Sports medicine helps people make meaningful changes in their lives through exercise. Sports medicine professionals work with both athletes and non-athletes. While they may help train professional athletes, this career path also helps non-athletes, such as people who struggle to work out or cook nutritious meals. Sports medicine professionals also assist those with injuries or chronic illnesses.
If you pursue a degree in sports medicine, you can work in a variety of growing industries in the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions for fitness trainers will increase 10% by 2026. The BLS also projects that positions for athletic trainers and physical therapists will increase by 23% and 28% respectively.
Should I Get a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Earning a master's degree in sports medicine could be the first step in your career as an athletic or personal trainer. Students learn how to create personalized fitness guides and train clients. Coursework covers science, with classes in biology, anatomy, and physiology. In addition to an emphasis in nutrition and kinesiology, many sports medicine students learn how fitness helps people suffering from injury or illness.
Before you apply to sports medicine degree programs, consider whether you want to pursue an online or on-campus degree. Online programs are a good option for working professionals and nontraditional students. These programs allow you to take as many or as few credit hours as you can manage each semester. On-campus programs may be better for traditional students, if you just graduated with a bachelor's degree and want to go straight to graduate school, or if you prefer in-person connections with your peers and professors.
Master's degrees in sports medicine prepare you for a variety of certifications, such as personal training, exercise physiology, and nutrition. Additionally, earning a master's degree will give you an advantage on the job market.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Students who enroll in master's in sports medicine programs can choose between a variety of career paths: exercise physiologists, nutritionists, or physical therapists. They can also become athletic trainers or fitness trainers. Some positions align more with treating patients, while other professionals, like personal trainers, are based more in general fitness. Students of sports medicine must have a passion for health and interpersonal relationship skills, and excel at long-term planning.
- Athletic Trainer
Athletic trainers treat injuries for athletes and evaluate bodily damage after an injury. After they diagnose the problem, they can provide emergency care or first aid if needed. They also complete administrative duties, like keeping records of players' injuries and treatment plans.
Median Annual Salary: $46,630
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Exercise Physiologist
Exercise physiologists help patients get stronger as they recover from a major injury or battle chronic diseases. These professionals develop fitness plans and help patients recover by improving cardiovascular function, flexibility, and general health.
Median Annual Salary: $49,090
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Fitness Trainer and Instructor
Fitness trainers, or personal trainers, help clients stay healthy, and meet and work regularly with individuals or groups. During client sessions, fitness trainers show people how to use exercise equipment in order to meet their goals, like gaining muscle or losing weight.
Median Annual Salary: $39,210
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Physical Therapist
Physical therapists use movement to aid people who are sick or injured in overcoming illnesses or pain. Although receiving a master's in sports medicine works as a first step to becoming a physical therapist, these professionals must earn their doctor of physical therapy degree and obtain a state license.
Median Annual Salary: $86,850
Projected Growth Rate: 28%
Nutritionists guide clients in managing their diets in order to lead healthy lifestyles. Nutritionists, or dieticians, often work with athletes to advise them on how to achieve peak physical performance through diet. They follow the latest research in nutrition science, and also track their clients' nutrition.
Median Annual Salary: $59,410
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
How to Choose a Master's in Sports Medicine Program
There are several options for potential sports medicine degree programs, which can seem overwhelming. When evaluating schools, students must consider multiple factors, including the curriculum and cost of living.
When choosing a program one of the most important aspects to consider is cost. Before applying, you should know the school's tuition rates, along with other costs like textbooks and technology fees. You might also qualify for scholarships, grants, or loans, which reduce high tuition prices. Additionally, make sure you know how long the program will take to complete.
You should also decide whether you want to pursue an online degree program or traditional, on-campus program. Students who juggle other obligations, such as working a full-time job or caring for family, often prefer the online route. Distance learning programs allow you to take courses at your own pace. If you choose to attend classes on campus, consider your other costs, such as the price of the move, rent, and other living expenses.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Sports Medicine Programs
When searching for master's programs in sports medicine, look for accredited programs. Accreditation gives a school more legitimacy. If you have a degree from an unaccredited university, employers may question the validity of your education. If you want to eventually pursue a doctorate, Ph.D. programs are unlikely to accept unaccredited coursework.
Look for graduate programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. If a master's degree program has accreditation, the program's website will show "CAATE-accredited" on their website. If you cannot find the program's accreditation online, contact the admissions department to check.
Master's in Sports Medicine Program Admissions
Students should review every aspect of a sports medicine graduate program, including offered coursework, professors, and concentrations. Remember, you want to make an informed decision about such a large investment of money and time.
When you feel ready to fill out the application, consider which schools are in your top five. You should always apply to multiple schools, in case your first choice rejects your application.
- Bachelor's Degree: Master's degree programs in sports management expect students to have an undergraduate degree. Many programs require students to already have a basic understanding of human biology, anatomy, and physiology from their undergraduate coursework.
- Professional Experience: Some schools require applicants to have completed observation of a professional athletic trainer or exercise physiologist before they enroll. Others expect students to have gained sports medicine or athletic training certification, even if those applicants have no professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools require students to enter with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Other schools are less strict.
- Application: Applications ask students to fill out basic identity and demographic information. Usually the process requires students to include information about their academic achievements and extracurricular interests.
- Transcripts: Admission departments want to know how students fared during their undergraduate education. Students can request transcripts from their undergraduate school's registrar office. Transcript requests usually cost a small fee.
- Letters of recommendation: Graduate programs usually ask students to submit one, two, or three letters of recommendation. Applicants can request these from former professors or supervisors -- in other words, someone who can speak about the student's abilities with a sense of authority. Remember to give recommenders at least a month of advance notice.
- Test Scores: Graduate programs in sports medicine generally ask students to submit GRE scores along with the application. Students should check if their potential schools require a minimum GRE score.
- Application Fee: Applicants should be prepared to pay a fee along with the rest of their application materials. Fees typically fall within the range of $30 to $50.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Sports Medicine Program?
Since sports medicine encompasses many different parts of health and wellness each master's program in sports management has a different design. Below, you will find information on several concentrations, courses, and certificates offered by sports medicine programs.
|Kinesiology||A common concentration in sports medicine, kinesiology is the science of human movement. Courses cover concepts like biomechanical skeletal tissue, orthopedics in athletic training, and cadaver anatomy. Students should not only have an interest in exercise and sports, but also human anatomy and physiology.||Exercise Physiologist; Athletic Trainer; Fitness Trainer|
|Injury Prevention||Here, students take courses such as performance enhancement in physical activity, human movement science, and corrective exercise and rehabilitation. Students who choose this specialization learn how to train athletes with exercises specifically designed to avoid injury.||Exercise Physiologist; Athletic Trainer|
|Sports Nutrition||Sports nutrition covers the importance of eating well, helping athletes achieve their peak performance, and helping non-athletes with workouts. Sports medicine students who specialize in nutrition learn the science of food and how to create food plans to accompany clients' workout programs.||Nutritionist; Dietician|
|Strength and Conditioning||Strength and conditioning concentrations cover the theories and principles of resistance training and periodization. Here, students also practice these concepts in practical contexts. This concentration prepares students for the NSCA Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification upon graduation.||Athletic Trainer; Personal Trainer|
|Human Movement Science||A concentration in human movement science instructs students on how the body should properly move during workouts. Human movement science teaches athletic trainers how to correct clients' movement patterns. Students also learn how to train athletes by strengthening their functional capacities.||Athletic Trainer|
Courses in a Master's in Sports Medicine Program
Every master's degree in sports medicine offers students a unique curriculum. Each program has its strengths and weaknesses depending upon the classes offered and the faculty's expertise. Before enrolling, prospective students should research their preferred schools' course catalogues. For now, you can find a sample curriculum with commonly offered courses below.
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
Before students can enroll in advanced sports medicine courses, most schools usually require them to complete one particular prerequisite: human anatomy and physiology. Understanding the makeup of the human body determines whether students will understand the rest of the curriculum, which stems from knowledge of basic anatomy.
- Theories of Strength and Conditioning
This course instructs students in the science behind human strength, weightlifting, and conditioning. Students learn what exercises target which part of the body for the purpose of strength training. They also learn how to guide future athlete clients in training for increased physical fortitude.
- Exercise Physiology
Different parts of the body respond in different ways to external stressors, like working out. Exercise physiology covers how to train specific parts of the body through distinct types of movement and weight resistance drills. Students must have a solid understanding of human anatomy and physiology before they can enroll in this course.
- Care and Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries
When athletes work out, practice, and compete, they risk hurting themselves. This course examines the various ways that athletes can injure themselves while on the field or in the gym. Students learn how to help athletes avoid and treat injuries.
Kinesiology classes dive into both physics and biology. Instructors cover the science of human movement and motion. Students review physics concepts as they relate to human motion, like gravity and leverage. They also explore movement in terms of weight training and exercise in general.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Most master's degree programs in sports medicine take two years to finish. Many programs require students to complete around 60-credit hours over four semesters. However, requirements vary for each program. Some schools design their programs to be completed quickly. Some master's programs allow students to enroll in accelerated classes or double up on credits in order to graduate sooner.
Students with additional obligations might have an entirely different experience. If a parent or full-time professional enrolls in a master's program, they may only be able to take one class at a time. Online programs typically allow students to follow this path, as they are designed to let students have flexibility throughout a degree program.
How Much Is a Master's in Sports Medicine?
When it comes to evaluating the price tag of your master's in sports medicine, you will find a range of costs. Every school demands different tuition rates, as well as a different number of credits required to graduate. Most schools charge between $400 and $650 per credit hour.
It is also important to consider cost factors beyond tuition. Online programs charge distance learning fees, on-campus programs charge residence fees, and all programs require students to buy textbooks. On top of those charges, there are other necessary living costs like housing, transportation, and food.
You might find comfort in the possibility of scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, and loans. All of these financial aid options can help reduce the burden of graduate school costs.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Sports Medicine Prepares For
- Medical Exercise Specialist Certificate
The American Council on Exercise offers this certificate, which teaches trainers how to heal clients through movement. If a patient suffers a bad injury or is chronically ill, then a medical exercise specialist can help them manage the pain.
- NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Run by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, this widely-recognized personal trainer certification can take about three months to complete. The organization offers several ways for people to enroll in the program: self-study, guided study, or all-inclusive, which includes hands-on and on-site practice.
- ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
The American College of Sports Medicine offers a clinical exercise physiologist certification program. The certificate prepares professionals in sports medicine to train and treat people through therapeutic exercise. The certification prepares exercise physiologists to help people suffering from cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic diseases and disorders.
- ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer
If sports medicine students want to help people with serious diseases, they might consider pursuing certification in cancer exercise. This certificate -- sponsored by both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Cancer Society -- instructs trainers on how to assess fitness levels of people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Trainers then create workout programs for these patients.
- NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
The National Strength and Conditioning Association offers a certification for sports medicine students who wish to specialize in creating conditioning programs for athletes. The program tests students on nutrition, exercise science, and the biological concepts fundamental to understanding sports medicine.
Resources for Sports Medicine Graduate Students
Students can download articles from the International Journal of Sports Science free of charge. The journal covers topics like the effects of dehydration and the relationship between BMI and strength.
Every year the National Collegiate Athletic Association publishes a sports medicine handbook. Students can access copies of the handbook for free online.
The American College of Sports Medicine publishes an entire collection of academic and professional resources on its website. Students can peruse articles on resistance exercise, rest intervals, and metabolic equations, among other topics.
This resource is an open access journal published by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists and it publishes recent research in sports medicine. Anybody can download the journals. Students can submit their own research to the journal editors.
Vanderbilt University allows all visitors free access to their website, which posts lecture powerpoints, podcasts, articles, and educational booklets about different parts of the human body. It also offers information about sports fellowships.
Professional Organizations in Sports Medicine
Sports medicine professional organizations typically hold two main purposes: certification and professional development. Each association offers different certifications, such as senior fitness, nutrition or small group training. The groups also offer opportunities for networking at conferences and online job boards. Many professional associations also support sports medicine research. Some provide fellowships to students or academics, and others publish articles that members can read online for free.
The founders of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine created a professional and academic group specifically for non-surgical sports medicine professionals. The society provides members with access to research journals, fellowship opportunities, and a digital resource library.
The American College of Sports Medicine operates as a professional association that also offers certification to people working in the field. The organization hosts several conferences, regional chapter meetings, and summits throughout the year.
The American Society of Exercise Physiologists offers students of sports medicine several professional resources, including accreditation services and job postings. The organization also publishes multiple scholarly journals.
Professionals in the field of sports medicine recognize the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a group that offers personal trainer certification programs. The NASM also provides several professional development workshops and programs with specializations in senior fitness, women's fitness, and weight loss.
Known for its certification program, the American Council on Exercise supports sports medicine research and advocates for policies that encourage healthy lifestyles.