Complete Guide to an Online Exercise Science Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $17,252

There are 43 options for students interested in pursuing accredited online exercise science programs. These degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Exercise science professionals promote healthy lifestyles by assessing risk factors and prescribing appropriate exercise regimens to increase an individual's overall health and well-being. They often seek out employment at sports medicine facilities, however, the broad field of exercise science encompasses many different career options. Some career opportunities for exercise scientists include athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, employee fitness director, strength and conditioning coach, and teacher.

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits exercise science programs. However, currently there are no online CAAHEP accredited degrees. Therefore, students pursuing online exercise science programs should verify that their institutions of choice are regionally or nationally accredited. In addition, they should select programs with coursework in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and nutrition. Our ranking list of the top colleges offering online exercise science programs may also help students find a high quality degree.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Exercise Science Degrees (23)

Online Exercise Science Degree Overview & Career Information

Online exercise science degrees can be found at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Students enrolled in an associate degree program will spend two years taking general education courses as well as classes that cover such topics as anatomy and physiology. Once they complete their degree, graduates will be able to find entry-level jobs in such places as hospitals, health clubs, and recreation centers. They will also be prepared to move on to a bachelor's program. At the bachelor's level, students will take more advanced courses in personal training, anatomy, strength and conditioning, and others. Jobs available to bachelor's degree graduates include personal trainer and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist. A bachelor's degree will take two to four years to complete, depending on how many college credits a student has when they begin their program.

Exercise science degrees are also available online at the graduate level. A master's degree prepares individuals to become specialists in their field, taking classes that cover the topics of nutrition, biomechanics, and human performance. A master's degree will take around two years to complete, and students will need to have a bachelor's degree and background knowledge of such topics as physiology, biomechanics, and statistics in order to be admitted. Doctoral programs in exercise science are an option for those who wish to have a career in sports psychology, research, or physical therapy. These types of programs may require some face-to-face class time due to the rigorous academic nature of the program. Students will need to complete a dissertation. In order to be admitted to a doctoral program, applicants will need either a master's or bachelor's degree in a related field.

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Online Associate Degrees in Exercise Science

An online associate degree program prepares individuals to transfer to a four-year degree school or for an entry-level job in health clubs, sport and recreation centers, and hospitals. Applicants must furnish a GED or high school diploma for admittance, and a minimum GPA may be required. Comprised of 60 credit hours, the program is usually completed within 2 years at a community college or vocational school. Coursework includes general education courses such as English composition and humanities, and some career specific courses such as anatomy and physiology, and general education physics. Students can work closely with their academic advisors to select courses that will easily transfer into a bachelor's degree program to continue their education and increase their career prospects. Students that choose this route should verify that the program they select is accredited to ease the transference of credits later in their education.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Exercise Science

Through courses in strength and conditioning, personal training, electrocardiography interpretation, and anatomy and physiology, student's can earn a bachelor's degree in exercise science. This degree can prepare them for work as a personal trainer, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist, or strength and conditioning coach, or sufficiently meet the prerequisites for admission to a graduate program and an advanced degree. Students gain a working understanding of human physical activity including nutritional, bio mechanical, and physiological. Offered online through colleges and universities, exercise science programs usually take between 36 and 48 months to complete, and require a total of 120-180 credit hours, including an internship to gain practical experience. The hands-on practical application portion of the program is completed through an internship or volunteering and affords students the opportunity to apply theory in real-life situations. 

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Online Master's in Exercise Science

An online master's degree will prepare a professional for a career as an exercise or rehabilitation specialist of all varieties, as they will attain valuable knowledge of human performance, biomechanics, nutrition, and clinical physical activity among a diverse range of clientele. Admission requirements typically include a minimum 3.0 GPA, satisfactory GRE scores, a statement of purpose, and prerequisite coursework to include statistics, physiology or exercise physiology, and biomechanics or physics. An online program, offered primarily through universities, takes an average of one to two years to complete the 40-50 semester credit hours. Coursework typically includes advanced exercise physiology, exercise prescription & chronic illness, and biogenetics, as well as a thesis course and a clinical internship. 

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Exercise Science

Additional graduate work in the form of a doctorate enables individuals to become a sports psychologist, clinical research scientist, or physical/occupational therapist with their exercise science degree. Many programs necessitate a hybrid online and face-to-face format due to lab requirements and frequent meetings with a designated advisor for dissertation work. Some online programs facilitate "intensive weeks" where students attend back-to-back classes a few select weeks out of the academic school year to complete the physical training portion of the degree in a shortened time-frame. During this time they can meet with advisors and network with peers and professionals alike. Applicant's to doctoral programs need to hold either a bachelor's or a master's in a similar field from an accredited college or university, demonstrate a minimum GPA, provide letters of reference from employers or scholars to attest to work ethic and capability, and a sufficient GRE or MAT score. Ranging from 66 to 72-credit hours, the program takes an average of 36-48 months to complete and includes completion of a dissertation.

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Accreditation of Online Exercise Science Degrees

Many colleges, universities, and programs gain regional accreditation to demonstrate their quality of education. Third-party accrediting organizations evaluate programs based on a variety of agreed-upon standards. Additionally, students that attend an accredited school can easily transfer credits to another institution or graduate program. Employers may look favorably upon candidates from accredited programs due to the gold standard that it ensures. 

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits programs in the health sciences field throughout the country. This ensures that programs meet rigorous professional and occupational standards and benefits both the consumer and and the individual providing services. There are currently 44 exercise science programs that are accredited by the CAAHEP, but no fully online programs. Health sciences employers may look favorably upon applicants that attended an accredited program, and some jobs may require it. 

Specific Training Requirements

The American College of Sports Medicine provides certifications for exercise science professionals. Certifications include: personal trainer, group exercise instructor, exercise physiologist; clinical certifications include clinical exercise physiologist, and registered clinical exercise physiologist. All certifications require a combination of education, experience, and successful completion of an examination. Oftentimes employers require individuals to be credentialed from this or another credentialing agency. 


Depending on the level of education obtained there are various types of careers available for someone who has a degree in exercise science. With an associate's degree an individual can find such jobs as a trainer, coach or PE teacher, though some additional certification may be required. At the bachelor's level, individuals are prepared for entry- to mid-level positions in fitness, including strength coaching, training, exercise physiologist in cardiac rehab, or clinical exercise specialist. Daily responsibilities include meeting with potential clients, creating treatment plans and exercise regimes for clients, and facilitating exercises.

Individuals with a graduate degree, either a master's or doctorate, are eligible for teaching at a collegiate level, or taking on senior roles in fitness and healthcare. Hospitals are increasingly requiring exercise physiologists to hold a graduate degree; additionally, professionals with a doctorate may advance to research positions or high-level administrative jobs in the fitness or wellness departments at hospitals. Day-to-day duties at this level range from academia tasks to program implementation and management. 


  • A.S. Degree in Exercise Science. Grossmont College. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Admission Requirements Master of Science in Exercise Science. Liberty University Online. Accessed August 1, 2016.
  • Associate in Arts Degree Pathway to a Major in Exercise Science. Miami Dade College. Accessed August 4, 2016.
  • Broadview’s Online B.S. In Exercise Science Leads To Great Careers. Broadview University. Accessed August 1, 2016.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership - Sport, Fitness, and Wellness Management. University of the Rockies. Accessed August 3, 2016.
  • DSL with a concentration in Healthcare Leadership. Regent University. Accessed August 3, 2016.
  • Exercise Science - Concentration of Physical Education. University of Wisconsin- Superior. Accessed August 1, 2016.
  • Master of Science: Exercise Science and Health Program. California University of Pennsylvania. Accessed August 3, 2016.
  • Sport and Exercise Science Prerequisite Courses for the Major Associate in Arts. Seminole State College of Florida. Accessed August 4, 2016.
  • Exercise Science. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Careers in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science. Stephen F Austin State University. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • A.S. Degree in Exercise Science. Grossmont College. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Exercise Science. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Broadview’s Online B.S. In Exercise Science Leads To Great Careers. Broadview University. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Master of Science: Exercise Science and Health Program. California University of Pennsylvania. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • DSL with a concentration in Healthcare Leadership. Regent University. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Admission Requirements Master of Science in Exercise Science. Liberty University Online. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Associate in Arts Degree Pathway to a Major in Exercise Science. Miami Dade College. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Sport and Exercise Science Prerequisite Courses for the Major Associate in Arts. Seminole State College of Florida. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership - Sport, Fitness, and Wellness Management. University of the Rockies. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Exercise Science - Concentration of Physical Education. University of Wisconsin- Superior. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  • Careers in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science. Stephen F Austin State University. Accessed August 22, 2016.
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