Sports Medicine Programs by Program Level
Learn about undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sports medicine. Get information on program curricula and admissions requirements at each level. Review the career prospects for graduates along with continuing education options.
Individuals who want to study sports medicine have options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Bachelor's degree programs in sports medicine revolve around the science of physical movement and activities. They highlight topics such as exercise science, kinesiology and physiology. Internships might be included in the curricula. Knowledge of CPR may be necessary for admission to this 4-year undergraduate program.
Consisting of intensive research and more advanced coursework, a 2-year master's degree program in sports medicine may also feature several areas of concentration as well as a thesis requirement. Some schools require related bachelor's degrees for admission to a master's program.
Highlighting advanced epidemiology and exercise physiology, the coursework of a doctoral program can prepare students to conduct scholarly research or to teach in academia. Depending on the doctoral program, bachelor's or master's degrees are required for admission, along with professional credentials and experience.
Bachelor's Degrees in Sports Medicine
The Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree is awarded to graduates of baccalaureate programs in sports medicine. Depending on the school, a sports medicine program may fall under a different program name, such as exercise science or athletic training. Students learn about human movement, fitness assessment and healthcare fundamentals related to physical activity.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is needed in order to enroll in a college or university. The school's sports medicine program may have additional requirements that can include taking specific foundational courses and having certification in CPR and/or first aid.
Basic human biology and the science of physical activity are learned by sports medicine students. In addition to participating in classroom lectures, students also receive practical training through wellness centers or internships. Some common classes include:
- Exercise science
- Injury and illness assessment
- Injury prevention and care
Popular Career Options
Sports medicine bachelor's degrees are typically pre-professional and prepare students for further study in graduate programs. However, some individuals acquire entry-level positions in the sports medicine field with bachelor's degrees:
- Personal trainer
- Group exercise instructor
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers various certifications for entry-level sports medicine professionals, including personal trainers, group exercise instructors and health fitness specialists. These certifications are beneficial to professionals because they validate their knowledge, skills and experience for potential employers or clients.
Master's Degree in Sports Medicine
Students in sports medicine master's degree programs often choose concentrations within the discipline, such as athletic training. Concentrations allow students to focus their studies in order to meet career goals. Students take more advanced coursework and more emphasis is placed on research. The program typically culminates with a thesis or research project.
A bachelor's degree is needed before enrolling in a sports medicine master's program. Some programs require that students have bachelor's degrees in sports medicine-related fields, while other programs accept students with unrelated bachelor's degrees. Those with an unrelated degree usually have to take required courses before gaining acceptance.
Students in sports medicine master's programs take part in classroom instruction, clinical education and laboratory training. Some common classes include:
- Advanced anatomy and physiology
- Performance and nutrition
- Cardiopulmonary exercise and rehabilitation
- Athletic training practicum
- Research methods
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
One career choice for graduates of sports medicine master's programs is exercise physiology. These healthcare professionals use exercise to treat illness and counsel athletes and other physically active people about exercise. According to the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP), employment opportunities are growing for exercise physiologists in various settings, such as fitness and wellness centers, healthcare facilities and community organizations.
Explorehealthcareers.org stated that the median annual income for exercise physiologists was $42,264 as of 2012. However, factors that influence an exercise physiologist's salary are location, certification and experience. Salary.com indicated that the median annual salary for these professionals was $44,916 as of March 2012.
Depending on the occupation, many sports medicine professionals obtain one of several certifications. Exercise physiologists can obtain the ACSM-registered clinical exercise physiologist certification. Eligibility requirements include having a master's degree in a relevant field, 600 hours of clinical experience and certification in CPR or basic life support.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), athletic trainers in almost all states are required to obtain certification from the Board of Certification, Inc. Eligible candidates have bachelor's or master's degrees from approved programs and must pass exams.
Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Medicine
Students in Ph.D. programs typically prepare for research or teaching jobs at the university level. Some programs have related names, like rehabilitation science or kinesiology, and offer specializations in sports medicine.
Most Ph.D. programs prefer or require candidates to have master's degrees in sports medicine-related subjects. Some programs consider candidates who only hold bachelor's degrees. Each school sets its own prerequisites, which may include having professional experience and certain certifications.
Sports medicine Ph.D. students evaluate human movement, exercise, fitness, performance and nutrition through courses and research. Students can also apply for research assistantships or teaching assistant positions. Typical classes may include:
- Advanced exercise physiology
- Musculoskeletal dissection
- Athletic training methods
- Statistical methods
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