Education and Training Requirements
If you are interested in this field, you should prepare for your college studies by taking a strong college-preparatory course load. Classes in anatomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics will give you the basic science background you will need to study kinesiology in college. Health, psychology, and social science will also be very helpful. Be sure to take physical education classes in order to gain a better appreciation for the nature of movement and our muscles. Participating in a sport will also help you learn more about kinesiology from an inside perspective.
In order to practice kinesiology, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree from a four-year program at an accredited school. Curriculum standards have been established by the Committee on Accreditation of Education Programs for Kinesiotherapy, which also reviews programs and makes recommendations for accreditation to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). To find out more about accredited programs, visit the CAAHEP Web site, http://akta.org/education/accredited-programs. Some kinesiologists major in physical education, exercise science, or health science and have kinesiology as a specialty, but a growing number of institutions in the United States are starting to offer undergraduate degrees in kinesiology. Approved programs include classes in education, clinical practice, biological sciences, and behavioral sciences. Specific courses may have titles such as Movement Coordination, Control, and Skill; Performance and Physical Activity; Biomechanics; Developmental Games; Personal and Community Health; and Motor Learning. Master's degrees in kinesiology and related programs are currently offered at more than 100 institutions; doctorates in the field are offered at approximately 55 universities.
Clinical internships are also required. These internships generally consist of at least 1,000 hours of training at an approved health facility under the supervision of certified kinesiologists. You may also seek out an assistantship with a practicing kinesiologist.
Other Education or Training
The American Kinesiotherapy Association offers continuing education opportunities at its annual conference, as well as via webinars and other online course offerings. Contact the association for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Although certification is not mandatory for every job, it is highly recommended as a way of showing professional achievement. Certification is offered in the form of registration by the Council on Professional Standards for Kinesiotherapy (COPS-KT) through the American Kinesiotherapy Association. To receive registration from COPS-KT, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in kinesiotherapy, exercise science, or a related field, complete core course requirements as specified by COPS-KT, have at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of a registered kinesiotherapist, and pass an examination. Those who meet these requirements receive the designation registered kinesiotherapist. To keep this designation, kinesiotherapists must complete continuing education credits each year.
If a kinesiotherapist has earned an undergraduate degree in physical education, he or she also may become a state-certified physical education teacher after meeting the certification requirements for his or her state.
Other certifications are available based on the kinesiologist's specialty. For example, the American College of Sports Medicine offers certifications for health and fitness instructors, specialists, and exercise physiologists. Athletic trainers are certified by the Board of Certification for the National Athletic Trainers' Association. The American Society of Exercise Physiologists offers voluntary board certification to exercise physiologists. Such certifications typically require having completed an accredited education program as well as passing an exam.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships and part-time jobs at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility, hospital, sports medicine facility, school, fitness center, or other organization that employs kinesiologists.
To work as a kinesiologist, you must be mature and objective and able to work well with patients and other staff members. You must have excellent communication skills to explain the exercises so patients can understand your instructions and perform the exercises properly.
You will also need stamina to demonstrate the exercises and help patients with them. You should be patient since many exercise programs are repetitive and are carried out over long periods. A good sense of humor also helps to keep up patient morale. As a kinesiologist, you also must know how to plan and carry out a program, and stay current on new developments in the field. Certification usually requires continuing education courses.