What is Exercise Science?

Jul 11, 2018

by Dr. Sara Terrell
Assistant Professor of Exercise Science

Training elite athletes, facilitating strength and conditioning programs for high school sports teams, working in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation within hospitals, or pursuing graduate degrees in physical therapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, chiropractic medicine, physician assistant and sports psychology – these are just a few examples of what Florida Southern College graduates in exercise science are doing.

I am often asked what exactly our students do with their degree which is a valuable question when considering academic programs to pursue. Therefore, I would like to explain in this current blogpost why I parallel our exercise science major to your backyard trampoline – completing an exercise science degree at Florida Southern College can catapult you to a variety of different allied health careers.

Exercise Science and related healthcare occupations are expected to make up 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations. - Dr. Sara Terrell
"Exercise Science and related healthcare occupations are expected to make up 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations." - Dr. Sara Terrell

Exercise science is the study of the body’s response to exercise and requires an understanding of anatomy, kinesiology, health and fitness, biomechanics and exercise physiology. Persons with an exercise science degree establish exercise, fitness, and rehabilitative prescriptions within hospitals, fitness facilities, universities, clinical rehabilitation facilities, and multi-aged athletic programs. Example direct entry careers may include:

  • Exercise specialists in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation programs;
  • Strength coaches for college, university and professional sports programs;
  • Researchers within in sports medicine laboratories;
  • Exercise technologists in cardiology clinics;
  • Leaders in corporate wellness programs;
  • Supervisors of specialized health, fitness, wellness, or lifestyle programs;
  • Personal trainers and fitness instructors within the fitness industry;
  • Exercise and health entrepreneurs;
  • Fitness and wellness consultants.

Our students are also prepared for graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, exercise physiology, biomechanics, physician assistant, chiropractic medicine, prosthetics, public health, and other allied health professions. As you can see, our major has a multiplicity of application in today’s healthcare landscape.

Exercise Science and related healthcare occupations are expected to make up 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations. Employment opportunities in fitness, healthcare and health-related industries are projected to increase 25-30% over the next decade, with more than 3 out of every 10 new jobs created in healthcare. Employment growth will be driven by increasing demand for healthcare by an aging population and longer life expectancies.

We take pride as a program in preparing our students for this demand, using two central concepts to serve as our program compass, our vision and mission statement. Our vision as a program is to become a national leader in exercise science undergraduate program education, outcomes and research so as to positively impact the health of the state, nation and world. And, secondly, our mission is to inspire and prepare students to become lifelong learners and to improve quality of life through physical activity advocacy.

With these two guiding principles as our program compass, our curriculum and experiences within our major are focused on engaged and hands-on learning. - Dr. Sara Terrell
"With these two guiding principles as our program compass, our curriculum and experiences within our major are focused on engaged and hands-on learning." - Dr. Sara Terrell

With these two guiding principles as our program compass, our curriculum and experiences within our major are focused on engaged and hands-on learning. Students routinely conduct, interpret, and assess exercise science laboratory experiments and design exercise prescriptions based on testing interpretation. Students develop cognitive and clinical skills related to exercise testing, exercise prescription, and evidence based exercise programming. This allows for practical experiences, critical thinking, and application to real world scenarios they will encounter in their profession.

As I have discussed in other Exercise Science blogs, our students are required to complete EXS 4960, Applied Experiences in Exercise Science. This is an experiential course that is part of the core curriculum where students are immersed in an Exercise Science related professional experience. Our program data gathered from preceptors overseeing our majors at these experiences indicate that our students are not only well prepared in application of exercise science skills and abilities, but also demonstrate high marks for soft skills, such as communication, problem solving, teamwork and initiative.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identifies such skills as highly desirable in college graduates. Furthermore, our majors are well equipped to take national certification exams from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) during their senior year if they choose. Although the national average is 61% pass rate for the National Strength and Conditioning Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam (CSCS), 88% of our students have passed this exam.

Our success within our Applied Experience courses and certification exams provides a valuable metric to assess program outcomes and is a reflection of our program vision and mission statement. Our exercise science program at Florida Southern operates with a clear vision and mission to prepare our students to be at the forefront of leading preventative exercise and health outreaches and positively shaping our healthcare environment.