Top Careers in Exercise Science | Canisius University

What can you do with an exercise science degree?

A degree in Exercise Science offers many opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in exercise as medicine. This degree is suitable for those who wish to work in corporate wellness, fitness or athletic training, sports, clinical exercise physiology, human performance, or research settings. A degree in exercise science can prepare you for a range of careers such as personal or athletic training, strength and conditioning specialist, corrective exercise specialist or performance enhancement specialist, or even doctor, nurse, or physiotherapist, among others. 

Is a job in exercise physiology in high demand?

The field of medicine is expanding rapidly, offering many opportunities for individuals to specialize in their areas of interest. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in exercise physiology, a subfield within exercise science, is highly in demand. The employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow by 10% by 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Similarly, the job market for fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 14% by 2032. 

Is exercise science the same as kinesiology?

While closely related, exercise science and kinesiology are different. Kinesiology is the broader study of human movement and its impact on overall health and well-being. Exercise science is a subfield of kinesiology, focusing on the applied impact of human movement, including how the body adapts to exercise. 

We can also differentiate between exercise science and exercise physiology. Exercise science encompasses various areas related to exercise, such as fitness, strength and conditioning, human performance, and nutrition. Exercise physiology, on the other hand, is a specific study of how the body responds and adapts to exercise and physical activity. Exercise physiologists work to improve individuals’ physical condition or health outcomes through the development of exercise programs tailored to their fitness and health needs, focusing on key functions such as cardiovascular function, muscular strength, and flexibility.


If you're interested in a career as an exercise physiologist, pursuing a Master's in Exercise Science can help prepare you. However, there are several other career outlooks within the field of exercise science beyond the clinical focus of exercise physiology.

Top Careers in Exercise Science

There are a variety of careers you can pursue with an undergraduate degree in exercise science. If you’re looking for the highest-paying careers in health and fitness, then you will want to consider a graduate program, such as a Master’s in Exercise Science, to maximize your earning potential. Here are some of the top careers you can pursue in exercise science, including salary ranges from Glass Door: 


Fitness or Athletic Trainer

$40,000-$72,000 a year

Athletic Trainers prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries and illnesses, while Fitness Trainers and Instructors build exercise programs and motivate individuals or groups of individuals in exercise. Both require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, however, master’s degrees are common among Athletic Trainers. In both roles, a Personal Trainer Certification is recommended. The MS in Exercise Science at Canisius prepares students for the certification program at the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) to become certified personal trainers.

Health & Fitness Specialist, Consultant, or Coach

$50,000-$82,000 a year

A Health & Fitness Specialist, Consultant, or Coach helps clients reach their health goals through education in fitness, nutrition, and stress management techniques, and/or building personalized fitness or lifestyle plans to improve their overall well-being. These roles are commonly found in hospitals, health clinics, gyms, fitness centers, and schools, or some individuals start their own private practice. Most require a bachelor's degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field, while a master's degree in exercise and a certification can help advance their careers. For instance, the Health and Wellness Program from NASM can help you become a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach and set you apart from other applicants in the job market. 

Strength & Conditioning Specialist or Coach

$47,000-$85,000 a year

A Strength & Conditioning Specialist or Coach works with athletes, whether at the university/college, amateur, or professional level, to enhance their athletic performance through sport-specific training programs that include strength training and conditioning. These professionals require a minimum of a bachelor's degree and certification in strength and conditioning training. Additionally, master’s degrees are common and an MS in Exercise Science from Canisius can prepare you for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) exam from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). 

Corrective Exercise or Performance Enhancement Specialist

$45,000-$90,000 a year 

Did you know that every professional sports team in the four major leagues employs either a Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) or Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES)? You can earn these two certificates with distinction and more with an MS in Exercise Science at Canisius. A Corrective Exercise Specialist works with clients and athletes to improve their quality of movement and reduce habits that create discomfort, pain, and can lead to injury. A Performance Enhancement Specialist works with athletes to maximize their performance in sport through tailored exercise and nutrition programs based on principles in exercise physiology, coaching, and nutrition. Earning your designation as a CES or PES can prepare you for a successful and fulfilling career in the sports industry or in a clinical or rehabilitation setting.

Sports Nutrition Specialist or Coach

$47,000-$78,000 a year


Many people are familiar with the role of a nutritionist; they are responsible for planning and implementing nutrition programs to help people achieve their health goals, such as weight loss, diabetes management, or simply leading a healthy life. In sports, the objective is similar, but with the goal of helping athletes achieve peak performance and swift recovery. If you're interested in becoming a Sports Nutrition Specialist or Coach, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and supervised training through an internship or residency. Most states also require nutritionists to be licensed. Canisius's MS in Exercise Science program can prepare you for the Certified Sports Nutrition Coach (CSNC) certification exam from NASM.


Behavior Change Specialist

$52,000-$84,000 a year


Behavior Change Specialist (BSC) is someone who helps clients achieve their fitness and wellness goals through research-based behavior-change tools including goal setting, mental imagery, behavior therapy techniques, and more. Typically, these individuals work in clinical, educational, or recreational settings, such as health centers, hospitals, therapy centers, gyms and health clubs, and educational institutions. To become a BSC, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a license. Master's degrees are recommended and can help you prepare for the BSC certification exam. 


Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist

$40,000-$67,000 a year

A Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist works alongside surgeons, physicians, or cardiologists to help cardiac patients in their recovery post-trauma or heart surgery. They design exercise and recovery programs as well as support and educate patients on diet, exercise, and health risks post-surgery. To become a Cardiac Rehab Specialist, you need a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field such as nursing, exercise science, physiology, or physical therapy. It is also recommended to obtain a certification as a Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional (CCRP) from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) to increase your chances of securing a job. To take the CCRP exam, you need 1,200 clinical hours in cardiac rehabilitation and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, a current RN license, or a current RRT credential.


Doctor, Nurse, or Physical Therapist

$70,000 to upwards of $250,000 a year 

If you have a master's degree in exercise science, you can also pursue a lucrative career in nursing, medicine, or physiotherapy. Many graduate programs in exercise science serve as a strong foundation for further doctoral studies. Specifically, students who have completed the MS in Exercise Science at Canisius have found it helpful in preparing for medical school, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy, or doctor of physical therapy programs.