Exercise Science Careers: What you Can Do with This Degree

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What You Can Do With an Exercise Science Degree

With an exercise science degree, you can pursue a career in any of the four main health-fitness sectors: sport, industry, health and education. Some careers you may be able to jump right into, while others may require further education and experience.


Fortunately, if you have a passion to go further academically in your field, you will also be in a very strong position to apply to graduate school with a bachelor's degree in exercise science.


An undergraduate degree in this field also serves as a great foundation for advanced study in exercise science and other areas such as exercise physiology, medicine, cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy, sports nutrition, sports medicine, biomechanics or other health related disciplines.


This guide contains detailed occupational information on career paths relevant to this degree. Included are job descriptions, expected salaries, educational requirements and other pertinent information related to these careers. We’ve also included exercise science-specific scholarships to help you pay for school!




What Exercise Science Programs Teach You

Exercise science degree programs in Canada and the United States are typically designed to provide you with the knowledge, skills and abilities to become a competent professional in entry-level health and fitness careers.


The core component of exercise science programs involves the study of physical activity and the associated acute and chronic physiological responses and adaptations resulting from it. Coursework in these programs typically covers exercise science fundamentals in the first few years of study, with the latter years providing a more in-depth view of these topics.


Some programs may offer complimentary coursework in health/fitness business management principles, in order to prepare you for a role as a health and fitness manager, or as an entrepreneur. Many undergraduate exercise science degree programs involve real-world experience, wherein you are taught hands-on skills such as the appropriate use of relevant equipment, and the application of various techniques, such as those used in sports medicine.




Careers with an Exercise Science Degree

Technically, there is no limit to what you can actually "do" (in the working world) with an exercise science degree; it won't stop you from doing anything. It might not make sense however, to pursue this degree if you want to get into a field where a set of unrelated skills is needed, such as accounting.


What this degree is helpful however, is for providing a knowledge base and foundation that can be directly or indirectly applied to the following occupations and career fields:


1. Activity Specialist

2. Aerobics Instructor

3. Anatomist

4. Athletic Director

5. Athletic Scout

6. Athletic Therapist

7. Blogger

8. Camp Director

9. Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist

10. Chiropractor

11. Community Program Director

12. Dietitian

13. Entrepreneur

14. Ergonomist

15. Exercise Physiologist

16. Fitness Coach

17. Fitness Consultant

18. Gym Manager

19. Health Care Aide

20. Health Care Consultant

21. Health Educator

22. Kinesiologist

23. Massage Therapist

24. Military Officer

25. Occupational Therapist

26. Occupational Therapist Assistant

27. Orthopaedic Technician

28. Osteopathic Physician

29. Personal Trainer

30. Physical Education Teacher

31. Physical Therapy Assistant

32. Physiologist

33. Physiotherapist

34. Recreation and Leisure Supervisor

35. Recreation and Sports Director

36. Recreation Therapist

37. Registered Nurse

38. Research Assistant

39. Retail Sales Associate

40. Spa Manager

41. Sporting Goods Sales Rep

42. Sports Agent

43. Sports Coach

44. Sports Facility Manager

45. Sports Medicine Physician

46. Sports Nutritionist

47. Strength and Conditioning Coach

48. University Professor

49. Wellness Coordinator


Please Note: Some of the above listed careers require additional education, training and/or experience. Click on careers that are of interest to you to find out more about the qualifications you’ll need.



Types of Employers that Hire Exercise Science Graduates

If you choose to pursue a career in exercise science, try looking for work with one of the following types of employers:


• Athletic Associations

• College and University Sport Associations

• Colleges and Universities

• Country Clubs

• Government Agencies

• Health and Fitness Clubs

• High Schools

• Hospitals

• Private and non-profit

• Professional Sports Teams and Leagues

• Rehabilitation Clinics

• Sport Marketing & Management Agencies

• Sporting Arenas and Stadiums

• Sporting Goods Companies

• Sports Medicine Clinics

• Self-employment (as a consultant, contractor or entrepreneur)



Success Tip: Gaining experience with one of the types of employers listed above while you're a student can be an excellent to get a head start in your career.




Exercise Science Jobs

Are you an exercise science student or graduate looking for a job to help you pay for school, or to launch you career? The Exercise Science Jobs link below will take you to a page that lists jobs in this field sorted by occupation.



Exercise Science Jobs

Exercise Science Jobs


Job Boards for Similar Fields:

Kinesiology Jobs

Nutrition Jobs





Sectors of Health/Fitness Industry for Exercise Science Careers

Below of some examples of exercise science careers within the major sectors of industry that employ exercise science graduates.


Industry: Working as an occupational health officer in staff development for companies and corporations.


Health: Working for a hospital or clinic developing training and exercise programs for general health, injury rehabilitation and disabilities.


Education: Working for a college or university teaching exercise and sport science.


Sport: Working as a strength and conditioning coach working with individual athletes and teams. Using exercise science skills for program design, execution and monitoring. 





Salary You Could Earn as an Exercise Science Graduate

The salary you could earn depends primarily on what career you pursue. For example, if you go on to become a sports medicine doctor, your earnings may be different, for better or for worse, from what you would earn if you choose to become the strength and conditioning coach for a college basketball team.


Other factors that determine how much you can earn include (not an inclusive list):


• Your level of education (such as if you went on to graduate studies)

• The industry in which you find work

• The type of job you have

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Other work experience you may have accrued

• Other skills you may have



Sample Salary Figures

Exercise Science Graduate Salary Ontario: According to a study in 2011 conducted by the Ontario Council of Universities, $50,760 CAD* is the average salary earned by graduates in the “Other Arts and Sciences” category, 2 years after graduating from Ontario universities in 2010. Unfortunately, there is no salary information available from reliable sources for graduates in the United States, or the rest of Canada.


Success Tip: To get a better idea of what you could earn, click on some of the career fields listed above, in the "Careers you Can Pursue with an Exercise Science Degree" section. There will be more specific salary information if you search by occupation, rather than by degree.


*This figure is a composite of all graduates who earned a Bachelor’s degree in “Other Arts and Science”, not specifically for exercise science graduates. Unfortunately, similar statistics for other Canadian provinces and the United States cannot be found from reputable sources.



Gaining Experience as a Student

Pursuing an internship opportunity (also known as a field placement, practicum or co-op opportunity) in a career field related to your exercise science degree is the best way to gain work experience for your future career while you’re still in school.


Internships are win-win situations - not only do they allow you to gain professional experience while earning school credit, they give employers the opportunity to gain valuable temporary team members.


Working such an opportunity also has several other benefits. For example, it allows you to get your foot in the door with the employer, which can result in being hired upon graduation.


Chances are, that if you’ve done quality work and made a good impression, the organization will want to retain you on a full-time basis once you’ve graduated. They will already be familiar with you and your work ethic, and they will save a great deal of time and expense trying to recruit someone else.


Another important, and often overlooked benefit of internships, is that they give you a chance to experience what actual day-to-day work in the field is like. Sort of like a career test drive. This is the best way to truly figure out if a career in this field is well suited for you or not.



How Do I Find an Exercise Science Internship?

If working an internship is an academic requirement, you will likely have the opportunity arranged for you, or at least a variety of potential options presented to you. If it is not a requirement, speak with your professors, other exercise science department staff as well as your school’s guidance and career counselors to help you find a suitable opportunity.


Please Note: Be aware of external non-paid internships (internships not arranged by your school in exchange for school credit) as in most cases, these are illegal.



Employability Tip: Consider an Advanced Degree

An advanced degree (such as a professional, master’s or doctoral degree) enables you to develop highly specialized knowledge. This can open the doors to careers that aren’t accessible with only an undergraduate degree, including many applied, research, consulting and teaching positions.


A Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science serves as excellent preparation for further study in various fields. If you are considering a career in a field related to exercise science, then you should strongly consider further study. This may be in the form of a graduate or professional degree in exercise science or other health related disciplines, such as:


• Athletic Therapy

• Biomechanics

• Cardiac Rehabilitation

• Chiropractic

• Kinesiology

• Medicine (and sports medicine)

• Nursing

• Occupational Therapy

• Physiology

• Physiotherapy

• Sports Nutrition

• Sports Psychology 



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Exercise Science Scholarships

If you’re an exercise science student looking for help in paying for school, then you’re in luck! Our scholarships database has Canadian and American scholarships that are specific to your field of study, as well as scholarships for science students in general, and those that are open to any field of study.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any and all scholarships for which you qualify, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships in Canada and the United States that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants.



Professional Associations for Career Fields in Exercise Science

To find out more about careers directly related to your exercise science degree, consult the following professional association websites. They offer career-related information, and many have opportunities for student membership, as well as job placement and mentoring opportunities.



Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

Canadian Chiropractic Association

Canadian Kinesiology Alliance

Canadian Physiotherapy Association

Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology


The Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association


United States

American College for Sports Medicine

American Council on Exercise - Fitness Certifications

American Kinesiology Association

American Massage Therapy Association

American Physical Therapy Association

The American Chiropractic Association

The American Occupational Therapy Association



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