What Can I Do With a Kinesiology Degree?

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What is kinesiology? Kinesiology is the scientific study of body movement, exploring the impact of physical activity on health and society.

It encompasses fields like exercise science, athletic training, exercise psychology, and fitness leadership. Graduates with a kinesiology degree can pursue roles as physical or occupational therapists, coachs, and athletic trainers.

Earning a kinesiology degree can also pave the way for careers like occupational therapist, exercise physiologist, athletic trainer, and fitness instructor. This page covers important information for prospective kinesiology students, including types of kinesiology degrees and potential kinesiology salary rates for graduates.

What Kinds of Kinesiology Degrees Are There?

There are four types of kinesiology degrees: associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctoral degree. Each degree level covers different topics and leads to different careers with varying levels of responsibility. Students should choose the kinesiology degree that aligns with their career aspirations.

Associate Degree in Kinesiology

An associate degree in kinesiology provides a foundation in the scientific study of movement. Kinesiology associate programs typically prepare students to go on pursue a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. Most kinesiology associate degrees take two years of full-time study to complete. Courses commonly offered in these programs include introduction to exercise science, anatomy and physiology, introduction to sports medicine, and nutritional science. Graduates with an associate degree in kinesiology can pursue kinesiology jobs like personal trainer, fitness instructor, and physical therapy aide.

Bachelor's Degree in Kinesiology

A bachelor's degree in kinesiology examines disease prevention and health promotion. Students learn to improve human health and wellness using their understanding of movement and exercise. Learners take classes like physiological basis of exercise, health and fitness assessment, health risk appraisal, and applied kinesiology.

Students can often tailor the degree to their interests through specializations in areas such as education, health and fitness leadership, sports medicine, and coaching. Most bachelor's in kinesiology degrees take four years of full-time study to complete. Graduates can pursue kinesiology jobs like certified personal trainer, chiropractor, and biomechanist.

What's the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Kinesiology?

Kinesiology students seeking a four-year bachelor's degree can choose from a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) program. BS in kinesiology programs typically focus more on specialized kinesiology knowledge, while BA in kinesiology programs take a broader approach, including more courses outside of the major in areas like the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Not all schools offer both options.

Students should consider their professionals goals, interests, and personal strengths when choosing between a kinesiology BA or BS.

Master's Degree in Kinesiology

A master's degree in kinesiology typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates of master's programs can offer clinical expertise in areas like exercise science, kinesiology, and health and fitness. Master's students often pursue specializations in areas like sports administration, physical education, and community health and wellness.

Common classes include evidence-based practice and research methods, exercise science, exercise and sport-related nutrition, and establishing and managing adaptive sports programs. Some programs require students to complete a thesis or research project to graduate. Potential job titles for graduates include exercise physiologist, athletic director, and strength and conditioning coach.

Doctoral Degree in Kinesiology

Students who pursue a doctoral degree in kinesiology develop highly specialized expertise in a niche area, such as applied exercise physiology, physical education, or motor learning and control. Kinesiology Ph.D. students usually graduate in around four years.

Ph.D. in kinesiology students take classes like advanced lab techniques in exercise physiology, pulmonary exercise physiology, cardiovascular responses to exercise, and sports nutrition. They also complete a research-based dissertation. Potential roles for graduates with a doctoral degree in kinesiology include kinesiology professor, health fitness specialist, kinesiologist, and athletic director.

What Can You Do With a Kinesiology Degree?

Students with a kinesiology degree can pursue many career paths in a variety of industries, including healthcare, education, and sports. The following sections outline potential kinesiology careers for graduates with a kinesiology degree.


A kinesiology degree can lead to healthcare careers like occupational therapist or exercise physiologist. Kinesiology students study healthcare topics like human anatomy and physiology, exercise prescription, and laboratory experience. Common classes include physiology of exercise, measurement and evaluation in kinesiology, and physical activity as therapy.

Exercise science jobs often require a bachelor's degree at minimum. Occupational therapists typically need a master's degree. They may also need a license to practice.


A kinesiology degree can help students qualify for education-related jobs like fitness instructor or athletic trainer. Kinesiology programs cover areas like human performance, resistance training, biochemistry, and youth fitness. Common classes include current issues in health education, adapted physical education, methods of school health instruction, and physical education in the elementary school.

Athletic trainer jobs typically require a bachelor's degree at minimum. Though usually not required for the role, fitness instructors can also benefit from earning an associate degree in kinesiology.


Many graduates of kinesiology programs pursue careers as sports managers, coaches, or scouts. Kinesiology students gain relevant knowledge and skills in areas like human performance, injury prevention, and fitness assessment. Common classes include weight training and physical conditioning, prevention and care of athletic injuries, and outdoor leisure pursuits.

Sports managers and coaches can hone their skills by earning a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. Coaches may need to earn additional certification, depending on where they work.

What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Kinesiology Degree?

Salaries for kinesiology graduates vary by job, experience, and education. For example, coaches and scouts make a median annual salary of $34,840, while occupational therapists make $84,950 per year. Below, you'll find median salaries and projected job growth for some of the top kinesiology jobs.

Position Median Salary Job Growth
Occupational Therapist $84,950 18%
Exercise Physiologists $49,170 10%
Athletic Trainers $48,440 19%
Fitness Instructors $40,390 13%
Sports Managers $90,870 4.7%
Coaches and Scouts $34,840 11%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Kinesiology Professional Organizations

American Kinesiology Association

AKA advocates for kinesiologists and provides educational opportunities and resource materials. AKA offers memberships to departments rather than individuals. It hosts a career center, publications, and events that may interest kinesiology students and professionals.

National Academy of Kinesiology

A professional kinesiology organization, NAK promotes the study of physical activity and human movement. The group hosts an annual meeting, offers access to publications, and provides information about doctoral programs in kinesiology and related fields

National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education

A nonprofit organization, NAHKE promotes leadership in kinesiology policy and administration. Members have access to networking opportunities, annual conferences, publications, and employment opportunities.

Accreditation for Kinesiology Programs

Students should make sure to enroll in a regionally accredited school. Regional accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees accrediting agencies that evaluate universities and programs. Programs within a school may also hold accreditation. The Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES) accredits kinesiology and exercise science programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do People Study Kinesiology?

People study kinesiology to learn about nutrition, the psychology of exercise, and anatomy and physiology. Kinesiology graduates can help people improve and maintain their health.

What Does a Kinesiologist Do?

Job duties vary significantly by position. Kinesiologists may use their knowledge about healthy movement to help people recover from illness and injury, motivate people to exercise, and help clients make healthy nutrition decisions.

Is Kinesiology a Good Major?

Kinesiology is an excellent major for students interested in careers in occupational therapy, exercise physiology, and athletic training. Kinesiology majors often focus on topics like nutrition, motor function, and wellness.

Is Kinesiology the Same as Physical Therapy?

No, kinesiology is not the same as physical therapy. Kinesiologists help people by recommending exercises and providing movement education, while physical therapists provide hands-on therapy to patients.

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