It’s no secret that exercise science and health science degrees are marketable. But you might not be aware of these emerging career opportunities.

“Physical therapy and occupational therapy have been hot careers in health science for a long time,” says Kim Knowlton, chair of the department of health and exercise science at La Sierra University. “Students who get a degree in exercise science or health science from us are typically interested in PT or OT.”

While opportunities are on the rise in both of these professions, so are the credentials required to enter these fields. Today’s practitioners typically hold either a master’s or a doctorate, so it takes a considerable up-front investment to get started.

The good news, says Knowlton, is that there are many other excellent career outlets for a degree in exercise science or health science.“We’re seeing growth in a number of fields you can enter with either a health science degree or an exercise science degree,” Knowlton says. “Some of them have the potential to put you in the $70,000 salary range, which is master’s degree territory in a lot of fields.

Careers to Consider with a Health Science or Exercise Science Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects overall employment in healthcare professions to increase by about 14 percent between now and 2028, more than twice the growth rate of the national workforce.

That means there are plenty of options for students who earn a degree in health science or exercise science. Knowlton highlights three career pathways in particular that only require a bachelor’s degree, offer high earnings potential and are experiencing heavy demand for new workers.

  1. Physical therapy assistant. 

“Physical therapy assistant employers are everywhere,” says Knowlton. “The number of jobs has really gone up in the last five years. You can work for hospitals, nursing homes, PT practices, home health providers and other types of employers. It’s a great career.”

Demand for physical therapy assistants (or PTAs) has spiked as the PT profession has grown increasingly specialized. “Physical therapists are becoming more focused on evaluation and prescription,” Knowlton explains. “The PT identifies the problem and devises the program, and then the PTA works directly with the patient to implement the program and track the results.”

Either a health science degree or exercise science degree can prepare you to work as a PTA. The BLS forecasts explosive growth in the availability of PTA jobs, with a 26 percent gain expected between now and 2028.

2. Corporate wellness instructor.

“There’s never going to be a lack of jobs here,” Knowlton says. “All companies want to keep their employees healthy, motivated and productive, and wellness programs are a great way to achieve that.”

Corporate wellness encompasses a wide variety of subspecialties, some of which fit the expertise of a health science degree and others which align more closely with exercise science. “You might be focused on employee nutrition,” Knowlton says, “or fitness coaching, stress management, ergonomics or so many other things.”

While many wellness programs promote healthy habits and focus on disease prevention, others help employees cope with specific conditions such as diabetes, smoking, obesity, heart disease and mental health.

“When our new wellness center opens in the next year or two, it will be a perfect learning venue for health science and exercise science majors,” Knowlton adds. “It will have research facilities, a performance lab and community service programs, which are all great preparation for corporate wellness careers.”

3. Health communications.

“This is one of the newest areas in our field,” Knowlton says. “Health practitioners are getting more sophisticated about entrepreneurship. They need to be able to promote themselves, and most of them don’t have the skills to produce professional content.”

If you major in health science or exercise science at La Sierra, you can pair the core curriculum with coursework in audiovisual production, digital media technology, public relations and similar fields. You can also take courses in entrepreneurship through La Sierra’s School of Business, adding value to your health science degree or exercise science degree.

The combination of health expertise and communications ability is very marketable within the healthcare industry, Knowlton says. Hospitals, medical practices, manufacturers, elder-care facilities and pharmaceutical companies are all potential employers. 

“We don’t have a separate health communications degree yet,” Knowlton says, “but we’re working on developing one.” Stay tuned.

What to Look for in a Health Science or Exercise Science Degree

No matter what type of career you hope to pursue, Knowlton advises undergraduates to choose a degree in health science or exercise science that offers:

  • Personal attention from faculty.  “At La Sierra, we mentor our students personally,” Knowlton says. “That’s one of the advantages of getting an exercise science degree or health science degree at a small school. These are hands-on, face-to-face professions, so having a face-to-face relationship with your instructors makes a big difference.”
  • Real-world training. La Sierra students acquire practical experience by participating in internships, work placements and career development activities. “You can’t just learn these skills from the textbook,” Knowlton says. “We put our students in clinical settings where they can work with patients and use the technology that’s standard in the industry.”
  • Professional connections. “We have agreements with a lot of local agencies,” says Knowlton. “So our students get to interact with officials in areas like public health, nutrition and health care administration.” She adds that La Sierra’s close partnerships with Loma Linda University and Andrews University enable students to hear from graduate health faculty in a wide range of disciplines, including PT, OT, nursing and medicine.

“Health-oriented careers are always going to be strong,” Knowlton observes. “The key is to get training that puts you ahead of the curve and allows you to evolve along with the industry.”

Tell Me More!

Want to know more information about La Sierra’s health and exercise science degrees? Contact us at (951) 785-2084, or email us at Ready to come see the department for yourself? Sign up for a personalized campus tour!