What is a Kinesiology Degree?

The draw of a degree in kinesiology may well be attached to the interdisciplinary nature of the field. A kinesiology major can prepare students for a wide spectrum of careers in health, wellness, fitness, and education.

It provides solid footing for prospective personal trainers, athletic therapists, and, of course, kinesiologists. It also lays the foundation for advanced study in kinesiology and in the complementary fields of medicine, physiotherapy, and chiropractics.

When one considers the breadth of knowledge that graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology possess, it is not surprising that in general they have little trouble finding jobs in their field. Their versatile skill set is simultaneously specific to human movement and adaptable to the physiological, bio-mechanical, psychological, and sociological elements that interact to enable it.

  • A thorough understanding of all of the factors that affect human movement: biological, psychological, social, and aesthetic
  • Knowledge of theories, trends, and developments in health and fitness
  • Ability to develop and administer plans for injury prevention and rehabilitation
  • Ability to assess risks associated with work, leisure, and sporting activities
  • Ability to apply the principles of biomechanics to determine strategies for maximizing human physical potential
  • Ability to assess the quality and proper usage of athletic activities, equipment, and environments
  • Ability to plan and administer appropriate physical activities and programs for individuals and groups
  • Ability to assess the physical and recreational needs of communities and make community planning recommendations

Program Options

Another argument for earning a kinesiology degree is that it can be achieved at any one of the four major degree levels.

Associate Degree in Kinesiology - Two Year Duration
An associate degree can give a competitive edge to applicants for personal trainer positions and prepare them for further study in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology - Four Year Duration
A Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology increases employability to include jobs such as exercise physiologist and athletic trainer.

Master’s Degree in Kinesiology - Two Year Duration
A master’s degree in the field opens up opportunities to work as a physician’s assistant or an occupational therapist.

Doctoral Degree in Kinesiology - Five to Six Year Duration
Graduates with a bachelor’s or a master’s can go on to medical or chiropractic school; or earn a Ph.D. in Kinesiology and conduct research or teach at the university level.

Degrees Similar to Kinesiology

The fields of health science, healthcare, and wellness are diverse. Therefore, students thinking about pursuing a degree in kinesiology have a wide range of other related degrees that may also respond to their career aspirations:

Nutrition and Food Science
Kinesiology is the science of human movement. Nutrition, of course, has an impact on the capacity of the human body to move with ease – or with dis-ease. These two subfields of health science are closely connected.

Physical Education / Exercise Science
While kinesiology focuses on the mechanics of the human body, physical education encompasses the wider study of health, wellness, fitness, sports, and recreation. It therefore presents students with a variety of career choices at various credential levels, from certificate to diploma to undergraduate degree.

Exercise Physiology
A degree in exercise physiology typically includes coursework in biology, anatomy, nutrition; and in kinesiology as well. This degree – often the choice of aspiring athletics trainers, whose job it is to recognize, assess, and help prevent internal and external injuries – has a wider scope than does a degree in kinesiology. Exercise physiologists work to improve overall patient health. They help people recover from chronic illnesses and injuries by developing programs aimed at increased flexibility and cardiovascular function.

Physical Therapy
The fields of physical therapy and kinesiology are closely connected. Kinesiologists study the mechanical elements of human movement. Physical therapists treat patients for whom that movement has become strained or limited due to injury, illness, or aging. They are in the business of restoring movement and function.

Occupational Therapy
It has been said that physical therapists (PTs) treat the patient’s impairment, while occupational therapists (OTs) treat the whole person. An OT, for example, helps people with a spinal cord injury manage temporary or permanent disabilities caused by their injury. The focus of kinesiology on human movement speaks to the connection between these two degrees.

The field of nursing is broad. And nurses work in virtually every aspect of healthcare. A nursing degree – and there are many different ones – could be of interest to someone who initially considered a degree in kinesiology, simply because all health, wellness, and health science fields are ultimately connected.

Skills You’ll Learn

Students who complete a kinesiology program and earn a degree in the discipline typically gain a fairly well-rounded set of skills, both hard and soft.

Hard skills / concepts learned in a kinesiology program:

  • Motor skills and behavior
  • Exercise physiology – the body’s responses to physical exercise
  • Biomechanics – how the skeletal and musculature systems work under different conditions
  • Neuroscience – the study of the nervous system
  • Exercise design
  • Pathophysiology – changes in normal physiological processes associated with disease or injury
  • Musculoskeletal disorders – injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement

Soft skills that typically result from completing a kinesiology program:

Listening and Communication
These are skills that are truly the by-products of earning any degree. Successfully completing a rigorous educational track means that you learned how to listen and interact, as well as how to communicate both verbally and nonverbally. These are the cornerstone takeaways from education in general.

Every health science and healthcare program instills in its students the capacity to observe and monitor patients and clients. Observation is the key to understanding any and every health-related issue.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making
In medical and health settings, it is absolutely essential that practitioners are able to think critically, to see problems and consider challenges from different perspectives. This approach is the only route to presenting the right plan and making the right decision.

Kinesiologists, like all other health science professionals, are fundamentally in teaching roles that require them to help patients change their behavior, habits, and attitudes.

Social Perception and Empathy
The best health and wellness practitioners are able to understand what their clients are experiencing. They are socially aware and genuinely want to help.

A Service Mindset
In any job that entails working with people, a commitment to customer service is needed. This characteristic, of course, is highly transferrable.

What Can You Do with a Kinesiology Degree?

The four primary occupational categories in kinesiology are listed below. As part of the healthcare industry, they are among the most future-proof jobs.

Fitness and Wellness Occupations are focused on ways to support healthy living practices in general, and to develop targeted methods to assess and treat injuries and disease.

  • Rehabilitation / Ergonomics
  • Sports Sciences
  • Medical

Physical Education Occupations are focused on studying physical education, as well as supporting it in instructional and administrative roles.

  • Research
  • Coaching
  • Administration
  • Self-Employment

Recreation and Leisure Occupations are focused on creating and maintaining public and private spaces that promote physical health, activity, and relaxation opportunities.

  • Municipal Parks and Recreation
  • Provincial/State and Federal Governments
  • Youth Services Agencies
  • Institutional Employment
  • Commercial Recreation
  • Camping and Outdoor Recreation

Health Education Occupations are focused on teaching people about behaviors that promote health. People who work in this sector develop and implement health and wellness strategies for individuals and communities.

  • Teaching
  • Volunteer/Community Based Occupations
  • Health Authorities / Government Agencies / Amateur Sport Governing Bodies
  • Self-Employment


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