Kinesiology and Exercise Science Careers Outlook

Does human anatomy and physiology, nutrition or exercise science interest you? Do you enjoy helping people and take an interest in people’s long-term development? If so, you may want to learn about kinesiology careers. Kinesiotherapists use rehabilitative exercises, conditioning programs and exercise education to help patients improve their body mechanics and activity levels. This article discusses kinesiology career paths, kinesiologist jobs and demand for kinesiology professionals.

Kinesiology Career Path

There are multiple career paths that can help you become a kinesiotherapist. Many include a mix of educational experience, such as completing a health care degree, and clinical experience.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) career outlook article, kinesiotherapists need a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You can gain your kinesiology education through an in-person or online program in kinesiology or a related field, such as exercise science. An online bachelor’s in kinesiology could be a great way to gain the necessary education with the flexibility to study from anywhere. In a kinesiology program, you may learn about:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Rehabilitative and therapeutic exercises
  • Administrative duties of kinesiologists
  • First aid
  • Sports injury prevention and rehabilitation
  • Nutrition
  • Communication

The BLS article notes that regardless of the degree you pursue, your program must include 1,000 clinical internship hours in kinesiotherapy. Through a clinical internship, you’ll apply what you learned in your kinesiology classes to real-life care settings. Once you’ve completed your education and internship, you can apply for professional registration through the American Kinesiotherapy Association. To become a registered kinesiotherapist (RKT), you’ll have to take and pass the American Kinesiotherapy Association’s exam, which is offered in January and July.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Bachelor's in Kinesiology?

According to the BLS article, kinesiologists work in hospitals, clinics, fitness centers, rehab facilities, and colleges and universities. Many registered kinesiotherapists are employed at VA hospitals by the Veterans Health Administration, the BLS reports. With a bachelor’s in kinesiology, you can find a variety of kinesiology jobs based on your desired work setting and interests. For example, you could search for kinesiologist careers that highlight your favorite aspect of kinesiology, whether that’s nutrition, exercise physiology and education, or treating sports injuries.

10 Great Jobs in Kinesiology

A kinesiology education equips you with broadly applicable knowledge about human movement and the human body. The American Kinesiology Association (AKA), an organization committed to promoting kinesiology nationally and internationally, notes kinesiology careers on its website. We developed the below list of kinesiology jobs based on some of the kinesiologist careers featured by AKA and recognized by the BLS. Median pay, job growth rate and employment change information comes from the BLS.

1. Athletic Trainer

2019 median pay: $48,440

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 19%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 5,900

Description: Athletic trainers prevent, diagnose and treat injuries in people of various ages. They work in a variety of environments, such as educational services, hospital, fitness center, self-employed, and occupational and physical therapist office settings. Some athletic trainers work with professional athletes or sports teams. If you’re passionate about sports, this is a kinesiology job you may enjoy. As an athletic trainer, you’ll make sure sport programs comply with safety and state regulations. Most states require that athletic trainers are licensed or certified.

2. Coach or Scout

2019 median pay: $34,840

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 11%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 30,500

Description: Coaches and scouts typically work irregular hours and travel frequently to sports games and events. Coaches teach and train athletes in a particular sport, while scouts find and evaluate new players for sports teams at the college, amateur or professional level. Many high school coaches are also teachers or administrators. According to the BLS, coaches and scouts usually need a bachelor’s degree. Some coaches may choose to study kinesiology, nutrition and fitness, sports medicine or physical education, the BLS reports. Many states require coaches to become certified. Becoming a coach or scout could be an excellent kinesiology career if you’re passionate about a particular sport.

3. Fitness Trainer and Instructor

2019 median pay: $40,390

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 13%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 45,700

Description: Kinesiology jobs as fitness trainers and instructors could be a great fit for you if you enjoy motivating people through exercise. Trainers and instructors guide groups and individuals through strength training, stretching and/or conditioning. If this kinesiology career interests you, there are many specialities you can pursue. For example, you could become a yoga instructor or professional trainer at a local gym. Certification is commonly required to become a trainer or instructor, depending on your specialty. The BLS notes that more employers are requiring these professionals to have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as physical education, kinesiology or exercise science.

4. Massage Therapist

2019 median pay: $42,820

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 22%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 35,400

Description: Massage therapists use touch to treat clients’ muscles and other soft tissues. They help relieve pain and stress, facilitate relaxation, increase circulation and heal injuries. While a high school diploma is usually the minimum education required for this career, many massage therapy programs cover kinesiology topics. The BLS reports that 45 states regulate massage therapy. Regulation often requires that massage therapists become licensed or certified before working with patients. The BLS also notes that demand for massage therapists is likely to increase as health care providers begin to understand massage therapy and how it can be incorporated into treatment plans, making this one of many strong kinesiology jobs to consider.

5. Occupational Therapist

2019 median pay: $84,950

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 18%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 23,700

Description: For those interested in completing additional schooling, getting a master’s in occupational therapy could be an excellent kinesiology career. Occupational therapists use therapeutic exercises to treat patients’ injuries, illnesses or disabilities. As an occupational therapist, you could help a variety of patients—children, people with disabilities and elderly individuals, for example. You’ll help patients cultivate the skills needed to perform daily tasks. Occupational therapists have at least a master’s degree and need to be licensed. According to the BLS, all states require licensure among occupational therapists.

6. Physical Therapist

2019 median pay: $89,440

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 22%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 54,200

Description: Like occupational therapists, physical therapists help injured or sick patients move better and manage pain. They develop treatment plans, using stretching exercises and hands-on therapy to help patients meet their physical therapy goals. This could be a kinesiology job worth considering if you’re interested in completing additional schooling. Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. Your kinesiology background could prepare you for a DPT program, which usually takes three years to complete. Physical therapists must meet state licensure requirements.

7. Recreational Therapist

2019 median pay: $48,220

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 7%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 1,400

Description: Recreational therapists also create treatment plans for patients with injuries, sicknesses or disabilities. However, unlike occupational and physical therapists, they typically only need a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy or another related field. Recreational therapists’ treatment plans can incorporate drama, music, aquatic exercises, crafts and social outings to improve patients’ well-being. If this kinesiologist job interests you, investigate state licensure requirements and employers’ certification preferences in your area.

8. Respiratory Therapist

2019 median pay: $61,330

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 21%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 27,900

Description: Respiratory therapists treat patients who have difficulty breathing, such as from cardiopulmonary disorders or chronic respiratory diseases like asthma. As a respiratory therapist, you’ll test patients’ lung capacity and collaborate with physicians to create respiratory care plans for patients. You also may perform chest physiotherapy to remove mucus from the lungs of patients suffering from diseases such as cystic fibrosis. All states require respiratory therapists to possess the CRT credential and most states require respiratory therapists to be licensed. These professionals need at least an associate degree and often complete a respiratory therapy program. Your kinesiology background could be beneficial as you learn about pharmacology, physiology and other topics as they relate to respiratory care.

9. Teacher

2019 median pay: $59,420 (kindergarten and elementary); $59,660 (middle school); $61,660 (high school); $79,540 (postsecondary)

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: varies by position

Change in number of jobs, 2018-2028: varies by position

Description: AKA suggests “physical education teacher” as a kinesiology career. Becoming a PE teacher is a great opportunity for kinesiotherapists to share their knowledge with others. If teaching about kinesiology and exercise science interests you, you can pursue a career in many educational settings. The BLS provides occupational data for kindergarten and elementary, middle school, high school and postsecondary teachers. Depending on where you’d like to work, check state licensure, certification and registration requirements.

10. Umpire, Referee or Other Sports Official

2019 median pay: $28,550

Projected job growth, 2018-2028: 6%

Increase in number of jobs, 2018-2028: 1,300

Description: Umpires, referees and other sports officials have thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations of the sport they officiate. Some may have acquired this knowledge from playing the sport. Depending on the state and sport association, you may need to pass an examination or take classes to officiate sporting events. As a kinesiotherapist, you may be interested in these jobs if you’re passionate about a particular sport. Umpires, referees and other sports officials not only keep track of game time and enforce game rules, but they also ensure safety by inspecting sports participants and equipment.

Kinesiology Job Outlook

The BLS doesn’t collect data on kinesiotherapists. Rather, it counts and features them among exercise physiologists. According to the BLS, exercise physiologists have a positive job outlook; employment is expected to grow 10% from 2018 through 2028, which is faster than the average across all occupations. The BLS notes that demand may increase as fitness and preventative care are emphasized to help hospital patients overcome diseases and improve their health. This is a relatively small field, so competition for exercise physiologist and kinesiologist jobs is expected to be high.

The job outlook for many of the kinesiology jobs listed above, however, is bright. Whether you want to become a PE teacher, recreational therapist, fitness trainer or coach, there are many kinesiologist careers to choose from.

Why Become a Kinesiologist?

Kinesiologists assess and treat a patient’s body movement issues. Their work combines science and personal care. If you’re interested in helping people improve their health and wellness, one of the many kinesiology careers outlined in this article could be for you.

Last Updated July 2020