Best Online Exercise Science Programs

Learn about online bachelor's in exercise science programs. Read about college courses and career options in this field to help inform your path forward in this field of study.

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by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Published on May 19, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Exercise science draws from physiology, kinesiology, psychology, and other disciplines to explore how the human body moves and responds to physical exertion. A bachelor's degree in this field also exposes students to body mechanics at the molecular and cellular levels and how environmental factors influence bodily movements.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average yearly tuition, fees, and room and board at public universities were about $19,370 in 2020-2021. At private schools, the average annual amount was $45,920. An online bachelor's in exercise science can cost less because learners typically do not pay for housing or transportation, but they might face extra technology fees.

Students typically need about 120 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor's in exercise science. The program usually takes most students about four years to complete. Students earning their degrees online can choose asynchronous classes or an accelerated program that can shorten the time to finish.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects growth rates for many exercise science jobs to meet or exceed the average growth rate of 8% across all occupations. For instance, the BLS projects exercise physiologist jobs will grow 13% between 2020-2030, while positions for fitness trainers and instructors will increase 39% in the same period.

An exercise science professional's location, years of experience, and occupation can influence their salary. For example, Payscale reports that wellness directors made an average annual wage of $61,300 in May 2022. In contrast, strength and conditioning coaches earned an average of $40,880 each year as of April 2022.

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

Active people who want to help others enjoy optimal physical health might consider a bachelor's in exercise science. Successful students also tend to enjoy exercise and physical activity. Other qualities that make a person suitable for an online bachelor's in exercise science include strong communication skills, patience, and rapport-building.

To earn a bachelor's of exercise science, students typically must complete 120 course credits, which takes most learners four years. Individuals who want to graduate sooner might consider an online program with flexible course scheduling, allowing some learners to shorten their graduation time.

In addition to requisite and elective courses, most exercise science students complete a capstone project in their senior year. They also might pursue an internship to gain practical experience.

Exercise science programs typically offer a bachelor of science (BS) degree, which requires more courses in science and mathematics than a bachelor of arts (BA). Also, students earning a BS learn problem-solving and analytical reasoning skills to prepare for more applied careers.

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Popular Online Exercise Science 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?

Biomechanics

This course combines engineering and physics to explain how the body moves. It also explores how muscles, joints, nerves, bones, and other tissues work together to help the body function.

Applied Nutrition

Applied nutrition teaches students about nutritional concepts and theories related to fitness and health. The class covers how people's dietary needs change as they age and how to improve exercise performance through proper food intake.

Fitness Management

This course combines business, exercise physiology, and fitness studies to provide an interdisciplinary exposure to fitness management. The class can benefit students pursuing wellness director or coordinator jobs.

Kinesiology

Kinesiology integrates psychology, biomechanics, and anatomy. The course exposes students to the mechanics behind how the body moves, how movement affects physical and psychological health, and what factors can improve mobility.

Sports Psychology

This course teaches learners about the two-way connection between psychology and sports performance. Sports psychology can benefit professionals who help people handle the pressures of competition, increase motivation, and visualize athletic achievement.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online College Students The Student's Guide to College Planning The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

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

Programs offering a bachelor's in exercise science generally require applicants to possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Individuals pursuing an online degree typically must meet the same requirements for admission. Online schools that hold accreditation typically are just as rigorous as traditional institutions.

Application

First, students need to complete an application, which they typically do online. The application usually comes with a fee, which a school might waive if students can show financial need. Most schools use their own online application system, or an online portal like the Common Application (Common App).

Test Scores

Entrance exams measure students' verbal, writing, and mathematical abilities. Most prospective students should expect to submit at least one ACT or SAT score as part of their applications, although some online programs are test-optional. Applicants with low GPAs might receive consideration if they possess a high entrance exam score.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation can give insights about students that entrance exam scores and GPAs might not reveal. If requested, students should submit 1-3 letters from teachers, employers, or mentors who can speak to their work ethic, personal characteristics, and achievements. Applicants should give letter writers ample time to finish their letters well before application deadlines.

Essays

Many admissions officials put considerable weight on the application essay, which allows students to highlight their career goals, interest in a school, and academic accomplishments. This essay should contain an introduction, body, and conclusion. It should also directly answer the question or prompt in the application instructions.

Official Transcripts

Bachelor's of exercise science programs generally require transcripts from high school or a previous postsecondary institution. In addition to completed courses, academic transcripts include a student's cumulative GPA. Applicants coming from a two-year college might be able to transfer some of their credits to the school to which they are applying.

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

Career Outlook

People with a bachelor's in exercise science will likely see a growing need for their skills, as will many health professionals. The BLS projects that many exercise science jobs will likely increase. For example, positions for recreational therapists and exercise psychologists are projected to grow by 10% and 13%, respectively, between 2020-2030. These projections exceed the average growth rates of all occupations in the same period.

A bachelor's in exercise science can grant graduates access to various careers in sports and entertainment, healthcare, education and training, and personal care. Some of the most popular positions in exercise science include fitness trainer and instructor, exercise psychologist, physical therapist assistant or aide, and exercise physiologist.

Salaries for jobs in exercise science vary by occupation, location, and educational background. According to the BLS, recreational therapists earned a median annual salary of $47,940 in 2021, higher than the median of $45,760 for all occupations in the same year. In contrast, coaches and scouts made a median annual salary of $38,970. Accumulating work experience typically increases a person's salary.

Career Paths

Recreational Therapist

A bachelor's in exercise science can qualify someone to become a recreational therapist. This professional helps people with injuries and disabilities plan their exercise and movement plans. They often incorporate music, dance, sports, games, and other approaches to enhance patients' and clients' physical and mental well-being.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $47,940

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists create and modify exercise and fitness programs for clients managing various health conditions like heart disease. These professionals work closely with patients to track their medical histories and collect vital statistics. They use that information to formulate fitness programs that meet their unique health needs.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $47,940

Personal Trainer

Fitness or personal trainers work with groups and individuals to help them improve their physical fitness and endurance. At the individual level, these trainers assess clients' initial fitness levels, evaluate their health goals, and create individualized exercise plans. These professionals can also teach group exercise classes.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $40,700

Strength and Conditioning Coach

These professionals help athletes prevent or reduce injuries and increase their performance and endurance. These coaches typically follow National Strength and Conditioning Association guidelines when creating programs for individual clients or sports teams. They also usually work with athletic trainers to help athletes recover from injuries.

Average Annual Salary (May 2022): $40,880

Wellness Director

Wellness directors work for corporations, community centers, and other entities to create and manage wellness and physical fitness programs. This professional typically holds a leadership position, overseeing personnel, factoring in employees' health goals in organizational planning, and monitoring organization-wide health and safety campaigns.

Average Annual Salary: $61,300

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

Healthcare Careers Sports Medicine Careers Physical Therapy Careers

Continuing Education

While many jobs exist for people with an online bachelor's in exercise science, some graduates can pursue graduate degrees to increase their earning potential and expand their job prospects. For example, an exercise science degree can prepare someone for a master's in exercise science as well as a doctor of physical therapy or a master's in counseling psychology. Advanced degrees can lead to leadership roles and directorships.

Professionals can also expand their careers by earning certificates or licenses in specializations. For example, the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offer certifications in exercise physiology. Positions vary in their licensing or certification requirements.

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

Cost

According to the NCES, the average yearly tuition, fees, and room and board at public universities was about $19,370 in 2020-2021, with private colleges costing more. Online students pay about the same tuition as enrollees in on-campus programs, but they may pay less for housing or transportation. However, they might have to pay more in technology and support fees.

Program Format

Students who want a traditional college experience might prefersynchronous classes to take advantage of classroom discussions. On the other hand, working professionals who can only attend college part time might findasynchronous courses more suitable. Professionals who need to finish their degrees quickly might consideraccelerated programs that allow them to enter the job market faster.

Location

Although students can earn an online bachelor's in exercise science from almost anywhere, enrolling in an online school nearby presents advantages. For example, many programs require learners to attend on-campus lectures. Others offer to connect students to local internship opportunities.

Accreditation

Students pursuing an online bachelor's in exercise science should look foraccredited schools. Institutional and programmatic accreditation verify that a postsecondary institution and program exceed standards for academic excellence and rigor. Enrolling in a program at a school without accreditation can keep a student from securing financial aid or transferring credits to another institution.

Student Support

Online enrollees should take advantage of thestudent services their schools offer. For example, they may help students findinternship opportunities, establishmentoring relationships, find tutoring, and seek academic advising. Anoffice of student services can provide a more well-rounded college experience. It can also support a person's job search after graduation.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Programs

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Best Online Bachelor's in Exercise Science Programs

  1. California Baptist University
    Location

    Riverside, CA

    Based in Riverside, California Baptist University offers a fully online bachelor's in kinesiology for students seeking a flexible degree completion program. This program consists of 50 major credits and typically takes students 18 months to complete.

    Graduates can go on to work as exercise physiologists, athletic trainers, nuclear medicine technologists, and nuclear medicine technologists. Required courses include applied movement anatomy, lifelong motor development, and care and prevention of athletic injury.

    This program meets the standards set out by both the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. Regardless of their location, online learners pay $613 per credit (as of August 2021).

    CBU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  2. Concordia University-Saint Paul
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Concordia University, St. Paul's online bachelor's in exercise science serves degree completion students looking to graduate quickly. Consisting of 44 credits taught in eight-week courses, this program delivers all coursework asynchronously.

    Required coursework covers topics like sport business; foundations of exercise and sports science; applied exercise prescription; and motor development, control, and motor learning. All students must complete an internship. Graduates often go on to work in coaching, health and wellness education, personal training, and rehabilitation.

    Applicants must provide official transcripts from all previous schools with a minimum GPA of 2.0. All prospective students must also have access to a computer that meets CSP's technology requirements.

    CSP is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise Science Programs

Is a bachelor's in exerccise science worth it? true

People who possess a passion for physical fitness and want to motivate others to take care of their health might find exercise science a worthwhile career. An online bachelor's in exercise sciences can provide the expertise that qualifies people for various jobs in the health industry.

A bachelor's degree can also serve as a stepping stone to a master's degree in a related field like exercise physiology. Regardless of the degree, an online program provides flexibility that allows working professionals to progress through their coursework and graduate at their own pace.

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

Abachelor's in exercise science can open doors to various jobs. Possible occupations include athletic trainer, fitness instructor, exercise psychologist, personal trainer, recreation coordinator, wellness director, and sports coach. Some degree holders even participate in athletic competitions.

Exercise science professionals can find work in various industries like healthcare, entertainment and sports, personal care and service, education, and physical sciences. Individuals can also continue their education and expand their job prospects with a certification like the certified health education specialist (CHES) orcertified exercise psychologist (EP-C).

Are exercise science majors in demand? true

Job growth for exercise science professionals will likely equal or exceed the 8% average rate for all occupations, depending on the industry, location, and specific job. The BLS projects positions forrecreational therapists andfitness trainers will increase by 10% and 39%, respectively, between 2020-2030.

The demand for exercise science professionals is driven partly by the need to serve an aging population and help people with age-related injuries and other physiological issues. Also, companies increasingly see the benefits of corporate wellness programs that promote employee physical fitness.

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

Salaries for a bachelor's of exercise science graduates depend on years of work experience, education, and location. Payscale reports that exercise physiologists earned a mean hourly wage of almost $21 in April 2022. Individuals with 20 or more years of experience earned an average of $26 per hour.

Professionals who want more competitive salaries might consider pursuing a master's or doctorate in exercise science. Advanced degrees can qualify individuals to work as physical therapists, rehabilitation counselors, or postsecondary instructors.

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

Exercise science professionals in management or leadership positions earn some of the highest salaries in this field. According to Payscale,athletic directors made an average annual pay of $60,620 in April 2022, with the top 10% making an average of more than $100,000 per year.

People in exercise science who do not work in management can increase their earning potential with years of experience. For example, the BLS reports that the top 10% offitness instructors and trainers made median annual salaries of over $75,940 in 2021.

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