Studying Physical Activity Leads to Numerous Careers
Mothers who one day tell their children that they studied kinesiology are likely to be met with puzzled looks and the question, "You studied knees?" But if you become one of these moms, you can answer, "Yes, knees and everything else about how our bodies move." Or, as the American Kinesiology Association describes it, kinesiology is "the study of physical activity and its impact on health, society, and quality of life." Unlike biology, zoology, psychology and other "ologies," whose students graduate as biologists, zoologists, psychologists and other "ologists," there's no such title as kinesiologist. There are, however, many other job titles its graduates can claim.
Associate's Degree: Personal Trainer
An associate's degree in exercise science is a good foundation for a career as a personal trainer. Although the degree isn't required for most personal training jobs, it can give you a competitive edge to show that you studied how to help people become fit and healthy, and are serious about the field. Students learn the scientific principles behind exercise science, as well as psychology, interpersonal skills and communication methods to work with clients and help them meet their health and fitness goals. Many graduates also use their associate's degree as a head start on earning a bachelor's degree in kinesiology or a related health field. Personal trainers earned a median salary of $38,160 in May 2016, meaning half earned more and half earned less.
Bachelor's Degree: Exercise Physiologist or Athletic Trainer
Earning a bachelor's degree expands your job opportunities immensely. For example, you could study to be an exercise physiologist and help people recover from chronic illnesses and injuries by developing exercise programs that improve their flexibility, cardiovascular function and overall fitness. You could work in a hospital setting or on your own. Exercise physiologists earned a median salary of $47,340 in May 2016. Athletic trainer is another job possibility for those with a bachelor's degree. In this job, you'll help diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries and also help people prevent such problems. Athletic trainers work in school settings, for professional sports teams, or in physician's offices, hospitals and fitness centers. In May 2016, athletic trainers earned a median salary of $45,630.
Master's Degree: Occupational Therapist or PA
A kinesiology degree is a good base for continuing your education by earning a master's degree and becoming an occupational therapist. You'll help patients who are injured or disabled learn to navigate their daily lives while recovering from illness or injury or living a better quality of life with their disability. Occupational therapists earned a median salary of $81,910 in May 2016. Another option with kinesiology and a master's degree is physician assistant, or PA. As a PA, you'll diagnose and treat patients working on a team with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. PAs earned a median salary of $101,480 in May 2016.
Advanced Study: Medicine, Research and Teaching
Some graduates with bachelor's or master's degrees in kinesiology go on to medical or chiropractic school. But many universities also offer students opportunities to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in kinesiology. These students conduct years-long research into ways of improving movement training, sometimes taking into account age and/or gender to see if either factor affects the outcome of the training. With a Ph.D., you can also be a professor at a university, along with or independent of conducting research. Chiropractors, who treat patients' neuromusculoskeletal systems through manipulations and adjustments, earned a median salary of $67,520 in May 2016. Medical doctors earned a median salary above $208,000, with each specialty having a different median salary. College professors with a Ph.D., regardless of the subject they teach, earned a median salary of $75,430 in May 2016.
- UMassAmherst: School of Public Health and Health Sciences
- George Mason University: School of Recreation, Health and Tourism
- American Kinesiology Association: Careers in Kinesiology
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Exercise Physiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Athletic Trainers
- ISSA: Discover the ISSA's Associate's Degree in Exercise Science
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fitness Trainers and Instructors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- American Kinesiology Association: About
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Therapists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physician Assistants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chiropractors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.