The wide world of sports is more diverse than you might imagine. An exercise science degree can open a range of career possibilities in a variety of industries. From working with children at a public school to assisting top athletes in professional sports programs, a degree in exercise science can help to prepare you for a rewarding career in the rapidly expanding health and fitness industries.
Sport science jobs are plentiful and projected to grow by 15 to 30 percent over the next five years, depending on the area of expertise. Physical therapists are expected to be in high demand, as are athletic trainers and personal fitness instructors with a knowledge of nutrition.
What Is Exercise Science?
An exercise science degree is very fulfilling. Nearly every career path a graduate chooses will be about helping others and engaging people in living a healthier lifestyle. Depending on the focus, a sports medicine graduate can be tasked with developing a personal fitness program to help a patient to regain lost mobility, reduce debilitating pain or assist their charges in meeting athletic goals to pursue their dreams.
Any job that focuses on physical fitness, overall well-being and health will fall under the umbrella of exercise or sports science. At the top of the field are the positions that require a medical degree. These are jobs that focus on the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through regulated and supervised exercise regimes, medicine or surgery. They center on improving a patient’s movement and performance and overall quality of life due to a physical loss of flexibility or mobility.
Sports science jobs don’t just focus on athletes and injuries. A person with a sports science background can go into rehabilitation for surgical patients, work with clients on personalized and effective exercise programs and assist disabled patients working to gain strength and improve their physical disabilities. A bachelor’s degree can propel a sports medicine student into many lucrative positions that are centered on helping people of all ages.
Job Opportunities Abound
There are many career paths that you can explore with an exercise science degree. Depending on your interests, education background or area of expertise you may discover during your college studies, a sports degree can drive your career in education, law, medicine or youth sports.
- Exercise Physiologist
- Fitness Center Manager
- Personal Trainer
- Physical Education teacher
- Youth Sports Coach
- Youth Sports Regional Director
- Sports Medicine Law
- Sports Medicine Careers
- Sports Development Officer
- Sports Therapist
- Sports Administrator
- Physical Therapist
- Athletic Trainer
Education Requirements for Exercise Science Degree
To begin employment as a professional in a sports-related field, you will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor's degree programs include science and health-related courses such as anatomy, biology, kinesiology and nutrition. A good base of clinical work in the field should be part of the degree program to propel the student into a good position upon graduation.
Your minor should be in your specialized area of interest if applicable. For instance, if you plan on working with children in youth sports or as a physical education teacher, a minor in early education can bolster your credentials. Potential physical therapists should consider health-related minors and medicine.
Employment Outlook for Sports Science Careers
Sports-related medicine is a rapidly expanding field with a healthy job growth outlook over the next five years in both bachelor's and doctorate degree fields.
Physical therapists and kinesiotherapists with a bachelor’s and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree see the most projected job growth over the next five years at more than 30 percent.
Athletic trainers can expect job growth only slightly less at 20 percent. Other exercise or sports-training jobs that require a four-year bachelor’s degree, such as personal gym managers, can expect the same sort of growth in the escalating fitness industry.
The job growth is expected to be nearly 15 percent for exercise science graduates with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree. Both of these degrees require a residency and state certifications may also be applicable before the graduate can begin to practice.
Salary Consideration for Sports Science
A lucrative position in the exercise science field can range anywhere from $40,000 for an athletic trainer to up to more than $200,000 for a physician.
For those with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, the median salary is around $45,000 with a state license and other certifications completed that may be needed to gain the top dollar annual income. The median starting salary nearly doubles for graduates with a bachelor’s and a doctor of physical therapy degree. With the required state license in place, a physical therapist can expect to make around $80,000 after graduation.
A graduate with a Doctor of Medicine, M.D. or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree can expect to make top dollar. After receiving state licensure, the student can expect to make around $200,000 within their first year of practicing sports medicine in the field.
Top Jobs for an Exercise Science Degree
All jobs in sports science are about promoting healthy lifestyle choices and preventing or treating disease through healthy activities that emphasize physical activity and a healthy diet. There are many lucrative career positions for a newly minted graduate with an exercise science degree or a bachelor’s and a doctorate in sports medicine.
- Exercise Physiologist: An exercise physiologist develops fitness and exercise programs for patients needing to recover from a loss of function, chronic disease and to improve their overall cardiovascular function, flexibility and health. They're typically self-employed, with only about a quarter working in a hospital or connected full time to a medical rehabilitation center.
- Physical Therapist: This position has grown as life expectancy has significantly increased in the last few decades. They diagnose and treat patients of all ages who have a wide array of physical challenges. Often the physical therapist will need to address and diagnose disabilities either from recent or old injuries to restore function and mobility as well as diminishing flexibility that is a natural occurrence of getting older.
- Athletic Trainers: This sport-related position puts the graduate on the front lines of fitness. They're charged with diagnosing, treating and working to prevent injuries in patients of all ages. They can begin work with a bachelor’s but are recognized as a health professional. Many athletic trainers may go after a master’s or doctoral degree to rise through the ranks to the top of their field.
- Kinesiotherapists: This position that often requires specific certification focuses on the health benefits of an overall exercise routine. They develop a specific exercise program for a patient to regain a loss of mobility and strength to improve quality of life. They work with varying levels of injury, including amputations or paralysis that may need extensive therapy to re-learn mobility.
- Sports Medicine Physicians: They diagnose and treat patients in a medical environment with a Doctor of Medicine, M.D., or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O. M.D.’s can prescribe medications and perform surgery as well as diagnose and treat their patients. A D.O. works on the musculoskeletal system as well as diagnosing and treating patients.
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Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.