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Kinesiologist Career Guide

What is a kinesiologist?

A kinesiologist is an expert in how the body moves. They use their knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to help people perform better, heal from injuries, stay healthy, and handle physical stress better. Kinesiologists are important in healthcare and sports, helping people to stay or become physically able and improve their quality of life.

Duties and responsibilities

Kinesiologists create exercise programs tailored to each person’s needs to enhance strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and coordination. In rehabilitation, they help people recover their physical abilities after injuries or surgeries. Their work includes tracking progress, updating exercise plans, teaching about health and injury prevention, and doing research on human movement.

Work environment

Kinesiologists work in various places like hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, sports fitness centers, and research labs. They spend a lot of time with patients or clients, guiding and supporting them to reach their health and fitness goals.

Typical work hours

Most kinesiologists work full-time, usually during the day. But their hours can vary based on where they work. Those in fitness centers might work early mornings, evenings, or weekends. In research or office jobs, they often have regular 9-to-5 hours. Those in patient care might have to be on-call or work at different times, depending on patient needs.

How to become a kinesiologist

To become a kinesiologist, follow these key steps, which include education, gaining experience, and getting certifications:

Step 1: Receive a high school diploma

Start with finishing high school or getting a GED. Focus on science subjects like biology, chemistry, and physics, and take health-related physical education classes.

Step 2: Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program

Next, get a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or a similar field. This four-year program will teach you about the human body and how it moves.

Step 3: Gain practical experience

While studying, try to get practical experience through internships or part-time jobs, often offered in your degree program. This hands-on experience is crucial for applying what you’ve learned.

Step 4: Pursue a master’s degree (optional)

A master’s degree isn’t always necessary, but it can open up more job opportunities and potentially lead to higher pay. This degree will let you dive deeper into subjects like health promotion and disease prevention.

Step 5: Get licensed or certified

Some states might require a license, especially if you want to be an athletic trainer. Also, consider certifications like Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CECS) or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). These aren’t always required, but they can make you stand out to employers.

Step 6: Gain professional experience

Finally, start working in places like fitness centers, rehab clinics, hospitals, or sports organizations. This is where you’ll really grow your skills and professional network, which are vital for moving forward in your career.

How much do kinesiologists make?

Kinesiologist salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Specialization in a particular type of kinesiology, from sports science to occupational therapy, can also affect their earning potential.

Highest paying industries

  • Specialty Hospitals: $65,200
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $64,860
  • Scientific Research and Development Services: $60,400
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $56,500

Highest paying states

  • California: $70,120
  • New York: $69,400
  • Massachusetts: $68,600
  • New Jersey: $67,270
  • Connecticut: $66,800

Browse kinesiologist salary data by market

Types of kinesiologists

Kinesiologists can specialize in various areas, each with unique responsibilities:

  • Clinical kinesiologist: In medical settings, they work on injury treatment and prevention. They use their knowledge of movement to design recovery and performance-enhancing programs for patients.
  • Biomechanical kinesiologist: These professionals study body movements, force, and physical stress to understand their effects on human biology. They often work with sports teams or in research, focusing on boosting athletic performance and reducing injury risks.
  • Sport psychology kinesiologist: This specialization blends physical activity with psychology. They help individuals and teams enhance performance, set goals, and manage stress.
  • Pediatric kinesiologist: Working with children, they focus on improving mobility, strength, and agility. Their work is crucial in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or clinics, especially for kids with varied needs.
  • Fitness industry kinesiologist: In gyms or wellness centers, they develop workout and diet plans for clients. They help with fitness goals, weight management, and overall health promotion.
  • Geriatric kinesiologist: Specializing in senior care, they devise programs to maintain mobility, balance, and strength in older adults. They work in settings like nursing homes and hospitals, aiming to enhance the quality of life for the elderly.

Top skills for kinesiologists

To be successful as a kinesiologist, you’ll need a combination of scientific knowledge, physical ability, and interpersonal skills:

  • Understanding of human motion: You should be able to assess a patient’s physical condition and create treatment plans based on a thorough understanding of body mechanics, movement, and coordination.
  • Interpersonal skills: Empathy, patience, and sensitivity help build trust, encourage patients to stick to treatment plans, and collaborate effectively with a healthcare team.
  • Scientific knowledge: Kinesiology is deeply rooted in science. You need a good grasp of physiology, biology, and biomechanics. 
  • Physical fitness: You’ll often need to demonstrate exercises or take part in rehabilitation activities. Good physical fitness is important, not just for performing these tasks but also for showing patients the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Attention to detail: You need to be able to notice, record, and interpret even small changes in a patient’s posture, mobility, and overall physical condition.

Kinesiologist career path options

As a kinesiologist, you have a variety of career paths to explore, each offering unique opportunities and challenges:

  • Clinical specialization: Focusing on a clinical area such as neurology, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, or orthopedics can be enriching. Specializing allows you to work with more complex cases, potentially leading to a more rewarding and higher-paying career.
  • Management: Transitioning into a managerial position within a hospital or clinic is another path. Here, you’d be responsible for leading a team of therapists, designing programs, handling budgets, and managing relationships with stakeholders.
  • Research: Engaging in research, either in academic settings or the private sector, can be a fulfilling choice. Conducting studies and possibly developing new treatment methodologies can be very impactful.
  • Academic teaching: If you’re passionate about sharing your knowledge, consider a teaching role at a university. You can influence and educate the next generation of kinesiologists as a lecturer or professor.
  • Consulting: Building a career as a consultant in areas like fitness, ergonomics, corporate wellness, or sports conditioning can offer a lot of independence and flexibility. This route is ideal for those who seek to carve their own path and work on a variety of projects.

The field of kinesiology is rapidly evolving with new technologies and an expanding scope of practice:

  • Technological advancements: Kinesiologists are increasingly using advanced tools like motion and exercise sensors. These technologies help analyze body movements and posture, leading to better diagnosis and treatment plans.
  • Holistic health approaches: There’s a trend toward integrating kinesiology with other health disciplines, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and sports medicine. This collaborative approach is becoming standard in healthcare, sports, and rehab centers, offering comprehensive patient care.
  • Diverse employment opportunities: Beyond traditional clinical settings, they are finding jobs in wellness clinics, sports training facilities, corporate health programs, and even the gaming industry for motion capture analysis. They’re also contributing significantly to sports science, ergonomics, and rehabilitation research.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for kinesiologists, classified under “Exercise Physiologists,” is projected to grow by 10% through 2032. A heightened focus on health outcomes, cost reduction in healthcare, and an increasing interest in the preventive health benefits of physical activity drive this growth.

Kinesiologist career tips

Understand the human body

Since kinesiology revolves around body mechanics and movement, you must keep up with the latest research and advancements. Look into additional courses or educational programs in human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. Continuous learning is critical to deepening your expertise.

Gain hands-on experience

Practical experience is invaluable. Seek opportunities to volunteer or intern in clinics, rehab centers, and sports facilities. This real-world exposure bridges the gap between theory and practice and helps you understand the diverse challenges across different groups and conditions.

Build your professional network

Networking can lead to new opportunities and provide support and knowledge. Engage in industry events, online communities, and social events related to kinesiology. Some relevant organizations to consider are:

  • American Kinesiology Association
  • National Academy of Kinesiology
  • The Canadian Kinesiology Alliance
  • American Society of Biomechanics

Seek relevant certifications

Earning certifications can boost your credibility and make you more competitive in the job market. Choose certifications that align with your career objectives, such as:

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
  • Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
  • Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES)

Participate in research

Getting involved in research enhances your understanding of the field, develops your analytical skills, and contributes to kinesiology knowledge. This can also bolster your resume. Look for research opportunities in academic settings, healthcare institutions, or private companies.

Where the kinesiologist jobs are

Top employers

  • Mayo Clinic
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • NYU Langone Health
  • UCLA Health

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • ZipRecruiter


What does a typical day look like for a kinesiologist?

Their day usually consists of assessing a client’s physical abilities and needs, developing personalized fitness programs, guiding clients through exercises, studying human movement, and providing recommendations to improve fitness and well-being. Each day can vary greatly depending on the setting and client population.

What skills does a kinesiologist need?

They need strong communication, empathy, and attention to detail. They must be able to interpret health and fitness assessment results, lead exercise sessions, and develop plans with the client’s goals in mind. An understanding of biology, anatomy, and biomechanics is critical.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a kinesiologist?

The most challenging aspect is developing personalized fitness and wellness plans to suit each individual. It requires a deep understanding of human physiology, excellent problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt programs as a client’s needs change.

What are typical work settings for a kinesiologist?

They often work in clinical settings like hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. However, they may also work in fitness centers, corporate wellness programs, or as independent consultants. Some work in research or academic environments as well.

What type of education and training is necessary to become a kinesiologist?

Most need at least a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or a related field. Some positions may require a master’s degree. Additionally, many states require licensure or certification, and you should check your state’s regulations for specifics.

How does a kinesiologist collaborate with other healthcare professionals?

They routinely collaborate with other health professionals, such as physicians, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists. They may contribute to a multi-disciplinary team approach by providing their expertise in human movement and exercise prescription or sharing information with these professionals about a client’s progress in their fitness program.

What are some common misconceptions about the job of a kinesiologist?

One common misconception is that they only work in fitness centers or gyms. In reality, many work in clinical settings, providing valuable support in rehabilitative programs. Another misconception is that they are the same as physical therapists. While they do similar work, their educational background and scope of practice differ.

What can a kinesiologist specialize in?

There are various areas they can specialize in, including sports performance, rehab therapy, workplace ergonomics, health and wellness coaching, and biomechanical analysis. Specializations typically require additional training and certification, and the right choice often depends on the individual’s interests and career goals.

What are some typical responsibilities of a kinesiologist?

Their typical responsibilities include conducting fitness assessments, creating personalized exercise programs, guiding clients through exercises, educating on health and wellness, documenting client progress, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive client care.