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Exercise Science Major Guide for 2008-2009

What is Exercise Science

Exercise Science is the study of human movement and the associated responses and adaptations. In this context, an exercise scientist must understand the scientific basis underlying exercise-induced biomechanical and physiological responses. Although exercise science professionals often work in sports medicine facilities, the field of exercise science is quite broad. Depending upon one’s area of interest, an exercise science major might study: (1) how to develop and lead exercise programs for diverse populations; (2) how organ systems work at the cellular level; or (3) how to improve biomechanical efficiency in tasks of everyday living. The undergraduate B.S. degree in Exercise Science is a 120–122 semester-hour science-based program with emphasis on the study of exercise and human movement. The exercise science program promotes and integrates scientific research, education, and practical applications of exercise science to maintain and enhance health, fitness, performance, and quality of life. Coursework in exercise science prepares you for the job market or for further schooling in exercise science and/or health related fields such as physical therapy, medicine, and occupational therapy.

Career Opportunities in Exercise Science

This list is not all-inclusive but does identify some of the common fields of study, career and job opportunities, and minimal education requirements:

  • Athletic trainer. Employers include schools, teams, clinics, and hospitals. (Undergraduate degree, master’s degree from an accredited National Athletic Trainers’ Association program)
  • Biomechanist. Employers include product developers/users in research and clinical settings; future growth is expected in industrial settings. (Master’s or doctoral degree)
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist. Employers include hospitals and clinics. (Undergraduate degree, often master’s degree, recognized certification)
  • Exercise physiologist. Employers include commercial and clinical workplace settings. (Undergraduate degree minimum)
  • Group exercise instructor. Employers include commercial and workplace fitness centers. (Some college courses, recognized certification)
  • Personal trainer/strength and conditioning coach. Personal trainers might be self-employed or work for a fitness facility. Strength and conditioning coaches are employed by universities and professional athletic teams. (Undergraduate degree minimum, recognized certification)
  • Physical therapist or Occupational therapist. Employers include hospitals and clinics. (Most physical therapy programs require 3–4 years of physical therapy school after an
    Undergraduate degree)
  • Physician/physician’s assistant. Employers include hospitals and clinics. (Undergraduate degree, 3–5 years of training, plus specialization training)
  • Pharmaceutical/medical sales. Employers include pharmaceutical and other medical development companies. (Undergraduate degree minimum)

Salary Trends in Exercise Science

With an undergraduate degree and no experience, a starting salary of $18,000 to $30,000 per year is a good estimate. Factors such as experience, geographic location, employment setting, and market demand all affect salary estimations. If you obtain certification and one or more advanced degrees (e.g., master’s, Ph.D.), you can obviously expect a greater salary. The same would be true if you had further professional training such as physical therapy or medical school. One of the best ways to gauge what salary you can expect is to speak with professionals who currently work in your field of interest. Because geographical location can have a large impact on salary, it is important that you speak with those who work where you would like to live.

High School Preparation

One of the best ways to learn about potential careers is to talk with people who have jobs that interest you. Often interested students can visit workplaces and see what people do while performing their jobs. Talk with your high school guidance counselor about setting up “job shadowing” experiences. You should also take the opportunity to get involved in activities that might relate to the exercise science major, such as performing volunteer work in hospital, clinic, and/or athletic training settings in your community or at your school. In regard to classes, you should take science and math, especially trigonometry, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology. It is also important to begin exercising on a routine basis. Exercising regularly, whether as a part of organized athletics or on your own, is important in establishing your commitment to lifelong physical activity. Regardless of what exercise science career you pursue, a common theme is the importance of regular exercise for good health.

How to Major in Exercise Science

During your first one to two years, you should contact the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Office of Student Services (865-974-8194) for advising. You should also enroll in ES 100 (Orientation to Exercise Science). Other than ES 100, the courses that you take in your first two years will be general education requirements and requirements for admission into the exercise science major, such as Chemistry 120-130, Math 125, and Physics 221-222. Students must apply to be admitted to the exercise science major. Application for admission consideration may be completed after the successful completion of 45 semester-hours and completion of ES 100, Chemistry 120, and Physics 221. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required to apply for admission to the program. You must be admitted into the program before the completion of 75 hours and subsequently, satisfactory progress in classes must be demonstrated. A minimum GPA of 2.5 must be maintained to remain in the major.

Requirements for Exercise Science

The admissions criteria summarized above are the minimum requirements.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Exercise science students should take advantage of practicum and internship opportunities while enrolled at UT. These courses are highly recommended for all ES majors. In practicum and internship courses, students work under the supervision of professionals in one of the fields of exercise science (e.g., physical therapy, athletic training). The primary goal of these classes is to gain practical, hands-on experience while in school. These experiences can prove invaluable in making career decisions and developing professional contacts. All exercise science majors must take the introductory practicum class and may take advantage of other opportunities. Practicum opportunities range from a one credit introductory course (ES 260) to a more in-depth opportunity (ES 426) and even to a full-time internship (ES 490).

Highlights of Exercise Science

Exercise science majors are exposed to a range of available activities. Students interested in research can work with the faculty on projects and gain professional elective credits (ES 493). ES faculty members are active researchers and encourage undergraduate students to become involved in research. The honors research project (ES 497) is available to those wanting to conduct an individual research project. Research experiences can prove valuable when applying to medical or graduate schools. Students interested in gaining hands-on experience have the opportunity to complete practicum courses (ES 260 and 426) while taking other classes. A full-time internship (ES 490) is available to those students who desire a culminating learning experience after their classroom work is completed.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

As the world is becoming more inter-connected through technology, it is important that students learn about other cultures and interact with people with diverse backgrounds. At UTK, students have a variety of opportunities to engage in these activities. For example, exercise science majors have the option to "study abroad" and take some of their required courses in other countries. Please see an academic advisor in the Office of Student Services for more information about READY FOR THE WORLD opportunities.

Learn more about UT's Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today's world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Exercise Science 100 1
English 101, 102 6
Mathematics 123-125 or 141-142 or 151-152 6–8
Chemistry 120, 130 8
Psychology 110 3
General Elective 3
Arts and Humanities Elective 3
Proficiency in two activities
TOTAL 30–32
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Physics 221, 222 8
BCMB 230 5
Nutrition 100 3
Health 310 3
Communications Studies 210 or 240 3
English 295 or 360 3
Cultures and Civilizations Elective 3
Arts and Humanities Elective 3
Proficiency in two activities
Junior Year Credit Hours
Exercise Science 325, 332, 350 9
Sport Studies 290 3
Sport Studies 231, 335, or 336 3
Cultures and Civilizations Elective 3
Social Science Elective 3
Professional Electives 6
Exercise Science Elective 3
Exercise Science 260 1
Senior Year Credit Hours
Exercise Science 414, 422, 480 9
Statistics 201 or Mathematics 115 3
Professional Electives 10
General Electives 6
CPR certification

The ES major is flexible and allows students to plan part of their curriculum around personal career goals. The curriculum includes 16 semester hours of professional electives (i.e., courses directly related to helping students reach their career goals). These classes are chosen by the student, with the guidance of his/her advisor, to fit personalized learning outcomes. For example, ES 493 (Independent Study) allows a student, under the direction of an ES faculty member, to develop individualized learning opportunities on specialized topics of interest. To give students a well-rounded educational experience, the curriculum also includes 9 hours of General Electives, which gives students flexibility to take classes for interest, regardless of their fit with exercise science career aims.

For More Information

Margy Wirtz-Henry
Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies
HPER 321B, 1914 Andy Holt Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996-2700
(865) 974-7154



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.