Sports medicine professionals enrich the lives of their clients by providing specialized therapy and exercise training regimens. While these professionals sometimes work with professional athletes, they often provide treatment and exercise training to nonathletes, as well.
Specialists who work exclusively with professional athletes may work as athletic trainers or rehabilitation and injury prevention specialists, while those working with nonathletes may hold positions as fitness instructors.
Either way, a master's degree in sports medicine prepares graduates for several attractive careers. Athletic trainers, for example, earn a median annual salary of $48,440, while the median pay for dietitians is $61,270 per year. A bachelor's is the minimum educational requirement for many of these positions, but earning a master's degree can help set you apart from the competition and lead to higher salaries.
Although earnings vary by specific occupation, the demand for sports medicine professionals remains strong.
What Is Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine focuses on athletic conditioning and nutrition, as well as the treatment of injuries related to sports activities. As sports medicine encompasses several health and wellness activities, many of these professionals specialize in a specific type of care. For example, they may focus on physical therapy, athletic performance training, or dietary advice.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Sports Medicine Programs of 2020?
|1||Florida Atlantic University||Boca Raton, FL|
|2||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|3||Sam Houston State University||Huntsville, TX|
|4||The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||Edinburg, TX|
|5||Concordia University Chicago||River Forest, IL|
|6||Logan University||Chesterfield, MO|
|7||California Baptist University||Riverside, CA|
|8||University of Louisiana at Monroe||Monroe, LA|
|9||University of Wyoming||Laramie, WY|
|10||Concordia University-Saint Paul||Saint Paul, MN|
Should I Get a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Students who earn an on-campus or online master's degree in sports medicine learn how to help people perform better and recover from athletic injuries. As such, students learn how to conduct safe exercise practices, develop personalized workout routines, and create dietary plans. Learners also build strong communication and leadership skills, as they often work with many different types of clients.The demand for sports medicine professionals continues to increase, with many careers growing much faster than the average occupation in the U.S. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the demand for athletic trainers will grow by 19% between 2018 and 2028.Earning an on-campus or online master's in sports medicine can also prepare you to pursue a related doctoral degree. As an example, graduates can go on to earn a doctor of physical therapy and find employment as a physical therapist. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $89,400, and the BLS projects this field to grow by 22% from 2018-2028.
What Will I Learn in a Sports Medicine Graduate Program?
Sports medicine graduate programs explore advanced topics like exercise physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, and sports psychology. Required courses often incorporate research methods and diverse training exercises that provide learners with the skills and knowledge needed to create and lead their own physical activity programs. At the graduate level, many sports medicine programs offer concentrations that allow students to align their studies with their personal career interests. Some programs also feature clinical internship opportunities that give students the chance to apply exercise science concepts in professional settings, such as hospitals and athletic facilities.
Students may pursue concentrations in fields like kinesiology, sports nutrition, and exercise physiology.
Kinesiology courses examine the mechanics of human movement and how mobility and proper body alignment can impact overall health. Learners study the principles and concepts of fitness and exercise science, human anatomy, and biomechanics.
- Advanced Exercise Physiology
This course examines the bioenergetics of human movement and the body's hormonal responses to exercise. Students learn about patient-focused research practices and gain intensive lab experience.
- Sports Nutrition
This course provides students foundational knowledge in exercise nutrition science. As diet plays a central role in maintaining health and peak athletic performance, students learn how to develop proper nutritional plans for athletes.
This course examines the role that human anatomy — primarily the musculoskeletal system — plays in athletic performance. Learners study biomechanical principles to better understand how internal and external forces impact the body's balance and movements.
- Principles of Physical Therapy
This course teaches students how to interpret and analyze human anatomy systems to effectively manage various health conditions and injuries. Learners study clinical rehabilitation processes and therapeutic exercise concepts.
One of the most popular concentrations in sports medicine, kinesiology primarily focuses on the science of human movement. Students explore concepts relating to biomechanics and often practice physical testing to better understand athletic exercises and movement processes.
- Injury Prevention
This concentration typically focuses on courses related to corrective exercise practices and rehabilitation. Learners explore the latest research and technological developments in sports performance training, learning to help athletes maintain peak physical performance.
- Exercise Physiology
This concentration focuses on human physiological responses to physical activities. Students typically learn about the effects of exercise on the neuromuscular and cardiorespiratory systems, as well as ways to optimize human performance.
- Strength and Conditioning
This concentration typically covers the theory of resistance training and the application of various training methods. Learners study the foundations of exercise science and physiology to better understand how the human body responds to conditioning techniques.
- Nutrition and Wellness
This concentration explores the relationships between diet, energy, and sports performance. Students take an in-depth look into key nutritional principles and the role diet plays in injury prevention and overall physical health.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Graduates with a sports medicine master's degree enjoy abundant career opportunities across the health and wellness sector. Graduates can pursue careers with hospitals and professional sports teams, where they may work as athletic trainers or sports nutritionists. They can also explore positions in private offices and clinics as exercise physiologists.
- Exercise Physiologists
Along with developing fitness programs, exercise physiologists help people recover from diseases and athletic injuries. They also work to improve clients' range of motion and flexibility to improve overall health.
- Sports Nutritionist
Sports nutritionists primarily focus on providing their clients with personalized dietary advice, and they often serve several clients at once. These specialists may also assist athletes with weight loss or weight gain.
- Secondary School Teacher
Individuals who earn an on-campus or online degree in sports medicine can become physical education teachers at high schools. These educators help students stay fit and develop healthy habits and active lifestyles. Teachers at public schools must also earn a state-issued license.
- Athletic Trainer
These specialists assist in the prevention and treatment of athletic injuries. Often acting as one of the first responders to on-field athletic injuries, athletic trainers are typically responsible for evaluating athletes and providing immediate treatment.
- Fitness Trainers and Instructors
These instructors create exercise plans and lead individuals or groups in fitness activities. Whether teaching group classes or working one-on-one, these trainers assist with exercise routines and monitor their clients' progress and techniques.
How to Choose a Sports Medicine Master's Program
When choosing between sports medicine programs, there are several factors to consider, including cost and available concentrations. Many schools offer multiple sports medicine tracks, so you should first decide which area of study you are interested in pursuing. Finding a concentration that aligns with your professional interests will put you on the most direct path to achieving your career goals.The next factor you should consider is cost. Make sure you review each of your prospective schools' tuition rates, housing expenses, and estimated textbook fees. Additionally, many schools offer scholarships, which can help reduce overall expenses.Students with full-time jobs or family obligations may also want to consider enrolling in an online program. The added flexibility of an online program can help you maintain other responsibilities while earning your master's degree. Online programs also let you avoid on-campus living costs.
How to Get Into a Sports Medicine Master's Program
Admission requirements vary among sports medicine master's programs. While exercise physiology programs often require professional experience working with or observing current practitioners, sports nutrition programs often do not. Most online master's degrees in sports medicine generally require a bachelor's degree in a related field, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. Additional requirements, such as a minimum GPA or GRE scores, vary by school and program.Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Sports Medicine?
Most master's programs in sports medicine require 30-36 credits. Full-time students can graduate in under two years, while part-time learners may need additional time.Some accelerated programs allow students to graduate more quickly. At the University of Texas Rio Grande, for example, distance learners can enroll in an accelerated online program in kinesiology and earn their degree in one year.Students may also want to consider earning additional certifications upon graduation. Even though certifications are typically not required for employment, they can give you a competitive edge in your field.
For example, graduate students can consider pursuing sports medicine certifications like the certified strength and conditioning specialist and the certified personal trainer credentials offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Master's in Sports Medicine?
The cost of a master's degree in sports medicine depends on several factors, including whether you choose an in-state or out-of-state program and whether you attend a public or private school.Additionally, online programs are often more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, and some schools allow out-of-state distance learners to pay in-state tuition rates.