Is a Kinesiology Degree Worth It?


Key Takeaways 

  • A kinesiology degree offers diverse career pathways in health and fitness, sports, rehabilitation, and wellness industries.
  • The investment in a kinesiology degree can lead to meaningful work with competitive salaries and a positive job outlook.
  • Kinesiology graduates play a crucial role in enhancing health and performance, leading to high job satisfaction.

Introduction to Kinesiology as a Field of Study

Kinesiology studies physical activity in many ways. It includes studying how our bodies work during physical activity and how our minds affect movement, among other things.

This field of study is a big deal in American higher education, with whole departments dedicated to it. It’s an interdisciplinary field encompassing the arts, humanities, and sciences. Here are the core fields discussed in kinesiology programs.


Featured Programs

Anatomy involves the detailed examination of the structure and organization of the human body. In most cases, students are required to participate in dissecting cadavers to understand anatomy fully.


Physiology complements anatomy by focusing on the body’s functions and mechanisms. It explores how different systems within the body operate individually and interact with each other to support life and movement. Students delve into physiological processes related to physical activity, exercise, and health.


Psychology delves into the mental aspects of movement. It explores how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors influence physical activity and performance. This subject can lead to more effective coaching, training, and rehabilitation strategies.


Biomechanics discusses the mechanics of human movement. It examines the forces acting on the body during physical activity and how these forces affect performance and injury risk. It gives students the ability to analyze movement patterns and techniques. As a result, students will become proficient in helping people optimize performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

It’s a common misconception that kinesiology specialists are only valuable to sports and fitness industries. However, these professionals are valuable for much more than that.

Kinesiology degree prospects are vast and varied. Graduates can pursue careers in diverse fields. You can find multiple opportunities in healthcare, education, research, and rehabilitation.

Educational Requirements and Options in Kinesiology

Kinesiology’s influence continues to grow. It’s continuously shaping how we understand and optimize human movement. As a result, these programs are becoming more and more popular and demanding.

There are four levels of degrees in kinesiology:

Associate in Kinesiology 

Earning an associate degree is an excellent first step in jumpstarting a career in the physical fitness industry. These programs usually require 60 credits and can usually be completed in two years. The coursework is focused on the fundamentals of kinesiology.

Graduates of associate degrees in kinesiology will have basic knowledge of the following areas:

  • Foundations of Kinesiology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Exercise Science
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Fitness Programming and Training
  • Injury Prevention and First Aid

Associate programs also include practical components. In most cases, you can select the activity courses you want to take to complete your degree. There might be yoga, weight training, aerobics, martial arts, dance, and sports options.

Bachelor in Kinesiology  

A bachelor’s degree is the most common requirement for entry-level jobs with higher pay. These programs usually take four years to complete and 120 credit hours. Bachelor’s degrees are focused on expanding your expertise.

These programs are highly dedicated to practice-based learning. You’ll start with fundamental courses, including:

  • Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Active health
  • Human behavior
  • Human Anatomy
  • Exercise psychology
  • Leadership and Health Policy

Your second year will mainly focus on preparing you for a full-time career. This phase connects you with industry experts and focuses on practical skills for real-world learning experiences.

The third and fourth years of the program discuss research methods, data analysis, professional ethics, and real-world studies. Most Bachelor’s degrees in kinesiology also offer specialization courses. This allows you to tailor your learning based on your career goals.

The last part of the curriculum includes field studies and a final project. This component ensures that you’re well-prepared for practice. It also helps you gain more confidence and have more opportunities to improve community health right after earning your kinesiology degree.

Master in Kinesiology 

A Master’s degree in Kinesiology goes deeper into studying how people move and applying that knowledge. It usually takes two more years after getting a Bachelor’s degree. These programs offer advanced classes, chances to do research, and sometimes you can specialize.

In a Master’s program, you can focus on improving sports performance, helping people recover from injuries, how the body responds to exercise, how the body moves, or promoting public health. Classes might cover topics such as:

  • Advanced Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics of Human Movement
  • Advanced Strength and Conditioning
  • Clinical Exercise Testing and Prescription
  • Research Methods in Kinesiology
  • Motor Learning and Control
  • Epidemiology and Public Health in Physical Activity

In addition to coursework, you’ll complete a thesis or a comprehensive research project. This will help you contribute to the body of knowledge in the field and develop advanced research skills.

Doctorate in Kinesiology

If you really want to become an expert in Kinesiology, you should get a Doctorate (PhD). These programs focus a lot on research and usually take three to five more years after getting a master’s degree.

You can usually pick one area you’re really interested in and do original research with help from teachers. Popular areas include:

  • how the body reacts to exercise
  • how it moves
  • how people control their movements
  • how the mind affects sports
  • how physical activity affects public health

Besides doing research, PhD students might also get to teach undergraduates, write articles for academics, and present their findings at meetings. The biggest part of finishing a PhD program is writing and defending a dissertation. This component adds something new to what we know about kinesiology.

Many universities now offer online learning modalities for nontraditional students. However, several questions arise about online learning.

“Is an online kinesiology degree worth it?” Well, yes! As long as they’re properly accredited, online kinesiology programs are held to the same high standards as in-person schools. 

However, kinesiology is highly practice-based, meaning the best online programs will be “hybrid.” This learning modality blends the convenience of online learning with the essential hands-on experiences necessary for mastering the field. Nevertheless, hybrid learning still has several benefits above on-campus programs:

  • You don’t have to report to campus daily, reducing transportation costs.
  • You have better control over your schedules, allowing you to balance your studies with other commitments.
  • You can access more kinesiology programs that may be geographically distant from your location.

Career Opportunities and Specializations within Kinesiology

Kinesiology career options are vast. The prospects available to you will mainly rely on your specialization and education level. But typically, you can find employment opportunities in the following fields: 

  • Physical therapy

Kinesiology grads often seek additional training to become physical therapists. You’ll help patients recover from injuries, alleviate pain, and enhance mobility. It requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and licensure for practice.

  • Sports management

If you have a keen business side, consider a career in sports management. You’ll oversee various aspects of sports organizations, from marketing and finance to event planning and athlete management. You may work for professional teams, collegiate departments, agencies, or marketing firms.

  • Exercise science

This profession delves into human movement and exercise physiology. It uncovers impact of physical activity on health and performance. You can find opportunities in fitness centers, hospitals, sports facilities, corporate wellness programs, or research institutions.

  • Corporate wellness

You can participate in corporate wellness programs if you’re more of an advocate. You’ll be responsible for diverse wellness initiatives, including employee health and productivity.

Let’s take a look at popular career opportunities based on career levels.

As an associate degree graduate, you may be restricted to the following career paths: 

RoleAverage Annual Salary
Fitness instructor$54,494
Fitness consultant$35,000

Bachelor’s degree graduates can pursue more opportunities, including: 

RoleAverage Annual Salary
Exercise physiologist/Kinesiologist$59,784
Athletic trainer$55,463
Strength and conditioning coach$56,231

Master’s degrees in specialized areas of Kinesiology pave the way for leadership roles and specialized career paths within the field. Kinesiology salary potential at the master’s level is higher than that of bachelor’s graduates: 

RoleAverage Annual Salary
Athletic director$100,034
Occupational therapist$94,375

Doctorates are terminal degrees, which means that graduates can access more opportunities and specializations like: 

RoleAverage Annual Salary
Sports medicine physician (MD required)$125,000
Physical therapist (DPT required)$122,583
Research scientist (PhD required)$95,172

Financial Considerations of a Kinesiology Degree

Here’s an outline of the average tuition costs of kinesiology degrees based on education level. 

Average Tuition Cost Per Year
Associate Degree$8,220
Bachelor’s Degree$36,436
Master’s Degree$59,684
Doctoral Degree
– PhD
– EdD
– MD

– $81,900
– $62,780
– $66,074
– $58,968

You also need to consider other cost factors, including school/campus fees, potential additional certifications, transportation fees, and living expenses. Depending on the location and lifestyle choices, these fees and expenses can cost up to $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

Bachelor’s and master’s degree rates may double if you’re an out-of-state student. 

The overall cost of education is expensive, and it is expected to increase by 1% every year. This causes many students to second-guess whether pursuing a college degree is worth it. 

Yet, the benefits of studying kinesiology can outweigh the rising cost of education. The higher the degree, the higher the educational costs. However, comparing them to their equivalent career opportunities will make the investment more reasonable. 

The latest Labor Statistics data suggest that the demand for kinesiology specialists is much faster than the average for all occupations. It is expected to grow 10 percent from 2022 to 2032. This demand means more job opportunities and significantly low unemployment risks. 

To ensure significant ROI, you must be wise when paying for tuition. Here are a few tips to reduce educational costs: 

  • Apply for the FAFSA early to avail of more financial aid programs to help offset the cost of education. 
  • Prioritize in-state schools; they usually offer in-state tuition discounts. 
  • Consider work-study or employment assistance programs. 
  • Check databases and use search engines to find scholarship programs. Apply to as many as you can.
  • Ask about tuition payment plans to spread the cost over time, making it more manageable.

Loans are always available but should be the least of your options. Loans often have high interest rates, leading to significant debt burdens after graduation. Focus on exploring gift aid programs that don’t need to be repaid.

Long-Term Benefits of a Kinesiology Degree

Considering a career in kinesiology has several benefits beyond significant financial earnings. As a kinesiologist, your expertise will play a big role in:

  • Advocating for healthy physical activity as sedentary lifestyles become increasingly prevalent. 
  • Helping those already physically active improve performance while minimizing the risk of injury. 
  • Facilitating rehabilitation for individuals recovering from injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions.

You also have various opportunities to design the course of your career by pursuing specialization. You won’t become irrelevant in the market, resulting in higher job stability and personal fulfillment.