Working adults who want to shift their career into exercise science and kinesiology should consider starting with an online associate’s degree. An Associate’s degree in the field will give you the skills for an entry-level career in the field and will also provide you the foundation to continue your studies at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Kinesiology covers a wide field of study. Kinesiology concentrates on movement, function, and performance. Exercise Science looks at the physical responses to those three elements. Students in this field will study anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, and biochemistry.
Best Health Degrees has researched online associate degree programs to give you a starting point in your school search. We reviewed school information and synthesized it to give you an idea of what the online program may offer in terms of courses, length of the program, admission requirements, cost, etc. For the purposes of this ranking, we’re reporting the requirements for first-time students.
All the programs listed are accredited and will accept federal student assistance. You’ll want to be certain to apply for aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
Our Method: Ranking the 15 Online Exercise Science and Kinesiology Associate’s Degrees
To rank the 15 Best Exercise Science and Kinesiology Associate’s Degrees, Best Degrees editors researched accredited, trusted programs of all kinds. From our initial pool, we ranked programs according to price, accreditation, reputation, and salary potential, using data from IPEDS and Niche, U.S. News and World Report, and other higher education rating publications.
1. Georgia State University
You can choose from three academic pathways with this online AS in Kinesiology and Health. Depending on your career goals, you can choose from Exercise Science, Health Coach, or Personal Trainer.
The Exercise Science emphasis includes studies in general education. You’ll study Exercise Science core classes in Anatomy in Kinesiology and Health, Physiology in Kinesiology and Health (both of which include labs), Introduction to Kinesiology and Health, Introduction to Biology, Principles of Biology, Survey of Chemistry, etc. The major requires 42 core credit hours and 18 hours in the Exercise Science pathway.
Georgia State University has several categories for admission, one of which is for Online Students. You’ll begin the admission process by completing an application (along with a $20 non-refundable fee) and providing documents as requested. GSU has a rolling admission policy.
Fast Fact: GSU ranks #105 in U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools
2. Houston Community College
Here’s a hybrid AA in Kinesiology and Exercise degree which will prepare you to work with people to improve and maintain healthy lifestyles. This may be a good choice if you live in the Houston area because, as the school’s website explains, “Hybrid programs offer 50% to 85% of their courses online and the remainder of the curriculum is taken in-person on one of HCC’s campuses.”
You’ll take courses in history, English, humanities, math, psychology, and more. Classes offered in Kinesiology and Exercise include Foundations of Kinesiology, Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Concepts of Physical Fitness, Anatomy and Physiology, Personal and Community Health, Drug Use and Abuse, and others. A total of 60 credit hours are required for the degree.
The admission is a simple process beginning with an online application. There are five admission categories from which to choose depending on your particular situation. You’ll be asked to apply for Federal Student Aid and provide verification of meningitis vaccination, and the Texas Success Initiative (TSI), with other documents as requested.
Fast Fact: HCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges(SACSCOC) and was founded in 1971
3. Highland Community College
This Kansas college offers an Associate of Applied Science in Personal Fitness Trainer degree you can earn online.
A blend of general education and degree requirements, this hybrid program takes 63 credit hours to complete. Among the classes you’ll take in your major are Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, First Aid and Safety, Exercise Physiology, Health Psychology, Nutrition, Personal and Community Health, Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, as well as Personal Training Field Experience.
As part of the admission process, you’ll complete an application, supply an academic transcript (or GED scores), ACT/SAT scores (or take a placement test), and other documents as requested. You’ll want to apply for Federal Student Aid as well.
Fast Fact: HCC is considered the first college in Kansas and was established in 1858 and today is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
4. Santa Monica College
Don’t let the name of the degree fool you, this hybrid AS in Athletic Coaching program explores more than just coaching. This is designed as a preparatory degree for a university kinesiology transfer program.
Among the topics you’ll study for this degree are nutrition, kinesiology, injury prevention, fitness and training. Requiring 60 credit hours, some of the core courses in the curriculum are Introduction to Exercise Physiology, Healthy Lifestyle Food and Fitness, Introduction to Sports Injuries, as well as a field experience. Additionally, general education classes are part of the overall program.
As with other schools, SMC offers different categories for admission, but all begin with completing an admission application. You’re also expected to apply for federal student aid and may be required to attend orientation. Along with a counselor, you’ll determine an education plan and enroll in classes.
Fast Fact: Established in 1929, SMC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
5. South Seattle College
You may be interested in this AA in Kinesiology, Sports & Exercise Science from this Washington state college. This is a 90 quarter hours degree is part of South Seattle College’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) programs.
The curriculum should include general education classes in topics such as English, General Psychology, Introduction to Sociology, and others. Your major pathway courses will involve studies in Nutrition, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Human Wellness and Fitness, motor function, and more. The suggested course schedule also includes studies in pathology and biomechanics.
Admission applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and can take from 1-5 days. While specific admission requirements aren’t available on the website, in general, you’ll be expected to complete an application, make application for federal student aid, determine your placement assessment (either by placement test, ACT/SAT scores, or high school transcripts).
Fast Fact: Named one of Niche’s Most Liberal Colleges in America
6. Sandhills Community College
Sandhills Community College offers a hybrid Health and Fitness Science associate’s degree program for students who want to work in fitness clubs, local parks & rec departments, and more. Students learn the basics of health and fitness tests, instruction methods for fitness classes, proper use and demonstration of exercise equipment, and other skills necessary for a health and fitness career.
As a hybrid program, some courses must be taken on-campus, so prospective students should be prepared to visit Sandhills CC on a limited basis. The program is ACE Certified and was the first of its kind in North Carolina.
Fast Fact: An articulation agreement with UNC Pembroke allows Sandhills CC students to transfer their credits straight into a BS in Exercise and Sports Science.
7. Georgia Military College
Here’s an online AS in Kinesiology from the Global Online College of the Georgia Military College in Milledgville, GA.
The GMC uses the quarter system and this AS degree requires 65-69 quarter hours for completion. As with other associate degrees, general education classes in English, math, humanities, social and natural sciences are required. Concentration courses will offer 32 credit hours in your major with studies in planes of motion, anatomy and physiology, program design, biomechanics, rehabilitation, and others. Graduates of this program will be prepared to finish their kinesiology education and pursue a baccalaureate degree a university.
You’ll be asked to complete an application (with a $35 fee) and provide academic transcripts (or GED scores) for admission.
Fast Fact: GMC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)
8. Seminole State College of Florida
This Florida school has an online AA with a pathway in Sport and Exercise Science program completed in 60 credits and specifically designed for students to transfer to any college or university in Florida (Note: It’s assumed this associate degree may provide transferable hours to other states’ schools.)
As with other associate degree programs, you’ll be required to complete general education courses. You’ll take classes in English, chemistry, algebra, humanities, social and natural sciences, history, and others. Although it’s difficult to find on the website the exact coursework you’ll take for the Sport and Exercise Science pathway, it appears to require studies in anatomy and physiology and nutrition.
Admission to Seminole State College requires submission of an application and additional documents as requested. You’re encouraged to apply for federal student aid as part of the overall process.
Fast Fact: U.S. News and World Report ranks SSC #22-#28 in the publication’s Top Public Schools
9. Fayetteville Technical Community College
Located in North Carolina, FTCC provides an online AAS in Health and Fitness Science you complete in 60 credit hours.
As with other exercise science degrees, general education courses are required for this AAS which includes studies in General Psychology, General Biology, Introduction to Computers, and Humanities and Arts. Among your major studies are courses in Anatomy and Physiology, Nutrition, CPR/First Aid, Prevention and Care of Exercise Injuries, Lifestyle Change and Wellness, Personal Training, Exercise Programming, as well as Fitness and Exercise Training.
FTCC admission requires you first complete residency determination (regardless of your state of residence), submit an application and academic transcripts, as well as apply for federal student assistance. You may be asked to take a placement test depending on your educational history.
Fast Fact: FTCC offers over 280 associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)
10. Brunswick Community College
Here’s another North Carolina college offering a Health and Fitness Associate Degree (AAS) with a focus on exercise science.
In the 66-67 credit hour curriculum, you can expect to take classes in General Psychology, Humanities and Arts, Public Speaking, and others. Major coursework includes courses in Nutrition, Anatomy and Physiology, Health and Fitness Law, Lifestyle Change and Wellness, Fitness Facility Management, Personal Training, etc. Studies are designed to prepare you for a wide variety of exercise and fitness programs and facilities.
BCC’s admission process begins with a career assessment and residency determination status, an application, and academic transcripts from schools attended. You’ll also need to apply for financial aid.
Fast Fact: Brunswick is rated #193/853 of Niche’s Best Community Colleges in America
11. University of the Cumberlands
A Kentucky school, the University of the Cumberlands has an online AS in Coaching degree. Although focused on coaching, this program gives you a foundation to assist people in becoming the healthiest they can be, both mentally and physically.
Classes involved in this degree cover Introduction to Health, Exercise, and Sport Science, Fitness and Sport Management, Care and Prevention of Sports Injuries, as well as Coaching and Leadership. To provide you a well-rounded degree program, you’ll also take courses in mathematics, history, science, culture, writing competence, and social and professional awareness. You’ll also take elective classes to reach the 61 credit hours required for graduation.
The University of the Cumberlands offers step-by-step admission assistance for you, whether you’re a first time student, transfer, international, or other category.
Fast Fact: Established in 1888 by Baptist ministers, UC holds Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC)
12. Finger Lakes Community College
Finger Lakes Community College is part of the State University of New York Community College system. You can earn an AS in Kinesiology and Human Performance degree entirely online.
As part of the study 64 credit hours required for this AS, you’ll take courses in Introduction to Kinesiology, Nutrition and Sport Performance, Statistics in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology, Motor Behavior, Advanced Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology, Cardio-Respiratory Fitness Assessment and Programming, Biomechanics in Exercise Movements, Older Adult Fitness-Gerontology, and a Field Internship.
Admission steps are simple. You’ll be asked to create an application account and provide proof of high school graduation or a GED or TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) score report. You’ll be notified if additional documents are required to complete your application.
Fast Fact: FLCC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
13. Bryan University
Located in Tempe, Arizona, Bryan University awards an Associate Degree in Applied Exercise and Fitness that is offered on campus and 100% online.
You’ll earn 60 credit hours in courses such as Body Sciences, Programming Basics, Behavior Management, Group Training Theory, Cardiorespiratory and Flexibility Programming, Weight Management, Nutrition Fundamentals, Personal Training and Sales Fundamentals, etc. You’ll also take genera education classes in English Composition, Critical Thinking, Speaking and Presenting, and more. This curriculum is designed to develop your knowledge of personal training and exercise science.
Fast Fact: Bryan University is a private, for-profit school accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
14. American College of Healthcare Sciences
If you’re interested in a non-traditional approach to Exercise Science, the American College of Healthcare Sciences, with a home campus in Portland, OR, offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Health and Wellness approached through a mind-body-spirit curriculum.
Courses in this curriculum include Introduction to Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Physical Activity and Wellness, Nutrition, Bodycare, and Herbilism, Community Health Planning, Advanced Nutrition Principles, Personal Fitness Training, Health Psychology, Sports Nutrition, Healthcare Terminology, as well as modalities in iridology, aromatherapy, and homeopathy. A practicum is also part of this program. This course of study is approved by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and will qualify you to sit for the credentialing exam of the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board.
Admission for this AAS in Health and Wellness requires an application, submission of academic transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
Fast Fact: The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) accredits this program
15. ISSA College of Exercise Science
The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) College of Exercise Science has an online AS in Exercise Science you can earn in 90 credit hours (quarter). Accelerated study can complete the program in 18 months.
You’ll take 30 credit hours in general education studies and 30 hours in electives. Among the general education courses are English, history, sociology, psychology, college math, interpersonal relationships, as well as communication.The core curriculum includes studies in Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Exercise Therapy, etc. Additional credits are earned in classes titled Specialist in Group Fitness, Youth Fitness Trainer, Specialist in Exercise Therapy, Corrective Exercise Specialist, as well as Bodybuilding Specialist. You’ll be able to earn certifications as you complete this program.
To apply, you’ll complete a no-fee application which will prompt an admission advisor to contact you. You will need a copy of your high school transcript or GED test score as well as government photo ID to accompany the application.
Fast Fact: ISSA College of Exercise Science is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
Why Should I Get My Exercise Science Associate’s Online?
There are several advantages to getting a degree online.
Distance education dates to the 19th century when it was a common way to learn by mail. Online degree programs have increased as technology has improved and more people have Internet and WiFi access. Today, colleges and universities offer the same programs as their on-campus counterparts, taught by the same faculty and curriculum.
Online classes tend to be shorter in length, but more inclusive, than on-campus classes. Frequently, schools offer out-of-state online students the same tuition as their in-state students, which can be a substantial savings.
We saw one of the great benefits of online degree during the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of schools were able to transition in-class courses online. Schools with robust online degree programs prior to the pandemic, were able to continue offering classes without difficulty.
The convenience of online study can’t be overstated when talking about convenience. Few students are able to earn a college degree without working. Online programs allow you to balance work, family obligations, and free time providing a better work-home balance.
What Can I Do with an Associate’s Degree in Exercise Science?
Associate and Bachelor degrees are two avenues toward an Exercise Science career.
Community colleges, offering a two-year Associate’s in Arts or Science program, prepare you for entry level careers in the fitness, health, and wellness professions. Specific careers with an Associate’s degree can be found as a personal trainer, health coaching, fitness center directors, athletic trainer, recreation and camp director. These degrees also provide you the opportunity to teach physical education, aerobics, strength and conditioning, and more.
An AA or AS in Exercise Science will also give you the opportunity to continue your Exercise Science studies if you’re interested in becoming a physical therapist assistant, wellness director, or become a physiologist. Often, AA or AS programs allow you to earn certification in a variety of areas as part of the curriculum.
Your courses in an Associate’s degree in Exercise Science will typically transfer a four-year university and allow you to enter a bachelor’s Exercise Science program as a third year student. This is because you’ll earn general education credits typically found in the first two years of an undergraduate program. An added bonus is that community college tuition is typically much lower than a four-year institution cost.
How is the Job Market for Exercise Science and Kinesiology?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for Exercise Science and Kinesiology (with a bachelor degree) is excellent with an estimated 11% job growth projection between 2019-2029, which is much faster than average.
Salary ranges for this field range from $46,030-$75,740 (BLS) for bachelor’s prepared Exercise Physiologists. Athletic Trainers can earn $46,410-$54,140, Massage Therapists salaries range from $30,720-$55,300 (job outlook is a rapid 21%), and Coaches and Scouts can earn $31,450-$47,020. It should be noted these salaries from the BLS are for bachelor’s prepared professionals.
PayScale reports the average salary for an Associate of Science in Exercise Science at $49,143 annually. The Indeed jobs site publishes average salary ranges from $36,224-$37,863 per year and Glassdoor posts salary ranges from $13K-$374K yearly.