Sports Rehabilitation Degree Programs and Careers

A degree program related to sports rehabilitation could prepare you to assist injured athletes back to performance health. Review degree options, such as programs in exercise science, athletic training and physical therapy. Explore the curricula in these programs, and find out if online courses are available. Check the career outlook for several sports rehabilitation jobs, as well as salary info. Schools offering Kinesiology & Sport Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need To Know

A degree in sports rehabilitation is best achieved through pursuing exercise science and massage therapy programs at a trade school, or by pursuing an athletic training program at the bachelor's level. Studying rehabilitation or sports injury prevention is an option at the graduate level, and once in the career field of sports rehabilitation, expected salary for an occupational therapist ranges from $54,560 to $120,440 a year.

Career Outlook* 28% growth for Physical Therapists
23% growth for Athletic Trainers
24% growth for Occupational Therapists
Degrees A.D. in Exercise Science or Sports Medicine; B.S. or M.S. in Athletic Training, Rehabilitation Science or Exercise Science
Annual Salary (Median, 2017)* Physical Therapists - $86,850
Athletic Trainers - $46,630
Occupational Therapists - $83,200

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Which Sports Rehabilitation Degree Programs Are Available?

While you will probably be unable to find a sports rehabilitation degree program, there are sports rehabilitation residency programs designed for practicing physicians looking to increase their medical specialization. If you're interested in obtaining a degree program that could lead to work in the field of sports rehabilitation, you may find opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate level.

At the associate degree level, you can find degree programs in subjects like exercise science or massage therapy, which could prepare you to aide physicians, certified athletic trainers or chiropractors in injury rehabilitation. While you wouldn't need any particular education to become a physical therapist's aide, to become a physical therapist's assistant you will typically need to earn an accredited associate degree in physical therapy assistance and state licensure. Aspiring occupational aides and assistants can become qualified in the same way.

At the bachelor's degree level, you could enroll in an athletic trainer degree program. In most states, you will need to become licensed to practice as an athletic trainer, which requires the completion of an approved bachelor's or master's degree program and certification with the Board of Certification. You may also choose to become certified through an organization such as the National Athletic Trainers' Association. You could also look for bachelor's degree programs in rehabilitation science. These are designed to prepare you for graduate work in the following fields:

  • Athletic training
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy

Which Graduate Degrees Are Available?

At the master's and doctoral levels, you may find degree options in the fields of exercise science, physical therapy, athletic training, occupational therapy or rehabilitation science. All states require that physical and occupational therapists are licensed, so its important to earn a properly accredited degree when entering this field.

A graduate program in exercise science can prepare you for certification as a trainer or exercise specialist, and can include a rehabilitation or sports injury prevention specialty option. Graduate programs in rehabilitation science could be beneficial to you if you're a practicing rehabilitation specialist or therapist and you want to advance in your field by furthering your education. A Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science could lead you to a research position in the field.

What Are My Online Options?

Due to the largely hands-on nature of training for the field of sports rehabilitation, you may find it difficult to find entirely online programs at the undergraduate level. However, you may find some programs that use online options to accelerate the curriculum, or programs that offer the bulk of coursework online while still requiring lab and clinical experiences for real-world training. Master's degree programs in subjects like exercise science or rehabilitation science may be offered in a completely online format.

If you're a currently practicing occupational or physical therapist, online master's and doctoral programs are available to you if you need enhance your education without disrupting your work schedule. As a practicing occupational therapist with a bachelor's degree you could earn your master's degree online, though this typically requires some onsite clinical experiences. If you're a practicing physical therapist with a bachelor's or master's degree you may earn your Doctor of Physical Therapy completely online.

What Can I Expect From a Career in this Field?

As an entry-level employee or assistant in this field, you may be responsible for helping patients exercise and complete their treatment plan, as well as cleaning, answering phones, filing and other clerical tasks. In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that physical therapist assistants earned a median annual salary of $57,430, while the broader category of 'occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides' earned a median annual salary of $50,510 (

Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals that specialize in preventing, treating and rehabilitating athletes with skeletal or muscular injuries. In most cases, athletic trainers work alongside or under the supervision of licensed physicians. In 2017, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $46,630.

Occupational therapists perform a wide range of functions, including helping individuals suffering from a physical injury adjust to or recover from that injury to function in their daily lives. Physical therapists may work preventatively with at-risk patients or in a rehabilitative role to help injured individuals reduce pain or regain movement. Occupational therapists earned a median annual salary of $83,200 in 2017, while physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $86,850.

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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