Sports Medicine Degree Programs with Course Information
Read about bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree programs in sports medicine. Learn about courses, career options, salary trends and continuing education for graduates.
The sports medicine field offers a wide range of careers for students studying at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree levels. Degree programs in sports medicine include classroom instruction and hands-on learning regarding human movement, physical activity and healthcare.
Bachelor's Degree in Sports Medicine
Students who earn a bachelor's degree in sports medicine can prepare for several types of careers in allied healthcare. Graduates provide guidance, preventative care and rehabilitation services to physically active individuals. Some private and public universities and colleges offer bachelor's degrees in sports medicine or related subjects, such as exercise science or athletic training.
Gaining entry into a college or university generally requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. Admission into a sports medicine bachelor's degree program usually has additional requirements that vary for each program. Completing specific courses, being certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and spending a certain number of hours observing a certified athletic trainer in a professional setting are required for admission by some programs.
Students in sports medicine bachelor's degree programs receive classroom instruction in addition to practical experience through internships. Some schools also provide students with hands-on training through assistance at campus health and wellness centers or within the athletic department. Common class topics include:
- Health and exercise science
- Weight training techniques
- Exercise physiology
- First aid
- Sport psychology
- Therapeutic modalities
- Common athlete medical conditions
Popular Career Options
Typically, bachelor's degree programs in sports medicine are pre-professional options that prepare students for graduate programs. Most job opportunities in the field require that candidates to have at least a master's degree. However, some entry-level careers may be available to bachelor's degree holders, such as:
- Physical education teacher
- Personal trainer
- Fitness instructor
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers certifications for sports medicine professionals. Voluntary credentials help to validate a professional's education and expertise. Some of the certifications offered by ACSM include the Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Group Exercise Instructor and Certified Health Fitness Specialist.
Master's Degree in Sports Medicine
Master's degrees are necessary for many sports medicine careers. The degree is typically offered as a Master of Science and takes two years to complete. Students can gain thorough sports medicine knowledge while conducting and critiquing research. Some programs allow students to select specialties within the sports medicine field, such as strength conditioning and athletic training.
A bachelor's degree is usually required for entrance into a master's degree program. Students with a bachelor's degree unrelated to sports medicine may need to take specific courses before gaining entry.
Students in sports medicine master's degree programs receive classroom instruction, participate in research projects and obtain practical training. Qualified students could acquire graduate assistantship positions that afford them the opportunity to learn and practice athletic training and rehabilitation services on campus. Common coursework includes the following:
- Injury prevention
- Strength and conditioning theories and methods
- Human movement
- Musculoskeletal injury
- Advanced exercise physiology
Employment Outlook and Salary
An athletic trainer position is one of the career options for graduates of sports medicine master's degree programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), athletic training positions are expected to increase 37% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). Job openings are most prevalent in healthcare, fitness, sport and recreational facilities. The BLS states that high schools are also employing more athletic trainers.
In May 2010, athletic trainers earned an average annual salary of $44,030, according to the BLS. Some employers with the highest employment levels were postsecondary schools, elementary and secondary schools, hospitals, health practitioner offices and recreational facilities.
Nearly all states require athletic trainers to obtain a state license and certification from the Board of Certification, Inc. If licensure or certification isn't required, athletic trainers can still earn voluntary board certification or get certified through other professional credentialing organizations, such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine or the American College of Sports Medicine. Master's degree holders can qualify to earn ACSM's Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist certification.
Doctoral Degree in Sports Medicine
Students interested in working in research or teaching at the university level can pursue their education further by enrolling in a doctoral program. The curriculum is often focused on research, and students typically choose an area within sports medicine in which to specialize, such as biomechanics, exercise nutrition or sport management. The program usually takes four years of full-time study to complete.
Each program sets its own admission requirements; however, requiring a master's degree or specific undergraduate studies in exercise science or sports medicine is common for admission into a doctoral program. Preference could also be given to applicants who are certified athletic trainers or physical therapists.
In addition to classroom instruction, doctoral students often receive laboratory training where they conduct research projects at campus labs. They might attend regular seminars and have opportunities to acquire research assistantship positions. Some possible class and research topics include:
- Clinical biomechanics
- Sports medicine laboratory techniques
- Athlete eating disorders
- Multivariate statistics
- Epidemiological methods
- Athletic injury care
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