Master's in Exercise Physiology: Salary and Career Facts

By acquiring a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, then going on to complete a master's-level program, you'll enhance your career possibilities in exercise physiology. Read on to learn about the education, duties, earnings and certifications for exercise physiologists. Schools offering Exercise Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Exercise Physiologist?

An exercise physiologist is a person who creates fitness and exercise programs for patients recovering from chronic illnesses. The intent of these programs is to help patients improve cardiovascular functions, composition and flexibility. They review the patient's medical history, analyze fitness and stress tests and keep records of the patient's vital signs. Exercise physiologists also supervise patients as they exercise and ensure safety protocols are followed. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Exercise physiology
Key Responsibilities Review patients records, conduct medical tests, create exercise programs and monitor patients during those programs
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%*
Median Salary (2015) $47,010*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will a Master of Exercise Physiology Program Include?

After earning a 4-year undergraduate degree in exercise physiology, you can complete a master's program in approximately two years. A clinical exercise physiology concentration prepares you for working with patients following graduation, and a thesis track prepares you for doctoral programs or research positions. Master's programs in exercise physiology include courses that explore muscle physiology, endocrinology, exercise prescription, laboratory methods in exercise science and clinical laboratory. You may be required to complete an internship or gain hands-on learning experience at a location outside the college.

What is the Certification Process?

Two organizations, the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), offer certification for exercise physiology graduates. ASEP offers board certification for graduates of exercise physiology programs. The Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) test includes written and hands-on components completed over the course of a single day. The written test consists of 200 questions in a multiple-choice format, and the hands-on section tests knowledge of laboratory skills. Initial certification lasts five years and recertification requires completion of 25 continuing education credits.

The ASCM offers the ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist for professionals with undergraduate degrees and the ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist for graduate students or those with graduate degrees. According to the ASCM, the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist certification requires a minimum of 600 hours clinical experience or ASCM Clinical Exercise Specialist certification, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification and a master's degree in exercise science or exercise physiology. Employment in a hospital setting requires certifications in advanced cardiac care and basic life support procedures.

What Job Duties Will I Have?

In your position as an exercise physiologist, you'll perform physical assessments of your patients prior to prescribing exercise regimens designed to improve their overall well-being. This is done either as a preventative measure or in response to a patient's injury or diagnosis of chronic illness. Your job will involve giving patients treadmill tests to determine their physical fitness levels. You'll monitor their heart rates, breathing and blood pressure while they exercise, then assign exercises based on their test results.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2015, most exercise physiologists earned salaries in a range from $31,540 to $73,840, with a median annual salary of $47,010. Similar to many other careers, your location may affect your earnings potential. For example, exercise physiologists in Kansas earned a mean salary of $59,920, while those in California had average earnings of about $66,410 as of 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in exercise physiology may also be interested in athletic training, occupational therapy or physical therapy. Athletic trainers prevent and treat injuries or illnesses. This profession typically requires a bachelor's degree. Occupational therapists need a masters degree and do a very similar job to exercise physiologists. They work with patients who have been injured, fallen ill or who have been disabled to help them regain the skills needed to do everyday tasks.

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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