Best Online Exercise Science Programs of 2021

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by Staff Writers
Published on December 9, 2021
Edited by Darlene Earnest

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Exercise science is the study of movement and how it affects the body, with related areas of study including kinesiology and athletic training.

Thinking about pursuing a degree in exercise science? Since online colleges have made higher education more accessible than ever, it's never been a better time to kickstart a career in the health and wellness industry.

In fact, between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs available for health education specialists and community health workers is projected to increase by 17% — more than twice the average pace of job growth for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Program?

Typically, a bachelor of science degree in exercise science is a four-year program that requires 120 credits. This degree can be completed on-campus or, in many instances, through an online program. There are also accelerated program options that can help you get your degree in less time.

Exercise science programs may include a capstone project and/or internship to help students improve their skills in the field.

Students pursuing an online bachelor's in exercise science should be active and enjoy physical activity. They also should be interested in wellness, nutrition, and helping others carry out a healthier lifestyle.

Successful exercise science students tend to have strong social skills, excellent communication abilities, compassion, patience, and a passion for helping others.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.

Featured Online Programs

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

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Program?

Online bachelor's in exercise science programs typically include a wide range of courses that can help prepare students for a career in the fitness and health industry.

Through these courses, students can gain a well-rounded understanding of human physical activity. In addition to traditional coursework, many programs also require a hands-on practical application portion in the form of an internship, volunteer opportunity, or capstone project.

Some of these courses include:

Biomechanics

Biomechanics integrates the laws of physics and concepts of engineering. Studies in biomechanics address a wide range of topics — from the mechanical function of muscles to connective tissues, cartilage, skin, nerves, joints, bones, and internal organs.

Kinesiology

Kinesiology studies the mechanics of human movements and their impact on our health and well-being. Students will learn how to combine a holistic approach with principles from the sciences. These include anatomy, biomechanics, and psychology. The goal is to help increase or repair patients' physical mobility.

Fitness Management

Fitness management is an interdisciplinary field blending scientific knowledge of exercise physiology and fitness studies with practical business skills. This knowledge can help students prepare for careers like wellness coordinator and fitness coordinator, among others.

Applied Nutrition

In applied nutrition courses, students learn the fundamentals of nutrition and how they affect health and fitness. Students will learn how nutritional needs change throughout a person's lifetime and how good nutrition strategies can improve health and exercise performance.

Sports Psychology

In sports psychology courses, students learn about the relationship between physical performance and psychology. Topics of study may include motivation, competition, and influences that can affect athletic performance.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Program?

Typical requirements to enroll in a bachelor's degree program include having a high school or GED diploma. The admission process for an online bachelor's in exercise science program may also include:

An Application

Prospective students will need to complete an application, which is typically done through an online platform or the school's website. However, many institutions can also supply paper applications. There may be a fee associated with application processing.

Test Scores

Most colleges will require ACT or SAT scores for admission. Some may use additional entrance exams to help measure math, verbal, analytical, and writing skills.

Letters of Recommendation

Many colleges will ask for letters of recommendation, typically 1-3 letters. This isn't something to overlook. In fact, a 2019 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that admissions officers ranked recommendations as more important than applicants' extracurricular activities, work history, and exam scores.

Take time to consider who to ask to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf — teachers, school counselors, mentors, former bosses and supervisors, and former professors. They should be people who can comment on your qualifications and/or academic abilities. Be sure to give them plenty of time to write their letters — well ahead of the school's deadlines.

Essays

The essay portion of a college application helps an admissions department understand a prospective student's goals, expectations, mindset, and what they can bring to the college and program.

Official Transcripts

Most online exercise science programs will require official transcripts. If a student is applying immediately after attending high school or earning a GED certificate, those high school transcripts should be submitted.

There are numerous paths available to earning a bachelor's degree, and one of the most affordable is to attend a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year school. Students planning to take this route should check if the online exercise science program they are applying to accepts transfer credits from their previous college.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Degree?

What can you do with an online bachelor's in exercise science degree?

The short answer? A lot!

Exercise science programs can help prepare graduates to pursue multiple roles, including:

This degree can also prepare students to earn additional credentials such as:

Career Outlook

The career outlook for students earning a bachelor's in exercise science appears to be bright.

The BLS projects the number of healthcare jobs will grow 16% from 2020-2030. The demand for exercise science graduates in healthcare professions is expected to follow that growth path. So it's easy to see why health professions rank high among the most popular college majors.

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for healthcare practitioners was $69,870, as of May 2020. This was higher than the average annual salary of $41,950 for all occupations. Keep in mind that salaries in healthcare professions will vary based on job role, location, experience, and more.

Career Paths

There are numerous career paths you can take after graduating from an online exercise science program. Here are just a few examples:

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers create programs for individuals and groups to improve their physical fitness and health. They will assess a client's starting physical fitness levels, develop a tailored exercise regimen, and monitor progress to help meet the client's goals. The BLS categorizes personal trainers as fitness trainers and instructors.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $40,510

Exercise Physiologist

An exercise physiologist develops fitness and exercise programs for healthy people and for those with acute or chronic conditions. Before delivering treatment services, exercise physiologists analyze the medical histories of patients, using this health data to develop the best exercise regimens for their unique healthcare needs.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $50,280

Wellness Director

A wellness director develops physical fitness and wellness programs for organizations, such as corporations and community centers. This is a leadership position. It often involves helping companies implement wellness programs for their employees.

Average Annual Salary (as of October 2021): $60,370

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning coaches create programs to improve athletic performance and prevent injuries. These coaches develop strength and conditioning programs that follow National Strength and Conditioning Association guidelines. These professionals often work with schools and professional sports teams.

Average Annual Salary (as of November 2021): $40,910

Recreational Therapist

A recreational therapist helps to plan movement and exercise programs for people with disabilities or injuries. The BLS projects the number of jobs for recreational therapists will grow 10% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $47,710

Exercise Science Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

An online degree in exercise science can provide a strong academic foundation for students who decide to pursue graduate and professional degrees in a wide array of health careers.

This could include exercise physiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training, and more. Students could also continue on in their field of study to earn a master's degree in exercise science. This may help learners pursue leadership roles in the field.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Program?

There are many factors to consider when choosing where to pursue an online degree in exercise science.

Here are a few things to consider:

Cost

Online learners and on-campus students have many of the same expenses. All prospective students have to decide whether to attend a private vs. public school and an in-state vs. out-of-state school. These factors can determine how much you pay in tuition.

Distance learners should also calculate the true cost of an online program. These can include costs for transportation to any on-campus requirements, online fees, and books and supplies, among other things.

Online students also will need a reliable computer and internet connection to participate in their classes. They may have additional costs related to online science lab kits and exam proctoring services.

If you plan to attend a public college or university, make sure to find out whether online students also qualify for in-state tuition at your chosen institution.

Program Format

Online degrees in exercise sciences can have various formats.

Synchronous programs require students to virtually attend classes at a scheduled time. Asynchronous online learning allows students to complete coursework on their own schedule. This often means watching recorded lectures and doing assigned readings at their convenience. This can give students more flexibility if they are juggling school, work, and family obligations.

Both synchronous and asynchronous learning formats rely on tools such as email communication, online forums, audio and video recordings, virtual libraries, and lecture notes.

There are also accelerated online exercise science programs designed to allow students to enter the job market faster. They can complete their coursework in less time.

Location

When choosing an online exercise science program, should you still choose a school that is geographically close to you?

It depends on the program format.

For example, if the online program has some on-campus requirements, such as attending an on-site lab twice a semester, choosing a nearby college may be necessary. On the other hand, if the program is fully remote, you may decide to choose a program that is not in your geographic location.

Accreditation

Accreditation is an evaluation process to ensure colleges are meeting certain educational standards agreed upon by federal, state, and nongovernmental agencies.

Schools without proper accreditation offer no guarantee of adequate academic or professional preparation. You may not be able to transfer their credits to other accredited institutions. So, it's important to choose an online exercise science program with the right accreditation.

Student Support

It's important that the online exercise science program you choose offers student support options that fit your needs. This could include mentorship services, help landing internships, resume editing, and more.

All of these services can help improve your academic and social experience while earning your online degree. These student services can also help ease the transition when it's time to enter the job market.

2021 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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California Baptist University true View School Profile Riverside, CA

California Baptist University provides an online bachelor's in exercise science with a concentration in kinesiology for students seeking a degree completion program. Classes required for this degree include lifelong motor development, care and prevention of athletic injury, behavioral aspects of sports, and contemporary health issues.

Program faculty members include athletic directors, public school teachers, and other professionals with relevant experience. Admission requirements include at least 24 transferable credits, a minimum 2.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, an essay, and a completed application.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $613
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 50 credits
  • Degree Completion Program: Yes
  • Instruction Style: Asynchronous
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American College of Sports Medicine
  • School Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Concordia University-Saint Paul true View School Profile Saint Paul, MN

The online bachelor's in exercise science at Concordia University, St. Paul offers a complete degree program but also accepts transfer students. The school reports that within one year of graduation, 95% of recent program alumni had jobs. Topics covered in the program include applied exercise prescription, foundations of exercise and sports science, applied nutrition, and functional anatomy.

Before graduating learners participate in an internship. Application requirements include official transcripts from regionally accredited institutions, a minimum 2.0 GPA, an essay, and proof that the student's computer meets the university's technology requirements.

Program Snapshot

  • Program URL: Visit Program
  • Cost-per-Credit: $420
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120
  • Degree Completion Program: No
  • Instruction Style: Asynchronous
  • Format: Online
  • School Status: Private
  • Program Accreditation: N/A
  • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Exercise Science Programs

Is an online bachelor's degree in exercise science worth it? true

Online programs are absolutely worth it, depending on the student's needs and circumstances. Online programs can offer convenience and flexibility. The can be completed in a part-time format if the student is currently working.

Exercise science programs can give you the educational background to pursue a variety of jobs in the in-demand health field.

What can I do with a bachelor's in exercise science? true

Exercise science programs can prepare graduates for numerous job roles. Some potential job roles include athletic trainer, personal trainer, fitness instructor, recreation coordinator, exercise physiologist, coach, and wellness director, among others.

Are exercise science majors in demand? true

Very much so! In fact, the BLS projects that 2.6 million new jobs in healthcare will be added from 2020-2030. The demand for exercise science graduates in healthcare professions is expected to follow that growth trajectory.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in exercise science?

According to the BLS, healthcare professionals have a median annual salary of $69,870, as of May 2020. This salary can vary depending on location, experience, and job role.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in exercise science?

According to Payscale, the top athletic directors reported earning an average annual salary of just over $100,000, as of November 2021. BLS reports the top 10% of fitness trainers and instructors earn more than $76,550 each year.

There are higher-paying careers in the exercise science field that will require advanced education, such as attending medical school or going for a master's degree, after earning a bachelor's in exercise science degree.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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