An online physical fitness degree program provides you with the skills and qualifications for a brand new career in the health and fitness industry. Once you have completed your certification, you can apply for a job at a commercial or private gym, corporate fitness center, rehabilitation center, school or college, or healthcare facility. In this guide, learn about the best online physical fitness programs and how to turn your passion for health and fitness into an exciting new career opportunity.
What Is an Online Physical Fitness Degree Program?
An online physical fitness degree program lets you earn a degree at home and become a personal trainer, fitness instructor, or exercise director, or get another job role in the health and fitness sector. Unlike a ‘traditional’ degree, you will take classes online and learn new skills over the internet. These skills might include:
- Physical activity
- Sport science
- Health management
- Human biology
- Nutrition management
- CPR/first aid
- Transferrable skills like communication, teamwork, and time management
Some schools that offer online physical fitness degrees require you to take all classes online. Others might combine online lessons with experience at a local gym or fitness center. Your program will probably comprise video tutorials, webinars, coursework, and one-to-one teaching with tutors. Depending on the program, you might receive accreditation from an organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which authorizes exercise professional and health coach certifications in the United States.
Once you get a job, you might be responsible for duties like:
- Teaching clients about health and fitness
- Creating customized fitness and nutrition plans
- Monitoring the health of clients
- Providing health and fitness guidance to clients
- Organizing and hosting fitness classes
You might also have responsibilities like collecting and managing health information, organizing bookings for fitness classes, and assisting a gym manager or fitness team.
Why Choose an Online Physical Fitness Degree?
Online physical fitness degrees offer various benefits over traditional degrees. You won’t have to commute to school or live on campus, and you can manage any existing family or work commitments. You can also earn your degree from anywhere in the world. Online programs are more flexible than traditional ones, allowing you to study physical fitness at your own pace.
You could also develop skills you might not learn in a regular college-based environment. Studying for a physical fitness degree at home, without other students or tutors physically present, requires self-motivation, time management, and virtual communication skills, which often prove invaluable to employers in the health and fitness sector.
Even though you will study over the internet, most online schools provide the support, social, and networking opportunities available at a traditional college. For example, you might engage with tutors, career advisors, support staff, and other students in private online communities.
Ultimately, the best online physical fitness programs could provide increased earning potential and brand-new career opportunities.
How Much Does a Physical Fitness Degree Cost?
It depends on the school and the type of physical fitness degree you want to study. The average physical fitness bachelor’s degree, for example, costs $38,496 to $60,593 in tuition fees, according to U.S. News. An associate’s degree in this discipline, which typically takes a shorter time to complete than a bachelor’s, might cost less than that amount. However, a master’s or doctoral degree might cost more. You will also need to consider the cost of any exam fees, program supplies, registration fees, internet costs, and other expenses before you choose a physical fitness degree.
Whatever the total cost of your online physical fitness program, it could work out significantly cheaper than a traditional college degree. That’s because you won’t have to pay for travel or accommodation, which typically costs thousands of dollars a year. As online degrees are more flexible than college-based ones, you could still work full time and study physical fitness at your own pace.
Like with a regular degree, you might be eligible for scholarships, grants, and other financial aid that reduces the costs of your online physical fitness program. An employer might provide tuition fee reimbursement if you work for that organization after graduation.
How Much Do Physical Fitness Majors Make?
Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors earn, on average, $45,650 per year (mean annual wage), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s $21.95 per hour. “Technical and trade schools” is the highest-paying industry for exercise trainers and group fitness instructors. Those working in this sector earn a mean annual wage of $63,780.
Salaries for physical fitness majors often depend on the location of the job. Here are the five states with the highest average salaries for exercise trainers and group fitness instructors, according to BLS.
- Connecticut: $30.35 per hour ($63,140 per year)
- Vermont: $28.17 ($58,580)
- District of Columbia: $27.79 ($57,790)
- New Jersey: $27.39 ($56,980)
- Washington: $26.49 ($55,110)
Here are the five metropolitan areas with the highest average salaries:
- New Haven, CT: $38.98 per hour ($81,080 per year)
- Charleston-North Charleston, SC: $35.19 ($73,190)
- Modesto, CA: $32.88 ($68,390)
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $31.54 ($65,590)
- Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA: $31.05 ($64,590)
Physical fitness majors with specific skills such as first aid or nutrition management might earn more than the averages above.
What Is the Job Outlook for Physical Fitness Degree Holders?
Those who study for a physical fitness degree online might get a job as a:
- Personal trainer
- Fitness instructor
- Fitness coach
- Exercise director
The outlook is positive for those with a physical fitness degree. There will be a 12.8% increase in employment opportunities for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors from 2018 to 2028, according to research from Projections Central/U.S. Department of Labor. That’s higher than the national average for all job roles (5.2%).
Scholarships for Physical Fitness Students
You could be eligible for a scholarship for your physical fitness degree. Many organizations (or “sponsors”) offer financial aid to students who demonstrate academic success, community service, athletic achievement, or another accomplishment. You could apply for a scholarship to reduce tuition costs and other expenses associated with your online physical fitness degree.
You can find a list of sponsorship programs for physical fitness degree students below. Each sponsor below has specific requirements for their scholarship programs. You will need to apply directly with the organization if you want to receive an award, and deadlines for applications vary throughout the year.
- Barbara A. Cooley Masters Scholarship from SHAPE America: A $1,000 scholarship presented to those on health or physical education master’s programs at accredited U.S. schools who show leadership, academic excellence, or other qualities.
- Carl V. Gisolfi Memorial Scholarship: A $5,000 scholarship for those studying for a physical fitness-related major on an accredited degree program.
- Dr. Delbert Oberteuffer Scholarship: A $1,500 scholarship for students enrolled in a health and physical education doctoral program.
FAQs About Physical Fitness Degrees
Program Options/Time Summary
There are three main educational career paths to getting a job in physical fitness:
- Online physical fitness programs.
- Traditional college-based physical fitness degree programs.
- Physical fitness degrees that combine online and on-campus learning.
All three paths typically take the same time to complete.
Benefits of online physical fitness degrees include:
- The opportunity to study from anywhere in the world.
- No need to commute to school or live on campus.
- Balancing family/work commitments.
- Online physical fitness degree costs depend on the school.
- The average online bachelor’s degree costs $38,496-60,593, according to U.S. News.
- An online degree could work out cheaper than a traditional degree because you won’t have travel or accommodation costs.
- If eligible, you can apply for a scholarship, grant, or other financial aid for your online degree.