Sports Science Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees in sports science can lead to careers as fitness trainers and physical education instructors. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Sports Science: Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

If you enjoy keeping physically fit and healthy and would like to help others stay fit as well, then an associate or bachelor's degree in exercise or sports fitness might be a great way for you to make this interest a career. Increasingly, employers in the fitness field desire their employees to hold at least an associate or bachelor's degree in a related subject. For 2012-2020, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the job prospects for instructors and trainers in the fitness field would grow at the faster-than-average rate of 24%. Reasons for the rapid job growth include the large number of aging baby-boomers wanting to stay active, as well as an emphasis on fighting and preventing obesity in children.

Programs usually require classes in the subjects of health, nutrition, kinesiology, specific fitness techniques, education, and management. Coursework for some programs can be fully completed online, while others only have certain course requirements with online availability. Generally speaking - because this career path revolves around the coaching of and interaction with bodies in motion - mentorships and internships will be required of any student in this very hands-on field.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in becoming personal fitness trainers. Individuals with interests in fitness instruction, management, or coaching.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Personal trainer ($53,000)*
- Fitness trainer ($31,000)**
- Coach ($28,000)**
- Assistant athletic director ($69,000)*
- Athletic trainer ($42,000)**
Time to Completion 21-24 months, full-time 36 months to 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements- Internship - Internship
- Certification exams in chosen specialization
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- Assessment test or SAT or ACT scores
While some schools have both interim-acceptance and full-acceptance requirements, most simply require that you have completed high school
Online Availability Uncommon, but yes Uncommon, but yes, with an offline mentorship generally required

Sources: *Salary.com (May 2012 data), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degree in Sports or Fitness Related Field

Aside from having a degree that employers in the field of sports science and fitness training want, completing an associate degree in this field will expose you to a wide variety of complementary subjects and give you many options once you graduate. Since hands on experiences are very important, your school will usually have good exercise equipment and facilities. You could choose to work as a personal trainer, teach group classes in aerobics, or instruct professional athletes. Work environments may include fitness gyms, recreation centers, or sports fields and other sport training facilities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Job growth has been projected to be better than the national average until 2020*
  • You can stay physically fit as you complete your degree and work in your field
  • These programs provide training on sports, physical fitness, and health, ensuring that you are more able to train others safely and efficiently

Cons

  • Some places you want to work might not have the facilities for the kind of sport or fitness regimen you are interested in
  • Because certain jobs may only require experience or certification, you may feel overqualified with an associate degree
  • Even with professional experience in a sport, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a K-12 coaching job

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Courses and Requirements

In an associate degree program you will be required to take courses in human anatomy, biology, first aid and injury prevention, psychology, nutrition, and teaching in specific exercise techniques. This is all in addition to general education requirements in subjects like English and math. Some programs require an internship for experience with working with clients. Courses designed to help you understand the administration and management aspect of the field might also be required.

Course examples:

  • Conditioning
  • Teaching strength training
  • Public speaking
  • Motor learning
  • Community health

Online Degree Options

Coursework for some associate degrees in the sports and fitness field can be completed entirely online. The programs that do not offer this option will often have certain required courses available online. In the case of a completely online degree, an internship might be required because the nature of the career is to work with the physical body and its ability to move.

Stand Out With This Degree

Experience playing a certain sport or practicing a certain fitness technique could definitely help you get into the degree program you want and make you stand out to a potential employer. Internships will also assist in getting experience working in your chosen specialty. Many additional certifications and certificates are available to qualify you for more desirable or highly paid positions. Certification with professional sports and fitness organizations is recommended by many schools to enhance your credentials; some schools offer preparatory classes in anticipation of the required examinations.

Bachelor's Degree in Sports Science

In a sports science bachelor's degree program, you will learn about the human body as well as physical and mental fitness in much greater detail and depth, when compared to a 2-year program. Existing coaches, fitness instructors, and assistant athletic trainers for sports teams and universities all either greatly benefit from a bachelor's degree or absolutely needed it in order to enter their career field. Keep in mind that certain states require athletic trainers and coaches to be certified or have a license. In particular, athletic trainers may work under the supervision of a healthcare professional, if their specialization is in injury prevention and rehabilitation programs. Your career could lead you to working with professional athletes or children at a physical therapy center. Sports science is a growing field and should provide many opportunities to put your passion for sports and fitness to work.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your knowledge of a wide range of sports and fitness activities will increase greatly.
  • You can have a chance to teach others the sport or activity you have a passion for.
  • You may have the opportunity to work with professional athletes.

Cons

  • Working in this field might be difficult if you sustain a physical injury to a part of your body that you use a lot in your job.
  • Some cities or states might not have many job opportunities in the particular sport or fitness activity you are interested in.
  • Before you can work, certain states require certification and/or licensure in addition to your degree.

Common Courses and Requirement

Some programs for a bachelor's degree in sports science will allow you to tailor your coursework so that it meets pre-physical therapy or pre-med requirements, giving you the option of going further with your education and going to physical therapy or medical school. You will also take courses in management, administration, and legal issues; these classes will be especially useful if you desire to manage a fitness facility or be an assistant athletic director. A mentorship might also be required before graduation, exposing you to the real work environment in your specialty.

Examples of courses required in a bachelor's degree program include:

  • Chemistry
  • Coaching
  • Ethics
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degrees in the field of sports science do exist. Similar to online associate degrees in the field, most reputable online programs require an internship or mentorship prior to graduation.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Keeping informed on the latest sports and fitness research will help you know what the most successful specialty might be in the near future, and you can follow that route during your education. Work experience with internships and mentorships can help get your foot in the door of the exact field you want to enter. Internships may be available at fitness and community centers and hospitals. Also, look into certifications that will enhance your professional credentials, like the ones offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as well as the American College of Sports Medicine.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Ann Arbor, MI

    Washtenaw Community College

  • Phoenix, AZ

    South Mountain Community College

  • Dayton, OH

    Sinclair Community College

  • Sheridan, WY

    Sheridan College

  • Scottsdale, AZ

    Scottsdale Community College

  • Rock Springs, WY

    Western Wyoming Community College

  • Santa Rosa, CA

    Santa Rosa Junior College

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AASBA in Health Club Operations

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Washtenaw Community College

South Mountain Community College

Sinclair Community College

Sheridan College

Scottsdale Community College

Western Wyoming Community College