Kinesiology Education and Training Requirements
Kinesiology is the science of movement - particularly human movement - and the study of body mechanics, function and performance. Sometimes it is referred to as biomechanics. It is less a career than a conceptual framework with applications in athletic competition, health maintenance, rehabilitation or any work with a physiological basis.
Education in Kinesiology
Programs in kinesiology are sometimes available at the associate's degree level, but are primarily offered at the bachelor's degree and master's degree levels. A few doctoral degree programs are also available. Programs are often organized into sub-disciplines, such as movement science, health-related kinesiology and athletic training. Many programs include opportunities for students to gain field experience in hospitals, clinics and fitness clubs.
A movement science program emphasizes the fundamentals of movement, including the names and functions of the musculoskeletal system's major bones and muscles. Students also study biomechanics and the neurological basis of motor control and skill acquisition.
Health and medical kinesiology explores topics such as voluntary movement disorders (cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease), the effects of aging on the central nervous system, developmental disabilities and rehabilitation. Athletic training programs cover nutrition, exercise physiology, exercise regimens, injury profiles and injury rehab.
A kinesiology degree can lead to a number of different positions, including physical education teacher, physical therapist or therapist assistant, fitness trainer, ergonomics consultant or occupational therapist. Training requirements vary for these careers, but may include completion of a graduate degree, a passing score on an exam, licensure or certification.
For example, a physical therapist needs a license. The requirements for licensure include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination and any state-mandated exams. A fitness trainer primarily needs extensive training in his or her exercise modality, although many trainers also pursue certification; organizations like the Pilates Method Alliance offer fitness trainer certification in particular exercise methods. A physical education teacher needs to obtain teacher certification at his or her level of choice, such as elementary or secondary education.
According to Payscale.com, as of March 2010 for workers with 1-4 years of experience, physical education teachers earned a median salary of $36,285, physical therapists earned $58,454 and therapist assistants earned $40,770. Fitness trainers earned $29,560, and occupational therapists earned $60,210.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a number of factors have made employment prospects for kinesiology-related careers favorable. Improving medical treatments that allow more people with critical problems to survive have also increased the demand for physical therapy and occupational therapy, as has the aging population. Increased awareness of the value of fitness has led to the expansion of fitness programs and thus the need for fitness trainers and coaches. However, tight school budgets that force the elimination of non-academic subjects have made the outlook for physical education teachers less certain (www.bls.gov).
The BLS projected job growth in each of these fields for the years 2008-2018. The employment of physical therapists was expected to grow 30%, employment of fitness workers was expected to grow 29%, and employment of occupational therapists was expected to grow 26% (www.bls.gov).
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