shutterstock 1494043136According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or group exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercises, strength-training, and stretching. Personal trainers work with people of all ages and skill levels. Becoming a personal trainer is a great career with wonderful connections and joyous moments. Although a post high-school certificate is all that is needed to practice as a personal trainer; college degrees, both undergraduate and graduate level, are available if you want to pursue health and fitness as a career.

Bachelor’s degrees in fitness usually include topics in Kinesiology, Exercise Science, or Physical Education. These undergraduate degrees focus mostly on exercise and nutrition, while graduate degrees focus on human movement, functional anatomy, design fitness programs, and evaluate health programs. Graduate degrees related to fitness are appropriate foundations to become certified personal trainers. Some graduate degrees related to personal training include: Master of Science in Exercise Science, Master of Science in Kinesiology, and Master of Science in Athletic Training.

The increase in fitness awareness around the United States is validated by the BLS as they project a 13% growth in the field, more so than the national average for all occupations. Obtaining a graduate-level degree is the highest degree you can achieve to become a personal trainer. You may ask, what would be the best graduate degree to get if I want to become a personal trainer? The following are ideas to help with your decision and career choice.

Exercise Science

Exercise science studies physical movements of humans and how exercise and the human body interact. Exercise science is simply the scientific approach to fitness. Typical exercise science curriculum includes physical activity and public health. Here is an example of “Master of Science in Exercise Science” curriculum from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts:

  • Cardiopulmonary Physiology
  • Physical Activity and Exercise: Prescription, Measurement, and Testing
  • Advanced Exercise Physiology
  • Physical Activity and Exercise: Effects on Musculoskeletal Health and Disease
  • Electrocardiography, Clinical Assessment, and Prescription
  • Health Education and Program Planning
  • Introduction to Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics in Public Health
  • Applied Research Methods
  • Clinical Nutrition Applications in Health and Disease

As you can see, Exercise Science offers advanced classes related to physical activity and public health. This graduate level degree even teaches ways to “prescribe” certain exercise programs. Obtaining a Master of Science in Exercise Science would make you an expert in your field. It would prove thorough training, education, and skills. Within the Exercise Science degree program, you can choose different variations. Some include a Master of Science in Exercise Science with a concentration in:

  • Health and Human Performance
  • Sport Health Science
  • Movement Sciences
  • Physical Education and Human Movement Studies
  • Human Bioenergetics
  • Sports Science
  • Health Promotion

This degree would allow for well-rounded education and immediate personal training certification approval; either while attending graduate school or prior to graduation. A Master of Science in Exercise Science is a good path to take if your goal is to become a personal trainer.

Kinesiology

Another route to become a personal trainer is to obtain a Master of Science in Kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of movement. More specifically, the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. Although Kinesiology is similar to Exercise Science, there are some differences in curriculum. While Exercise Science focuses on the interaction between exercise and the human body, Kinesiology focuses on strength, training, and overall fitness. Within the kinesiology degree program, you can choose different variations. Some include a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in:

  • Strength, Conditioning, and Fitness
  • Sport Management and Policy
  • Exercise Psychology
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Motor Behavior
  • Sport Pedagogy

Typical kinesiology curriculum includes: exercise science, physical fitness assessment and development, strength and conditioning, and nutrition. Here is an example of “Master of Science in Kinesiology” core curriculum from The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia:

  • Biomechanics
  • Applied Biomechanics
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Applied Exercise Physiology
  • Scientific Principles of Conditioning and Fitness
  • Physical Fitness Programs
  • Nutrition and Life Cycle
  • Seminar in Strength, Conditioning and Fitness
  • Research Methods in Kinesiology
  • Internship in Kinesiology and/or Practicum in Kinesiology

This degree would allow for well-rounded education and immediate personal training certification approval. Surprisingly, this degree requires mandatory personal training certification prior to graduation. Meaning, you must get certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the American Colleges of Sports Medicine prior to graduation. This is a requirement for the Master of Science in Kinesiology degree. Being certified guarantees you are marketable directly after graduation and more likely to land a job right out of graduate school. A Master of Science in Kinesiology is a good and widespread route to take if your goal is to become a personal trainer.

Athletic Training

 Lastly, an additional route to become a personal trainer is by completing a Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT). As one of the most hands-on profession, athletic training is the specialization of prevention, rehabilitation, and management of sports injuries. Prevention, rehabilitation, and management of injuries result from physical activity. Graduates of this program are members of sports medicine teams. Athletic trainers work with clientele that are physically active to maintain the client’s safety and well-being.

Athletic training varies from Exercise Science and Kinesiology as it is more medically focused than actual fitness training. As you obtain a Master of Science in Athletic Training, there are many opportunities for hands-on skills training such as clinical field training, casting and bracing injuries, as well as other therapeutic modalities. Some MSAT programs even teach students how to read medical imaging tests such as MRIs, CT-scans or X-rays.

While Exercise Science focuses on the interaction between exercise and the human body, and Kinesiology focuses on strength, training, and overall fitness; Athletic training focuses on athlete injury management, medical treatment, and injury prevention planning. Within the athletic training degree program, you can choose different variations. Some include a Master of Science in Athletic Training with a concentration in:

  • Sports Medicine
  • Sports Medicine: Strength and Conditioning
  • Sports Conditioning and Performance
  • Sport and Exercise Medicine
  • Athletic Administration
  • Health and Sport Sciences
  • Biomechanics and Sports Medicine
  • Health and Human Performance

Typical athletic training curriculum includes a medical approach to physical activity, prevention, rehabilitation, and management of injuries. Because athletic training has designated aspects of injury management, it is understood that it presumes a more medical approach. Some MSAT programs require four semesters of clinical field experience. That amount of clinical training is very hands on and extensive.

Management of sport injuries are often referred to as “Sports Medicine”. Sports Medicine and Athletic Training are often used interchangeably due to their similarities. Athletic trainers are sometimes compared to Emergency Medical Technicians, but instead of tending to emergencies out in the public, they tend to emergencies out on the field and sports arenas. A Master of Science in Athletic Training is used interchangeably with Sports Medicine because of its heavy influence in medical theory and practice. Here is an example of “Master of Science in Athletic Training” core curriculum from Shenandoah University located in Winchester, Virginia:

  • Risk Management and Emergency Care for Athletes
  • Advanced Athletic Training Techniques
  • Functional Human Anatomy I and II
  • Therapeutic Exercise I and II
  • Pathology/Evaluation of Athletic Injury
  • Therapeutic Modalities
  • Psychological Intervention/Referral in Athletic Training
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Athletic Training
  • Imaging in Athletic Training
  • Sports Nutrition
  • Clinical Field Experience I, II, III, and IV
  • Clinical Medicine
  • Ethics/Professionalism in Athletic Training
  • Clinical Research I and II
  • Advanced Rehabilitation of Athletic Injury
  • Casting and Bracing in Athletic Training
  • Pharmacology in Athletic Training
  • Health Care Administration
  • Theories and Practice of Conditioning Athletes
  • Research and Senior Seminar

Out of the three Master’s degrees, Master of Science in Athletic Training requires the most graduate credit hours. This can be contributed to the amount of hands-on clinical requirements.

This degree permits high standards and immediate personal training certification approval. Athletic training is one of the most popular degree paths for personal training. The amount of clinical preparation for the MSAT makes students prime candidates for fitness and personal training positions. Master of Science in Athletic Training is definitely one of the best choices if your goal is to become a personal trainer.

Overall, personal training can be accomplished by going to graduate school for a degree in fitness. Specifically, a Master of Science in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, or Athletic Training are your best bet to become competent in the field and ready to work after graduation. Gaining a Master’s degree related to personal training will make you more marketable in the eyes of employers. More years of education means that you are more prepared as a personal trainer, hence a greater asset to many companies. It just might happen, that you get chosen for hire over someone with a sole certificate or undergraduate degree. Your graduate degree is valuable when being compared for jobs and considered for employment.

Tessa Chatham

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing Education| Aspen University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Nursing| Texas Christian University

Bachelor of Arts (B.A), Psychology and English| The University of Texas at Arlington

October 2019

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