The fitness industry is booming, this means careers with an exercise science degree are everywhere. In fact, fitness trainers and other exercise-related jobs (health coach, fitness instructor, and physical therapist, for example) are expected to increase in demand by at least 13% by 2028.

Careers With An Exercise Science Degree

If you want to work in health and fitness, it all starts with an exercise science degree. Here, we’ll list the most popular career paths someone with an interest and education in fitness can explore. Then we’ll list additional jobs an exercise science degree can get you prepped for. Some require additional licensure that a foundational education will help you achieve.

Personal Trainer

No, you don't need an exercise science degree to become a personal trainer. In fact, a personal training certification is the standard to get your foot in the door to start your career. However, more and more gyms require bachelor's degrees in exercise science (or related fields like exercise physiology) for their personal trainers. In fact, the majority of gyms now strongly prefer degrees. Personal trainers who have a bachelor's degree with an exercise science major will ultimately make more money in the industry.

Of course, personal training is only one of the many certifications you can get with this degree. You could also become a group fitness instructor, a health coach, nutrition coach, wellness director, or more. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a personal trainer is $40,000. However, individuals with a bachelor's degree in exercise science and additional fitness certifications can earn more. Even so, this average salary doesn't reflect what you can expect to earn as a personal trainer. This is because the average includes part-time workers, which is common in training and especially for group fitness instructors. Therefore, advanced education, like that provided at Lionel University, can position you to make a six-figure income as a fitness trainer. Even better, you’ll earn your personal training certification and other specializations along the way at Lionel. This allows you to begin working as a fitness professional even before you finish your exercise science program.

Even better than the salary is the demand for fitness professionals. Certified personal trainers are in high demand, so if you complete an exercise science program and earn a certification, you're almost guaranteed your choice of exercise science jobs. The reason for so many career opportunities for a fitness trainer is the growing obesity epidemic in America. Now, more than ever, people need the help of a qualified fitness coach.

There's also plenty of room for growth within the field. There are management positions, physical education opportunities, the ability to become independent, and you can even start your own fitness business from home!


Strength & Conditioning Coach

With any degree level, from an associate’s degree to a master’s degree, you can become certified as a strength and conditioning coach. This allows you to begin working with a wide variety of different athletic programs and sports teams.

Many of the high-level professional and college sports programs are competitive for a strength and conditioning coach, so having a master's degree is almost a requirement to land a good job in the field these days. The average salary in the field falls close to $50,000 a year. Some coaches holding master's degrees receive as much as $83,000.

Check Out Our Master Trainer Certificate if you think you want to work with athletes and follow a strength and conditioning coach career path.

Check Out Our Master Trainer Certificate if you think you want to work with athletes and follow a strength and conditioning coach career path.

Athletic Director

Athletic directors are responsible for any number of athletic programs. These could be in schools, clubs, colleges, sports leagues, recreational facilities, or more. Athletic directors will generally be responsible for overseeing and directing an athletic program that could consist of multiple sports within the specific departments. The director will generally oversee multiple coaches and assistant coaches. Programs will be a mix of physical education, general physical activity, and sport-specific athletic training.

Because of the wide variety of programs, there is also a wide variety in salaries. Some athletic directors could be making under $30,000, while some will be making over $200,000 in high-end college facilities. However, the overall average for an athletic director is around $61,000. 

Sports Coach

This is a good place to start if you're looking into a career as an athletic director, and it's another option that offers a lot of variety. A middle school volleyball coach is unlikely to make as much money as a college basketball coach, but that doesn't mean it's not as fulfilling.

Depending on the sport and the nature of the program, sports coaches could earn anywhere from under $30,000 to over $150,000. The average across all sports coaches in the US is around $43,000.

As a sports coach, you're responsible for everything from teaching sport-specific rules and regulations, to skills training, to creating winning strategies for your team. This role falls under physical education and requires at least a bachelor's degree or higher.

Wellness coach or Instructor

This could include yoga, Pilates, nutrition, or some type of wellness program you enjoy. While a degree is not required for these positions, they tend to be fulfilling careers that people enjoy. There are plenty of opportunities to work independently or own your own facility.

Believe it or not, yoga instructors make a wide range of salaries. On the lower end, they make around $30,000 a year (for the side gig people) but they have prospects for making over $100,000, especially when working independently. In addition to earning hours to become a yoga instructor, clients may want to see some sort of health science education or experience.

Of course, you already understand physiology, so adding an exercise science program to your resume will meet those expectations.

There are also a lot of holistic and other wellness careers or certifications you can use on the side. Many people with exercise science degrees become massage therapists or work with the human body in some other way. Further, wellness coaches are also on the rise. Sometimes also called a health coach, these wellness professionals include coaching and lifestyle modifications to reduce stress, improve sleep, and follow healthy nutrition.



This will require additional training after you earn your bachelor's degree. But it is a popular field for people with exercise science degrees. Why is that? Well, people with a passion for fitness tend to incorporate nutrition into their lifestyles. The two go hand in hand.

A registered dietician with an exercise science degree has an advantage over a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. However, the additional training and studying will be important, as you will need to complete a dietitian internship and pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam in order to become certified.

If you're looking into personal training or a related career path, this additional certification will undoubtedly increase your salary prospects. However, if you're looking to go directly into the dietitian field, you should expect a salary of around $61,000 to $75,000, with some specialists exceeding $200,000.


Going Further With Education

People with an associate's, bachelor's, or even master's degree in exercise science don't necessarily have to stop learning. Many people with these degrees continue on to work in related fields.

Some will become physician's assistants or even doctors. Physical therapy is another common career path with promising salaries. You could also become an exercise physiologist, chiropractor, or a wide variety of other careers. However, you should stick with work that is the most fulfilling and exciting to you! Here is a list of other roles an exercise science major can consider:

  • Exercise physiologist
  • Recreational therapist
  • Cardiac rehabilitation technician
  • Occupational therapist or technician
  • Athletic trainer
  • Massage therapist

The sky's the limit with an interesting and rewarding education for exercise science specialists. Check out how to get the best exercise science jobs and start developing your career path today.

Now that you know some of the most promising career paths for those with exercise science degrees, you can look into these career paths more in-depth and see what's most appealing to you! Remember, the only things that matter are that you're happy and healthy. 

So make sure your career aligns with those goals! If you're interested in pursuing an exercise science degree at any level, check out our programs and get started!

Don’t forget, at Lionel University, students earn personal training and nutrition certifications along the way. This allows you to start working and get jobs as a fitness professional before you even graduate! And, with the help of financial aid, you don’t have to wait and save up.

It’s one of the many reasons why so many people choose Lionel University to study exercise science. To learn more about whether Lionel is a good fit for your exercise science degree, contact us today!