Approximately 15,800 exercise physiologists are employed in the United States. Potential employers will depend on your specialization. Clinical exercise physiologists often work at hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. Exercise physiologists specializing in sports medicine work with sports and athletic programs of local high schools, colleges and universities, and even professional sports teams. Fitness centers and health clubs are common employers for those working as personal trainers and fitness instructors. Some larger corporations value the importance of exercise and healthy living and contract professionals to design and implement corporate wellness programs for their employees. Those with advanced degrees may find employment at the collegiate level teaching exercise physiology, exercise science, or other related fields.
Those with a bachelor's degree will be able to find employment as an exercise physiologist—however, their choices may be limited. A common starting point may be as an assistant to a wellness program director, sports consultant, or physical therapy assistant. Professors of exercise physiology may hire new graduates as research assistants.
An internship will provide you with relevant work experience as well as employment contacts. Some students opt to schedule their internships after graduation; some programs require a semester internship as part of the curriculum. There are many types of internships available in a variety of specialties. For example, a hospital might offer interns the chance to work alongside professionals in its different departments such as Cardiac Rehab and Wellness/Nutrition. A state-level branch of the Special Olympics might host an internship program that allows students to apply their education in exercise physiology as well as their organizational skills while helping to prepare and manage the many events of the Special Olympics.
Exercise physiologists who work at hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and other clinical settings may advance by becoming managers of teams of exercise physiologists or moving to facilities that are larger or more prestigious. Those who work in educational settings may advance by being assigned additional responsibilities and managerial tasks or moving on to larger schools. Exercise physiologists employed by postsecondary institutions advance in academic rank and may eventually head their departments. Self-employed exercise physiologists advance by attracting more clients or expanding the size of their businesses.
Tips for Entry
Read the Journal of Exercise Physiology and Professionalization of Exercise Physiology (both available at https://www.asep.org/index.php/resources) to learn more about the field.
Join the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) to access professional networking and career development opportunities, publications, certification, and other resources.
Use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments, network, and learn about job openings. The ASEP has Facebook and LinkedIn pages that you should check out.