The human body is capable of remarkable things, and yet, it is a delicate and complex instrument that requires routine upkeep. Kinesiology—the scientific study of body movement (human or otherwise)—is concerned with both the remarkable and the routine. When you pursue a degree in kinesiology or online kinesiology degree, you are pursuing a greater understanding of anatomy, physiology, motor function, and overall wellness. You’ll also study subjects like biomechanics, pathology and nutrition.
This course of education will prepare you for a wide range of career paths, from physical therapy, sports medicine, athletic training and coaching to physical education, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation. It could even be the pathway to a career in orthopedics or sports medicine, depending on how far you decide to advance your education.
An important note before we proceed. Much of the information presented here applies not only to your kinesiology degree but to an array of similar, sometimes even interchangeable, courses of study. Among them may be Exercise Science, Physical Education or Athletic Training. Your options, and the name of your degree program, may vary from one school to another.
Earning a degree in any of these related fields requires an enthusiasm for fitness, an intellectual curiosity about the potential of the human body, and a desire to leverage your knowledge to benefit others. If this sounds like the right career for you, consider earning a certification or degree in kinesiology.
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Let’s start with the one thing you absolutely must be sure of before you proceed: accreditation.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a degree that won’t be taken seriously by future employers. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you make sure your school has the proper accreditation before you proceed.
As with most other higher education disciplines, accreditation is of critical importance in determining where to get your kinesiology degree. Program accreditation is granted by accrediting agencies that are formally recognized by the Department of Education. Only accredited colleges or universities are eligible for financial aid. Moreover, accreditation typically indicates that an institution is not only maintaining its standards but that it continues to advance and remain current within its field. As you proceed in your search, you’ll find both institutional accreditation and program accreditation. The former refers to school wide accreditation and the latter refers to the accreditation conferred upon your specific discipline and degree program.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
The institutional accrediting sector is divided into regional and national accrediting agencies. Generally, regional accrediting agencies confer greater credibility and merit. When you’re investigating a college or university, you’ll want to look for the “stamp of approval” from one of the following regional accrediting agencies:
- The Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
It is not essential that you complete a kinesiology degree program with program-specific accreditation. There is no single requisite national accreditor for the kinesiology course of study.
There are some accrediting groups specific to kinesiology and exercises health, including:
- Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)
- The American Kinesiology Association
- Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
- The Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (COAES)
- The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
A stamp of approval from any of these accrediting groups means that the school meets a certain set of criteria and standards put forth but that group. It may be an indication of quality and credibility. However, the absence of a program-specific accreditation is not a deal-breaker in kinesiology.
Your top priority should still be to seek a stamp of approval from one of the regional accrediting associations listed in the section above. As long as your college or university of choice is recognized by one of these agencies, you can be sure that your kinesiology degree program holds up to standards of quality and credibility put forth by the Department of Education.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also take a look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accrediting groups.
To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
Now that you get the idea, let’s take a look at some of your degree options.
What Kinds of Kinesiology Degrees Are There?
Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology
An associate’s degree in Kinesiology will provide you with a foundation in the study of body movement, with introductory-level courses in anatomy, biology, and basic health, as well as courses in exercise science, first aid, and coaching. You’ll likely also take a number of humanities and liberal arts courses alongside your kinesiology focus. This 60-credit degree program, which typically takes two years to complete, will prepare you for immediate work in certain health and fitness environments. Popular career options include fitness instructor, athletics coach, personal trainer, and physical therapy aide. You’ll also have a head start if you’re planing to continue into a bachelor’s program. It bears noting hear that you will need your bachelor’s degree in order to earn a certification in kinesiology, which can add considerable credibility to your title and greater upward mobility to your career.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Introduction to Exercise Science
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Nutritional Science
- Introduction to Sports Medicine
- Communication and Coaching
Bachelor of Kinesiology
Your bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology will incorporate courses concerning the science, psychology, and practice of exercise. You’ll study nutrition, aging, strength training, conditioning, and the connection between body, brain and motor skills. Your course of study will likely also include a practicum aspect, which may involve hands-on with techniques, treatments and therapies. You’ll also have a chance to refine your focus, whether your interest is in physical education, massage therapy, or sports management, to name just a few of many possibilities.
It’s especially important to note that the bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology is the basic threshold for earning a certification in Kinesiology. This certification will qualify you to apply your knowledge at the clinical level. This means that you’ll need to complete this 120-credit program, which typically takes a minimum of four years, in order to work in a clinical rehabilitation facility, to instruct fitness in a senior living facility, or provide athletic training support to a professional sports organization.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Exercise Science
- The Business of Sports
- The Science of Applied Movement
- Advanced Biomechanics
- Physical Culture and Sports
- Pathology, Injury and Rehabilitation
- Health Promotion monad Behavioral Science
- Sports Psychology
What’s the Difference between a BA and a BS in Kinesiology?
A bachelor of arts (BA) degree in Kinesiology will typically combine your concentration in exercise science with an array of liberal arts and humanities courses. By contrast, a bachelor of science (BS) degree in Kinesiology will give you a chance to dive a little deeper on advanced science topics. This may be an appealing option if you plan to apply your skills in a clinical, healthcare, or rehabilitation setting.
Now that you know a bit more, check out The eight Best Online Bachelor’s in Health Education Programs or the The Best Online Bachelor’s in Health Sciences Degree Programs.
You might also be interested in combining your exercise science studies with a focus on nutrition. If this is the case, check out The six Best Online Bachelor’s in Nutritional Sciences Programs.
Master of Kinesiology
A master’s degree program in kinesiology will typically take two years to complete and will include advanced courses in the physical sciences, an array of courses focused on your area of concentration, and a research thesis on a subject of your design. A master’s degree in Kinesiology is ideal if you’re hoping to advance your knowledge and credentials in a specific area. For instance, a masters in Kinesiology with a concentration in athletic training, sports administration or physical education is often valuable, sometimes even required, in order to advance in your field. Most states require a master’s degree and consequent certification as a basic threshold for teaching physical education or coaching sports in a public school setting. This could also be a pathway to athletic administration—whether at the school, youth league, higher education or even professional level.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Teaching Methodologies
- Sports, Business, and Ethics
- Evidence-Based Sports Medicine
- Exercise Technology
- The Psychology of Rehabilitation
- Occupational Therapy
- Sports Management and Administration
- Athletic Talent Scouting
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 40 Best Online Master’s in Coaching Programs.
PhD of Kinesiology
A PhD in Kinesiology will give you the chance to conduct research in an area of your choosing. You’ll spend much of your time during this four-year program working in practical or laboratory settings, where you’ll advance your scientific understanding of body movement, physical health, and athletic performance, among many other potential subject areas. You’ll typically work toward the completion of a dissertation on a research subject of your own design. This is your opportunity to study and add new insight into any number of related subjects like sports psychology, ergonomics, or rehabilitation, to name just a few. Completion of your PhD program will qualify you to work for a private, government or non-profit research group, as well as instruct at the university level on kinesiology, exercise science, or your specific area of concentration.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Research Methods
- Exercise Physiology
- Sports Psychology
- Innovations in Sports Technology
- Healthcare Technology and Administration
- Applied Research if Movement
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 10 Best Online Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Programs.
What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
Certification is important when it comes to kinesiology. While you can work in fitness, health outreach, and coaching without a certification, this can limit your opportunities for advancement and earnings, not to mention your appeal to potential employers. A Certification in Kinesiology allows you to begin working at the clinical level in physical therapy, rehabilitation, and healthcare settings.
In order to earn a certification in kinesiology, you must have earned, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or a related subject. The certification program is typically a one-year commitment that concludes with the completion of a licensing exam. A variety of schools and institutions may offer certification programs. Before entering into a licensing or certification program, be sure that it is awarded by a reputable association or group. Most associations or groups will require you to complete an education program or workshop to earn your certification.
Additional licenses or certifications may be required for your chosen area of concentration. For instance, fields like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physical education all require state-specific licensing. The terms surrounding licensing will vary from state to state. Learn more about the certification or licensing requirements specific to your state and area of concentration.
What can I do with a Kinesiology degree?
Your Kinesiology degree can open the doorway to a wide range of careers relating to health, fitness, and athletics. Where you decide to apply your skills depends entirely upon your area of interest. Here are a few of the top careers in your field:
- Athletic Trainers
- Massage Therapists
- Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
- Occupational Therapists
- Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
- Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
- Physical Therapists
- Recreational Therapists
What kind of salary can I earn with a Kinesiology degree?
Your earning potential will depend both on your specific concentration and the level of your degree. As noted here throughout, earning a certification—which can only be done once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree—can make a significant difference in your salary prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provide information on the earning potential for some of the top jobs in your field:
- Exercise Physiologists—Median Pay, 2016: $47,340
- Physical Therapists—Median Pay, 2016: $85,400
- Fitness Trainers/Instructors—Median Pay, 2016: $38,160
- Athletic Trainers—Median Pay, 2016: $45,630
- Coaches and Scouts—Median Pay, 2016: $31,460
- Occupational Therapists—Median Pay, 2016: $81,910
- Chiropractors—Median Pay, 2016: $67,520
Are There Professional Kinesiology Associations or Societies I should join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for Kinesiology and Fitness associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT)
- American Coaching Association (ACA)
- National Athletic Training Association (NATA)
- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSMM)
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSMM)
Now that you know a bit more about how to earn a degree in Kinesiology, jump to our ranking of The eight Best Online Bachelor’s in Health Education Programs, The Best Online Bachelor’s in Health Sciences Degree Programs, or The 40 Best Online Master’s in Coaching Programs and find the best school for you!
The 10 Best Online Master’s in Kinesiology
Below are the best online kinesiology degree programs, extracted from our Best Online Master’s in Sports Medicine ranking.
1. Towson University
Towson’s master of science in kinesiology serves the needs of K-12 physical education teachers, offering degree candidates the tools to develop their professional practice. This fully online kinesiology degree uses an asynchronous format that accommodates working teachers, enabling candidates to complete work on their own schedule while maintaining a full-time teaching career. The program curriculum covers key topics, such as research design and methodology, the design and implementation of assessment tools and a physical education curriculum, and evaluation methods of teacher effectiveness.
Students participate in discussions, independent assignments, and group projects, collaborating with peers through Towson’s comprehensive online platform. All degree candidates complete a capstone project and a comprehensive final exam. The capstone requires students to complete a research project related to some aspect of physical education.
Towson is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
2. University of Southern Mississippi
Based in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss remains a major education center in Mississippi, serving over 14,000 students annually. The school’s master of science in kinesiology with an emphasis in physical education offers support for teachers, coaches, and other instructors seeking to improve their physical education practice. Offered in a fully online format with no campus visits, the program requires a minimum of 36 credits, with both thesis and non-thesis options available.
Students complete 30 core credits, studying motor learning, corrective and adaptive physical education, foundations and trends in kinesiology, program design in physical education, and legal aspects of sport. Thesis candidates complete six credits of thesis work, while non-thesis candidates complete a three-credit special problems course and one additional three-credit course.
Southern Miss is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
3. Georgia Southern University
One of the largest colleges in the state, Georgia Southern serves more than 27,000 students through multiple campuses and a substantial online program. While not a traditional sports medicine program, the program’s master of science in kinesiology emphasizes the scientific aspects of coaching education. The online kinesiology degree teaches professional athletic coaches about the advanced practices of administration, performance enhancement and athletic training. The program requires 36 total credits and the curriculum includes 12 courses covering topics like teaching analysis, team dynamics, sports biometrics and sports physiology.
Beginning in the summer semester, this fully online kinesiology degree uses a cohort format in which students move through a set course sequence together as a group. The program includes a required practicum in which students apply course learning to their own coaching practice. Degree candidates must be employed as coaches while enrolled in the program.
Georgia Southern is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
4. Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The largest and most comprehensive college in Louisiana, LSU serves more than 30,000 students through its Baton Rouge campus. The college’s master of science in kinesiology with a specialization in sport management offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes interdepartmental collaboration and communication, giving students a holistic perspective on the field of sport management.
This 36-credit program includes a total of 12 courses, with six core classes that cover topics in administration, organizational behavior, social issues, finance, and sport law. Students select an additional four elective courses that explore specialized topics in the field, such as facilities management or governance and policy development. Degree candidates also can opt to perform an extended independent study into a sports management topic of their choice. Students can complete their online master’s in kinesiology in 12 months of full-time study.
LSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
5. Fresno Pacific University
A Christian college based in Fresno, California, FPU offers two sports medicine online degree programs: a master of athletic training and a master of kinesiology—physical education. Both programs feature fully online, asynchronous courses with no required campus visits, along with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. The athletic training program prepares candidates to serve as trainers at the high school, university, or professional level, stressing teaching and training techniques, rehabilitation practices, and clinical teaching skills.
The degree requires 30 total credits and typically takes between 18 and 22 months to complete. The physical education program helps working coaches and physical education teachers develop their professional competencies, building both technical proficiency and leadership skills. The program requires a total of 36 credits and typically takes 17–19 months to complete.
FPU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
6. Texas A&M University - Commerce
Located about 65 miles outside of Dallas, A&M-Commerce hosts an online master of science in health, kinesiology, and sport studies with four concentration options: athletic administration, health promotion, exercise science, and physical education pedagogy. All four tracks offer fully online courses with no required campus sessions. Both the exercise science and health promotion concentrations offer thesis and non-thesis options.
The athletic administration track caters to full-time coaches and teachers and takes just one year to complete. The health promotion track prepares students for careers in the wellness field, including the corporate, commercial, and community sectors. The exercise science track explores topics in physiology and conditioning, training students for rehabilitation and wellness work. Finally, the physical education pedagogy track trains certified physical education teachers in curriculum development, teaching strategies, sports psychology, and research.
A&M-Commerce is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
7. The University of Texas at Tyler
Part of the prestigious University of Texas System, UT Tyler hosts a comprehensive online program that includes one of the top kinesiology online degree programs in Texas. The 36-credit master of science in kinesiology includes an 18-credit program core, 12 credits of electives, and a thesis or internship component worth six credits. Core courses explore fundamental topics, including research design, biometric methods, motor learning, and biomechanics. Elective courses typically draw from offerings within the department of health and kinesiology, but students may take courses from other departments with faculty approval.
For the program’s final section, candidates complete either a thesis, performing original research into an approved topic in kinesiology, or an internship, applying program principles to hands-on work in a professional kinesiology environment. Students who do not complete a thesis must take a comprehensive exam that assesses overall program knowledge.
UT Tyler is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Based in Odessa, UTPB offers a master of science in kinesiology with three focus areas: exercise science; psychology of exercise and sport; or teaching, coaching, and administration. The 36-credit degree curriculum requires 12 credits of core courses that build fundamental knowledge in research, physiology, and exercise psychology. An additional nine credits of concentration courses enable students to explore their professional area of interest, with many course options available. For example, candidates in the exercise science track choose from courses including sports nutrition, the U.S. health system, heat stress and exercise, and applied biomechanics.
All concentrations offer both thesis and non-thesis options. Thesis candidates complete 30 program credits and a six-credit research thesis that typically functions as a lab or field experiment. Non-thesis candidates complete 33 program credits and a three-credit research project, such as a field study or research survey.
UTPB is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
9. The University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas
Serving more than 23,000 students total, UTEP hosts an online master of science in kinesiology with an emphasis in the pedagogy of physical activities, training students for athletic teaching and coaching work. This online sports medicine degree requires a total of 36 credits, divided between 15 credits of core courses and 21 credits of emphasis courses. Core courses cover major topics in research, biomechanics, and exercise physiology, while concentration courses explore topics in physical education instruction and physical activity programs.
UTEP participates in the UT System Online Collaborative, which allows distance learners to take online courses through other institutions in the UT System, thus making it easier to complete a degree entirely online. Applicants to the kinesiology program must possess at least 12 credits of approved undergraduate kinesiology courses.
UTEP is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
10. California Baptist University - CBU Online
Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, CBU serves more than 9,000 students from a main campus in Riverside and through a diverse online program. The college’s master of science in kinesiology offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines research methods, fitness and wellness studies, and movement science. Candidates pursuing their sports medicine degree online take advantage of a comprehensive distance education platform that includes virtual lectures, collaborative coursework, and interactive tutorials, with a flexible format that caters to working professionals.
The degree requires 30 total credits and includes major topics, such as and fitness testing and exercise prescription, legal aspects of kinesiology, applied statistics, and ethics and leadership in kinesiology. The program ends with one of three culminating experiences: a comprehensive exam, a thesis, or a graduate research project. Most candidates complete the degree in about 12 months of full-time study.
CBU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (WSCUC).