The Best Exercise Science Schools in the US

Exercise science is the scientific discipline concerned with the study of the body’s movement, including human anatomy, fitness, nutrition, general wellness, and all other subjects relating to healthy bodily activity. 

If you have a passion for health and fitness, then pursuing a degree in exercise science could be an excellent way to explore your interest in an academic context further — and, of course, gain valuable knowledge along the way. 

Earning a degree in exercise science opens the door to many different careers, many of which are expected to see high demand in the coming years. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for fitness instructors and personal trainers is projected to grow by nearly 20% by 2031. 

For exercise physiologists, for example, employment is expected to increase by just under 10% — still higher than the national average of 5%.

Of course, there is more to making a successful career in an exercise science-related industry than simply earning a degree; it is also essential to carefully consider at which college you choose to earn your degree.  

With thousands of schools with exercise science programs, narrowing down your list of colleges to apply to can be daunting. 

On the bright side, we have compiled the following list of excellent schools for studying exercise science to help lessen your stress during the decision-making process. 

Here are 10 amazing exercise science schools in the US.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Mx. Granger, Carolina Hall at UNC, CC0 1.0

Known as a “Public Ivy” due its Ivy League-quality academic offerings, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is ranked #5 among all public universities in the United States, according to US News and World Report. 

Given the school’s excellent reputation, it should be no surprise that UNC-Chapel Hill’s programs relating to exercise science are among the best in the country. 

The school has a BA major program in exercise and sport science. Students in this program can choose to pursue either the general studies track or one of two concentrations: sport administration or fitness professional.

The general exercise science major involves intensive study in all aspects, physical and psychological, of exercise, making it a solid choice for students considering medical school after undergrad. 

The school has an exercise and sport science MA program at the graduate level.

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)

The University of Florida is home to the Center for Exercise Science, which offers many outstanding programs, resources, and opportunities for students interested in a degree in this field.

Part of the College of Health and Human Performance, the CES is a hub for interdisciplinary research on human health and physical activity. CES provides students at the college numerous opportunities to get hands-on experience in a laboratory environment. 

The college offers a variety of degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. 

There are four different options for BS degree major programs for undergraduate students, two of which are particularly pertinent for students interested in exercise science. These are the applied physiology and kinesiology major and the health education major.

George Washington University (Washington, DC)

George Washington University
Difference engine, President’s Office, George Washington University, CC BY-SA 4.0

The largest university in the District of Columbia, George Washington University has a bachelor of science with a major in exercise science

Offered through the Milken Institute of Public Health, the BS program is designed to prepare students for successful careers in healthcare, sports medicine, the fitness industry, and related fields. 

Students who pursue GWU’s exercise science BS can choose to specialize in any of several different areas of concentration, or they can choose none. 

Some of the concentration offerings at the school include strength and conditioning, pre-physical therapy, and pre-medical professional. 

The BS in EXSC program is led by Beverly Westerman, current vice chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at GWU. In 2022, Westerman was inducted into the District of Columbia Athletic Trainer’s Association Hall of Fame. 

Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)

Established in 1876, Texas A&M University was the very first public institution of higher education in the state of Texas. 

Today, it is one of the largest and most highly-revered public universities in the country, coming in at #26 among public schools nationwide in the latest edition of US News and World Report’s rankings.

Students who pursue a BS in kinesiology at Texas A&M can choose from among several different concentration tracks. 

One of these is the exercise and sports science concentration, which entails an in-depth study of physiology, nutrition, motor learning, and strength and conditioning. 

There is also a concentration in applied exercise physiology, explicitly intended for those who plan to start careers as clinical exercise physiologists. 

Through this combination of concentration offerings, the school ensures that all students who want to study exercise science — regardless of their professional aspirations down the line — can find a program well-suited to their interests. 

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

According to the 2023 edition of US News and World Report’s annual list of school rankings, the University of Michigan is the #25 best university in the entire United States. 

Thus, it comes as little surprise that the college has an excellent exercise science program.

Offered through the UMich School of Kinesiology, there is a BS in applied exercise science major program. Students who choose to major in exercise science at UMich are able to benefit from the school’s extensive undergraduate research opportunities

With dozens of state-of-the-art labs, research centers, and a wide array of areas of inquiry, there is plenty of possibilities for student research at the School of Kinesiology. The Brain Behavior Lab and the Center for Race & Ethnicity in Sport are examples of these.

University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)

University of Miami
NkosiRob, Shalala Student Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

With their athletic teams competing as a part of the NCAA’s Division I, the University of Miami provinces exercise science students with many unique opportunities to gain hands-on experience identifying and treating athletic injuries.

The Department of Kinesiology and Sport Science at the University of Miami has a bachelor of science degree in exercise physiology

There is even the Honors Program in Exercise Physiology for students who are especially highly motivated.

One of the perks of Miami’s BS in exercise science is that the school offers an accelerated master’s program. The exercise science major students can fast-track their graduate degree by taking just one additional year of graduate-level coursework.

There are two degree options for the accelerated master’s program, one of which is the exercise physiology, strength & conditioning/fitness entrepreneurship program.

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

The University of Pittsburgh has a number of excellent academic offerings that fall within the broad domain of health, physical activity, and exercise

In fact, according to Niche’s 2023 list of the best colleges for studying kinesiology in the United States, Pitt is the #11 best school in the country in this subject area.

In addition, the university has been ranked as the #8 best college in the state of Pennsylvania, coming in at #2 in terms of just public schools.

At the undergraduate level, Pitt’s exercise science offerings include an EXSC major for students pursuing a bachelor of science at the college. 

Pitt is particularly well-equipped to educate students in the areas of bioengineering, prosthetics, and health equity, offering top-tier graduate programs in each of these fields. 

Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)

Widely known for its extensive array of cooperative education programs, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers students unique opportunities to gain real-world experience working with professionals in their field of choice. 

Each year, more than 4,000 RIT students are placed with over 2,000 different employers all over the country, leaving students with valuable insight into their dream job. 

For students interested in studying exercise science, RIT offers exercise science as both a major and a minor for the BS degree program. 

Alternatively, there is an exercise science certificate program for those who want to avoid committing to a full four years of study. 

Offered through the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition, the program is designed to provide students with all the skills and knowledge required to work in entry-level positions in the exercise industry.

University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

A public research college that was founded in 1847, the University of Iowa is the oldest university in its state. With more than 20,000 undergraduate students, it is also the largest university in Iowa. 

Part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Health and Human Physiology Department offers a BS program in exercise science

One perk of the exercise science BS at Iowa is that students interested in earning a graduate degree can fast-track their education through a combined degree program.

One of these is the BS/MS in athletic training, a great choice of program for those interested in practicing sports medicine. 

Offered through a partnership with the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, the program provides students with the academic and professional training to succeed in the industry.

University of Nebraska at Omaha (Omaha, NE)

The University of Nebraska at Omaha — formerly known as the University of Omaha — is a public research university with a total of six constituent colleges. 

One of these is the College of Education, Health, and Human Science, which is home to a stellar health and kinesiology department. 

For undergraduate students looking to study exercise science, there is a BS degree program with a major in kinesiology. One of the defining aspects of earning a kinesiology degree at Omaha is that the school heavily emphasizes experiential learning.

All kinesiology students at Omaha are given numerous opportunities to get hands-on experience in careers in the sports medicine field. 

One of these possibilities is to complete an internship, which requires at least 300 hours of work at a hospital, office, or other participating institution.

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