Choosing a Major/Option

Deciding on a major

The Kinesiology program offers the following majors and options:


Athletic training major

Kinesiology and health major

Diet and exercise B.S./M.S. (jointly administered by the Department of Kinesiology and Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition)


Kinesiology and health: Community and public health option

Kinesiology and health: Exercise science option

Kinesiology and health: Physical activity and health promotion option

Kinesiology and health: Physical education teacher education option

Kinesiology and health: Pre-health professions options

I’m interested in . . .

Sports medicine

“Sports Medicine” is a broad term that encompasses many careers involving the medical treatment and/or prevention of sport-related injuries. It includes professional titles such as:

  • Orthopedists
  • Physical therapist
  • Athletic trainer
  • Exercise specialist
  • Sport nutritionist
  • Sport psychologist

At Iowa State, the Kinesiology program prepares:

  • Athletic trainers who are board certified to practice sports rehabilitation
  • Exercise specialists who develop specialized exercise prescriptions and fitness programs or work in cardiac rehabilitation settings
  • Students who wish to go on to professional school to become physical therapists, physician assistants and medical doctors

Physical therapy

Our pre-health professions option prepares students to attend physical therapy schools with the end goal being a career in physical therapy. Physical therapy schools accept students based on coursework (chemistry, physics, zoology, biology, psychology, math, statistics) and on professional experience.

You need to consider two questions:

  • Which major will best prepare me for physical therapy school?
  • Which major provides career alternatives that I would enjoy if physical therapy school doesn’t happen?

You must have a career “Plan B” if physical therapy school does not work out for you!

To answer these questions, take a look at the courses required in each major:

  • A Kinesiology and Health major has foundation coursework in the human movement sciences of biomechanics, exercise physiology, motor learning, sociology and psychology of sport/physical activity.
  • A biology major has foundation coursework in biology.

In Kinesiology and Health, career alternatives are numerous and focus on work in:

  • Rehabilitative areas
  • Exercise/fitness specialties
  • Wellness and preventive medicine

We suggest you also examine the career alternatives in biology and other majors by talking with a representative in those departments.

Community/public health

The community public/health track prepares a student to become an educator regarding health issues in both public and private sector jobs, but not in the public school setting. Graduates in the community public/health track are not licensed to teach health in the public school sector.

Community public/health graduates are health specialists who find work in careers such as:

  • Patient education specialist in hospitals and clinics
  • Staff member of private non-profit organizations
  • Employee of State of Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Worksite safety specialist

They find careers in areas such as:

  • Federal, state, and local government health agencies
  • Private non-profit agencies such as American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and Planned Parenthood

Teaching health in public schools

At Iowa State, you can take coursework to become licensed to teach health in public schools. This is an add-on program called a “health endorsement” that is added on to the requirements of a student’s major. Contact for more information


Consider adding the coursework required by the coaching endorsement/authorization offered through our department if you want to be hired for a coaching position with youth sport.

It is important to build a sound resume and develop professional contacts, because networking is extremely important to get where you want to go in the coaching business!

If you want to coach in public school athletic programs, you might consider becoming a licensed teacher in a subject area suited to your interests (math, English, science, social studies, etc.) and then add on the coaching endorsement offered through the State of Iowa.

Health and fitness management careers

Graduates of the exercise science program find careers in the following health/fitness-related positions:

  • Cardiac rehabilitation specialists in hospitals
  • Directors and staff members of employee wellness programs in corporate and industrial settings
  • Exercise specialists and personal trainers in private health clubs, spas, and resorts

Athletic training careers

Kinesiology and Health majors find careers as:

  • Sports medicine clinic and hospital staff members
  • Professional sports teams athletic trainer
  • Athletic trainers in collegiate athletic programs (Division 1-3) and community college sports
  • Athletic trainers for high school programs

Typical courses

During your freshman year, you most likely will take the following:

  • English
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Orientation to ISU and the disciplines and careers in Kinesiology and Health
  • Personal health
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Computer science
  • Library instruction

To decide the option that’s right for you:

  • Determine which classes or subjects you enjoy and you’re good at.
  • Talk with our professors and academic advisers about any questions you might have about any of the options.
  • Speak with alumni of our department to learn more about what you can do with your degree. The Kinesiology advising office can give you phone numbers of persons you might wish to contact. Contact
  • Contact Information

    Request information
    Questions? Email Us!

    If you have an interest in any of the careers within the Kinesiology and Health major, we'd be happy to talk with you, take you on a tour of our facilities, and arrange for you to observe our classes.

  • Taking Research Into Medicine

    Francis Nguyen, a recent graduate in Kinesiology and Health, was part of a team led by associate professor Marian Kohut that studied the effects of moderate exercise on the influenza virus. Video »

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