Exercise Science Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Earning a bachelor's degree in exercise science can prepare you to pursue a range of fitness-related positions, like aerobics instructor or athletic trainer. Continue reading to learn more about job opportunities, as well as certifications available and career prospects. Schools offering Exercise Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Career Options Are Available for Exercise Science Majors?

Earning a bachelor's degree in exercise science gives you various career options. Exercise science majors can become instructors in a particular fitness area, such as aerobics, yoga or Pilates. You may also work as a personal trainer for people of all ages and abilities or choose to be a lifestyle coach to individuals dealing with cardiovascular and metabolic issues. Becoming an athletic trainer and helping athletes work through injuries and improve their performance is another option. Your degree may also qualify you for work as a cardiopulmonary exercise specialist, providing exercise risk factor assessments and helping rehabilitate patients dealing with pulmonary disease.

In addition, you can pursue a career in education by becoming certified to work as a physical education teacher or coach at an elementary, middle or high school. Other positions you may consider include assistant athletic director, sports marketing analyst, strength or conditioning coach, wellness specialist, recreational therapist and wellness program coordinator. Schools, athletic departments, health clubs, training centers, hospitals and rehabilitation clinics commonly employ individuals with exercise science backgrounds. See the table below for more information about the possible careers in this field, along with education requirements, job outlook, and expected income for each.

Fitness Trainers and Instructors Coaches Personal Trainers
Degree Required High school diploma at minimum; employers may require an associate's or bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree High school diploma at minimum; employers may require an associate's or bachelor's degree
Key Responsibilities Demonstrate proper exercise performance, run exercise groups or teach future instructors Judge and recruit players for sporting events, run practices and coach during games Work with individuals to assess fitness needs, plan and run workouts to help clients meet goals
Job Growth (2018-2028) 13% growth* (all fitness trainers and instructors) 11% growth* (all coaches and scouts) 13% growth* (all fitness trainers and instructors)
Median Salary (2018) $39,820* (all fitness trainers and instructors) $33,780* (all coaches and scouts) $39,742** (personal trainers, 2019)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Need in Addition to My Degree?

Certification requirements for individuals in exercise science vary by occupation and place of employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers require fitness instructors to be certified at the time of hire or to work toward certification once employed (www.bls.gov).

Different procedures may be required depending on the occupation. For instance, personal trainers generally need classes to become certified and may work under the supervision of a certified trainer before taking on their own clients. Yoga and Pilates instructors generally complete certification training programs to qualify to teach classes. Coaches in public high schools need to meet state certification requirements.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers several credentials for professionals in the exercise science field, such as the ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist. Eligibility and other requirements vary but generally involve holding a degree and passing an exam. The ACSM also offers several continuing education options; completing continuing education courses is often required to maintain certification.

What Is the Job Outlook?

BLS states that fitness workers with a degree in a relevant field should have better job prospects than those without a degree. Employment growth will likely result as more people become interested in fitness and more businesses offer fitness programs for employees. Opportunities should also be good for fitness workers interested in working with children outside of school as concerns about childhood obesity increase. Coaches, umpires and other related workers should also see faster-than-average job growth over this same period.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

Fitness workers may be paid a salary, by the hour, per class or by the number of participants, depending on their place of work. Your salary will vary according to your position, experience, qualifications and geographic location.

According to the BLS, the median annual wage of fitness trainers and aerobics instructors was $39,820 in May 2018. The median annual wage of coaches and scouts was $33,780, also in May 2018. Personal trainers who are self-employed can have a higher earning potential depending on the number and type of clients trained. According to PayScale.com, as of November 2019, personal trainers had a median salary of $39,742.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of fields related to exercise science. A few of these include dietetics and athletes. With a bachelor's degree in dietetics, you may pursue a career as a dietitian or nutritionist. In these careers you will promote healthy eating as a way to prevent illness and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many athletes don't require a formal education, but playing for schools can help you be noticed. In this career you will compete in rigorous athletic competitions and thus need to maintain and healthy and strong body.

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:

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