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Associate vs. Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and Fitness – Where Your Degree Can Take You

Exercise science is a field focused on the physiology or composition of exercise. With a degree in exercise science, you can apply your knowledge in fields such as fitness education, fitness training, or sports performance, among many others. You want to obtain an exercise science degree, but is an associate or bachelor’s degree right for you?

Both exercise science degrees promise fulfilling career paths, but continuing your education and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in exercise science online will make you an even more in-demand job candidate who is more competitive and provide greater career opportunities.

This guide to exercise science degrees will explain where your career path can take you should you pursue an exercise science associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. If you’re wondering whether an exercise science degree is worth it, this is the article for you!

What Is an Associate Degree in Exercise Science? What About a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science?

Exercise Science Associate Degree

Many students who are interested in the field of exercise science will begin by earning their associate degree.

You’d take core courses on gym operations, body mechanics, cardio-respiratory programming, group exercise instruction, and nutrition, diet, and weight management.

Your course load would even include non-exercise science skills that will make you a better fitness and health professional, including communications, writing, soft skills, and speaking.

Exercise Science Bachelor’s Degree

Upon graduation, you could then continue studying to earn your bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

The coursework would cover more complex topics intended for helping with career advancement.

For instance, you’d collect a variety of skills to better your self-employment aspirations, everything from business leadership to management, finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

If working at a fitness facility or even in a self-employed capacity, you’d know how to instruct the client in corrective exercises as well as recovery exercises, even for specialty populations such as the elderly, youth, and those suffering from disease.

You’d learn about what motivates decisions in exercise and health and the psychology behind this decision-making.

Further, you’d be capable of doing sports performance assessments and advanced health screenings due to your wealth of knowledge in physiology and advanced anatomy.

What Can I Do with an Exercise Science Associate Degree?

Career-minded individuals will choose a college major with a growth plan. With an exercise science associate degree, your career can venture forth in a variety of unique and exciting directions. Let’s take a closer look.

Fitness Educator

As a fitness educator, it’d be your job to instruct your students on how a body’s movement can improve psychological and physical wellbeing. You’d work with your students to formulate a lifestyle plan that includes both nutritious eating and exercise.

Certified Group Exercise Instructor

Some online colleges that offer exercise science associate degrees can help you earn your certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine or NASM.

As a certified group exercise instructor, you could then work leading small and large groups alike in exercise classes.

Fitness/Wellness Coordinator

Fitness is the key to wellness, and as a fitness/wellness coordinator, you know that all too well. Your job would require you to work with clients one-on-one to determine what their nutrition, health, and fitness goals are. You’d then help your clients set and achieve their goals.

Nutrition/Supplement Store Associate

With an associate degree in exercise science, you can also work as a nutrition/supplement store associate.

You would be employed in a retail capacity, where you’d be available when the store is open to answer questions and provide guidance on which supplements and nutritional route customers should take.

Gym Staff Member

As a gym staff member, you’d be hired by a gym or fitness facility to oversee the management of the gym.

You’d prioritize customer satisfaction and strive to make the gym an inclusive place for everyone to exercise. Your job would also be focused on the cleanliness and appearance of the gym to maintain your clientele.

Certified Personal Trainer

A NASM certification can also prepare you to work as a certified personal trainer. You can join a gym as a personal trainer or work independently. Your clients might visit your facility or you could come out to your clients’ homes.

Whether you pursue the above job roles in a self-employed capacity or you work at a rehabilitation center, corporate fitness center, fitness facility, or gym, your associate degree can lead to a promising future in exercise science.

What Can I Do with an Exercise Science Bachelor’s Degree?

With an online exercise science degree, your career can already go far. Investing further in your education and working your way from an associate to a bachelor’s degree can enhance your career options.

All the above job roles would be attainable as well as the following.

Strength and Conditioning Specialist

A strength and conditioning specialist is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association or NSCA. They’d hold a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist or CSCS certification.

You may then be able to work in such roles as a clinical director of physical therapy, a certified athletic trainer, a personal trainer, or even a chiropractor with additional training.

Exercise Director

An exercise director or a fitness director manages a fitness center such as a gym. You’d review the fitness programs that your members partake in to determine how effective the programs are.

You’d also project revenue goals, track customer retention, oversee your personal trainer roster, and ensure that all fitness center operations are as intended.

Fitness Studio Owner

The next step up from an exercise director is working as a fitness studio owner. The gym or exercise center would be yours to maintain.

You’d have hiring freedom and can select what kinds of equipment and facilities are offered and what the membership fees would be.

You’d also be in charge of paying the rent or mortgage, making hiring decisions, and approving changes to the exercise center.

Nutrition Coach

Nutrition coaches unlock the key to a more nutritious, balanced diet for their clientele. You’d assess your client’s current eating behaviors, help them set goals for healthier eating, and recommend dietary adjustments they can make along the way.

Sports Performance Coach

Your education in athletics training can shine if you work as a sports performance coach. You can coach either single athletes or whole teams.

Your job would be to motivate athletes to perform their best and then provide the keys to do so through exercise and nutrition advice, action planning, and goal-setting.

Certified Personal Trainer for Specialty Populations

A bachelor’s degree in exercise science can help you pursue certified personal training to specific groups such as specialty populations.

From youths to those with chronic diseases, disabilities, or other challenges, you’d formulate a wellness plan with special considerations in mind.

Associate vs. Bachelor’s – Is an Exercise Science Degree Worth It?

If you’re pondering whether to pursue an exercise science degree, this career path is absolutely worthwhile, especially if you already have an interest in fitness and nutrition.

Personal training and the the fitness industry is experiencing a boom right now. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS states that from 2020 to 2030, fitness training and instruction will grow by a very impressive rate of 39 percent. That’s faster than the average.

Starting with your associate degree in exercise science will allow you to work your way to becoming a certified personal trainer or a nutrition/supplement store associate, fitness educator, or any of the very fulfilling roles outlined in the earlier section.

You can launch your fitness and nutrition career with an associate degree alone. If you aspire to work in more advanced roles, that will require a fuller breadth of knowledge that’s only attainable through a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

Enrolling for an Online Exercise Science Degree

Pursuing an online exercise science degree will allow you to work from the comfort of home as you learn the ins and outs of fitness and nutrition and earn certifications along the way.

Bryan University’s Associate Degree in Applied Exercise and Fitness or AFIT program will guide you on your educational journey. This is an accelerated program, so you only spend the necessary time in academia.

Your tuition includes all courseware, technology, and book costs as well as the cost to take the NASM national certification. If you enter the AFIT program with a NASM credential, then you’d receive course credit that you can use as you see fit.

Bryan U’s Career Services team is here to help if you decide to jump into an exercise science job with your associate degree.

You can also enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Fitness, and Nutrition Management program. This program qualifies you to sit for the NSCA CSCS certification. You can also take a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach or CNC certification exam.

Your AFIT credits will translate to your bachelor’s degree program, which makes obtaining your exercise science degree easier and more convenient!

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