What is a kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist studies how the body moves and performs. Their expertise in human movement helps improve performance, rehabilitate injuries, strengthen overall health, and enhance the body’s ability to respond to demands. Kinesiology is a broad field that provides a strong understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics.
The role is of significant importance, particularly in healthcare and the sporting industry. With their in-depth understanding of human movement and its implications for health and well-being, they can help individuals achieve optimal performance, recover from injuries, or manage chronic health conditions. Their work is critical in maintaining and improving individuals’ physical abilities and quality of life.
Duties and responsibilities
Kinesiologists are responsible for assessing, maintaining, and improving human movement and performance. They develop customized exercise programs for individuals based on comprehensive assessments. These programs are designed to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and coordination. In rehabilitation, they can help patients restore their physical abilities after injuries or surgical procedures.
Other tasks they perform include monitoring patient progress, adjusting exercise programs as necessary, providing education on maintaining good health and preventing injuries, and conducting research on human movement. Working in a team with other healthcare professionals, they aim to offer a holistic approach to patient care.
Kinesiologists typically work in a range of environments, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, sports fitness centers, and research institutions. Regardless of their workplace, their role often involves interacting closely with patients or clients, providing guidance and support as they achieve their health and fitness goals.
While their work is generally indoor and office-based, some aspects can be physically demanding. This might include demonstrating exercises or assisting patients in performing certain movements. Maintaining patience and a positive outlook is vital, especially when dealing with individuals experiencing pain or facing challenges due to physical conditions.
Typical work hours
Kinesiologists generally work full-time, often during regular daytime hours. However, depending on the setting they work in, their hours can vary. For instance, those working in fitness centers might have to work early mornings, late evenings, or weekends to accommodate client schedules.
Those in research or administrative roles might enjoy a more regular 9-to-5 schedule. Kinesiologists involved in patient care, such as in hospitals or rehabilitation centers, might need to be available for on-call duties or irregular hours, depending on patient needs.
How to become a kinesiologist
This career guide section outlines how to become a kinesiologist. The key steps focus on acquiring a relevant educational degree, gaining practical experience, and securing necessary certifications.
Step 1: Receive a high school diploma or GED
The journey begins with high school completion or earning a GED. In high school, it is advisable to focus on science-related courses, including biology, chemistry, physics, and health-related physical education.
Step 2: Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program
After high school, prospective kinesiologists must pursue a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or a related field. This four-year degree offers foundational knowledge about the human body, body movements, exercise, and health.
Step 3: Get involved in practical experiences
To translate theoretical knowledge to practical abilities, gaining experience through internships or part-time jobs is beneficial. Many undergraduate programs offer internships or co-op opportunities that supply hands-on experience with patients in healthcare or exercise settings.
Step 4: Pursue a master’s degree
While not all positions require a master’s degree, a graduate degree in kinesiology or a related field can expand career opportunities and the potential for higher pay. The master’s degree program often offers research opportunities and a broader exploration of topics related to physical activity, health promotion, and disease prevention.
Step 5: Obtain licensure or certification
Depending on the state and the nature of the job, they may need to get licensed. Some states require kinesiologists to be licensed as athletic trainers. Certifications, such as the Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CECS) or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), while not mandatory, can make a candidate more appealing to employers.
Step 6: Gain professional experience
Once educated and certified, aspiring kinesiologists should seek employment opportunities in fitness centers, rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, or sports organizations. By gaining experience, they can build their knowledge, skills, and professional network, which are essential for career advancement in this field.
How much do kinesiologists make?
Kinesiologist salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Factors such as 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
Types of kinesiologists
This career guide section explores the various career types and areas of specialization for kinesiologists. Below, we highlight the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.
Specializing in the treatment and prevention of injuries, a clinical kinesiologist works in a medical setting. By applying scientific knowledge about movement and its impact on health, they create tailored programs for patients for recovery and improved physical performance.
These professionals focus on how body movements, force, and physical stresses can affect human biology. Often employed by sports organizations or in research, biomechanical kinesiologists help create protocols to enhance athletic performance and reduce injuries.
Sport psychology kinesiologist
A sport psychology kinesiologist explores the psychological aspects of physical activity. They work with individuals and teams to improve performance and motivation, apply goal-setting strategies, and manage stress.
Specializing in children’s health and development, pediatric kinesiologists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or clinics. They develop programs to improve mobility, strength, and agility in children with different needs and capabilities.
Fitness industry kinesiologist
These kinesiologists work in gyms, wellness centers, or privately as fitness trainers. They create workout routines and diet plans to help clients achieve fitness goals, manage weight, and promote overall health.
Focused on aging adults, geriatric kinesiologists create programs to promote mobility, balance, and strength. They collaborate with healthcare teams in settings like nursing homes, hospitals, and community centers to improve the quality of life for older adults.
Top skills for kinesiologists
This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a kinesiologist. Key to this role is a solid understanding of human motion, exceptional interpersonal skills, and the scientific basis for exercise and rehabilitation.
Understanding of human motion
Understanding human anatomy and its relationship with motion is paramount in kinesiology. Kinesiologists should be able to assess and evaluate a patient’s physical status and implement a treatment plan, all extensively hinged on a well-informed understanding of the mechanisms of the human body, including movement and coordination.
Working closely with patients, other healthcare professionals, and sometimes athletes, they must be excellent communicators, demonstrating empathy, sensitivity, and patience. These skills will aid them in establishing strong, therapeutic relationships, helping patients adhere to treatment plans, and cooperating within a healthcare team.
Grounded in science, the field of kinesiology requires practitioners to have extensive knowledge of physiology, biology, and biomechanics. These principles are applied daily in assisting patients with mobility issues or devising performance improvement strategies for athletes.
These professionals often have to demonstrate, instruct, and sometimes participate in physical exercises or rehabilitation procedures. They should possess a degree of physical fitness, enabling them to carry out these tasks efficiently while showcasing the benefits of maintaining a healthy bodily state to patients.
Attention to detail
Finally, attention to detail is vital in this profession. Kinesiologists must observe, document, and interpret minor changes in a patient’s posture, mobility, and overall physicality. Accurate observation and documentation play an essential role in customizing effective treatment plans and tracking patient progress.
Kinesiologist career path options
If you’re a kinesiologist, you have plenty of opportunities for career growth. One potential career path to consider is clinical specialization. This involves acquiring clinical expertise in neurology, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, or orthopedics. These areas offer opportunities for more challenging and complex cases, leading to a more fulfilling and lucrative career.
Alternatively, you may transition into a management role within a hospital or clinic. This could involve overseeing a team of therapists, designing and implementing programs, budgeting, and stakeholder management.
Research is another potential path for career growth. Whether through work in academia or the private sector, conducting research and potentially developing new treatment methods can be highly rewarding.
Another option would be to leverage your skills and experience to educate others. Positions at universities as lecturers or professors can be fulfilling for those passionate about sharing their knowledge.
Lastly, many kinesiologists build successful practices as consultants, whether in the fitness industry, ergonomics, corporate wellness, or sports conditioning. This route provides the flexibility and independence that some professionals crave.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook for kinesiologists
The field of kinesiology continues to evolve rapidly, driven by technological advancements and a deeper understanding of human movement, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. Kinesiologists are leveraging cutting-edge technology like motion and exercise sensors to analyze body movements and posture, enabling more effective diagnosis and intervention strategies. The trend toward more holistic health approaches has led to a growing integration of kinesiology with other health disciplines like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and sports medicine. Collaborative healthcare teams involving these professionals have become the norm in healthcare institutions, sports facilities, and rehabilitation centers—promoting a more comprehensive approach to patient care.
With the increasing public interest in personal health, fitness, and wellness, their employment opportunities have expanded beyond traditional clinical settings. They can now work in wellness clinics, sports training facilities, corporate health programs, and even within the gaming industry, where motion capture technology requires specialists in human movement. A significant number of kinesiologists also work in the research realm, contributing to advancements in sports science, ergonomics, and rehabilitative treatments.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for kinesiologists, classified under “Exercise Physiologists,” is projected to grow by 10% through 2032. This growth rate is faster than the average for all occupations. A greater demand for professionals in this field is influenced by increasing emphasis on improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs. There is also a rising interest in the holistic and preventive health benefits of physical activity, both in a clinical and wellness context.
Kinesiologist career tips
Understand the human body
A kinesiologist’s role centers around understanding the mechanics and movement of the human body, demanding consistent learning and staying updated with the latest research and advancements in human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and related fields. Consider enrolling in related professional development courses or pursuing additional educational programs to deepen your expertise.
Gain practical experience
No level of theoretical knowledge can substitute the value of hands-on experience. Volunteering or interning in clinics, rehabilitation centers, and sports facilities can provide practical exposure. This will help broaden your understanding of the connection between theory and practice in kinesiology. Strive for varied exposure to understand the unique challenges that vary among different populations and conditions.
Build a professional network
Networking can open doors to opportunities, provide professional support, and offer a pool of knowledge and experiences. Attend industry events and conferences, join online communities, and participate in relevant business and social events to meet like-minded professionals.
- American Kinesiology Association
- National Academy of Kinesiology
- The Canadian Kinesiology Alliance
- American Society of Biomechanics
Seek relevant certifications
Certifications can enhance your credibility and competence. They can also provide an edge in a competitive job market. Research certifications that align with your career goals and earn them to distinguish yourself as a skilled professional.
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
- Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
- Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES)
Participate in research
Participating in research can provide a deeper understanding of kinesiology, sharpen analytical thinking, and contribute to knowledge in the field. It can also strengthen your resume, sharpen your skills, and set you apart from competitors. Consider opportunities on campus, healthcare institutions, or private organizations to participate in kinesiological research.
Where the kinesiologist jobs are
- Mayo Clinic
- Cleveland Clinic
- Johns Hopkins Hospital
- NYU Langone Health
- UCLA Health
- New York
Top job sites
What does a typical day look like for a kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist’s 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?
Kinesiologists require 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 for many kinesiologists 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?
Kinesiologists 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 kinesiologists require 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?
Kinesiologists 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 kinesiologists 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 a kinesiologist 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?
A kinesiologist’s 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.