The sports industry is estimated to grow to $614.1 billion by 2022, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for Ph.D.s in fitness and personal training to create an impactful and comfortable life. Since many of these programs are offered online, it also means you don’t have to put your current responsibilities on hold or on the backburner to get there.
Getting your Ph.D. in fitness and personal training–or related fields–puts you into a higher category of sport professionals. It proves that you’ve gone the distance to understand the intricacies of the industry, and prepares you to weigh in on all sorts of topics. Information regarding the extents and limits of human performance, especially in the year of the Olympic Games, is always relevant knowledge. Knowing how the human body works, where the limits are, and how to be a part of the business of the sports industry is a career that’s endlessly fulfilling. A Ph.D. is not the finish line, it’s only the starting gun.
What Is a Fitness and Personal Training Ph.D.?
A Ph.D. in fitness and personal training is more extensive than the title lets on. In reality, this is an interdisciplinary degree, exploring sport from academic, clinical, leadership, and research angles.
Typically, these degrees will build on top of related master’s programs. While you’ll extend knowledge on research, statistics, and biomechanics that’s taught in a master’s program, the Ph.D. drills more heavily into precise areas of what interests you most.
The core coursework in these types of degrees will vary by program, and this is what will help you narrow in on which program suits you best. While you can expect them all to explore the scientific bases of human performance, there might also be an emphasis on areas like global sport leadership, fitness for an aging population, or weight management.
Of course, no Ph.D. is complete without a dissertation or cumulative project. These opportunities can come in the shape of deep research or as a reflection of real-world experience.
Careers for Fitness and Personal Training Doctorates
Career advice is just as pertinent at the Ph.D. level as it is at the bachelor’s. A bachelor’s and a master’s puts you in the right position to move into roles within fitness, rehabilitation, nutraceutical, and professional sport training environments. A Ph.D. can get you deeper into research or leadership.
Within your master’s program, you’ll likely be faced with the question of whether or not you want to further your participation in research. If the answer is yes, then a Ph.D. in fitness and personal training is the natural next step.
Sport researchers are highly respected professionals who can gain funding and grants to apply to large-scale projects. It’s these initiatives that draw conclusions from a collection of controlled evidence that can help reshape and redefine the industry. Research professionals determine safe training practices, explore the benefits of novel and popular exercise, and help develop methods for health, wellness, weight management, and disease prevention. With a Ph.D., you’ll be able to secure the funds needed to partake in this research, and ultimately learn the ways to present it, leading to publication in science journals and magazines, to advise coaches and teams, or to teach it yourself as a professor.
Fitness and Personal Training Salary Potential
Earning potential with a Ph.D. is one of the most rewarding reasons to make the investment. Fitness trainers with a bachelor’s or master’s level education start by making about $30,000 a year and can work their way to upwards of $74,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While $75,000 is considered the ideal income for emotional wellbeing, a Ph.D. can put you into a higher category of earners. According to Payscale, the average salary for those with a Ph.D. falls closer to the six-figure mark. Research scientists can expect something like $89,000 a year while a data scientist can earn about $110,000 yearly.
When you consider a specific Ph.D., such as in exercise physiology, the average salary jumps to $162,000. Some common roles that have the potential to reach this range are executive athletic director, which earns about $104,000 on average, and associate professor which can earn $133,000.
In the end, there’s money to be made from keeping people fit and healthy. Depending on your ideal role, the following online Ph.D.s in fitness and personal training will help pave the way to your dream job.
What Are the Best Fitness and Personal Training Doctorate Degrees?
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Average Net Price
The top choice for a Ph.D. in sport management goes to those who pioneered this type of program. Troy University was the first to offer such a program partially online, giving practitioners the chance to learn remotely and continue working.
The faculty you’ll learn under are seasoned sports management professionals and researchers. Collectively, they’ve written or presented an impressive collection of textbooks, textbook chapters, peer-reviewed manuscripts, and presentations. Many also continue to serve the educational community as peer-journal editors, doctoral dissertation committee members, and, of course, professors.
As a student, you reap the benefits of their imparted wisdom and you’ll have the opportunity to emulate their achievements. The curriculum builds skills in research, as well as statistical, critical, and analytical thinking. Required credits come from 15 hours of seminar, with options including Sport Marketing, Pedagogy, and Sport Finance. There are also 15 hours of required research credit and 12 hours of cognate area.
In total, the program requires 90 credits beyond a bachelor’s degree. A maximum of 30 credits (hours) can be transferred from master’s-level work, leaving 60 hours to be fulfilled directly within the sport management Ph.D. program. A minimum of 18 hours are devoted to dissertation, which is the end-goal for all doctoral students.
If staff and previous students are anything to go by, the opportunities that can come of this particular Ph.D. are vast and rewarding, helping to secure its number one spot here.
California University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price
For a chance to complete your Ph.D. completely online, look to California University of Pennsylvania. This health and science exercise leadership doctorate offers a deep exploration of how you can treat disease and promote wellness with special consideration for an aging population and changes within society.
In partnership with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), California University of Pennsylvania developed this program to teach health science, exercise science, and leadership. Instead of looking at health through the lens of reparation, the program trains you to facilitate sickness prevention and promote positive health routines.
Some examples of courses that are part of the core curriculum include Community and Corporate Wellness, Advanced Delivery Techniques and Technology, and Leadership in Wellness Education and Professional Practice. Additionally, you’ll choose one elective.
Aside from it being completely online, it’s also unique in that a final dissertation is optional. In place of this, you’ll have an evidence-based electronic professional portfolio that you build as you progress through the 48-credit core. In its entirety, the program takes two years to complete.
To be prepared for this program, students should first complete Leadership and Professional Development. Admissions is also contingent on your experience within the field. The application process asks for proof of at least two years’ recent experience within the discipline.
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee
Average Net Price
At East Tennessee State University, you can get your doctorate in global sport leadership. This program is presented almost completely online, save for the real-world experience abroad. This helps to diversify your knowledge and prepare you for a career on the world stage.
Along with 17 other students per cohort, this program will teach you both internal and external operations and how they pertain to the world at large. The curriculum calls for 42 credits in the first two years. During this time, you’ll take classes like Strategic Thinking and Planning for Global Sport Leader, Interpersonal Relationships in Sport, and Sport Branding and Marketing.
The third year is entirely devoted to the doctoral capstone project. This capstone involves collecting literature review, opinion pieces, research-based presentations and joining them into a single portfolio. This professional portfolio will include the knowledge learned through the program, the style of leadership that you individually developed, and a plan for continued personal growth.
The only portion of the program that isn’t online is the Immersion in Sport Practicum. This 3-credit hour requirement is to be completed in May of the first year of study and calls for about ten days of on-site experience. Save for the initial travel expense, this practicum is paid for through your tuition. Since the program is online, out-of-state students pay a similar price per credit as Tennessee residents. The in-state cost is $615 per credit, while out-of-state is $670.
River Forest, Illinois
Average Net Price
Concordia University at Chicago offers an online Ph.D. in leadership with a concentration in health and human performance. This program is designed to be accessible with its completely online format as well as its rolling admissions. Classes start every eight weeks, so you can apply and begin the program on a schedule that works for you.
The education is designed so you can be ready for roles in nearly any sector of the industry. This includes academic, clinical, leadership, or research roles. While this wide net allows for all types of students to participate, class sizes are kept small to foster a sense of community.
The curriculum works through specialization, research, and foundational coursework. Specialization classes on Cardiovascular Responses to Exercise, Neuromuscular Responses to Exercise, and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Research courses are on Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis, Mixed Methods Research, and Advanced Topics in Statistics. Foundations courses explore philosophies and ethics through The Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge, Organizational Change, and Ethical Issues in Health & Human Performance.
You also get the opportunity for electives that are related to the program. Some options include Applied Exercise Physiology, Principles of Human Movement Science, or Nutrition and Exercise for Weight Management. The program specifically addresses the need for knowledge of an aging population. Several electives include opportunities to explore this population, including The Psychological Aspects of Aging, Sociology of Aging, Diversity in Aging Societies, and a handful of others.
The total cost of the program is estimated at $52,880, inclusive of tuition per credit hour, books, and fees. What you pay is the locked-in rate, guaranteed not to increase during your time as a student.
San Diego, California
Average Net Price
Learn sports management and athletic administration with Northcentral University’s Ph.D. in sport management. More specifically, it’s a combined Doctor in Philosophy in education with a concentration in sport management, making it somewhat of a hybrid Ph.D. and Ed.D.
The total program requires 60 credits (20 courses) over an estimated 45 months. Twelve of these credit hours (4 courses) will need to come from a selection of specialization courses. Some of these options include Intercollegiate Sport Governance, Advising the Student Athlete, Facility Management and Programming, or Sport Compliance.
Since it is part of the School of Education, you’ll also take pivotal leadership courses. These can include Effective Communication and Leadership for Improvement. Courses in research, statistics, and qualitative and quantitative analysis are also part of the core curriculum.
What ultimately sets this program apart from the rest is its intense commitment to flexibility. Courses start weekly, giving you the chance to jump in when you’re ready to start. Throughout the program, you won’t be tied to scheduled lecture hours, nor the dreaded group assignment. This flexibility, ideally, gives any professional the chance to start their Ph.D. at a time and in a way that fits well into an existing schedule.
If you’re interested in pursuing higher education, then you should check out 20 Best PhD’s in Healthcare Administration Online 2020 and 5 Best Online PhD’s in Healthcare Management!