What Are My Career Options in Exercise Physiology?

The field of exercise physiology offers potential jobs in sports, exercise and health. It can also be a stepping stone for advanced careers in the medical field. Read on to learn more about exercise physiology career options, including exercise physiologist, fitness instructor and physical therapist. Schools offering Exercise Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Options

Exercise physiology is the study of how the body moves and functions during movement. Typically, if your work revolves around exercise physiology, you'll hold the job title of exercise physiologist. However, you may decide to work in a specific field and take on that job title instead, such as fitness instructor. You may also use exercise physiology to prepare for a healthcare career, such as physical therapy.

Exercise PhysiologistFitness InstructorPhysical Therapist
Work Environment Offices, hospitals, colleges, fitness and recreational centers Health clubs, hospitals, resorts, colleges, yoga and Pilates studios, client's home Clinics, hospitals, nursing homes
Key Skills Compassion, detail oriented, decision making, interpersonal skills Customer service, problem solving, communication, motivational skills Compassion, resourcefulness, dexterity, detail oriented, interpersonal skills
On-the-Job Training Not provided Short-term training is common Not provided
Similar Occupations Chiropractors, EMTs and paramedics, registered nurses, massage therapists Physical therapist aide, recreational therapist, recreation workers Audiologists, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, occupational therapists

Exercise Physiologist

If you work as an exercise physiologist, you'll study how the body moves during physical activity. You may work as a sports instructor, coach, teacher, or researcher. Usually, you will use the knowledge you have of exercise physiology to help individuals improve or maintain their fitness level or health.


To work as an exercise physiologist, a bachelor's degree is usually required. In addition, you need to meet your state's requirements for certification or licensure. Some certifications are offered by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC), the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), average job growth of 13% is estimated for exercise physiologists over the 2016-2026 decade (www.bls.gov). They earned an average wage of $54,760 as of May 2018.

Fitness Instructor

Another career option you have as an exercise physiologist is working as a fitness instructor. You'll assist individuals in improving and maintaining their physical health. You may serve as a personal trainer, developing a fitness routine and diet program for clients or you may train individuals in a specific activity such as yoga.


The BLS notes that fitness trainers and instructors need at least a high school diploma, although educational requirements depend on the type of job you want to hold. For example, personal trainers often need certification, while other fitness workers might need a fitness or health associate's or bachelor's degree. There are also training programs available from organizations.

Job Outlook and Salary

Average job growth at a rate of 10% is estimated for fitness trainers from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. They made $44,580 on average as of May 2018.

Physical Therapist

Exercise physiology may help you prepare for a career in the healthcare field, such as a career in physical therapy. Exercise physiology can be the undergraduate area of study that allows you to gain an educational foundation to enter a physical therapy program. After completing a physical therapy doctoral program, you can then work as a physical therapist, providing care to help individuals gain, improve, or recover physical abilities.


According to the BLS, all states regulate physical therapists. Typically, this involves passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. States may also have additional requirements, such as state testing, that you must meet. In addition, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is required. The BLS notes that this program takes approximately three years to complete and includes clinical internships along with coursework.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Physical therapists have an estimated job growth of 28% over the 2016-2026 decade, which the BLS reports is much faster than average. They were paid $88,880 on average as of May 2018.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools