College is expensive, but if your dream is to be an athletic trainer or a physical therapist, an affordable exercise science degree gives you the basis for your understanding of the human body. Frequently, the two terms are used interchangeably, but kinesiology studies function, movement, and performance. Exercise Science examines physical responses to movement and performance.
This is a growing field, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a ten-year, job growth record at 11%, which is much faster than average. A bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology is frequently preferred for clinical, entry-level positions and sometimes certification is required. The fitness field is exploding with a 15% job growth over ten years, which is also much faster than average.
Best Health Degrees identified the Most Affordable Bachelor degree programs to assist you in your school search. We looked at a number of school websites to provide program highlights in terms of cost, courses, length of the program, admission requirements, etc.
The programs listed are accredited and accept federal student assistance. As part of their admission process, schools may require you to apply for federal aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) Often, school or departmental scholarships will use the FAFSA in making their decisions.
Our Method: Ranking the 15 Best Online Exercise Science and Kinesiology Bachelor’s Programs
To rank the 10 Most Affordable Exercise Science and Kinesiology Bachelor’s Programs, 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. California State University Northridge
If you’re looking for a B.S. in Kinesiology with a minor in Exercise Science, you’ll want to explore one of the most affordable programs we identified from California State University Northridge.
With this program, you’ll study Motor Development, Advanced Biomechanics, Applied Fitness Training and Lab, Medical Aspects of Sport and Related Injuries, Exercise Program Design, Research in Exercise Physiology and Lab, Application of Motor Behavior Principles, and more. You’ll also take general education courses in this 120 credit hour degree. Specific major requirements are General Biology (and lab), Human Anatomy (and lab), Introductory Statistics, as well as Introductory Statistics.
Along with an admission application (and $55 fee), CSUN uses an Eligibility Index GPA rating system which using your GPA and ACT/SAT test scores to determine your qualifications for admission.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $6,574/per academic year
Fast Fact: CSUN ranks #18 of US News and World Report’s Top Public Schools
2. University of Texas Permian Basin
Following close behind CUSN in affordability is UT-PB has a BS in Kinesiology with an Exercise Science concentration.
With this affordable exercise science program, you’ll complete 120 credit hours, with 42 of those hours in the kinesiology major. Classes include Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Measurement of Performance in Sport and Exercise Science, Physiology of Exercise. You’ll also study Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Analysis of Human Movement, Motor Development, Exercise and Nutrition, Cardiorespiratory Physiology, and more. Two practicum experiences, on and off-campus, are conducted under supervision and concentrate on research and skills.
Both first-year and transfer admission requires an application with a $40 fee, submission of all academic transcripts, with ACT/SAT scores being optional. All students must provide proof of Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $9,109/per academic year
Fast Fact: Niche rated UT-PB #686/1,572 in its Best Value Colleges in America
3. University of North Georgia
This affordable exercise science degree is a versatile BS in Kinesiology that offers four concentrations: Exercise Science, Health and Fitness, Teacher Certification, and Sports Medicine. Graduates with this degree, depending on your concentration, will be prepared for kinesiology careers or have the foundation to pursue pre-professional graduate programs.
The degree requires the typical 120 credit hours for completion. All students take general education courses in disciplines such as Communication and Quantitive Skills, Humanities, Fine Arts and Ethics, Social Sciences, etc. Core courses in the Exercise Science concentration include Anatomy and Physiology, Introduction to Kinesiology, Therapeutic Principles, Biomechanics, Research Methods, etc. An internship is required in this specialization (as well as the Sports Medicine concentration.)
General admission to UNG no longer requires ACT/SAT test scores and admission to each kinesiology concentration has specific admission requirements. The kinesiology program has strict application deadlines.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $9,608/per academic year
Fast Fact: U.S. News and World Report ranks UNG #44 in its Best Value Schools and #15 in Top Public Schools
4. California State University – Long Beach
This university has an ambitious, but affordable, BS in Kinesiology program offering five specialty areas in Exercise Science, Fitness, Physical Education (Teacher Education), and Psychology and Leadership.
While each concentration has coursework particular to that field, the kinesiology degree requires core and lower division coursework. Among those classes are studies in Biomechanics of Human Movement, Introduction to Kinesiology, Motor Control and Learning, Sociocultural Dimensions of Sport and Human Movement. General education courses are required as well. Some of the specialties requires an internship, field experience, or fieldwork to complete the degree.
As with most schools, you’ll want to carefully review admission requirements, submit requested documents, and meet all application deadlines.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $9,867/per academic year
Fast Fact: CSU-LB earned a #3 ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools
5. New Mexico State University
This New Mexico school’s Las Cruces campus awards a BS in Kinesiology and three focus areas in Performance Psychology, Exercise Science, or Physical Education. Regardless of the concentration, you’ll take 120 credit hours for this degree.
General education classes are required in seven areas such as Creative and Fine Arts, Communication, Humanities, as well as Viewing a Wider World (studies in areas outside of your major), and more. For the Kinesiology Core classes, you’ll study Introduction to Kinesiology, Anatomy and Physiology (and lab), Exercise Physiology, Motor Learning, Biomechanics (and lab), Social Foundations of Physical Activity, and an internship. This internship will be under supervision in fitness, recreation programs, wellness, or athletic facility with an emphasis on management and operations.
You can begin the admission process by completing an application ($20 fee), provide ACT/SAT test scores, and academic transcripts from all schools attended (secondary and post-secondary). A cumulative GPA of 2.75 or top 20 ranking in graduating class, or ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 1060 is part of admission.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $10,213/per academic year
Fast Fact: Forbes includes NMSU in its America’s Top Colleges ranking
6. University of Southern Indiana
USI provides a BS/BA in Kinesiology and Sport degree from one of four tracks in Exercise Science: Personal Pre-Occupational Therapy Track, Training Track, Pre-Physical Therapy Track, or Strength and Conditioning Track. Five tracks are available in Kinesiology: Nutrition, Senior Fitness, Personal Training, Fitness & Recreational Management, or Physical Education Teaching.
You’ll take the USI Core 39 Courses, a curriculum of general education, foundational studies. The core classes required of all Exercise Science majors include Career Preparation for Exercise Science, Biomechanics and Motor Behavior, Physiology of Exercise, Program Design for Diverse Populations, Exercise Testing and Prescription. Concepts in Wellness and Fitness, CPR for the Healthcare Provider and Sports Injury Prevention, Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology are also part of the curriculum. You may complete a Practicum experience in one of the approved exercise and sport facilities available around the Evansville area.
ACT/SAT test scores are optional for USI first-year admission but you’ll complete an application (plus $40 fee) and submit academic transcripts. You may be able to earn credit for prior learning and experience. Other documentation may be required as you move through the admission process. Transfer students will follow much the same admission procedure.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $11,649/per academic year
Fast Fact: Niche includes USI in its Best Value Colleges in America, Best Colleges in America, as well as Top Public Universities in America rankings
7. University of North Carolina-Charlotte
The BS in Exercise Science program at UNC-C holds accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Committee on Accreditation for Exercise Science (CoAES).
Students pursuing this affordable exercise science degree will take Pre-Kinesiology courses in Anatomy and Physiology (with lab), Introduction to Kinesiology, General Chemistry, as well as general education. Emergency Medical Response, Nutrition for the Physically Active, Applied Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Prescription, Biomechanics, as well as an internship (drug testing and/or criminal background check may be required.)
Beyond the admission requirements for UNC-C, you’ll need to apply for admission to the program. This will require you to make a separate application after required pre-kinesiology coursework is completed. You’ll need at least a 2.5 GPA in college coursework to apply. First-year students’ admission requirements are an application ($75 fee), submission of an essay, academic transcripts, and other documents. ACT/SAT scores are optional (for 2021 applicants).
Estimated Tuition Cost: $12,084/per academic year
Fast Fact: UNC-C is one of U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools
8. Arkansas State University
Located in Jonesboro, Arkansas State awards a BS in Exercise Science degree that will prepare you for a career in fitness, corporate wellness or clinical setting.
Following general education coursework, you’ll advance to classes in your Exercise Science major. Some of the classes you’ll take are Cardiovascular Physiology, Kinesiology, Basic Physiology of Activity, First Aid and Safety, Nutrition for Health, Sport and Exercise, Human Anatomy and Anatomical Fundamentals of Motion. An internship is part of the curriculum as well. The overall degree requires 120 hours for completion.
After you’ve earn 45 total hours of study, you’ll make application to the Exercise Science program. You’ll need to declare the major, have at least a GPA of 2.75, take specific classes, and submit the application by May 1st. Admission to ASU requires you to create a school account to begin your application.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $12,310/per academic year
Fast Fact: Arkansas State University is ranked as a Top Public School by U.S. News and World Report
9. Sam Houston State University
Calling Huntsville, Texas home, Sam Houston State University awards a BS in Kinesiology designed to prepare you fo a career in clinical exercise science.
In your third and fourth years of study, you’ll start classes in the kinesiology major. Classes include Exercise Physiology (plus lab), Physiology of Exercise, Motor Learning, Advanced Strength Training, Principles in Exercise Testing/Prescription, Principles and Practice of Adult Fitness Management. You’ll also participate in an internship under the supervision of a qualified professional. The affordable exercise science degree requires 120 credit hours for completion and the curriculum is designed to provide you a variety of marketable skills.
First-year students will submit an admission application along with a processing fee, provide academic transcripts, and ACT/SAT test scores are optional. If you were in the top 10% of your high school graduating class or meet other criteria, you may be assured of admission to SHSU.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $12,365/per academic year
Fast Fact: Forbes recognizes Sam Houston State University as one of America’s Top Colleges 2019
10. Austin Peay State University
The Clarksville, Tennessee, Austin Peay State University has a BS in Kinesiology with Exercise Science and Pre-professional concentrations, each requiring 120 credit hours.
This curriculum is designed to prepare you to sit for Exercise Physiologist Certification through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist test through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Along with core general education courses, you’ll take classes in Physiology of Exercise, Analysis of Movement, Anatomical Kinesiology, Fitness Assessment & Exercise Prescription, as well as participate in an internship.
Freshman admission calls for completion of an application with a $25 fee, submission of final high school transcripts, and scores from ACT/SAT testing. You’ll also be asked for proof of immunizations. You might be asked to take the Placement Assessment Test to determine your potential success in college coursework.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $12,688/per academic year
Fast Fact: APSU ranks #25 in the Top Public Schools ranking of U.S. News and World Report
How Can I Save Money on an Exercise Science and Kinesiology Degree?
A Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree in exercise science can be costly, but you should weigh that cost against your ability to earn a significant salary in the future. But still, you may experience sticker shock at tuition costs.
The College Board reported in 2020-2021 that a four-year, in-state, tuition and fees averaged $10,560. Out-of-state students paid, on average, $27,020 in tuition and fees. What are ways to reduce the costs?
First off, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You may qualify for federally funded assistance such as grants, work-study, or low-interest loans. Often, schools will ask for the FAFSA results when considering students for scholarship money.
Speaking of scholarships, you may want to explore organizations in your community that offer scholarships or loans for students. Be sure to check with your school guidance counselor for suggestions for clubs, organizations, or businesses offering aid that might be available.
Another cost savings is obtaining a two-year Associate’s degree from a community or junior college. Tuition and fees at community colleges are less than four-year institutions and you can get your general education courses out of the way and enter a university as a Junior. Check your state’s policy on community college. Around 17 states currently offer tuition free community college enrollment.
If you’re currently working, check with your Human Resource department to see if your employer offers tuition assistance or reimbursement.
How Much Can I Make with a Degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science?
There’s good news on the salary front for this career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the field has terrific potential with an estimated 11% job growth projection between 2019-2029, much faster than average.
Bachelor’s prepared Exercise Physiologists can earn in the range from $46,030-$75,740. Athletic Trainers can earn $46,410-$54,140 and Coaches and Scouts can make $31,450-$47,020.
PayScale reports the average salary for a Bachelor’s prepared Kinesiologist can earn $62,594 annually. The Indeed jobs site publishes average salary ranges from $44,634 per year and Glassdoor posts salary ranges from $50,947 yearly. According to the BLS, Fitness Trainers and Instructors can earn, on average, $40,510 per year.
Is Exercise Science and Kinesiology a Good Career?
Americans have substantially boosted the health and fitness industry. As stated previously, this career has a robust future with an 11% job growth over ten years.
Forbes has identified several reasons for this growth: budget-friendly gyms, health insurance costs, healthier eating, wearable fitness devices (Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc.), and others. Health and fitness, worldwide, is an $87.23 billion industry; and, in the U.S., it’s a $35 billion revenue source (Statista) in 2019.
So, the short answer of whether Exercise Science and Kinesiology is a good career choice? Yes.