How to Become a Kinesiologist

Kinesiology is the study of the human body’s movement, and in the United States, kinesiologists are now considered allied health professionals. Kinesiology is at a fascinating intersection of several scientific fields that all come together in motion. As a field of study, it is not limited to certain parts of the human body, but to the body as a whole, as well as the interaction of its different appendages, muscles, and nerves.

Kinesiologists can be found working alongside professional athletes in helping them perfect specific body movements, or just as likely, in laboratory or research environments in which the body in activity is in focus. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of kinesiology, and the many different processes at play in body movement, this field of study should be particularly exciting to people who enjoy thinking on their feet and engaging in complex problem-solving.

The most widespread application of kinesiology is in the medical field, where practitioners help patients overcome injuries or correct issues related to body movement. As the majority of work takes some physical toll on the body, be it through excessive standing, sitting, or other repetitive motions, kinesiologists often play an important role in helping individuals deal with these movement-related problems that arise from day-to-day activity.

Kinesoligist is not a board-certified or licensed position, though it is often considered as a component or stepping stone to a licensed medical profession. However, individuals who wish to either work as kinesiologists or gain the appropriate body of knowledge are highly encouraged to obtain a four-year degree from an accredited university to further those goals. Even without a licensing process in place for the title of “kinesiologist,” people who work in this capacity often have a major responsibility in advising patients or clients in how (not) to move.

Becoming a kinesiologist with a widely accepted credential from an accredited university is fairly straightforward and offers interested individuals an ever-expanding array of opportunities. While the instructions below may not fit every individual use case, they should serve as a helpful guide in becoming a kinesiologist.

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Kinesiologist

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Receive an Equivalency Diploma (Four Years)

Nearly all universities require the completion of a high school diploma or its equivalent to apply for four-year degree programs, and those for kinesiology or exercise science are no exception. Prospective students may prepare themselves by taking advanced STEM courses when possible. Additionally, a high GPA is favorable for gaining admission into one of the more competitive programs.

Step 2: Obtain an Associate Degree (Two Years)

This second step is somewhat optional, as it graduates of a four-year bachelor’s program will complete nearly identical coursework in obtaining their degree.

However, for applicants who wish to cut some costs in their university education, it may be preferable first to attend a community or city college in the area of their choice, and then transfer to an accredited four-year university for the relevant coursework for the remainder of their education. A concurrent or similar option is to complete core classes through correspondence or online courses at a community college to transfer to a four-year university.

Step 3: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree (Two to Four Years)

Individuals who wish to become kinesiologists are advised to obtain a four-year degree from an accredited university. This qualification will be the single biggest factor in improving their chances of employment in the field later on. There are quite a few degrees available today that qualify for a career in kinesiology, several which are geared toward specific areas of interest.

New York Institute of Technology

New York Institute of Technology offers a bachelor of exercise science, with a concentration in exercise physiology. NYIT’s offering is at the higher end of the spectrum as far as price is concerned. Still, graduating students will benefit from an education geared toward a career in athletics or physical therapy. NYIT also offers extensive tie-ins with the university’s college of osteopathy.

  • Location: Long Island, New York
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $39,960 per year for full-time resident and non-resident students

Northern Vermont University

This University is located in rural northern Vermont and offers a bachelor of science in exercise science. NVU’s offering is geared towards people with an orientation to working in physical therapy, sports medicine and athletics instruction, but emphasizes a broad instruction base.

The university’s exercise science program is heavy on experience, and according to the school, its graduates can obtain their degrees with up to two years of concurrent work experience. NVU’s bachelor’s program also makes graduates eligible to participate in advanced certifications offered by the American College of Sports Medicine.

  • Location: Johnson, Vermont
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($483 per credit); non-resident ($1,070 per credit)

San Jose State University

San Jose State University is located in the city of the same name in sunny California. Out of the degree programs discussed in this article, San Jose offers some of the greatest plans to its prospective students, with a specific concentration to each. Currently, these are the following:

  • Exercise and fitness specialist
  • Rehabilitation science
  • Inclusive physical activities in communities
  • Sport management and culture

San Jose State University offers affordable fees for in-state students and gets consistently high rankings as one of the best regional universities in the country.

  • Location: San Jose, California
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($7,852 per year); non-resident ($19,732 per year)

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M is another great choice for prospective students interested in having some choice and flexibility in their degree plan when it comes to finding something in the realm of kinesiology that fits their profile and interests. These are the degrees currently offered by Texas A&M’s kinesiology and sports department:

  • Kinesiology with a concentration in motor behavior
  • Kinesiology with a concentration in basic exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology with a concentration in applied exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology & MS in athletic training
  • Kinesiology
  • Sport management

Of particular interest to students looking for an entry into working in sports management is the availability of this degree as part of a bachelor of science degree, which combines business principles with hard science.

  • Location: College Station, Texas
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($13,239 per year); non-resident ($40,134 per year)

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Located in southern Illinois, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. UI’s degree plans feature quite a bit of liberal arts courses as well, especially the fact that this is a BS program. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign heavily emphasizes tie-ins to its own and other graduate programs and connections to the healthcare field.

  • Location: Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($15,442 per year); non-resident ($32,892 per year)

Degree Plans for Kinesiologists: BS vs BA

The primary difference between degree plans that provide a successful pathway into a career in kinesiology is choosing a bachelor of science (BS) or a bachelor of arts (BA) degree program.

Although every institution is different, and there are no hard and fast rules in this still-emerging field, bachelor of arts degrees are usually administered through the school of liberal arts and feature humanities and civics courses in addition to the STEM curriculum.

Bachelor of science degree plans are more science-oriented, as the name suggests. Many BS degree plans will feature additional statistics and organic chemistry courses, which may not necessarily be found in a corresponding BA degree plan.

A second differentiation between degree plans that can lead to a successful kinesiology career is their actual title and emphasis. For example, a kinesiologist working today may have completed a degree with that exact title or have graduated with a diploma in exercise science. Physical education is another realm that intersects heavily with the principles of kinesiology, and some universities will also offer specific course packages aimed at prospective teachers.

Kinesiology Degree Accreditation

Because kinesiology is not a licensed profession, there is no one specific licensing or governing body to award licensure. However, this fact makes the institution from which kinesiology or exercise science degree holders graduate all the more important.

The process by which educational standards are monitored and certified in the United States is by accreditation, which occurs through regional bodies. Prospective students of kinesiology and related fields are strongly advised to ensure that their institution of choice is accredited by one of the following:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • New England Commission of Higher Education
Johannes Stitz
Johannes Stitz Writer

Johannes Stitz is a freelance writer and researcher based in the Southwest. He’s written about various topics in medical technology careers. Before turning to freelance writing, he spent nearly a decade in the arts as a booker and event manager.