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Published on July 17, 2020

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Increasingly, aspiring health and fitness professionals choose to earn an exercise science degree to take better advantage of an expanding variety of career paths. For example, many employers now offer in-house wellness programs — a driving trend behind the exercise science field's strong projected growth rates.

This page details associate programs in exercise science. You can learn about common program features, explore curriculum overviews, review typical admission requirements and career paths, and discover answers to frequently asked questions.

What Are the Best Exercise Science Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Four:

#1 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS
#2 Clarendon College Clarendon, TX
#3 San Antonio College San Antonio, TX
#4 Finger Lakes Community College Canandaigua, NY

Robust job growth rates continue to drive increased interest in exercise science degrees as aspiring fitness professionals train to enter this dynamic field. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for fitness trainers and instructors is projected to increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028, marking an unusually high level of increased demand.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Exercise Science Programs

East Mississippi Community College View School Profile Scooba, MS

EMCC oversees main campuses in Mayhew and Scooba, Mississippi; multiple statewide learning centers; and an online division. The college enrolls more than 4,000 students and offers more than 20 traditional and online undergraduate, professional, and certificate programs.

EMCC offers an associate in exercise science as a career-technical transfer program. The curriculum comprises general education coursework and major classes in subjects like anatomy and physiology, personal and community health, and first aid and CPR. Students can take online classes through the Mississippi Virtual Community College.

Earning an AA in exercise science at EMCC prepares graduates to transfer credits toward a four-year university program. Applicants must submit high school transcripts, including their graduation date and final GPA. The college also prefers that applicants submit ACT scores for admission consideration.

Clarendon College View School Profile Clarendon, TX

The Southern Methodist Episcopal Church established CC in 1898. This Texas-based college offers dozens of undergraduate, professional, and certificate programs across six academic departments -- on campus and online.

The AA in physical education at CC prepares students to transfer to four-year universities as physical education or kinesiology majors. The 60-credit program spans two years (four semesters). Topics include introduction to physical fitness and sport, first aid, and sports officiating.

CC accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. CC encourages each distance learner to complete an online orientation course in Moodle Rooms student training before enrolling in virtual classes.

San Antonio College View School Profile San Antonio, TX

SAC is one of the nation's largest community colleges. The college enrolls roughly 20,000 students each year and offers more than 200 undergraduate, professional, and certificate programs on campus and online.

The school's AA in kinesiology comprises 60 credits. The curriculum of this program prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's in kinesiology or exercise science program at a four-year university, such as at the University of Texas at San Antonio or Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Online coursework at SAC follows the same semester schedule as traditional classes. The college offers fully online and hybrid course options for distance learners. Each degree-seeker must complete an orientation course (on campus or online) before enrolling in for-credit classes.

Finger Lakes Community College View School Profile Canandaigua, NY

FLCC enrolls nearly 6,000 students online and at its campus in Canandaigua, New York. The college offers undergraduate programs in more than 50 areas of academic study, including more than 25 online associate degrees and certificates.

FLCC's AS in kinesiology and human performance comprises 64 credits of program core, general education, and elective courses. The curriculum emphasizes wellness, anatomy, injury rehabilitation, and sports performance improvement. Students can complete their online associate degree in four semesters.

FLCC boasts a 92% employment rate among graduates of its AS and AA programs. Distance learners can access help through online academic advising, information technology assistance, and disability services. Students may apply for enrollment at the beginning of any term.

Online Associate in Exercise Science Program Overview

Students who earn an online associate degree in exercise science develop a sound educational base for launching an entry-level career; this is especially true for emerging professionals seeking traditional employment. Formal schooling enhances your ability to understand, explain, and apply the scientific principles that optimize client-oriented fitness programs. Although some career paths may require a bachelor's degree, an associate program also delivers an excellent knowledge foundation for further study at a higher level.

From a curricular standpoint, exercise science programs mainly teach students how to design, refine, and customize workout programs for individual and group clients. They also focus on kinetics, biomechanics, and nutrition planning, while integrating the latest research developments from the world of sports science.

Prospective students seeking online learning opportunities should note that many exercise science programs have hybrid delivery formats. A complete exercise science education benefits from the hands-on practice that learners can obtain under the tutelage and supervision of an established professional.

Common Associate in Exercise Science Degree Courses

Introduction to Exercise Physiology

This course introduces students to the practical applications of kinesiology, biomechanics, and exercise science. It emphasizes the benefits and impacts of exercise on the human body in the context of fitness instruction, while also building an advanced understanding of functional anatomy.

Introduction to Evidence-Based Health Practice

Exercise science professionals must be able to read health-related literature and research reports. This course teaches students about the fundamental aspects of evidence-based approaches to human health. Because it builds on existing mathematics, English, and critical analysis skills, such classes may have prerequisite requirements.

Instructional Competency

The curriculum of an online associate degree in exercise science typically contains courses or modules designed to advance student proficiencies with specific exercise subtypes. Specifics vary among programs, but curricula may cover strength and conditioning, flexibility training, aerobic training, and cardiorespiratory exercises, among other topics.

Client Assessment and Health Program Design

Programs also tend to feature courses or modules that teach learners about professional client assessment and program design. As with instructional competency, these components focus on specific subcategories, such as weight management, muscular fitness, and cardiovascular fitness.

Internship or Practicum

Students who earn an online associate degree in exercise science often culminate their studies with a field placement, internship, or practical training component. These requirements match learners with established fitness professionals in clinical and professional settings where participants can apply their knowledge to practical situations.

Online Associate in Exercise Science Admission Requirements

To apply for admission into an associate program in exercise science, you must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. A GED certificate functions as the most common substitute, though some states offer proficiency examinations as GED alternatives.

Schools typically request and evaluate your high school transcripts as part of the application process. Each institution maintains its own standards for academic achievement, but minimum GPA requirements commonly fall between 2.0 and 3.0.

Associate programs in exercise science may request personal statements or essays to gain further insight into your motivations for applying. In general, schools look for evidence of your commitment to a career in health and fitness.

Though these usually apply to programs at the bachelor's and master's levels, some schools may request one or more letters of recommendation. These should be written by established professionals or other authoritative individuals who can personally attest to the quality of your candidacy.

Some exercise science programs include first aid and CPR training as part of their graduation requirements, while others do not. Programs that fall into the latter category may favorably evaluate applications submitted by candidates with documented first aid and health crisis response skills.

Online Associate in Exercise Science Career Paths

Earning an online associate degree in exercise science meets the educational requirements needed to launch a career as a fitness instructor or personal trainer. Many exercise science and kinesiology degree-holders also go on to become exercise physiologists, although this path usually requires an upgrade to a bachelor's degree.

An associate degree in this field also serves as a strong foundation for careers that require additional forms of specialized training or licensure. These options include occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a degree in exercise science worth it?

As health and wellness continues to emerge as a higher priority for individuals, businesses, and organizations, the demand for specially trained exercise science and fitness professionals should continue to grow. Earning a degree signals to potential employers that you are dedicated to this field.

What kind of job can you get with an exercise science degree?

Many exercise science graduates pursue self-employment or freelance careers as personal trainers and fitness instructors. They may also work in numerous professional environments, such as gyms and fitness clubs, rehabilitation centers, health clinics, and corporate settings. With additional training, degree-holders may also qualify for careers in physical and occupational therapy, exercise physiology, and education.

What is the salary of an exercise science major?

BLS data from 2019 indicates that fitness trainers and instructors enjoy median earnings of more than $40,000 per year. The agency also anticipates very high job growth in the field between 2018 and 2028, projecting the creation of more than 45,000 new positions in the United States.

Are exercise scientists in high demand?

Formally trained exercise science professionals currently benefit from high demand — a trend that the BLS believes will accelerate during the 2020s. Many businesses and corporations now host their own fitness programs for employees. This emerging trend is expected to continue.

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