With the worsening obesity crisis in America — more than a third of U.S. adults are obese, and that number rises each year — there is strong demand for educated athletic and personal trainers and other fitness professionals.
Students interested in careers in sports and exercise science can use the ranking on this page to learn more about 10 of the best sports and exercise science degree programs from U.S. postsecondary institutions. The programs listed here all culminate in a bachelor's degree, although many colleges also offer graduate-level study in sports and exercise science. Both degree options can help students gain the skills necessary for employment in many different sports and exercise-related career fields.
Continue reading to learn about the 10 best institutions, several of which offer online sports and exercise degree programs. Also are on this page is helpful information about potential scholarships, career outlooks and professional organizations for graduates of sports and exercise science degree programs.
Best Colleges for Sports And Exercise Science Degree Programs
Students should use the list below to gain insight into 10 of the best colleges for sports and exercise programs from U.S. colleges and universities. We used data from the National Center for Education Statistics and a unique methodology to rank these institutions. Click the button below to learn more about how this list was created, or read on to learn more about the 10 best sports and exercise degree programs.
Our top institution for sports and exercise science degree programs is located in Provo, Utah. BYU is founded and supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It boast the largest undergraduate enrollment - more than 30,000 students - of any private university in the U.S.
Students interested in careers in sports, recreation or exercise science have a few degree options from BYU's department of exercise sciences, including:
- B.S. in exercise science
- B.S. in athletic training
- B.S. in exercise wellness
- M.S. in exercise sciences
- Ph.D. in exercise sciences
The master's program offers specialties in exercise sciences, health promotion, exercise physiology and athletic training. The doctoral program offers specialties in exercise physiology, health promotion or physical medicine and rehabilitation.
BYU heads our list of the best colleges for sports and exercise degree programs based on a number of factors. At $5,150, the university had the lowest cost of in-state tuition among our 10 featured institutions. It also had the highest graduation rate at 80 percent.
This small university is located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Lock Haven, Penn. The university also has a satellite campus at Clearfield.
Lock Haven University offers a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. It also has a graduate program in athletic training and a completely online Master of Science in sport science pathway. The B.S. degree requires students to complete some field experience to satisfy degree requirements. Students in the athletic training master's program also complete four clinical rotations - two at a college or high school, one at a rehabilitation facility, and one semester-long off-campus internship. The online M.S. degree requires a three-credit capstone project and six credits of approved field experience.
At 91 percent, Lock Haven University had one of the best admissions rates of any institution in these rankings.
Located in New York's Southern Tier Region, State University of New York at Cortland places third in our rankings for its high graduation rate - 73 percent, second-best among these 10 featured colleges. The college also has a favorable 16:1 student to faculty ratio.
SUNY Cortland's kinesiology department offers five majors, including a B.S. in exercise science. The department has the highest enrollment of any department at the college. The B.S. degree requires 124 credits to complete.
The college also offers a Master of Science program in exercise science. Prospective students must have at least a 3.0 GPA in all undergraduate coursework and a combined score of 300 or higher on the verbal and quantitative reason sections of the GRE general test.
Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa at Iowa City is the oldest postsecondary institution in the state of Iowa. The university offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in sports studies, as well as an online Bachelor of Science pathway in sport and recreation management, which is also offered through the university's campus in Des Moines.
UI's sports studies program is for students interested in careers in coaching or sports management, broadcasting, journalism and information. The coaching pathway includes coursework in anatomy, athletic training, human growth and motor development, and ethics in coaching.
University of Iowa also offers a master's degree program in sport and recreation management and a master of health and human physiology with a focus in clinical exercise physiology. The university makes our rankings based on its strong 72 percent graduation rate, and it also admits 80 percent of applicants. More than one-third of all students at IU are enrolled in distance education programs.
This public liberal arts and sciences institution located in Kirksville, Mo. makes our rankings in the fifth spot with the second-lowest cost of in-state tuition at $7,456. It also features a solid 73 percent graduation rate and 79 percent admission rate. Class size is a low 16:1 student to faculty ratio.
Truman State University's Bachelor of Science in exercise science degree offers four separate concentrations:
- Pre-medical sciences
- Applied and pre-athletic training
- Sport and recreation management
- Physical education and health
The university also offers a Bachelor of Science in health science, as well as a Master of Athletic Training program. A unique aspect of curriculum at TSU includes study in human anatomy at a cadaver lab located nearby at the A.T. Still University medical lab.
Our sixth university is a four-year institution located in Grand Junction, Colo. Annual enrollment is more than 11,000 students, and more than 15 percent of students live outside the state of Colorado.
Colorado Mesa University offers a Bachelor of Science in exercise science degree that requires 120 total credits to complete, including 40 credits of upper-division coursework. The university also offers a B.S. degree in sport management and a B.A. degree in liberal arts with a sport management emphasis. In all degree paths, a minimum of 30 of the last 60 credit hours must be completed at CMU.
In-state tuition at Colorado Mesa University is $7,474, third-lowest among these 10 featured institutions. CMU admits 83 percent of applicants, and students can take advantage of the university's career placement services and alternative tuition payment plans.
This small public liberal arts university is an anchor institution in the small town of Castleton, Vt. The college was founded in 1787 and is one of the oldest postsecondary institutions in the U.S.
Castleton University offers undergraduate degree programs in exercise science and sport and recreation management. The university's kinesiology department offers a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology with a pre-athletic training concentration, as well as a Master of Science in athletic training pathway.
The exercise science program features three concentrations in clinical exercise physiology, strength and conditioning, or research. Students must complete the university's general education requirements and a total of 65 credits in the program major to satisfy degree requirements.
Castleton University had the highest admissions rate of any university in these rankings at 94 percent, and the lowest student to faculty ratio at 12:1. In-state tuition costs, however, were second highest at $11,282.
Founded in 1846, Carroll University at Waukesha is the first four-year college in the state of Wisconsin. The private independent liberal arts university was home to just under 3,500 students in fall of 2017.
Carroll University offers undergraduate degrees in exercise science and sport and recreation management. Students in the exercise science program must complete a senior internship, and many oversee campus fitness centers or do strength and conditioning work with the university's athletic teams. The university features an accelerated graduate program option for students interested in earning a M.S. in exercise physiology. Three years are spent at the undergraduate level, and the final two are spent completing graduate-level coursework.
The university admits 94 percent of all applicants, and it had the third-highest number of exercise science and related degrees conferred to students. In-state tuition, however, was just under $30,000 - more than twice the next-costliest college.
Our ninth institution is a public university located in East Stroudsburg, Penn. The university is one of 14 state universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
The university's college of health sciences offers bachelor's degree programs in athletic training and exercise science. Students in the exercise science program can choose from concentrations in exercise physiology, sport exercise and conditioning or therapeutic sciences. The first two programs also are offered in an accelerated format where students can complete a B.S. degree in three calendar years.
Graduate programs include M.S. degrees in clinical exercise physiology or exercise science. The university has a strong 84 percent admissions rate, and students can take advantage of alternative tuition payment plans.
Rounding out our list of 10 top schools for sports and exercise science degrees is this public university located in California, Penn. The university was founded in 1852.
California University of Pennsylvania's exercise science and sport management department offers a bachelor's degree in sport management, and a completely online bachelor's in wellness and fitness that was modeled after the university's popular online master's in exercise science-health and promotion. Classes begin each fall, spring and summer term for new students.
The university offers 17 fully online master's degree programs related to sports and exercise science, such as wellness coaching, sport psychology, health science and exercise leadership and more. On-campus options also include an M.S. in athletic training.
More than a quarter of all students at CUP were enrolled in distance education programs, the highest number of any institution in these rankings.
Sports And Exercise Science Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A college degree is not required for some sports and fitness positions, but employers are increasingly seeking candidates who have completed sports and exercise science degrees at the baccalaureate level. Programs provide instruction in proper exercise techniques, as well as nutrition, anatomy and other key areas that can help athletic and personal trainers better perform their tasks. Most sports and exercise science degree programs culminate in bachelor's degrees, but many colleges offers master's and doctoral degrees as well. Below are some of the most common career paths for program graduates.
Career Outlook for Sports And Exercise Science Majors
Demand for educated athletic trainers is extremely high - the profession is expected to grow more than three times the average for all occupations through 2026, the BLS reports. Job prospects are best for candidates who hold bachelor's or master's degrees and also have the appropriate professional certifications.
Employment for exercise physiologists is expected to increase by 13 percent, or 2,000 new positions, through 2026. Competition will be stiff for jobs due to the relatively small overall number of exercise physiologists employed nationwide. Employment of fitness instructions is expected to increase by 29,300 positions, or 10 percent, through 2026, the BLS notes.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors||$44,580||308,470||9.8%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Sports And Exercise Science
Fulltime students can look into federal financial aid to help pay tuition costs, and they also can seek scholarships for sports and exercise science majors. The American Council on Exercise awards its Ash Hayes Scholarship to 25 fitness leaders each year. The ACE also provides a Salute You Scholarship to American military veterans with an honorable discharge in the past 24 months of their application date. The American College of Sports Medicine also awards numerous grants and awards for students and professionals working in sports medicine.
August 1 (international students); October 1 (domestic students)
February 1 (Priority)
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Adult Obesity Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
- Exercise sciences programs, Brigham Young University, https://exsc.byu.edu/
- Exercise science, Lock Haven University, https://www.lockhaven.edu/healthscience/exercise/#tab-1
- Exercise science major, SUNY Cortland, http://www2.cortland.edu/departments/kinesiology/program-details.dot?progid=eab76b86-c771-4391-9bb0-eb2b65902666
- Sports studies, University of Iowa, https://admissions.uiowa.edu/academics/sport-studies
- Exercise Science Major, Truman State University, http://www.truman.edu/majors-programs/majors-minors/exercise-science-major/
- Bachelor of Science, Exercise Science, Colorado Mesa University, http://www.coloradomesa.edu/academics/documents/overview/Overview_Kinesiology_ExerciseScience.pdf
- Exercise Science, Castleton University, http://www.castleton.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/exercise-science/
- Exercise Science, Carroll University, https://www.carrollu.edu/academics/health-sciences/exercise-science
- Exercise Science, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, https://www.esu.edu/academics/departments/exercise_science/index.cfm
- Academics, California University of Pennsylvania, http://www.calu.edu/academics/index.htm
- Athletic Trainer, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm
- Fitness Trainers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
- Exercise Physiologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.