Study Kinesiology, Sports Medicine, and More in the US

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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on August 11, 2023

Studying kinesiology, sports medicine, and fitness can lead to exciting careers for students who are passionate about sports and physical activity. Find out which qualifications are available in the US for you to begin your journey as a sports and fitness professional.

An international student helping someone train in the gym as a personal trainer

Did you know fitness careers are projected to grow by 39% in 10 years? As more people around the world shift toward health-conscious lifestyles, fitness becomes a bigger priority — and big business! With such growth anticipated in the coming decade, there will be a high demand for fitness experts and professionals.

If you are passionate about fitness and health and are thinking of pursuing a fitness-related career, you’ll need to know which fields to study first. In the US, there are many universities and colleges that can set you on the path to success, whether you’re interested in kinesiology, sports medicine, a fitness trainer course, or other sports- or health-related field. 

What is kinesiology? Is sports medicine right for you? Would you be happiest earning a fitness trainer certification? Keep reading to learn more about how and where to obtain a fitness qualification, and how you can use it to begin your career.

Careers in the Fitness Industry 

The fitness industry has evolved over the years to include different training forms, such as yoga, calisthenics, swimming, bodybuilding, and high-intensity interval training (aka HIIT). The focus on physical fitness, mental health, and nutrition for overall wellness and health have added to the skills that clients expect from fitness therapists and physical trainers.

Here is a list of fitness careers you can potentially work toward:

  • Athletic director

  • Coach

  • Fitness manager

  • Personal trainer

  • Physical education teacher

  • Physical therapist

Working as a fitness professional is a rewarding experience. You contribute to your clients’ overall health and well-being, improve their quality of life, guide them to overcome physical barriers, and support them in achieving their fitness and wellness targets. 

If you are interested in entrepreneurship, you could potentially start your own business as a fitness professional! Some benefits of entrepreneurship include having a flexible schedule, the opportunity to work with different types of people, and building a strong professional network. 

Not sure which type of fitness career is right for you? Here is a sampling of potential fitness degree programs, fitness careers, and their potential entry-level salaries around the world.

Athletic training degree


Sports athletic trainer

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 41.850

Education degree


Physical education teacher

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 51.673

Kinesiology degree


Physical therapist

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 65.634

Personal trainer certification


Fitness trainer

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 45.300

Sport and entertainment management degree


University athletic director

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 123.939

Sports medicine degree


Physical trainer

Starting salary in the US


Starting salary in China


Starting salary in India


Starting salary in Brazil

R$ 38.140

Source: Salary Expert, 2022

After getting a sense of which career you may want to pursue, earning a qualification in fitness and health can help you build your personal brand, provide specialized services, highlight your strengths and specializations, and give you the tools to excel. Remember to choose a qualification that is closely related to your prospective career!

Fitness Courses in the US

The gym, health, and fitness clubs industry in the US is valued at $35 billion, with the number of businesses and industry employment steadily rising. As such, the US is an ideal location to study fitness, as there are numerous opportunities to gain real-world experience, learn from industry experts, and earn a variety of certifications.

Shorelight universities offer top-ranked degrees covering in-depth technical knowledge and research, with specializations including human musculoskeletal systems, effective exercise methods, safety techniques, principles of nutrition, and evolving trends in the fitness industry. 

Let’s take a closer look at just a few health, fitness, and sports programs at international-student-friendly US universities.

University of South Carolina — Bachelor of Science in Sport and Entertainment Management

The University of South Carolina’s Bachelor of Science in sport and entertainment management equips students with academic and on-field sport management training along with economics, accounting, finance, and marketing courses specific to the sport and entertainment sector. Sample courses include: 

  • College sports

  • Contracts and negotiations

  • NCAA compliance

  • Business of NASCAR

  • and more

The sports and entertainment management program offers a versatile range of subjects that prepare students to enter the industry with both technical skills and practical experience. Students can intern and get hands-on experience working events like the PGA championships, the Kentucky Derby, March Madness, and Disney on Ice. Guest lectures are often conducted by professionals from ESPN, Live Nation, the SEC, and more.

The University of South Carolina encourages students to participate in innovative research. The school is home to the College Sport Research Institute, which supports cross-disciplinary research on college sports in the US.

Madison Benner graduated magna cum laude with a BS in sport and entertainment management. She began her career in the sports industry as a security and ballpark operations coordinator for Major League Baseball.

“I think the biggest part of what made me ready was the internships in college,” she says. “The classroom experience was useful too, but being hands on and learning in a real-world environment was key to everything.”

Learn more about the sport and entertainment management program at the University of South Carolina >

University of Utah — Bachelor of Science in Health and Kinesiology

The University of Utah’s department of health and kinesiology provides health, sport, and fitness qualifications by offering: 

  • Undergraduate programs 

  • Graduate programs 

  • Emergency programs

  • Exercise and sport science courses 

What is kinesiology? Simply put, kinesiology is the study of the mechanics of human movement and how such movements impact health and overall wellness. 

The Bachelor of Science in Health and Kinesiology program begins with a strong foundational module, introducing students to the world of kinesiology and analysis of sport and exercise from a physiological, psychological, biomedical, and social perspective. Courses are designed to support critical thinking, evaluation, and technical knowledge so graduates can offer personalized treatment to each client. 

Subject areas include:

  • Advanced human anatomy

  • Cultural aspects of food

  • Exercise psychology 

  • Health and optimal aging

  • Mathematics 

  • Stress management

  • Vertebrate embryology

Internships in and around Salt Lake City are available as students progress toward their BS in health and kinesiology. 

Learn more about the University of Utah department of health and kinesiology >

Gonzaga University — Bachelor of Education in Sport Management

The sport management major at Gonzaga University trains students to perform diverse roles in managing sport activities and events. Students can also obtain a related minor in public relations, general business, communications, and more.

Gonzaga’s sport management program includes courses such as:

  • Introduction to kinesiology and sport management

  • Health and fitness club management

  • Sport and fitness in the digital age

  • Sport sponsorship and promotions

  • Health and wellness

With a strong institutional knowledge of sport management, the degree program teaches students leadership, problem solving, maintaining professionalism, and ethics. 

Professional internships at Gonzaga offer hands-on learning with sports organizations including the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, YMCA, and more.

I am very thankful that Gonzaga Sport Management requires two different internships ... I was able to apply knowledge that I gained from my classes to real-life scenarios. My Gonzaga education prepared me in more ways than I expected and I feel like I have a step up because of the high standards that are required at Gonzaga.” – Quinn Kesselring, B.Ed., Sport Management

Learn more about the sport management program at Gonzaga University >

University of the Pacific — Bachelor of Science in Business Administration — Major in Sport Management and Analytics 

The Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific offers a sport management and analytics major, and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the highest achievement for business schools. 

The sport management and analytics curriculum is designed to uphold standards set by the Council on Sport Management Accreditation, experts in the industry, and inclusion of modern research and sports trends. 

Experiential learning is an important part of Pacific’s learning culture. Internships and volunteering at sports organizations and events encourage students to obtain practical knowledge and apply in-class theory to real-world scenarios. 

Choosing Pacific turned out to be the best decision ever. My professors are very knowledgeable about the latest trends in the sports industry and [they] challenge every student to apply what we have learned in class to a professional setting. In California, there are not many undergraduate sport management programs, so we’re very fortunate here.” — Emmanuel Manny Leon, ’20 

Find out more about the sport management and analytics major at the University of the Pacific >

Which Fitness Degree Program Is Right for You?

Deciding which fitness program you want to pursue can be challenging: You may have questions — which university to consider, what type of qualification to choose, how many additional skills you may need, and more. With the right guidance, you can discover what program to opt for, and how to move forward. 

Here are some factors to consider in your decision-making process.

  • Look for potential interests — Take a look back at your past and present interests in sports and fitness to understand what you most enjoy. Ask yourself: Am I interested in a particular fitness activity? Do I like organizing and managing sports events? Do I like practicing fitness and training on a daily basis? When you’ve identified what you’re passionate about, you can then zero in on specific programs.

  • Discuss your preferences with professionals in the field — Having a discussion with professionals and peers in similar fields can give you insights on how the industry works, and which skills and qualifications are required to progress in potential careers. You can share your views and goals and get an idea of how to plan ahead.

  • Work with an advisor — Shorelight advisors are always available to support you. From program details, university applications, visa assistance, and more, they can guide you through the steps to study in the USA. 

So, let’s discuss — which fitness careers will be right for you?

Shorelight advisors can help you find the right fitness program to build your global career >