Strength and Conditioning Degree Programs and Training

The fitness industry has a wide scope, encompassing a variety of careers and specializations. From instructing gym classes to coaching professional sports, and from physical rehabilitation to nutrition, there are many different opportunities for students interested in strength and conditioning degree programs and training. And while a degree may not be necessary in some fields, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) asserts that those with a bachelor's degree will see more job opportunities in the fitness industry, as well as the potential for a higher salary.

Strength and conditioning degree programs

 There are many options for degree programs related to strength and conditioning. Some students may be interested in helping patients or clients become more physically fit, while others may want to rehabilitate people who are recovering from injury or illness. Some may want to work in a public facility, while others want to practice privately.

No matter your career choice, having a degree can be a benefit to your overall success in the industry, especially considering that this field is directly related to health and wellness. Without a solid foundation of knowledge about industry standards and best practices, your clients or patients could be at risk for becoming seriously injured. In fact, many fitness-related jobs actually require a bachelor's degree, including athletic trainers, exercise physiologists and coaches, according to the BLS. Possible majors of study related to strength and conditioning could include:

  • Exercise science
  • Kinesiology
  • Physical education
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and fitness
  • Sports medicine

Choosing a degree program will depend on your personal career goals. For example, someone interested in working as a physical education teacher at the elementary or secondary (high school) level may pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in physical education. Someone whose goal is to work at a health club, fitness, or recreation center may pursue a degree in exercise science. Someone interested in working as an athletic trainer for a university or professional sports program may find that a degree in kinesiology most closely aligns with their goals.

Strength and conditioning training

Once you pick a degree program, your required courses and training will tend to closely align with your topic of choice. Some of the most common courses include the following subjects:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Physiology of fitness and exercise
  • Applied kinesiology
  • Substance abuse
  • Nutrition in health and exercise
  • Nutrition and weight management
  • Sport and exercise psychology
  • Sports medicine and first aid
  • Exercise programming for special populations

When selecting a degree program, students should also inquire into their state's licensing requirements for their career of interest. States and employers may require applicants to possess a specific degree or meet other education requirements such as the completion of an internship. Some states may also require you to obtain strength and conditioning certifications to pursue careers such as personal trainers or fitness instructors. Knowing the requirements of a particular career path or employer can help you select the program that best fits your needs.

Strength and conditioning career outlook

Job opportunities should be plentiful in the coming years for those with the right education and experience. The BLS estimates nationwide job growth for fitness trainers will be 13 percent from 2012-2022. Employment of athletic trainers is projected to grow 21 percent nationwide during the same time period, and job growth for exercise physiologists is expected to grow 9 percent.

The BLS also reports the national average annual wage for athletic trainers in May 2013 was $42,790. However, it is important to note that actual salaries can vary depending upon where an individual lives, their degree, and their expertise and experience. For example, New Jersey was the top paying state in 2013, with athletic trainers earning average incomes of $67,800 in May of 2013.

Texas and California are also in the top five highest-paying states, and also employ the highest number of individuals employed in the fitness category. Elementary and secondary schools, as well as performing arts companies, were the top-paying industries. Athletic trainers in those sectors earned average annual wages of $53,430 and $53,570 respectively.

The BLS says the following percentages represent where athletic trainers were employed in 2012:

  • Colleges, universities and professional schools; state, local and private: 25%
  • Offices of other health practitioners: 15%
  • Hospitals; state, local and private: 13%
  • Fitness and recreational sports centers: 13%

Regardless of which career opportunities interest you, they all begin the same way: with strength and conditioning degree programs. Learn more about online and on-campus opportunities in your area today.


Athletic Trainers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes299091.htm

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers-and-exercise-physiologists.htm

Fitness Trainers and Instructors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm#tab-6

Coaches and Scouts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/coaches-and-scouts.htm#tab-4

Strength and Conditioning Schools

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            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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            • Alumni may return for free refresher courses on previously completed classes.
            • Campuses located in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Toronto, Canada, with the online headquarters based in Tempe, Arizona.
            • Offers programs in court reporting, personal training, health information technology, and more.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • Established in 1940 as Bryan Stenotype School.
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            Eagle Gate College , Salt Lake City
            • Provides programs developed with industry professionals who assist with curriculum development and recruit graduates.  
            • Teamed with Solutions at ECMC to help students manage educational loans and offer resources free of charge.
            • Offers alumni free refresher courses for any class they took in their original program of study.
            • Has campuses located in Salt Lake City, Layton, and Murray, Utah.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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            • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
            • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
            • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
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