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, 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, 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 already know what you’re looking for, go ahead and jump to our ranking of The Best Online Bachelor’s in Health Sciences Degree Programs or The 40 Best Online Master’s in Coaching Programs.
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Covered in this article:
- What do I need to know about accreditation?
- What kinds of Kinesiology degrees are there?
- What kind of Licensing or Certification do I need?
- What can I do with a Kinesiology degree?
- How much can I make with a Kinesiology degree?
- What Professional Sociology Associations or Societies should I join?
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 dealbreaker 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
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 8 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 6 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 Althetic 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 8 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 school for you!