What is Kinesiology?

What is Kinesiology?

If you’re interested in sports, fitness, health, or sports medicine, you may want to know more about the study of kinesiology. What is kinesiology?  This field is the scientific study of human movement and its impact on human health. Kinesiology students learn how to use sport and physical activity to improve quality of life.  A degree in this major qualifies graduates for jobs as:

  • athletic trainers
  • physical education teachers
  • coaches

A degree in kinesiology can build a great foundation for a career in physical therapy or occupational therapy.  To become a physical therapist, you must have a doctoral degree and pass a licensing exam, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Kinesiologists also perform research.  Most professional roles in this field require a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Another occupation available for kinesiology graduates is recreational therapy.  Recreational therapists are health professionals who work in hospitals and clinics to help rehabilitate patients through fun, creative activities such as:

  • music
  • art
  • dance

It’s necessary to have a kinesiology degree to do this job because recreational therapists need to understand the movements of the human body when working with patients. However, this job has fewer responsibilities than a physical therapist.  There are no license requirements to become a recreational therapist.

Related Resource: What Types of Jobs Are There In Sports Medicine?

Career Options with a Kinesiology Degree

A bachelor’s degree in kinesiology prepares students for careers as:

  • Physical education teacher
  • athletic trainer
  • coach
  • recreational therapist

A bachelor’s degree in kinesiology is a general science degree and doesn’t confer the title of kinesiologist on graduates. Kinesiology graduates work in a variety of roles to help people prevent injuries and recover more quickly.  They use their knowledge of the study the movements of muscles and limbs to help people with medical conditions and disabilities.

People who study kinesiology as undergraduates and graduate students focus on the ways that exercise affects the body.  The closely related field of exercise science covers most of the same topics. In terms of exercise, kinesiology students learn about:

  • aerobic and anaerobic exercise
  • cardiovascular training
  • weightlifting

The various jobs held by kinesiology majors require this knowledge for different reasons, and all of these occupations come with a fairly large responsibility to guide students, patients, or clients in correct exercise techniques.

Exercise physiologists earn a median annual salary of $47,940.

Research vs. Real-World Applications

Although there is a difference between research kinesiology and its applications in the real world, the field of applied kinesiology is not considered a credible occupation by scientists and academics. Perhaps the best job to get with a kinesiology degree is as a physical therapist.  A physical therapist requires a three-year professional degree and a licensing exam. The median salary for this job is $95,620, and the projected job growth in this field is an astounding 17 percent over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The main reason that there is such a huge projected growth in demand for therapists is that the population of the U.S. is getting older, and baby boomers who are reaching retirement age will need physical therapy for their joints and muscles.

Another popular career for kinesiology graduates is fitness training and instruction.  While a bachelor’s degree isn’t necessarily needed for these roles, it can improve job prospects and salary.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay was $40,700/year in 2021.  The job outlook is positive, with 19% growth expected through 2031.

Occupational therapy is another popular career path for kinesiology graduates.  Occupational therapists are professionals who help people perform activities of daily living.  They can also help individuals manage changes in their health to maintain quality of life.  They work with individuals with a variety of disabilities and illnesses, along with those recovering from injuries.  While an occupational therapist is a master’s level position, an occupational therapist assistant requires less schooling.

Kinesiologists also study neuroplasticity, which is the principle that the brain adapts to learning new behavior. This principle is important in sports science because it determines how athletes learn new movements. Jobs for athletic trainers are expected to grow more modestly at 21 percent, which is still much faster than average. PE teachers will have the lowest demand with just 6 percent job growth. The median annual salary for high school teachers is $55,050, and for trainers, it’s $42,790.

Kinesiology vs Sports Medicine

Sports medicine is another area for those considering a degree in kinesiology.  Sports medicine focuses on the treatment and prevention of sports related injuries.  Kinesiology and sports medicine are closely related fields.  A bachelor’s degree in kinesiology can certainly provide a strong foundation for a career in sports medicine.

Specific Educational Accolades

The academic side of kinesiology expertise is a sizable one, encompassing numerous kinds of college degrees, individual certifications, and more. For anyone interested, the following represent some of the most common and weighted accolades to the educational side of kinesiology know-how.

  • Associate’s in Kinesiology: The Associate’s in Kinesiology is typically a two-year program. This program encompasses a strong foundation of kinesiology topics including:
    • biomechanics
    • human anatomy
    • introductions to sports medicine
    • exercise sciences
  • Bachelor’s in Kinesiology: The kinesiology bachelor’s degree is a two-year step beyond the associate’s and provides an even deeper level of expertise with course topics including:
    • advanced biomechanics
    • pathology
    • rehabilitation
    • physicality in culture
    • sports business
  • Master’s and Doctorate-Level Kinesiology Degrees: The master’s in this discipline typically requires a total of about six years of school, while the doctorate can take a bit longer. These are the most advanced kinesiology programs.  These programs focus on advanced topics. Such course topics here will include:
    • exercise technology
    • sports scouting
    • advanced ethics in kinesiology and exercise
    • healthcare administration
    • research method

It can also be important to know exactly which kind of degree focus to take here: the arts or sciences degree program of kinesiology. In art-based degree programs here, such as a Master’s of Arts of Kinesiology, the student will learn the key areas of kinesiology but will also take some mixed-in liberal arts and humanities courses. In a science-based degree here, such as a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology, the student will typically take on more advanced topics in kinesiology itself rather than branching out into occasional liberal arts and humanities courses such as in the art-based program.

Licensure and Certification

There is currently no general license for kinesiology professionals.  Several kinesiology related professions do have their own licensing and certification process.  One example is athletic training.  Athletic trainers need to have a credential from the Board of Certification or complete an athletic training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Related Organizations

For anyone interested in the professional associations devoted to the kinesiology field, there are a number of highly respected groups out there today. The following represent some of those organizations.

  • The American Kinesiology Association is a leading, representative force acting as a virtual “face” for the greater kinesiology community.
  • The Energy Kinesiology Association is an accredited and leading educational resource throughout the kinesiology industry.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine is yet another excellent resource for the field, as this organization acts as a sort of vital, professional crossroads for health professionals in sports medicine, exercise science, and kinesiology fields all in one place.

The study of body movement is an important field of science that will always have interesting uses. If you’re an active person with an interest in exercise and fitness, consider a career in kinesiology.

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