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

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Associate and bachelor's degrees can prepare you for various certifications, licenses and careers in sports medicine. Read on for information on programs and options.
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Studying Sports Medicine: Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Sports medicine professionals are allied health providers who work with doctors and athletic personnel to coordinate care in schools, sports programs, corporate and industrial sports medicine, among other health care settings. You could learn to manage medical conditions and disabilities, provide advice on injury prevention and supervise rehabilitative exercise. Degree programs in sports medicine often focus on athletic training, but other health science or administration options may be available.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 14% increase for all professions nationwide from 2010-2020, while opportunities specifically for athletic trainers and fitness instructors may grow 30% and 24%, respectively. With an associate degree in sports medicine, you might qualify for allied health paraprofessional positions or self-employment as a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Bachelor's degree holders may be eligible for various professional certifications by organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want an entry-level position Individuals interested in certifications and professional positions in sports medicine
Common Career Paths (with approximate salary) - Various allied health paraprofessionals (salary not available)
- Physical therapy attendant ($27,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)*
- Personal trainer ($53,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Athletic trainer ($39,000)*
- Exercise specialist ($41,000)*
- Fitness instructor ($48,000)*
- Self-employed (salary not available)
Time to Completion Approximately 2 years, full-time 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 60-70 credits
- Clinical practicum
- Approximately 120 credits
- Clinical practicum
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma, GED or associate degree
Online Availability Some online programs available Limited online programs available

Source: * (2012 annual median figures).

Associate Degrees Covering Sports Medicine

Associate degrees in sports medicine are available at proprietary schools and 2- and 4-year colleges. Programs paralleling the first two years of 4-year programs may be a first step toward careers in athletic training, sports injury or exercise. They might include academic, clinical and laboratory training for skills like taping, first aid, exercise instruction and clinical problem solving. You could learn to prevent, assess and rehabilitate athletic injuries.

Students interested in fitness industry or self-employment options could pursue certification as a personal trainer. Positions may be available in gyms, corporate fitness programs or rehabilitation centers. You might conduct individual or group instruction, screenings or programs that help clients meet performance goals or rebuild capacity after medical release from an injury.

Pros and Cons


  • This field is growing more rapidly than average.*
  • Opportunities may be available in most locations.
  • Those who enjoy helping people may find this career to be personally gratifying.
  • Self-employment is an option.


  • The associate degree may be designed as a stepping stone to a 4-year program by most schools, rather than the conclusion of your education.
  • Opportunities for growth and some professional certifications may be limited to those with bachelor's degrees.
  • More certification options may be available to students with 4-year degrees.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Programs may assume science and math preparation, or require you to take developmental courses equivalent to high school chemistry, biology and algebra before entering the program. Studies often include class, field, clinical and lab experience. You might complete observational hours in a variety of settings. Core courses in English, public speaking or communications and humanities could also be necessary. Some elective choices may be available that would introduce you to a future specialization area.

You might take sports medicine-related courses like these:

  • Applied anatomy and physiology
  • Basic athletic training techniques
  • Care and prevention of athletic injuries
  • Introduction to nutrition
  • Sport and exercise psychology
  • Taping and bracing
  • Exercise physiology

Online Program Options

Some online degree options are available, but your school may have to arrange an on-site clinical experience in your area to promote your progress toward certification. Hybrid programs that support some distance study are available. In virtual courses, you will complete course requirements like those on campus. This option may work for students who need scheduling flexibility.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

You might choose a program that has transfer agreements with one or more 4-year training programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Coursework may prepare you to sit for the American Council on Exercise, NSCA or ASCM CPT exams. You could consider your school's available clinical placements or laboratory facilities. Schools may offer opportunities to observe professionals in various settings. Hands-on learning opportunities may be available serving intercollegiate athletes who are participating in a wide variety of sports.

Bachelor's Degrees Covering Sports Medicine

Programs may train you to conduct fitness assessments, prevent injuries and provide therapies to persons with exercise prescriptions. You could learn about health-risk factors, movement biomechanics and lifestyle modifications that promote health and wellness. Schools may prepare you to market and manage your own business.

You might be able to concentrate in athletic training or health sciences. Athletic trainers often work for sports and fitness programs sponsored by schools at all levels, professional teams, industry, health clubs, clinics and hospitals. Some programs are designed for seamless transition to graduate or professional schools in the health field. A concentration in health sciences involving additional biology and chemistry courses could prepare you for graduate work in physical or occupational therapy, exercise sciences, biomechanics or medicine. Field experience and internships are often required.

Pros and Cons


  • You might be prepared for advanced study in education, medicine and science.
  • Schools sponsoring sports teams may offer on-campus opportunities to work with athletes.
  • With this degree, some experience and certifications, you could become a successful entrepreneur.


  • You may need to decide to pursue an athletic training or health-science track.
  • Students interested in medical school might need to take more advanced science courses than sports medicine programs require.
  • More advancement opportunities could be available with a graduate degree.

Courses and Requirements

You'll probably complete an English and humanities core. Written and verbal communications courses could help you interact effectively with clients and peers. You might study anatomy, physiology, sports psychology, management information systems or business subjects, like marketing. Preparation for a graduate program in a health-science discipline may require taking biology, chemistry, physics and advanced math. Your internships may support your career objective.

You might find courses like these in a typical bachelor's program covering sports medicine:

  • Health and fitness appraisal and wellness
  • Nutrition and weight management
  • Sports medicine and first aid
  • Sports administration and law
  • Strength training and conditioning
  • Basic therapeutic modalities for musculoskeletal injuries
  • Exercise programming for special populations

Online Courses

Fully-accredited online degrees are available, but rare. The hands-on nature of clinical requirements may prompt arranging supervised internships in your geographic area. You'll use various software and browsers to access and submit your coursework. You may find distance courses available in a hybrid program, mixing remote and on-campus work. Some schools may permit credit for independent study that can be completed virtually.

Standing Out with This Degree

Bachelor's holders may qualify for health and fitness certifications also available to 2-year graduates, plus various clinical exercise specialist certifications. Programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) may help you take the entry-level Certified Board of Certification (BOC), NSCA or ACSM examinations for athletic trainers and fitness professionals. Your school may sponsor centers, labs or institutes for sports medicine and human performance.

Students taking a health science concentration might develop leadership skills by participating in sports medicine or math and science clubs. You may be able to attend conventions or participate in sports medicine study groups. Professional associations, like ACSM, could connect students with funding, career options or policy advocacy opportunities.

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