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What Courses Do I Need to Take to Get a Job in Sports Medicine?

What Courses Do I Need to Take to Get a Job in Sports Medicine?

Incoming college students often want to know what courses to take to receive a sports medicine degree. Sports medicine is a growing, attractive field for non-athletes who are big sports fans. Sports medicine is also a practical, long-term career path for athletes after their playing days. This unique health care branch is primarily concerned with physical activity and exercise.

Sports medicine professionals are involved in diagnosing, treating, and preventing sport-related injuries or illnesses. Sports medicine jobs strive to keep amateur, collegiate, and professional athletes in peak physical form. Sports medicine is an umbrella term that encompasses many occupations though. Sports medicine degrees are available at every postsecondary level. Which courses students must take will be determined by the chosen degree and career.

What Can I Expect to Study in College?

Getting a high school diploma or the GED equivalent is the first step to every sports medicine job. Taking a secondary curriculum packed with science and math courses is key. Go beyond the minimum college prerequisites. During grades 9-12, earn three to four units in every STEM discipline. High school biology, physics, chemistry, and pre-calculus courses will help later. Consider dual credit classes at local colleges to begin earning a sports medicine degree early.

Most sports medicine careers then require earning at least a bachelor’s degree. Some sports medicine professionals get by with a post-secondary certificate or associate degree. Several sports medicine roles mandate attending graduate school for a master’s or higher degree. Top professional sports medicine positions are open to only those with doctorates. Nearly all sports medicine jobs seek applicants with first responder CPR/first aid and industry certifications too. Let’s break down the courses involved in completing various types of sports medicine degrees.

Associate of Science in Sports Medicine

The Associate of Science in Sports Medicine is a two-year degree offered at select community colleges and trade schools. Completing this Associate in Science degree entails at least 60-68 semester credits. Each lower-division course provides three credits, so 20 or more courses are required. Most Associate in Science curricula begins with a general education core. Associate students start with fundamental academic subjects like English, math, science, history, and foreign language. Then, Associate in Science students enter introductory, major-related courses. Associate of Science graduates often use 2+2 transfer pathways to continue for a bachelor’s degree. Common Associate in Science in Sports Medicine degree courses include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Personal and Community Health
  • Concepts in Health and Fitness
  • Introduction to General Chemistry
  • Foundations of Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation Science Techniques

Associate of Applied Science in Fitness Management

The Associate of Applied Science in Fitness Management is a 24-month, practice-based degree available at junior colleges and technical schools. Selecting this Associate of Applied Science major will require 60-70 credits of applied 100- and 200-level courses. Unlike the Associate of Science, the Associate of Applied Science skips most general education courses for a career-oriented curriculum. The Associate of Applied Science is a terminal degree to prepare for immediately entering personal training jobs. Courses center on fitness instruction to help athletes better strengthen and tone muscles. Most Associate of Applied Science degrees integrate some fieldwork requirements at gyms or aerobics studios. Common Associate of Science in Fitness Management degree courses include:

  • Personal Training Fundamentals
  • Strength and Conditioning Principles
  • Exercise Testing and Program Design
  • Contemporary Health Issues
  • Application of Fitness Instruction
  • Group Exercise Training Theory

Associate of Applied Science in Massage Therapy

The Associate of Applied Science in Massage Therapy is a two-year, career-oriented degree at vocational schools and junior colleges. Picking this Associate of Applied Science degree leads to sports medicine jobs treating athletic injuries manually. Massage therapists are trained to utilize body manipulation techniques for healing muscles and soft tissues. Finishing the Associate of Applied Science degree takes 60-70 credits of applied coursework. As sophomores, massage therapy students complete one to two clinical practicum placements. Graduates are qualified for the National Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) exam. Common Associate of Applied Science in Massage Therapy degree courses include:

  • Eastern Massage Therapy Practices
  • Basic Medical Terminology
  • Fundamentals of Sports Massage
  • Neuromuscular Therapy Principles
  • Introduction to Alternative Medicine
  • Legal Aspects of Therapeutic Massage

Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology

The Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology is a four-year sports medicine degree available at senior colleges and universities. Earning this Bachelor of Science degree requires at least 120-128 semester credits or 40 undergrad courses. Kinesiology majors study the biomechanics of body movements. The Bachelor of Science curriculum typically starts with a general core of science courses. By the junior year, kinesiology students dive deep into the anatomic functions of sports. This Bachelor of Science is usually a springboard into graduate degrees. Kinesiology majors can also work as physical education teachers, coaches, and fitness instructors. Common Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree courses include:

  • Movement Biomechanics
  • Motor Control and Learning
  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Cardiopulmonary Renal Physiology
  • Behavioral Basis of Kinesiology

Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science

The Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science is a 48-month, STEM-oriented undergrad degree at four-year colleges and universities. Since April 2004, the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES) has accredited 64 such bachelor’s programs. Receiving this Bachelor of Science degree requires a minimum of 120 credits or 40 courses up to the 400 level. Exercise science majors study how body movements correlate to human health and fitness. This Bachelor of Science focuses on improving wellness with effective exercise regimens. Graduates qualify for entry-level sports medicine jobs, such as a rehabilitation specialist or strength coach. Common Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science courses include:

  • Human Form and Function
  • Clinical Exercise Physiology
  • Exercise Assessment and Prescription
  • Weight Control Management
  • Theory of Athletic Injury
  • Neuroscience of Exercise

What Courses Do I Need to Take to Get a Job in Sports Medicine?

Bachelor of Science in Sport Management

The Bachelor of Science in Sport Management is another four-year, leadership-focused degree for college and university students. Whether on-campus or online, getting this Bachelor of Science degree requires 120-128 semester credits over eight full-time semesters. Sport management majors uniquely sample courses in both medicine and business for wide-ranging job options. This Bachelor of Science involves an in-depth management core to lead in America’s $75 sports market. Sport management curricula integrates courses with industry internships and capstone projects. The Bachelor of Science can pave the way into post-grad degrees or careers. Common Bachelor of Science in Sport Management courses include:

  • Introduction to Sport Marketing
  • Sport Facility Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Athletic Administration
  • Sport Communication and Media
  • Aspects of Coaching and Training

Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation

The Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation is a 120-credit, eight-semester sports medicine degree at the undergraduate level. This Bachelor of Science degree focuses on using recreational sports to heal injuries or cope with chronic conditions and disabilities. Therapeutic recreation majors learn to devise treatment plans for boosting physical function. Finishing this four-year Bachelor of Science qualifies graduates for becoming recreational therapists. Students complete prerequisite courses and fieldwork while engaging in Rho Phi Lambda. Top programs are accredited by the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA). Common Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation degree courses include:

  • Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation
  • Patient Assessment and Evaluation
  • Concepts and Issues in Rehabilitation
  • Recreational Therapy Clinical Procedures
  • Inclusive Sports Recreation Services
  • Health Promotion in Leisure Education

Master of Athletic Training

The Master of Athletic Training is an intensive, practice-based graduate program for bachelor’s degree holders. In May 2015, the Athletic Training Strategic Alliance announced that new athletic trainers would need a master’s for the Board of Certification exam. The Master of Athletic Training degree requires 50-70 credits of advanced courses in sports medicine. Athletic trainers work with coaches and team doctors to keep teams healthy. Getting a Master of Athletic Training qualifies individuals to treat sports injuries and restore players to health. The Master of Athletic Training blends upper-level courses with up to 1,500 supervised clinical hours. Master’s curricula must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Common Master of Athletic Training degree courses include:

  • Introduction to Orthopedic Evaluation
  • Emergency Medical Response Principles
  • Acute Trauma Management Practices
  • Fundamentals of Sports Injury Prevention
  • Pharmacology in Athletic Training
  • Injury Classification and Management

Master of Science in Sports Psychology

The Master of Science in Sports Psychology is a two-year, post-bachelor’s degree offered at many graduate schools. This Master of Science has a unique sports medicine degree focus on the brain and mental health. Sports psychology majors help athletes overcome mental challenges, such as stress and hyperactivity, to perform well. Getting this Master of Science degree lasts at least 18-28 months with about 36-semester credits. The Master of Science applies advanced psychological principles with one or more internships. Most Master of Science programs end with a capstone project or thesis research for the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). Common Master of Science in Sports Psychology degree courses include:

  • Performance Enhancement in Sports
  • Introduction to Counseling Theories
  • Mental Skills Training Techniques
  • Psychology of Exercise and Health
  • Methodology of Psychological Research
  • Current Issues in Sports Psychology

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein

Master of Science in Sports Nutrition

The Master of Science in Sports Nutrition is an applied, graduate degree for sports medicine jobs related to diet planning. Starting in January 2024, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a master’s. This Master of Science degree qualifies students to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. The Master of Science curriculum of 30-48 credits takes as little as 12 months to learn how diet affects athletic performance. Sports nutrition majors develop food regimens and supplements to improve athletes’ physical conditioning. Aspiring RDNs spend one year completing a 1,200-hour Dietetic Internship. The Master of Science leads toward the Board Certified Specialized in Sports Dietetics exam too. Common Master of Science in Sports Nutrition degree courses include:

  • Advanced Nutritional Assessment
  • Nutrition for Weight Management
  • Energy Production and Nutrients
  • Fluid and Electrolyte Balance
  • Nutritional Aspects of Eating Disorders
  • Sports Supplements and Vitamins

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies is a terminal, professional-level degree for graduates to become certified PAs. This Master of Science degree trains post-grads how to assist doctors in various specialties, including sports medicine. Completing this Master of Science requires anywhere from 75-120 credits over 2.5 to four years. Always pick programs approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistants (ARC-PA). Expect comprehensive training to build patient care skills under supervision. The Master of Science entails multiple, five-week clinical rotations called clerkships in varying inpatient and outpatient settings. Culminating the Master of Science makes one eligible for the PANCE licensing exam. Common Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree courses include:

  • Patient Interviewing and Evaluation
  • Clinical Lab and Diagnostic Methods
  • Principles of Orthopedic Medicine
  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
  • Aging and Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Cross-Cultural Clinical Competencies

Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy is a qualifying, practice-based doctorate for graduate students to treat musculoskeletal ailments. Traditional Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees take about four to five years with 120-140 advanced credits. Some schools offer Accelerated 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy programs to admit undergraduates as juniors. Physical therapists develop exercise programs for athletes and non-athletes to recover from injuries. Getting a Doctor of Physical Therapy trains therapists to manage pain holistically with rehabilitative movement. The Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum must be approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Doctor of Physical Therapy majors fulfill licensing requirements with advanced courses, lab work, and clinical practica but no dissertation. Common Doctor of Physical Therapy. degree courses include:

  • Evidence-Based Clinical Practice
  • Adult Neurorehabilitation Theories
  • Cardiopulmonary Assessment
  • Musculoskeletal System Physiology
  • Orthotic and Prosthetic Devices
  • Integrative Pain Management

Doctor of Medicine

The Doctor of Medicine is an esteemed, upper-level graduate degree that’s required to become a licensed medical doctor. Sports medicine jobs with an MD degree include team physician, orthopedic surgeon, internist, sports psychiatrist, and orthopedist. Athletes rely on these professionals to stay physically and mentally fit for action. Earning an MD degree requires 180 full-time weeks of advanced credits over four years. About three to seven years of clinical residencies and fellowships will follow depending on the sports medicine specialty. Getting into an MD program requires a bachelor’s degree and a high MCAT score. Top medical schools are approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Common MD degree courses include:

  • Medical Gross Anatomy and Embryology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Clinical and Community Medicine
  • Mechanisms of Health and Disease
  • Professional Physician-Patient Relations
  • Cancer Prevention and Survivorship

Doctor of Chiropractic

The Doctor of Chiropractic is an alternative, post-grad path to holistic sports medicine jobs for relieving injury pain. Chiropractors use homeopathic strategies to adjust a misaligned spine or achy joints for recovery without drugs. Founded in 1926, the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) requires the Doctor of Chiropractic degree to legally practice in all 50 states. Getting the Doctor of Chiropractic degree takes 3.5 to five years with 90-120 graduate credits. Doctor of Chiropractic education usually only requires three years of bachelor’s preparation and 3.0 or better GPAs before entry. Then, Doctor of Chiropractic majors complete advanced lectures, hands-on labs, and applied field internships. Select programs accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education for the best training. Common Doctor of Chiropractic degree courses include:

  • Neuromusculoskeletal Examination
  • Spine and Extremities Anatomy
  • Introduction to Palpation Skills
  • Manipulation of the Thoracic Spine
  • Fundamentals of Natural Medicine
  • Radiation Physics and Technology

These aren’t the only sports medicine degree options available in the United States. The Ph.D. in Sports Medicine trains researchers for academia to investigate topics like brain concussions and performance-enhancing drugs. The Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is a medical school degree that can train sports medicine physicians from a whole-person approach. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a two-year degree with 48-60 credits for RNs to pursue specialized clinical roles like an orthopedic nurse practitioner. The Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) is a science-driven graduate degree that takes 24 months full-time and opens careers rehabilitating injured athletes.

The courses needed to get a job in sports medicine depend on the targeted degree. Sports medicine careers can require a basic certificate or advanced degree. Most sports curricula concentrates on science, math, psychology, and fitness as they apply to athletic performance. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) lists various allied health pathways to choose from. Every career, whether team physician, nutritionist, sports psychologist, or fitness trainer, has differing education requirements. Always peruse the online curriculum and course descriptions before deciding on a program. Taking courses for a sports medicine degree will pay off with rewarding jobs helping athletes reach their fullest physical potential.

Related Resources:

15 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Sports Science Degree Programs

20 Best Online Masters in Kinesiology and Exercise Science

Top 20 Online Master’s in Sport Science

50 Best Bachelor’s in Sports Science Degree Programs (Campus)

50 Best Master’s in Sports Science Degree Programs (Campus)