Exercise Science Careers

Hey everyone, Coach Tyler here. So if you are a regular PT Pioneer, you know that we often give the lowdown on the full range of certifications you can choose from to get a start in the fitness world.

These include certifications for personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, corrective exercise specialists, group exercise coordinators, and more. But this blog post will specifically look at exercise science and kinesiology careers. It’s more about focusing on what you can do with an exercise science degree and what you can do with a kinesiology degree once you are qualified.

So that means taking an in-depth look at the various careers in the field of exercise science as well as kinesiology. And while you might know quite a few of them already, we aim to bring you even more possible career choices. Perhaps the perfect one is just waiting for you to discover it.

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But as a starting point, it’s important to ask, “What exactly is exercise science/kinesiology?”

A Definition of Exercise Science

A Definition of Exercise Science

Exercise science examines the relationship between four factors: fitness, exercise, diet, and health. It studies in-depth how the human body is affected by exercise. It does this using a scientific outlook regarding exercise, fitness, results, and benefits.

That covers a very broad spectrum of areas in which exercise science can be applied. In fact, exercise science can be applied to the following: exercise nutrition, exercise physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, and more.

Career Options for Someone Who Holds a Degree in Exercise Science

Now if you are thinking towards a degree in exercise science, no doubt you would have looked into career options available to you once you finished your degree.

And that’s what I intend to look at in this section in-depth.

For those holding a degree in exercise science, the scope for employment in several positions is simply massive. Note, however, that some careers in exercise science require that you have a bachelor’s degree, while others don’t.

For example, you would need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science if you wanted to work as a kinesiologist, athletics director, strength and conditioning coach, or athletic trainer.

You won’t need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science should you want to become a personal trainer, fitness coach, or aerobics instructor, for example.

And for those who want to aim to become a doctor, chiropractor, registered dietician, or occupational therapist, a master’s or doctoral degree is necessary.

So let’s study some careers by looking at a breakdown of popular careers in the field of exercise science.

Top Exercise Science Careers

Top Exercise Science Careers

In this section, we will briefly examine some of the careers you could consider in the field of exercise science.

Personal Trainer

Certainly one of the most popular careers for those who want to work in the field of exercise science, personal trainers are in demand throughout the United States and the world.

And there are several reasons why personal trainers are in such demand. A few of these are as follows:

  • People care about their health, fitness, and looks
  • Older generations are taking better care of themselves
  • The rise of obesity sees more people joining the gym to try to change their lives
  • Corporate health awareness sees companies realizing that healthy employees mean improved productivity
  • A focus on youth fitness

If we take a look at personal trainer job prospects in the United States alone, there is a definite growth trend.

In fact, the field will grow by around 10% in the decade from 2016 to 2026. And that’s not pie-in-the-sky figures! It comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So what does that mean in terms of job numbers? Well, by 2026, the Bureau estimates that in the United States alone, around 330,000 citizens will be employed as personal trainers.

A fast-growing employment field… that’s for sure and many people want to work in it!

But what’s the fastest route to becoming a personal trainer? Well, getting certified with a reputable accreditation body is your best bet. Make sure to read my article on the top five certifications.

How Do I Get Accredited As A Personal Trainer?

How Do I Get Accredited As A Personal Trainer?

Becoming an accredited personal trainer will take some hard work on your part. It means working through one of the many certifications available from a host of reputable companies.

These included the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Let’s take a look at each of these in a little more detail.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

Without a doubt, if you want to become a certified personal trainer, you can’t go wrong with the certification offered by NASM. But why?

Well, in the fitness industry, it is one of the most respected certifications out there. There are other advantages as well.

  • It offers a range of certification study options to suit your budget
  • It uses the OPT model, something that can be used to benefit a wide range of client types
  • It provides a brilliant foundation if you would like to start your own personal training business later on in your career
  • It provides tons of information on both functional training and corrective exercises

To apply for this certification, you must be 18 years old or older and hold either a high school diploma or GED or a valid AED/CPR certification.

Cost-wise, well, there are various options regarding NASM’s CPT certification. The cheapest is self-study which will set you back $699, while the most expensive is their all-inclusive option at $1,999.

While that might seem a little expensive, it does offer a comprehensive package, including mentors and job guarantees. Retest vouchers and membership to the NASM Business Accelerator Program.

Note there are four NASM CPT packages that you can choose from. For even more information about this certification, follow this link.

Make sure to check out my free NASM study guide, practice test, and flashcards, or check out their website here for more information.

ACE Personal Trainer Certification

ACE Personal Trainer Certification

Another excellent CPT certification option is the one offered by ACE. So what has it got going for it? There are several advantages for anyone opting for ACE’s CPT certification.

  • It is well-respected in the industry.
  • ACE has some of the best study materials out there. That makes passing the certification so much easier.
  • It’s one of the best certifications for someone just starting out in the world of fitness who doesn’t have much prior knowledge, to begin with
  • ACE’s CPT certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

The thing about the ACE certification is that it covers pretty much everything in the field of personal training, and that makes it a great “general” classification. That’s why we say it is the perfect certification for newbies just entering the field.

ACE’s CPT course also uses the ITF or integrated fitness model that forms the basis of the certification. This focuses on systematically moving clients through their custom workout routines. Emphasis is placed on preventing injury and overall safety.

To apply for this certification, you must be 18 years old or older and hold either a high school diploma or GED or a valid AED/CPR certification.

And costs? Currently, ACE offers two options, a basic plus package. These prices are $299 and $499, respectively, but there are always specials, so it pays to check the ACE website regularly.

For more detailed information on the ACE CPT certification, follow this link.

Check out my free ACE study guide, practice test, and flashcards, or check out their website here for more information.

ISSA Personal Trainer Certification

ISSA Personal Trainer Certification

Last but not least, let’s take a look at ISSA’s CPT certification.

This is a fairly unique certification in the fact that it is popular the world over. In fact, ISSA says there are over 200,000 accredited personal trainers in nearly 100 countries worldwide that hold this certification.

Much like ACE’s CPT certification, the one offered by ISSA focuses on a more general personal training theme. So let’s then look at some of the main advantages of this certification.

  • It’s a great international certification with recognition all around the globe.
  • It focuses on the business aspect of personal training
  • It provides you with a wide variety of skills
  • If you fail your exam, you may take a free retest

One of the important things to note about ISSA’s CPT certification is that it is online only. And that’s why trainers all over the world love it. That said, it remains a very credible certification for those looking to get their start as a personal trainer in the industry.

Cost-wise, the ISSA course comes in at $799. Remember, this is an online course, so that will be everything you need to complete it and write the exam.

For a more comprehensive review of the ISSA CPT certification, click here.

Make sure to check out my free ISSA study guide, practice test, and flashcards, or check out their website here for more information.

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Another excellent employment opportunity in the field of exercise science is that of a strength and conditioning coach.

Over recent years, the sports performance industry has gone from strength to strength. No longer are sportsmen and women happy to sit back and train traditionally.

In fact, by improving their strength and overall conditioning, their performance can move to the next level. But not only pro athletes can benefit from a strength and conditioning coach. In fact, its become a crucial position at many local gyms around America where sports enhancement classes are becoming increasingly popular.

But there are many other places where sports and conditioning coaches are in demand. High schools, colleges, and wellness centers are just some places where sports and conditioning coaches can be employed. Learn about the top strength and conditioning certifications here or read my article on how to become a strength and conditioning coach.

What Certification Do I Need To Become A Strength And Conditioning Coach?

What Certification Do I Need To Become A Strength And Conditioning Coach?

There are various certification options when it comes to sports and conditioning and they are at varying levels.

For example, should you wish to work as a strength and conditioning coach at a gym or your local high school, certification through a reputable organization like NASM is all you need.

However, if you want to work with a professional sports team, you will need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

A few entry-level specialist coach certifications include:

  • NCSA’s Strength and Conditioning Specialist
  • NASM’s Performance Enhancing Specialist
  • SCCC’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified
  • ISSA’s Strength and Conditioning Coach

Aerobics/Group Exercise Instructor

Aerobics or group exercise instructors are another in-demand exercise science position, particularly in the gym environment.

We’ve all been down to our local gym and participated or seen groups working out together, all following the lead of a super fit individual! That’s a group exercise instructor.

And if you love training with people and perhaps leading them, it might just be your perfect calling in the fitness world.

While some might consider the role of a group exercise instructor to be a little mundane, it really isn’t. And it’s not just about leading people in a fitness class; it’s far deeper than that, in fact.

Just think about it. While leading classes is a large part of a group exercise instructor’s function, there is so much more than they need to handle daily.

A group fitness instructor deals with clients, assessing their fitness levels (especially new ones), drawing up group fitness training schedules, and more daily. They also need to be excellent motivators, capable of keeping people going not on during an actual class but outside of it as well.

Read my article on the top group exercise certifications as well as my article on how to become a group exercise instructor.

What Certification Do I Need To Become An Aerobics/Group Exercise Instructor?

What Certification Do I Need To Become An Aerobics/Group Exercise Instructor?

There are several certification options for you to consider should you choose to become a group exercise instructor.

Some that I would recommend include:

  • ISSA’s Specialist in Group Fitness
  • ACE’s Group Fitness Instructor
  • AFAA’s Group Fitness Instructor
  • ACSM’s Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Athletic Trainer

An athletic trainer is the same as a strength and conditioning coach, right? Nope, they are actually very different.

While a strength and conditioning coach employs techniques to try and help an athlete reach their peak performance by improving muscle strength and conditioning, an athletic trainer focuses more on helping to assess injuries, helping athletes as they rehabilitate through injury, and determining when they are ready to begin training again.

In many cases, you will find athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches working closely together, while some even hold dual certification in both disciplines.

To become an athletic trainer, an individual would need a bachelor’s degree, notably in some form of specialized field. Once you have achieved that, you must pass the licensing exam stipulated by the state you live in.

Physical Therapist

Another extremely fast-growing role in exercise science is that of the physical therapist.

Currently, in the United States, there are close to 250,000 registered physical therapists, with the profession growing at a massive 22% in the next decade, according to the Labor Bureau.

But what is it that a physical therapist does?

Well, physical therapists work in a range of environments where they help people who have been injured, say in a car crash, for example, to regain and improve movement and to deal with their pain.

So an athlete who has torn a cruciate ligament in their knee would see a physical therapist as they recover.

Physical therapists can also help people who are in pain by assessing them and then putting a plan of action together to help them improve. So someone with chronic back pain might visit a physical therapist to help identify the cause and put a plan in place to fix the problem. A physical therapist deals with all sorts of problems and with clients of varying ages.

You would need a Doctor of Physical Therapy or DPT degree to become a physical therapist. Once you have that, you will need to be licensed by the state that you live in.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise Physiologist

Next, let’s look at another specific field in exercise science. And that’s the position of an exercise physiologist.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, America was home to just over 15,000 exercise physiologists. And that is set to rise by around 1,500 more positions over the next 10 years, a growth of 10 percent overall.

But what is it that an exercise physiologist does?

Like other positions in the field of exercise science, an exercise physiologist will design various exercise/fitness programs but do so for a very specific group of people. And those are people who are suffering from chronic disease. These programs are specifically designed to help improve patient flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, body function, and more.

An exercised physiologist will achieve this by analyzing their patients and their medical history and determining the best course of action regarding fitness and exercise. They track key indicators like blood pressure and monitor patients as they train, fine-tuning programs to help improve their health.

A bachelor’s degree is necessary for those looking to become exercise physiologists. For example, this can be in exercise physiology, exercise science, or kinesiology. At present, only exercise physiologists in Louisiana need to be licensed but other States are looking toward implementing similar licensing demands.

Most employers will also want an exercise physiologist to have additional certifications, including CPR and basic or advanced life support.

Fitness Manager

Every fitness center needs a fitness manager! And if you want to become one, a degree in exercise science is often required, but that sometimes depends on each gym.

But what is it exactly that a fitness manager does?

Well, in a nutshell, they run a gym. And that involves many aspects. Of course, first and foremost is ensuring that the gym has enough staff to make it run effectively, from the receptionists that greet you at the door to the specialized positions such as personal trainers or group exercise specialists.

Fitness managers also draw up exercise programs in conjunction with other gym members such as group exercises. Lastly, a fitness manager is also tasked with growing a gym. This is often done through a sales team who will seek out new members to sign up.

Physical Education Teacher

Physical Education Teacher

The final position we will look at regarding the field of exercise science is that of a physical education teacher.

You would need a bachelor’s degree to become one, and focusing on exercise science is the best idea. That said, there are additional requirements from a teaching perspective, for example, a teaching license.

But what does a physical education teacher do daily?

Well, the name says it all. As a physical education teacher, you would be responsible for all physical education programs and classes in a school and coaching sports teams.

The job specifically focuses on helping students to improve their physical health by promoting a healthy and productive lifestyle. This is often achieved through sports, both team and single, other activities, and games.

Final Words…

So there you have it, a comprehensive roundup of exercise science careers. So the question of “What can you do with an exercise science degree” has been well and truly answered.

In closing, though, you will notice that many of these careers require a bachelor’s degree in some form or another. The one that doesn’t, however, is that of a personal trainer.

For those looking to get into the world of fitness, it’s often a great entry point. Not only is it one of the fastest-growing careers in the fitness world, but you can get certified by several top-notch accreditation institutions.

It’s certainly worth investigating!

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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