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What Can You Do With an Exercise Science Degree? 15 Careers to Consider
Are you looking to turn your passion for fitness, health and wellness into a career? Getting an exercise science degree is a great way to advance your job prospects in this growing field. Exercise science degrees give you foundational knowledge and a flexible skill set to pursue careers in a range of fields.
We’ve compiled 15 top jobs where exercise science graduates are ideal candidates, across popular industries including: fitness, academics, corporate, community and nonprofit and healthcare.
3 Top Jobs in Fitness for Exercise Science Degree Holders
One of the most obvious career paths for exercise science graduates is in the fitness field. Positions for fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 10% by 2026, a sign that investment in personal health and wellness will only continue to grow.
Personal trainers work one-on-one with clients to achieve their fitness goals.
- What They Do: Perform fitness assessments, develop exercise regimen, demonstrate exercises and correct client technique, and evaluate progress.
- Perks: Flexible schedule, an opportunity for autonomy, and a wealth of job opportunities.
- Average Salary: $37,256 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Personal Trainer Certification is highly beneficial, and most likely a requirement if you plan to work for a commercial fitness center. Make sure the certification program you choose is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), considered the gold standard in health and fitness. These requirements can usually be completed online.
Fitness Center Manager
Fitness center managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations and leadership decisions of gyms and fitness centers.
- What They Do: Attract and retain new members; Hire, train and manage employees; uphold fitness best practices and maintain the facility.
- Career Perks: Leadership and management opportunities, increased business acumen, and advancement opportunities at commercial gyms with multiple locations.
- Average Salary: $43,480 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Background in fitness and management experience a plus.
Generally, health coaches work one-on-one with clients to help improve their physical wellbeing and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- What They Do: Establish dietary plans, safe exercise routines, and monitoring patient progress.
- Career Perks: Flexible schedule, ability to work independently, and meaningful impact on clients’ lives.
- Average Salary: $45,116 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: The ACE Health Coach Certification is the only health coach certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This program is based on evidence-based principles and lifestyle health practices, addressing all of the core principles of health coaching in a single learning experience.
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3 Top Jobs in Academic Environments for Exercise Science Degree Holders
Another natural career path for exercise science graduates is the education field. Jobs in education offer a variety of rewarding careers that promote the healthy growth and development of students and athletes.
Physical Education Teacher
Work with children and young adults to incorporate physical activity into their routine to promote a healthy lifestyle.
- What They Do: Develop coursework, teach sports and games, and sometimes teach health classes or coach sports teams.
- Career Perks: Working school hours, generous holidays and summer breaks and the ability to make a difference in children’s lives.
- Average Salary: $43,103 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Background check and first aid certification required. Previous experience working with children is beneficial.
Athletic trainers are sports medicine professionals employed by sports teams, schools and universities and advanced fitness centers to work with athletes to improve their fitness and health.
- What They Do: Create exercise routines, improve strength and conditioning, and manage injuries and rehabilitation.
- Career Perks: Flexible schedule, non-repetitive work, and dynamic field.
- Average Salary: $41,185 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Most athletic trainers must be certified and participate in continuing education to keep their license up to date. If you want to pursue athletic training at the college or professional level you will likely need to get an advanced degree.
Athletic directors work in sports administration to coordinate athletic activities for schools or universities.
- What They Do: Budget for athletic activities and may also be tasked with fundraising, marketing or special events.
- Career Perks: School calendar schedule and management opportunity.
- Average Salary: $59,716 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: If you plan to pursue a career as an athletic director at the college level, you will likely need a master’s degree. Experience as a coach or in athletic administration is also viewed favorably.
3 Top Corporate Jobs for Exercise Science Degree Holders
Large companies are putting a renewed emphasis on preventive healthcare to improve employee health, which helps the company cut healthcare costs and maintain a productive workforce. As such, there are a range of specialized wellness roles in the corporate setting.
Wellness Program Manager
Wellness managers work in corporate environments to develop ways for employees to improve their health and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- What They Do: Develop healthy living programs, like smoking cessation classes or stress relief workshops, in an effort to improve employee health and lower insurance premiums.
- Career Perks: Ability to develop creative programs and see the rewarding impact of their work.
- Average Salary: $54,844 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Depending on specific job responsibilities, some corporate environments may favor candidates with personal training, health coach or nutrition certifications.
Wellness directors are responsible for the strategic planning of corporate wellness initiatives.
- What They Do: Work with leadership to identify wellness goals, develop program ideas and manage employees who implement programming.
- Career Perks: Leadership opportunity and room for advancement.
- Average Salary: $55,665 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Management experience likely required.
Work independently or for large consultancies and corporations to provide an independent evaluation of employee health and wellness initiatives.
- What They Do: Research, evaluate and recommend improvements for business health practices, helping them reach their goals for employee health and wellness.
- Career Perks: Ability to work independently, constantly changing work environments and need for creative problem solving.
- Average Salary: $76,813 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Background in collecting and analyzing data, as well as advanced communication skills are beneficial.
3 Top Community and Nonprofit Jobs for Exercise Science Degree Holders
Many exercise science graduates pursue careers promoting the health and wellness of communities both large and small. You may choose to work directly with community members on wellness initiatives or serve in administrative capacities overseeing fundraising, budget allocation or strategic efforts.
Camp directors oversee the operations and management of camp facilities.
- What They Do: Plan programs and camper activities, as well as manage the team of counselors and staff to ensure a safe, fun camp environment.
- Career Perks: Fun, active environment, seasonal schedule, ability to make a difference in children’s lives.
- Average Salary: $39,566 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: You will be required to have a certain number of hours, generally at least 1,000, in the care and supervision of no fewer than four children. CPR and First Aid certification by the American Red Cross and background checks are also required.
Nonprofit Program Director
Program directors are essential to raising and allocating budgets at nonprofit organizations.
- What They Do: Improve access to health information, develop community programs, and promote healthy lifestyles, many times in underserved communities.
- Career Perks: Ability to make a direct impact for causes you are passionate about.
- Average Salary: $54,040 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Background in fundraising, management and finance a plus.
Recreation directors oversee the daily operations and programming at recreational facilities.
- What They Do: Develop, plan and implement community activities and manage facilities for park and recreation centers, community centers or other institutions.
- Career Perks: Fun, engaging atmosphere and ability to develop creative programming while working directly with community members.
- Average Salary: $49,770 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Relevant years of experience and additional certifications in health and wellness will improve your resume.
3 Top Jobs in Healthcare for Exercise Science Degree Holders
Many exercise degree holders choose to transition into healthcare. Some healthcare careers can be pursued directly after graduation from a bachelor’s program, while others require additional education and/or training.
Occupational therapists help people regain or improve their range of movement, making daily tasks easier to complete.
- What They Do: Work directly with clients to plan and implement activities that improve strength and coordination.
- Career Perks: Flexible schedule and rewarding work where you can see the direct impact of your efforts.
- Average Salary: $65,441 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Occupational therapists usually need to graduate from an occupational therapy or physical therapy program. An exercise science degree can be ideal preparation for advanced degrees in these areas.
Exercise physiologists specialize in how exercise can benefit a person’s health—from restoring health to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- What They Do: Conduct fitness evaluations, develop exercise regimens specific to patient needs and goals, and evaluate progress.
- Career Perks: Ability to work one-on-one with clients, work independently and develop your own programming.
- Average Salary: $44,915 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Exercise physiologists will benefit from becoming a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist to increase job prospects and salary expectations. Gaining your master’s degree in this field can also increase advancement opportunities.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy assistants work under the direct supervision of a licensed physical therapist to fulfill care plans.
- What They Do: Work directly with patients to help them recover from injuries, illnesses, or surgeries, as well as improve movement and motor function.
- Career Perks: Physically active job and ability to gain experience in field and great way to transition into a career as a physical therapist.
- Average Salary: $48,723 (Payscale.com)
- Extra Steps: Degree specific to physical therapy and licensure as a physical therapy assistant may be required.
Advance Your Career with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science
These 15 popular jobs in exercise science are only the start of the numerous opportunities in this field. Based on your experience and professional goals, getting your exercise science degree can open doors to lifelong careers in health and wellness.
Franklin University offers an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) aligned curriculum in exercise science focused on best practices for individuals across the health spectrum—from healthy adults to those with chronic illnesses, as well as specific populations like pregnant women and the elderly. Not only will you gain the hands on skills and knowledge to be at the top of this profession, you can also pursue your degree online and tailor coursework to your schedule.
Explore the Franklin University Bachelor’s in Exercise Science degree to see how it can turn your passion for health and wellness into a rewarding career.