How to Get a Masters in Exercise Science Degree

Many people who are interested in a career in health, fitness and exercise decide to earn a master’s degree in exercise science. This advanced degree studies how exercise and the human body interact, from the physical to psychological.

Exercise science is a vital aspect of both sports medicine and biomechanics. The first and most important aspect of exercise science is the study of exercise movements and how it affects the body. This includes the study of muscle mass and why it is critical to proper functioning of the body. Exercise science also studies how exercise can prevent many long term health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

If you earn a master’s degree in exercise science, you can enjoy a rewarding career in one of these areas:

  • Personal trainer: They develop and implement plans of exercise to suit needs and fitness goals of clients. Such programs are made with careful consideration of the person’s age, physicial fitness and any other health issues they may have. Such exercise programs also will have some type of dietary component. Personal trainers also may earn a certification to improve their employment prospects, such as from the American Council of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Personal trainers can work for companies, private gyms, or universities.
  • Coach: Many exercise science graduates may become a coach or athletic trainer for a high school, and eventually move up to the collegiate or even professional level in some cases. Coaches use their exercise science expertise to show athletes how to increase strength and stamina while reducing chances of injury. Coaches have to teach their players the basics and the more advanced aspects of exercise science so that they can perform at their best level.
  • Physical therapist: A physical therapist develops programs of rehabilitation for people who have suffered from chronic diseases or illnesses to relieve their pain and/or to boost mobility and strength. Physical therapists must be skilled in evaluating the patient’s physical issues and abilities and maintain or improve the condition through the use of specialized exercises and therapies. Note that an exercise science degree is excellent background for this profession, but you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree to practice.
  • Nutritionist or dietician: Study of the intake and consumption of nutrients, how foods are digested, and metabolized to give you the necessary energy to live and fuel activity of the body. Dieticians often study dietary patterns to increase performance and to boost health and prevent disease.
  • Health educator: These professionals teach people about how to stay well and fit over their lives. They will come up with healthy strategies to help communities to prevent disease and illness. Many health educators work in a public health role, and having a degree in exercise science is a good background for this work.

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science?

One of the problems of modern society is the increasing cost of quality health care. Once people become ill, it is often very expensive to get them back into good health. That is why governments, health care organizations and insurance companies are promoting the fact that prevention of disease and illness is often just as important as treating disease and illness.

Research indicates that staying physically active and eating a good, healthy diet will prevent many people from being obese, getting heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more. It is for that reason that more for profit and nonprofit organizations are hiring more professionals to keep people in good health before they get sick.

It is likely that job demand in many health, fitness and nutrition roles will continue to increase as there is more focus on preventative measures to combat illness and disease.

Admission Requirements

For admission into an exercise science master’s program, be prepared to meet these qualifications:

  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE test scores
  • 0 GPA
  • GRE scores should be in the 20th percentile or higher
  • Statement of purpose, writing samples
  • Resume

Curriculum and Courses

Auburn University offers a Master of Science in Exercise Science that will teach you about human kinetics, physiology, and motor behavior. You will increase your understanding of the effects of exercise and also how movement affects the body and mind.

This program features three tracks that you can choose or combine, depending on your career direction and goals:

  • Biomechanics: Study function and structure of the mechanics of the human body.
  • Exercise physiology: Study chronic adaptations and acute responses to many types of exercise.
  • Motor behavior: Study human movement and how it affects psychology. Also study how people master and acquire physical tasks.

Your required courses:

  • Research Methods in Physical Activity
  • Principles of Biomechanics in Human Movement
  • Advanced Physiology of Exercise
  • Research and Thesis
  • Advanced Motor Learning and Performance
  • Advanced Motor Development
  • Advanced Sport Psychology
  • Exercise Motivation and Adherence

Career Outcomes and Job Titles

Some of the job titles you could have with a master’s in exercise science include:

  • Activities Director
  • Athletic Coach
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Adventure/Risk Trainer
  • Corporate Fitness Instructor
  • Cruise Recreation Director
  • Dietitian
  • Physical Therapist
  • Fitness Program Coordinator
  • Health Administrator
  • Health Consultant
  • Human Kinetics Specialist
  • Movement Education Specialist
  • Nutritionist
  • Personal Trainer
  • Physical Education Teacher
  • Physical Therapist

Job and Salary Outlook

  • Health Educator — The employment outlook for health educators is bright, with 13% growth anticipated by 2024. Growth is going to be driven by the desire for companies and governments to reduce health care costs. The idea is to teach people healthy eating and exercise habits so that there is less need for health care in the future. It is common today for insurance companies, governments and companies to hire health educators to teach people to live healthier. The median salary is $52,000.
  • Fitness Trainers — Employment in this job will increase by 8% by 2024, which is about as fast as average. As with health educators, you can expect that businesses, governments and insurance companies will be hiring more fitness trainers and instructors to help people to stay more fit to reduce their chances of serious illness and injury. Some companies are even opening their own exercise facilities in their buildings to encourage people to stay in shape. The median salary is $36,000 per year.
  • Nutritionist or Dietician — Job demand in this field will be strong with 16% growth anticipated by 2024. It is understood today that the role of nutrition and food is very important for keeping people healthy for much of their lives. This is critical in reducing health care costs. At least ⅓ of US adults are defined as obese, and these professionals will be hired more to help to fight this problem. Median pay was $57,000 in 2015.

Scholarships and Grants

  • Society of Health and Physical Educators: If you are studying exercise science and you want to become a health or physical educator, you can earn scholarships to finance your education from this organization.
  • University of Utah: This program has several scholarships for bachelor’s and master’s students studying exercise science.

Additional Resources