By Julianne Spingler

So you’re one of the lucky few whose interest in physical fitness exceeds tear-filled treadmill-slave sessions. At this point, your love of exercising may be pushing you towards a kinesiology major, but did you know that the work ethic you take to the gym is the same one you need to take to the books? Now’s the time to stop doing crunches, sit down, and get the full breakdown of what it actually takes to study the ins and outs of the human body.

The Basics 

As a major, kinesiology is pretty unique, and because of that, you’ll reap a whole bunch of benefits. The coursework covers it all—from examining the changing social trends in fitness to taking a behind-the-scenes look at how the body biomechanically and anatomically works.

Universities keep kinesiology majors small and hands-on, meaning that most of your school career will be spent in internship-type settings training and providing therapy to actual human beings. The great thing about this is that you won’t be sitting in a lecture hall 24/7 reading about how to keep someone in tip-top shape, you’ll be out doing it, and learning from someone who is actually in the field.

While this may be true, traditional classwork doesn’t just disappear. It is all about balance to be a kinesiology major since you’re not only studying textbooks as an undergraduate; you’re executing your knowledge of health and fitness as well.

The Good Stuff 

“Kinesiology means having this knowledge base to help others live a healthier and happy lifestyle. From their mental outlook to how much they physically improve, kinesiology encompasses all of it.” —Danielle Allocco, University of Massachusetts ’13, B.S. in Kinesiology, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor at HealthFitness Corporation

“The opportunities that the major provided were unique and hands-on versus a major in the physical sciences that was strongly focused on lab work and research.” —Katie Graham, Pennsylvania State University ’08, B.S. in Kinesiology, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and General Surgery Resident at Arnot Ogden Medical Center

“There are endless possibilities with kinesiology if you know what direction to go in. Plus, there are no 9 to 5 office hours, you get to train and motivate clients of all levels and abilities, and you get to wear Under Armour to work.”—James Ferris, West Chester University ’01, B.A. in Kinesiology, Physical Trainer and Owner of Gym Ferris Fitness

The Bad Stuff

“There are a ton of careers that you can go into with a degree in kinesiology, but nine times out of ten you need to go through with graduate school and a bunch of other training and certifications, which can be pretty time-consuming and expensive.”—Matthew Shackelton, Temple University ’14, B.S. in Kinesiology, Supervisor of Intramural Sports at Temple University

“A pro level job is not easy to get. It takes time and connections to get a head job and to make a decent salary. Also, you need a business model and to know how to sell. I have seen many smart coaches with no business skills, and they don’t last long in the field.”—Jim Ferris

“You really need to know how to sell yourself to an employer. Many people are mystified by the word ‘kinesiology’ and don’t really understand what that knowledge entails. It’s up to you to educate them and not respond with, ‘I’m not sure either.’”—Anna Roskowinski, Pennsylvania State University ’07, B.S. in Kinesiology, Assistant Director of Sports Programs at University of Maryland

Career Opportunities

Don’t prepare yourself for the cubicle. A career in Kinesiology is all about leading a healthy, active lifestyle, and effectively passing on this important knowledge. So, get some good shoes and polish those social skills, since your daily grind will involve a lot of movement and close interaction with others.

  • Personal Training – Yep, you can professionally tell someone to pick things up and put them down. The difference between you and that guy trying to make an extra buck at your local gym is that you will have a degree to back you up, instead of just Wikipedia pages on muscle growth. Kinesiology majors that become personal trainers know the “why” behind what we do to stay fit and healthy, instead of just the “how.”

  • Physical Therapy – You know those careers that people say are great choices because the field will always be necessary? Well, physical therapy is one of those gems. Physical therapists are basically the recon team for the body. Sure, a surgeon can put you back together after that nasty spill you took during Zumba, but a physical therapist will make sure that the glue sticks and you’ll actually be able to feel like yourself again. You will need to continue your education to achieve a doctorate in the field, but it is well worth it!

  • Sports Management – Okay, so you didn’t quite make the cut to play in the NFL. Don’t fret; there is still hope to work alongside your favorite players. With a kinesiology degree under your belt, you can be the person who oversees an athlete’s health and fitness goals. If you’re the one making the touchdown happen and have access to the uniforms, then who’s to say you aren’t part of the team?

  • PE Instruction – This is the “oldie but goodie” route to take with your degree. While there are admittedly much more glamorous career options associated with the major, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a gym teacher. Having a background in kinesiology will make you an easy hire, and you’ll have the opportunity to spend your life making a difference in kids’ lives. It’s a win-win.

  • Massage Therapy – Sure, you might be thinking of some pony-tailed dude in a room full of candles and essential oils when you hear “massage therapy.” Don’t give in to the stereotype. Since the major requires in-depth studying of anatomy, you’ll have those magic hands to fix all of the bad stuff that happens to stressed muscles. An added bonus to being a massage therapist: you can easily work where people want to relax. Aloha, Hawaii.