Bachelor's Degree in Fitness: Program Options

Get information on bachelor's degree programs in exercise science and kinesiology. Read on to learn about prerequisites, curriculum and career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

While there is not a specific bachelor's degree for fitness, several similar awards are available for those interested in health and fitness careers, including a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science or a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Both of these programs include lecture-based courses and clinical work in exercise techniques and physical fitness.

An exercise science degree program teaches students about the ways exercise can factor into a healthy lifestyle or be used for a specific purpose, such as athletic training. Courses may cover the biomechanics of movement, principles of athletic training, fitness for special populations and recreation management.

In a kinesiology program, students focus on a particular specialty, such as fitness or education. Courses cover many of the same topics as in an exercise science degree program, but may also include subjects such as sports in America and exercise prescription. Those who complete teacher training requirements can seek licensing to teach physical education, while other graduates may apply for certification as personal trainers.


Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science

This program, sometimes called exercise physiology, introduces fitness enthusiasts to health and wellness. It is intended for those who wish to pursue careers in an allied health field, or enroll in a graduate program for fitness, nutrition or human health. Those with a background in exercise science may also seek jobs working with athletes in terms of physical conditioning or treating sports-related injuries.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants typically must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some background in health or fitness may be preferred, but is not required. Candidates may wish to complete high school courses in anatomy and physiology as well as participate in any health-related programs, such as first aid training. Overall, a strong GPA and minimal SAT or ACT scores are needed.

Program Coursework

Bachelor's degree students with a major in exercise science receive a well-rounded education--with classes in languages, mathematics and humanities--in addition to learning about the body and how it works. Sample class topics include:

  • Activity for special populations
  • Recreational management
  • Athletic training techniques
  • Biomechanics of movement
  • Care and prevention of athletic injuries

Popular Career Options

Those with a bachelor's degree in exercise science or exercise physiology may find work in hospitals or health care clinics, fitness clubs or other physical wellness settings. Although some additional coursework or certification may be needed, possible career titles include:

  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Assistant coach
  • Athletic trainer
  • Nurse
  • Exercise and nutrition consultant

Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the study of human motion, with a particular focus on improving health through movement. Most bachelor's degree programs for this field offer specialty areas to train students for specific career tracks; for example, a fitness concentration can prepare individuals to act as personal trainers, while an emphasis in education prepares graduates to teach physical education. Many applicants choose kinesiology programs in order to prepare for jobs in rehabilitation or physical therapy. Those who wish to enroll must have graduated from high school or earned a GED certificate.

Program Coursework

Bachelor's degree programs in kinesiology may vary by specialty area. Course often explore such subjects as:

  • Philosophy of physical activity
  • Biomechanics of movement
  • Motor learning and control
  • Exercise prescription
  • Sports in America

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Those with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology have a solid foundation for entering the fitness industry as a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or another type of wellness professional. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment of fitness trainers and instructors to grow 24% from 2010-2020; this above-average growth may be due to more people discovering the health benefits of exercise. The median annual salary for fitness trainers was $31,720 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Those who wish to become a personal trainer or fitness instructor can obtain certification from several agencies and organizations in the U.S. For example, the National Athletic Trainers' Association offers membership and accreditation through the Board of Certification (www.nata.org). Kinesiology programs also prepare individuals to pursue teacher certification in physical education. For those interested in continuing education, a bachelor's degree program in kinesiology can be used as a platform to pursue a graduate degree and become a physical therapist.

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