Alexis Bennett

Written by Alexis Bennett

Head Women’s Golf Coach | Updated & Fact Checked 2/9/23

Kinesiology Degree Guide

Kinesiology is the study of human movement using the principles of biology and physiology to improve people’s mobility and health. With its broad range of expertise, Kinesiology is a versatile field that can lead you to careers in physical therapy, sports medicine, or research. It can even be your background when pursuing an M.D.!

If you love fitness and want to make a career in the health sciences, a degree in Kinesiology may be for you. With a Kinesiology degree, you make a fulfilling career as you directly improve people’s lives through exercise and therapy. 

Read on to know more about what a Kinesiology degree is, its curriculum, and job outlook.

Overview of Kinesiology Degrees

Why are Kinesiology professionals important?

We all know that exercise is important to live a healthy and balanced life. With the rate of obesity increasing in the United States, as well as many other countries, we need more professionals who can lead people to live more active lives. 

Kinesiology professionals are human movement specialists whose expertise involves combining knowledge of biology, physiology, biomechanics, and nutrition to improve people’s mobility and performance in athletic endeavors. Since they know how the body moves, they are also integral in preventing and treating injuries. 

Specifically, Kinesiology professionals do the following:

  • Improve the health and wellness of clients by creating fitness regimens personalized to the client’s context. They help clients make the most of their workouts and ensure their body is moving properly.
  • Support the rehabilitation programs for physical injuries by designing individualized healthcare plans and therapy sessions.
  • Coordinate with physicians, nurses, and occupational therapists to provide a clinic-based assessment and treatment for physical injuries.
  • Support dietitians in crafting diet and nutrition programs to improve clients’ overall wellness.

Kinesiology professionals especially help athletes achieve optimal performance in their sports. Aside from giving strength and conditioning training and advice, Kinesiology professionals help athletes pinpoint any underlying physical issues before they manifest, so they can always perform at their peak ability, enjoy a faster recovery, and prevent severe injuries.

All muscles and joints are interconnected. A neck flexor not stabilizing could also affect the movement of the hip flexors and leg muscles. Kinesiology professionals restore upper and lower physical mechanisms by looking at the whole body instead of just one muscle group. With the intervention of Kinesiology, athletes train and perform more effectively.

Degrees in Kinesiology

A Kinesiology degree equips students with the necessary knowledge and skills to properly examine how human bodies move and how muscles work. It is a great choice for students interested in health and fitness and who want a unique edge in the athletic industry.

There are three types of Kinesiology Degrees students can pursue: an Associate’s Degree, a Bachelor’s Degree, or a Master’s Degree. A few also venture into a Doctoral Degree after their Master’s to pursue research careers in kinesiology, sports medicine, and exercise science.

  • Associate Degree in Kinesiology
    Students aiming for an entry-level job in the fitness training industry can take an Associate degree in Kinesiology. After the program, graduates pursue roles as personal and fitness instructors/consultants.

    The program takes 1-2 years to complete depending if the student takes it as a full-time or part-time curriculum. The course covers introductory subjects for anatomy, exercise science, and even psychology.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology
    Students with this degree enjoy more opportunities after graduation. They can pursue entry-level roles in the fitness industry similar to Associate degree holders, but they can also opt to further studies for Master’s or Doctorate levels. Bachelor’s degree holders also have better chances of securing athletic trainer certifications or more specialized roles, especially in education or clinical settings. 

    A Bachelor’s degree typically takes 4-5 years to complete. The coursework delves deeper into the study of human movement, exercise, and anatomy than associate degree programs. Specifically, the program covers subjects around motor skills, exercise and integrative physiology, physical education and leadership, and even women’s health.
  • Master’s Degree in Kinesiology
    Students pursuing a Master’s in Kinesiology can expect to complete the program in 2 years. The degree prepares students with skills to excel in leadership positions and specialized roles within the fitness and sports industry. Examples of these roles are athletic administrators/executives, certified trainers, and exercise physiologists. 

    Students pursuing a Master’s degree are first required to secure a Bachelor’s degree. The program goes very in-depth and clinical with exercise physiology and sports medicine.

Curriculum Overview

Kinesiology degree pursuers are exposed to a holistic approach to repairing or improving the physical mobility of patients. They can expect to get a fundamental understanding of anatomy, physiology, exercise and sports science, and even psychology. As future kinesiologists, they will have to perform assessment measures and develop therapy programs, so they need an excellent grasp of the human body and its implications.

They will also learn how to use exercises, stretches, and weights in helping patients avoid injuries during training, stay fit or recover their health from an unhealthy lifestyle.
Through practical training and internships, students will also develop their communication, social, and leadership skills essential in forming meaningful relationships with their future clients and gaining credibility with other professionals in the fitness industry.

Field & Career Placement

There are many types of careers Kinesiology degree holders can enter into. Graduates can choose to specialize in either of the following fields:

  • Exercise and Fitness
    Many kinesiology degree holders go on to pursue careers in exercise and fitness. Many of them become personal trainers as they work closely with clients to meet their fitness and health goals. Graduates with a Master’s or Doctorate also often pursue a career as exercise physiologists as they help clients recover from physical injuries or illnesses.
  • Sports and Coaching
    Many Kinesiology graduates also venture into roles as coaches for professional or amateur sports teams, as their knowledge of the human body and mobility is relevant in the field. Some of them also go on to work as athletic directors – overseeing management and staff, approving budgets, and mitigating administrative concerns in a school athletic program.
  • Health and Wellness
    A Kinesiology degree holder is also very employable in the health and wellness industry. Many companies (both small and international) hire wellness and fitness consultants to improve employee morale and productivity. With a foundational understanding of anatomy, physiology, psychology, and nutrition, Kinesiology majors can educate and influence people to live healthier lives by building healthy habits such as stretching and exercise.

What is Kinesiology?

Is A License Required to Practice?

No. Currently, there is no general licensure available for Kinesiology professionals. However, several fields Kinesiology professionals pursue do need to garner specific licensure requirements before they can practice.

For example, sports and fitness trainers have to secure a certified athletic training credential or completion from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) before they can accept clients.

Many undergraduate kinesiology degree holders also opt to pursue a career in physical and/or occupational therapy which requires specific licenses as well. In these cases, they have to take Master’s or Doctorate degrees to succeed in the field. Nonetheless, a background in Kinesiology remains a popular and fitting choice.

Despite a lack of available Kinesiology licenses, Kinesiology holders can join associations to boost their credibility and take advantage of networking opportunities. Here are available Kinesiology organizations in the United States.

Differences between Kinesiology, Exercise Science, and Athletic Training

Although they often overlap, Kinesiology, Exercise Science, and Athletic Training have their unique characteristics. 

Kinesiology is a broad study of human movement and function, while Exercise Science is a subset of Kinesiology focusing on human response and adaptability to certain exercises and intensity levels. Meanwhile, Athletic Training is also a subset of Kinesiology focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and rehabilitating physical injuries and specific medical conditions.

Occupational Options

Kinesiology graduates can follow different career paths, but they often enter the fitness, sports, wellness, and rehabilitation therapy industries. These are the jobs Kinesiology graduates often pursue in the mentioned industries. 

Fitness Industry: They coach and teach people how to get/stay fit, do proper exercises, and maximize their workouts by following effective fitness regimens. Example occupations are:

  • Fitness trainer
  • Physical Education/Gym teacher

Sports Industry: They coach and assess athletes on how to obtain optimal performance in their sports. They can also opt to pursue managerial positions in sports organizations. Examples include:

  • Sports coach
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Athletic Director  
  • Sports Medicine physician (possible specialization after getting a Doctor of Medicine degree)

Health and Wellness Industry: They can specialize in other wellness practices such as yoga and help organizations (such as corporations) improve the well-being of their members (i.e. employees). Examples include:

  • Health and Wellness Corporate Consultant
  • Yoga Teacher

Rehabilitation Therapy: This is one of the most popular fields to follow. They help patients rehabilitate their injuries and recover their overall mobility like walking and standing up (physical therapy), or regain their ability to perform everyday activities that incorporate fine movements like eating, writing, or washing hands (occupational therapy). Example occupations are:

  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Exercise physiologist

What are the Benefits of an Online Degree in Kinesiology?

It’s important to note that most online degrees in Kinesiology are offered at the Master’s level. Thus, taking an online program in Kinesiology is most convenient for those who’ve earned their Bachelor’s degree and are already working as Kinesiologists but want to advance their careers. 

By taking further studies for Kinesiology online, students don’t have to sacrifice their part-time/full-time jobs. The online setting saves students time and enables them to earn further education while still pursuing other endeavors. 

These online courses are intended to give students a comprehensive, flexible, and personalized curriculum, which frequently includes interactive and student-centered learning based on real-world scenarios. Here are some of the advantages of earning a degree in Kinesiology online:

  1. More affordable and accessible
    Students save a lot of money by learning online. Often, the tuition for an online school is cheaper than that of a regular on-campus program. Furthermore, students no longer need to budget for lodging, transportation, or food because they may take the online course from the comfort of their own homes.

    Even with books, paper copies for traditional programs are frequently more expensive than digital versions for online programs. Books are not always required for online programs because supplementary materials are frequently addressed in the curriculum.

    Aside from being less expensive than on-campus programs, online degrees eliminate the requirement to migrate to another nation or state to complete the program. Students can complete their courses from any location in the world.
  2. Students own their time and learn more effectively
    An online degree is generally self-paced, which means that students are not required to learn at a set rate with frequent deadlines. Traditional classes need students to come regularly. If they don’t show up, they typically struggle to catch up. In contrast to online learning, modules and classes may be accessed whenever it is most convenient for the student. This mode is especially beneficial to students who work part-time or full-time since it allows them to schedule their learning sessions more freely. It also means students are only sitting down to learn when they are in the mindframe to do so, allowing for more focused attention.

    Students can easily keep up with lectures. They can always watch a lesson again if they didn’t fully comprehend it the first time. They are no longer required to jot down every word stated by the teacher. This facilitates pupils’ understanding of complicated subjects.

    To keep students interested in their studies, online programs typically incorporate additional study resources and aids.
  3. Students are accountable for their progress
    It’s simple to put off learning when pupils completely control it. But to succeed in online learning, one must master effective time management techniques. Students must voluntarily commit to regular study routines and follow them.

    Students may also monitor their development in online courses. This enables individuals to easily alter their study methods and schedules as necessary to get the best outcomes.

    This is a crucial ability that will help them in various areas of their lives as well as in their future employment.
  4. Students can network with prominent figures in the industry
    Online Kinesiology degrees provide students additional chances to network with influential people in the industry as well as other aspiring Kinesiology professionals no matter where they are in the globe.

What Will I Learn in a Kinesiology Program?

Length of Programs

Kinesiology degrees can be obtained in several methods. One alternative is to enroll in a conventional three- or four-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

Programs for master’s degrees in kinesiology generally run for two to three years and include a thesis or research project. Many master’s programs allow students to concentrate on a field of interest, such as sports medicine or rehabilitation. An alternative is to enroll in one of the many online institutions that offer kinesiology degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Standard Curriculum

Considering there are many facets of Kinesiology students can explore, subjects may also vary depending on the specialization they pursue. The following presents common Kinesiology specializations and their corresponding typical topics.

  • Exercise Science: Students learn Kinesiology topics with a focus on sports nutrition, human anatomy and physiology, and strength and conditioning courses. 
  • Exercise Physiology: This specialization focuses on how the human body reacts to different kinds of exercises and intensity levels.
  • Athletic training: This prepares students for what it takes to be athletic trainers. Students learn fundamental exercise science, Kinesiology, and first aid training. 
  • Sports Medicine: Students learn how to assess, prevent, and rehabilitate athletic injuries. 
  • Biomechanics: Students learn how every part of the body is interconnected and contributes to the physical well-being (or lack thereof) of people. 
  • Physical therapy: Provides aspiring physical therapists an introductory exposure to physical therapy and rehabilitative practices for their further studies.

What Are The Standard Entrance Requirements to Enroll?

Bachelor’s Degree for Master’s

To better succeed in a Master’s of Kinesiology program, students can take a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Science, Sports Management, or any related field. They will also benefit from taking advanced coursework in Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry and Physics, Exercise and Motor Control, and Biomechanics.

Application Process / Timeline / Cost

Enrolling in a Bachelor’s or Master’s program in Kinesiology is similar to most university programs in the United States. 

It takes time to apply. Bachelor’s Degree application deadlines typically fall between November and March, although master’s degree deadlines vary by school. Planning your timetable should begin at least 18 months before your first classes.

Candidates for a Bachelor’s Degree must hold a high school certificate or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) from an institution that is authorized. They have an average or higher GPA (2.5 or above on a 4.0 scale) and an average or higher SAT score (1060 or above) or ACT score (20 or above).

On the other hand, the requirements for a Master’s Degree are a little more stringent. A 3.0 GPA or above on their bachelor’s degree is required for applicants. If they are admitted with a GPA below 3.0, they are treated as provisional students and have more rigorous evaluations from instructors for a set amount of time.

Transcripts

Typically, candidates for bachelor’s degrees must submit their high school transcripts. For Master’s program candidates, some institutions require GREs while some don’t. Better to directly consult with your chosen institution. 

Additionally, candidates for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees sometimes need three letters of recommendation, frequently from professors, administrators, or peers/managers (for Master’s).

Personal Statement (If Required)

An essay is frequently required for admission to bachelor’s degrees. Essays submitted by candidates might include personal experiences, academic achievements, or desired career paths. Typically, resumes are not required. Most Master’s applicants must nevertheless submit a CV and an essay.

GRE (or other entrance exams, if required)

Inquire about your chosen institution their status regarding this.

What is the Career Outlook for Kinesiologists?

Kinesiology graduates earn an average salary of $54,000 annually. With people’s continuous support for sports and more emphasis on living active lifestyles, jobs in the field (such as exercise physiologists) are projected to grow at least 9% in the next decade.

Potential Career Paths and Job Titles

Kinesiology degree holders have a plethora of professional career paths to choose from. Here are some of them.

  • Athletic trainer – works with doctors to help clients, especially athletes prevent, assess, and repair physical injuries. 
  • Exercise Physiologist – tests and design workout routines and training plans personalized for the client’s fitness level and fitness goals.
  • Kinesiologist – generally supports clients to regain their overall mobility and strength taken away from accidents or injuries. They monitor the client’s muscles during exercise sessions. They often work in sports and recreation clinics.
  • Occupational Therapist -specializes in helping patients regain their ability to perform basic motor functions such as holding and picking up items, using utensils, and writing among others. 
  • Physical Therapist – helps patients recover from severe injuries like fractured bones, or ligament/tendon tears by designing rehabilitative plans and guiding them through intricate stretches and exercises. 
  • Sports Medicine Physician – specifically works with athletes to assess and treat sports-related injuries. They work with other specialists to holistically provide care and treatment for athletes to bounce back to their optimal states.

A career related to Kinesiology is a fulfilling one. If you like seeing people succeed in fitness and sports, this degree may be for you.