industry.
Comprehensive List of the Best Master’s in Exercise Science Programs
Below, we have compiled a list of every university in the US currently offering a master’s degree in exercise science. We hope that this information will serve you well as you search for the program that best suits your needs.