Top 5 Exercise Science Careers and The Best Education Paths

Top 5 Exercise Science Careers and The Best Education Paths

Are you considering an Exercise Science degree or asking yourself “what can you do with an exercise science degree?” to help plan for your future?

Whatever your stage in life — consideration, current Exercise Science student, or recent grad — this post is for you.

As a previous Exercise Science graduate (I studied Kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach) I can give you a little taste of the college route (as well as other education paths) and provide insight into the options for Exercise Science careers.

But first, let’s define what Exercise Science is.

What is Exercise Science?

Exercise Science describes the study of the body under the stress of exercise including acute and chronic adaptations like the effects on overall health parameters, pathologies, and its potential to reduce, or reverse, disease progression.

Some other areas of study within Exercise Science vertical that you might see at various educational institutes are:

  • Kinesiology
  • Fitness & Health
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Exercise Nutrition

You can also expect a strong educational emphasis in the areas of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, and oftentimes, physics.

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What can You Do with an Exercise Science Degree?

If there is one thing I want to emphasize about studying Exercise Science is that the majority of careers in the field require additional graduate school coursework. Yes, that is worth repeating.

Exercise Science is a common prerequisite for graduate level programs in careers such as:

  • Doctor (MD)
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Registered Dietician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physician Assistant

The important takeaway here is that for most, the bachelor’s degree in and of itself does not get them to the career that they want. Additionally, and as I will get into more below, the career you want might not require a four year college degree in Exercise Science.

However, if you are interested in some of the above careers that require education beyond a B.S. degree, by all means continue on the path that makes the most sense for you.

I emphasize this point because I have met many people who studied Exercise Science in college only to find that they either did not realize they needed additional education to get the career they wanted, or realized there were quicker, more affordable ways to get into the career they wanted.

That said, listed below are some careers that you can get without additional education after your Bachelor’s in Exercise Science degree, including:

  • Athletic Director
  • Community Program Director
  • Massage Therapist
  • Recreation and Sports Director
  • Sports Coach
  • Sports Facility Manager
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach

Provided below are the most popular career paths in Exercise Science, which may or may not include a college education, are below.

Top 5 Exercise Science Careers

1

Personal Trainer

By far, the most common career path chosen by people looking to have an Exercise Science career, as well as who are currently studying Exercise Science, is personal training.

The benefits of a career in personal training are numerous and can even be aligned with that of any of the other careers on this list.

For starters, you don’t need to get a bachelor’s degree to become a personal trainer. In fact, there are five separate ways you can become a personal trainer, ranging from certification from accredited companies, to vocational college, to university programs, to online options, and internal gym programs.

If your heart is set on becoming a personal trainer it certainly would be helpful for you to understand your options for certification beforehand.

Now, I am certainly not knocking university or college-based personal training certification options — I got my B.S. at a university and was a college instructor afterward — but I do understand that it may not be an option for everyone.

But what if you want a career that requires a college degree? Would it still be beneficial consider a personal training certification?

Let’s say you choose any of the aforementioned education routes for your career in Exercise Science: college degree or not.

Either way, you can benefit from a personal training certification no matter what route you take. If you are wanting to have a career as a personal trainer, you can get certified in as little as two to five months and start making money right away.

If you are in college and are studying Exercise Science, it is still a good idea to get a personal training certification because you can begin gaining experience within your career immediately and can even pay for your education, through your personal training income.

For example, while I was in college I used my personal training certification to my advantage. I was able to train clients around my school schedule given the flexibility of the career. This provided me industry experience, but also allowed me to pay my way through college.

I also became certified as an Online Personal Trainer and trained clients through the internet, which gave me even more freedom to complete my studies and enjoy the college experience. 

Top 5 Reasons Personal Training is a Popular Exercise Science Career

So, no matter what your long-term goals are, getting a personal training certification can help in the following ways:

  1. Puts money in your pocket
  2. Allows you to gain experience in the Exercise Science field
  3. Helps pay for college (if you are shooting for a B.S., or advanced degree)
  4. Provides a strong foundation to further your exercise science studies

2

Physical Therapist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a career in Physical Therapy has some very promising advantages.

For starters, the median pay approaches $90,000 per year, is expected to grow 28% by 2016 (which is much faster than average), and consistently ranks as one of the best jobs in healthcare for work-life balance.

Physical therapy jobs tend to require a doctoral degree (DPT), although some may accept a master’s degree. CostHelper.com says that doctoral physical therapy degrees can cost $35,000 (such as the doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago), or much more for out-of-state students, such as The University of Delaware’s doctoral program which costs over $75,000. That is on top of the money you spend for your bachelors degree.

3

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers also rank high on this list as the profession is similar in scope to that of personal trainers, yet requires a formal bachelor’s degree in a specialized program and the passing of a state licensure exam. Athletic trainers have a median income of $46,630 per year according to the BLS, and have a rapid rate of employment at 23% when looking out to 2016.

One of the coolest things I find about athletic trainer careers is that they often work alongside athletes within educational settings such as colleges of universities.This often means these professionals are the ones who work hand-in-hand with some of the best up-and-coming athletic talent in the country.

They can also work with younger students, within hospitals, or even for professional sports teams.

4

Exercise Physiologist

With a median pay of just under $50,000 per year, and a faster than average job outlook, a career in exercise physiology is a popular choice for many looking to put their Exercise Science degree to work.

This type of career typically requires a Masters in Exercise Physiology, which on average takes 6 years of total college time as well as requires board certification through the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.

Another interesting aspect of this career is that about half of all exercise physiologists are self-employed. So if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy the freedom of owning your own business, you may be able to do well in this career.

5

PE Teacher

According to ZipRecruiter, PE teachers make about $42,500 per year. While this is the lowest salary on this list, you have to remember that these teachers tend to have summers off and benefit from all school holidays as well as teacher pensions.

Typical education requirements for this career include a bachelor’s degree in exercise science as well as a teaching credential or a masters in education. Often times a personal training certification will enhance the likelihood of employment as well.

We also can’t forget that PE teachers get to hang out in gym clothes all day, coach fun sports like kickball and dodgeball, and even be physical fitness role models for many of their students.

Granted there is some give and take for each of the professions on this list in terms of knocking off all the boxes of the most ideal career, but the daily life of the PE coach can be very rewarding.

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Exercise Science Degrees and Educational Considerations

As we have learned above, not all careers within Exercise Science require a full-fledged bachelor’s degree. Similarly, we’ve learned that many sought after degrees within Exercise Science require advanced degrees such as master’s or doctoral degrees.

With that in mind below is a comprehensive list of the many careers and their educational obligations. Note that some of these careers may overlap in multiple categories.

Exercise Science Careers that don’t require Degrees

  • Personal Training
  • Aerobics Instructor
  • Fitness Coach
  • Gym Manager
  • Massage Therapist
  • Physical Therapy Assistant

Exercise Science Careers that require Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Athletic Director
  • Community Program Director
  • Kinesiologist
  • Massage Therapist
  • Athletic Trainer (ATC)
  • Physical Education Teacher
  • Recreation and Sports Director
  • Registered Nurse
  • Sports Coach
  • Sports Facility Manager
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach

Exercise Science Careers that require Master’s or Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor (MD)
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Chiropractor (DC)
  • Registered Dietician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist (DPT)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Physical Rehabilitation

Closing Thoughts on Exercise Science Careers

You should now have a better idea of what you can do in the exciting field that is Exercise Science. For many, a bachelor’s degree at a college or university is the path that they will take to become educated in the many areas of movement and exercise. For others, the bachelor’s is just a stepping stone for a more advanced degree as in the case of physical therapy, physician’s assistant, or doctoral paths. Others may be surprised to learn there are many rewarding careers in Exercise Science that do not require a college degree, and the most popular career in this field, a certified personal trainer, demonstrates that.

When considering your education and career path, keep in mind the following:

  • The education required
  • The financial commitment
  • The time investment
  • The typical salary
  • Your passion for the career

With these considerations in mind, you should be able to paint a great picture of where you want your career to take you.

What is your experience with jobs and education in the Exercise Science niche? Is there any tip you wish you knew before you started your studies or career? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

Have you always wanted to become a personal trainer?

Unfortunately, wanting is only half the battle.

In order to become a trainer and succeed as one, you need to have the right game plan in place and follow it up with consistent action — just like your workouts. As you’ll see in this guide, there are five simple steps you’ll need to take to become a personal trainer. And we’ll be covering the best ways to tackle each one.

If you are interested in training clients online check out our How to Become an Online Personal Trainer blog.

1

Get Your Prerequisites Completed First

Before you begin with a personal trainer course, you’ll need to have a few items checked off before you can get certified. These are:

  1. 18 years or older
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. CPR/AED certification

Most personal training certification bodies require these items before you sit down for the final exam. Additionally, many companies are requiring the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR), but these certifications can usually be packaged together by the same provider.

The American Red Cross is a popular choice for the CPR/AED certification, and you can check out their website to find classes near you.

2

Nail Down the Best Certified Personal Trainer Course (for you)

Sara Fedele Fitness Mentors Testimonial

What is the best personal trainer certification?

A better question is “what is the best personal trainer certification for me?” The certification body you choose is a highly subjective decision — and often a confusing one — so here are some questions you can ask yourself before committing to one over another:

How do I learn new concepts best?

Do you understand concepts better when they’re presented in-person with a teacher or can you handle learning on your own?

Personal training education isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You actually have several options, including:

  • Certification via accredited US company (self-study)
  • Vocational college (in-person)
  • University programs with Bachelors or Masters (in-person)
  • Unaccredited online options (self-study)
  • Gym program (in-person)

Learn more about the different personal trainer courses.

How much time do you have?

Are you looking to get certified as soon as possible or would you prefer to get a college degree along with your certification? The self-study options are the quickest approach whereas the vocational college and university programs are obviously more long-term.

As you answer these questions, you should also be thinking about the differences between each personal training program.

Here are some answers to some common FAQs about becoming a trainer that may also help you decide which route you want to go:

Do I Need to Go to College to Become a Personal Trainer?

If the thought of becoming a full-time student isn’t something that interests you, you’re in luck.

You don’t need to go to college to become a personal trainer.

While a university program will give you the most in-depth learning experience, including learning subjects that aren’t solely personal-training focused, it comes at a price not everyone can afford, both in time and money.

However, if you have your sights set on becoming a personal trainer and you love school or are already working towards earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s, a college degree can strengthen your expertise and build trust with future clients.

This is especially important in the beginning of your personal training career when you’re still building your client base.

So if you don’t need a college degree, the next question is:

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Be a Personal Trainer?

As we talked about in this guide, there are five education routes you can follow to become a personal trainer:

  1. Certification by a US company
  2. Vocational college
  3. University programs with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
  4. Unaccredited online options
  5. Internal gym programs

Each option has its own educational program and certification procedures. By completing one of them, you’ll hold a certification from that institute to teach people as a personal trainer.

Keep in mind, only the first three options on that list are accredited.

Let’s go over the difference between an accredited and an unaccredited program so you know which sounds best for you.

Do I Need to Find an Accredited Program?

An accredited program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, means that it has been credentialed by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) or other top accrediting bodies. While there are other personal trainer program credentialing bodies, the NCCA is considered the gold standard.

More importantly perhaps, NCCA-certified personal training programs are generally recognized at most health facilities, meaning if you go with one of these you are almost guaranteed a job at a corporate gym.

Some of the most popular Accredited personal trainer bodies include:

• NASM ACE

• Fitness Mentors

• NFPT  • ACSM  NESTA  

• NSCA  • NCSF  • NCCPT

On the other hand, unaccredited courses may not be accepted by corporate gyms and fitness studios.

Unaccredited courses are usually better for someone who already has an established network of clients through their own training methods and has no intentions of working at a corporate facility.

The majority of potential personal trainers will want to find an accredited program.

You’ll receive a more in-depth education and will be better prepared to find a job once you pass your test.

You can opt for an accredited self-study program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, or you can enroll in a vocational college or bachelor’s program at your local college, as mentioned earlier. Vocational schools or colleges will have relationships with accredited certification bodies so you’ll walk away with a degree and your CPT.

Once you select a program, grab a calendar and set your exam date.

3

Choose an Exam Date & Prepare

Picking an exam date is the first major step towards seeing your personal trainer dreams through.

Put it off and you may end up backburnering your goal indefinitely.

That’s why certain programs have you set a date right away for this very reason.

Keep in mind, you should be realistic with your date.

Fortunately, this next section can help you understand the real magnitude of the work so you can adjust your timeline and plan accordingly.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

Consider your schedule, current workload, and other obligations before setting a date that’s too close for comfort.

You should give yourself at least three to six months, depending on your certification, to prepare. Plan on committing anywhere from 75-100 hours to doing so.

Here’s a breakdown of the expected study time for each personal training program specifically:

  • NCCPT: 80-100 hours is the recommended study time
  • FITNESS MENTORS: 80 hours is the recommended study time
  • NESTA: You must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher so study well before this time
  • ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options
  • ACE: Schedule test within 6 months of purchase date, but you can take it before 9 months
  • ISSA: 6 months to complete
  • NASM: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSA: 120 days after purchasing exam
  • NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing exam
  • AFAA: N/A

With your target test date in mind, you can then work backwards to plan out how many chapters you’ll need to cover each week and month in order to be best prepared for it.

However, if you want to fast track your certification, without sacrificing how much information you’re learning, use this study schedule to knock it out in just two months:

  • Read one or two hours per day at a minimum
  • Create your own chapter-by-chapter notes from the book/coursework
  • Use study guides to review hand-picked topics for reference
  • Listen to audio lectures to review the information while driving/working out/during down time
  • Take practice tests for each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of the book at a time every few weeks
  • Reread study guides as you build upon new concepts
  • Quiz yourself and document the questions you miss; revisit the sections of the book discussing the topics you didn’t get right
  • Take a quiz every day leading up to the final week of study
  • Sit down for an entire practice exam and write down questions you missed; revisit topics you need a better understanding of
  • Take the official certification exam when you consistently earn at least 85% passing score on practice exams

You can also use study resources to help you work out pre-test jitters while you get a feel for the test’s format.

All this can help ensure you make it to this next (huge) step.

4

Pass Your Exam

There’s nothing better than seeing the words PASS after you submit your personal training certification exam.

But you can only get there if you put in the necessary time reading and studying the material and understanding the concepts.

Practicing test questions and using practice test preps also help increase your chances of passing your exam.

And once you do, you’ll officially be ready to start working as a personal trainer.

5

Land a Job as a Personal Trainer

Before you spend countless hours applying for jobs you may not enjoy, you should take the time to figure out what you really want and think about what gets you excited first.

You’ll save time by only applying to positions that check these boxes.

So consider these questions:

  • Where exactly do you want to work?
  • Do you prefer large group training classes or one-on-one sessions at the gym?
  • Would you prefer working in a hotel or country club setting?
  • Are you trying to start your own bootcamp or studio?

If you’re looking to gain experience, it can also help to approach the staff where you currently work out to see if there are any openings.

Since you’re already familiar with the place and the staff may be familiar with you, you’ll boost your chances of getting your foot in the door.

The last burning question many soon-to-be trainers have is:

How Much Money Can You Make as a Personal Trainer?

personal trainer salary

The good news is personal trainer salaries have an average median of $58,318 and 10% make over $80,000 per year!

When you do what you love and you truly help people become their healthiest, happiest selves, your salary may not matter as much in comparison. But it’s also good to know you’ll be compensated well for all your hard work.

Now that you know what it takes to become a personal trainer, and you understand how to ace all five steps to get there, it’s time to start chasing your dream.

Become a Personal Trainer Today

With all this information under your training belt, now’s the time to take action.

Start by knocking out your prerequisites.

Then choose an education route you know you’ll stick with. Work through the rest of the tips in this guide and you’ll be one step closer to passing your certification test and achieving your personal training goals.

If you are interested in getting certified with the fitness industries three most popular certifications, check out Fitness Mentors and our free and premium study guides for NASM and ACE.

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