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Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 2

Written on November 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm, by Eric Cressey

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how an undergraduate degree in exercise science really isn’t much of a competitive advantage at all in today’s fitness industry because of the low barriers to entry in the field, high cost of college education, and shortcomings of most exercise science curricula themselves.  I concluded by referring to the three options you have available to you for distinguishing yourself in this field – and that’s where we’ll pick up today.

Option 1: Go to graduate school.

I know what you’re thinking: “He just got done bashing an undergraduate exercise science program, yet he’s going to encourage me to sign up for two more years and another $50-$100K in student loans?”

Yes, I’ll encourage some of you to go that route.  First, though, you need to appreciate that graduate school is markedly different than the undergraduate experience.  There are more opportunities for hands-on learning, more direct communication between students and faculty, smaller faculty-to-student ratios, and much more self-selected study.  In other words, you have a much better opportunity to dictate your own educational path.

I went to graduate school not really sure what I wanted to do.  I could have been a researcher, trainer, clinical exercise physiologist, or strength and conditioning coach.  It was only after my experiences during that graduate experience that I realized that I loved coaching and wanted to make a career out of it.

Taking it a step further in this regard, you simply won’t be hired to work in college strength and conditioning if you don’t at least have an undergraduate degree, and the truth is that most employers “strongly prefer” master’s degrees.  It isn’t just the “minimum academic requirement” that they’re after; rather, it’s that a master’s degree means that you have spent at least two years in the trenches (usually at a D1 program) working with athletes as a graduate assistant or volunteer, so there will be fewer “kinks” to work out in a new strength and conditioning position.

Additionally, graduate programs are far more challenging academically.  I had to work twice as hard to get a GPA 0.3 points lower in graduate school than in my undergraduate degree.  It was challenging because the admission requirements were so high; in fact, all of my classmates are now college professors, D1 strength and conditioning coaches, and exercise physiologists for NASA and the US Army.

I can look back extremely fondly on my graduate experience at the University of Connecticut because it made me much more versatile.  A given day might have me working with a seven-foot tall NBA-bound center and an untrained five-foot tall female study subject – with everything from exercise endocrinology, to phlebotomy, to research methods, to understanding environment stress thrown in my classroom experience the same day.  Nothing was typical, and opportunities were endless; it was like “life.”

As an added bonus, many times, graduate students have opportunities to work as graduate assistants or teaching assistants to receive a tuition waiver and/or stipend.  So, you can come out “even” financially when your graduate experience is over – and earn a degree and build your network in the process.

Graduate school isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.

Option 2: Choose a different undergraduate course of study.

I think one of the reasons an exercise science degree has been devalued is that it doesn’t allow you to do anything someone in any other profession can’t do.  A truck driver who decides to apply to his local gym to be a trainer immediately has the same legal scope of practice of a certified trainer with an exercise science degree.

If that trainer, however, had done an undergraduate degree in athletic training and become an ATC, he could also do traditional “rehabilitation” approaches like manual therapy, Kinesio Taping, nerve flossing, and a host of other approaches.  Athletic trainers essentially serve as physical therapists in the college sector, and in many professional sports setting.  Had that trainer done a degree in physical therapy and become licensed, he could still do all of that, but also bill insurance for it.  And, they can still serve as strength coaches or personal trainers on top of their normal responsibilities.  In other words, having an ATC or PT after your name increases your scope of practice dramatically.

Using myself as an example, I manage over 70 baseball arms every single day of the week – which is more than some athletic trainers and physical therapists see in an entire career.  I’ve seen everything under the sun when it comes to shoulder and elbow issues, yet the initials after my name (which are a function of my degree) dictate what I can and can’t do to help someone, even if I’m 100% sure I know the right approach for that individual.  I refer out quite a bit for this reason (and because there is no way I could work on absolutely everybody even if I wanted to), but it would be nice to know that I could manage things in-house more conveniently for everyone.

To that end, if there is one thing I would have done differently, it would have been to do a physical therapy degree (or at least an athletic training one) in my undergraduate education, even if it meant going an extra year or two.  Many of the classes are the same as you’d get with exercise science, which could be a perfectly acceptable minor.

Worthy of noting here is that one can also pursue a massage therapy license to open up some windows in the context of manual therapy, so it’s never too late.  Chris Howard has made himself a more versatile strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance by adding this to his arsenal, for instance.

Option 3: Reinvest your financial resources appropriately.

I can’t imagine dropping $250,000+ on a college education…in any discipline.  Let’s forget about that for now, though, and say that you’ve got that $250,000 saved up and you want to know the opportunity cost of devoting those financial resources to college.

Do you realize how far $250,000 can go? Let’s say that you spend $100/day on “survival” stuff like food, shelter, clothing, and the like.  Over the course of four years, that is $146,000 in living expenses.  That gives you $104,000 to spend on books, DVDs, seminars, mentorships, independent study courses, and the travels that they’d mandate.  As a frame of reference, for under $1,000, you could buy all of the following from my resources page (and still have a few bucks to spare):

Precision Nutrition

Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set

Anatomy Trains

Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, 5th Ed.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes

Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance

Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD Set

Assess and Correct DVD Set



Basic Biomechanics

Then, skip one meal of eating out a month and devote a few bucks to joining Elite Training Mentorship for continuing education, and you’re in a great position to not just get to the front of the industry, but stay there, too.

Finally, take another $1,000 and devote it to business resources, and I’d guarantee that this $2,000 would put you light years ahead of any college course you could take – yet the college course would likely cost more.  Books, DVDs, seminars, webinars, and internships will always be a far more affordable and effective way to learn; you just need to be willing to put in the time and energy to benefit from them.  The same could be said of college, but the price point is considerably higher and the distractions more prominent.  And, student loan interest isn’t always tax deductible, but these purchases could be considered tax deductible if the individual in question is earning income in the fitness industry simultaneously, as they’d be continuing education expenses.

When you pay for college with student loans, there is undoubtedly less “incentive” to put your money to good work by paying close attention and working hard; that money is never in your hands to feel and appreciate.  You only appreciate it later when you’re paying off the principal and interest for years to come.  However, when you pay for a plane ticket, hotel, and seminar seat, you’re making that purchase with your credit card and immediately appreciating that you’re being separated from your money – and that you better make it worthwhile.

Of course, not many 18-year-olds have the discipline to plan out their educational destiny like this, and many don’t even know what career path they’d like to pursue, anyway.  So, this is probably a moot point for the overwhelming majority of kids out there who may wind up in the fitness industry someday.  If you’re in your 40s and considering a career change to the fitness industry, though, I think you’d be crazy to start an undergraduate degree in exercise science from scratch.  Different strokes for different folks.


Part 1 of this series drew some fantastic comments, and I expect that this second installment will do the same.  So, I’ll initiate the discussion with a few questions:

1. What other ways do you feel fitness professionals can distinguish themselves in a competitive industry with a low barrier to entry?  Obviously, results matter, but rookie trainers don’t have that luxury upon which to fall back.

2. Have other educational paths served you well?  In what ways?

3. In a few decades, when college is even more insanely expensive than it is now, what will universities have to do to “justify” their role in the educational process at such a high price point?

I look forward to your responses in the comments section.

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91 Responses to “Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 2”

  1. Jonathan Goodman Says:

    When contemplating a Master’s and Phd a few years back I had advice from a client (also conveniently the dean of medicine at a major University in Toronto) that I’ll never forget.

    I had contacted the professors and gotten interviews with a few regarding my specific area of interest (new therapies to offset the depletion of the satellite cell pool in old age atrophy). This mentor simply asked me why I wanted to pursue more formal education.

    I was stumped…

    That night I made a rule to read 1hr/night every weeknight and make up for lost time over the weekend. Books ranging from training, to business, to rehab would do.

    I would be finishing my Phd right around now. Instead, I have a bomb collaborative website (thanks to some contributions from you) which acts as a great resource for personal trainers. A second website launching Monday and my first book being released next April.

    My recommendation is not to avoid formal education. It’s to have a damn good reason for pursuing it.

  2. Michael Irr Says:

    Thanks EC! Love the articles and appreciate the insight. Although, you also forgot to mention that in graduate school, you get the opportunity to have a positive influence on the undergrads at that institution as well – something you were always very gracious about and, as one of those undergrads, I’ll never forget!

  3. Alex Says:

    This part was great. I completely understand option 2. I have my undergrad in exercise science and hated my job as a trainer so much that I’m now going back for my nursing degree. If I would have known how bad the jobs were going to be when I graduated (all about how much you can sell sell sell, not about what you know) I would have done physical therapy all the way, but since I already have student loans and adding more to them, physical therapy was just too expensive. I will say that I do enjoy nursing and will most likely train friends and family on the side for fun! Can’t wait for part 3! I really wonder what will happen in the future when a 4 year undergrad degree at a public college will cost $250,000?

  4. Jay Kolster Says:

    I think in order to be successful in the strength and conditioning field, you must choose a specific path at the earliest possible time. Like you said in part 2, the student in a graduate program has the opportunity to conduct studies in which they are interested in. The more familiar a graduate student is in a particular area (football, baseball, basketball, gymnastics etc) the smoother the transition will be once one enters the field. Hands-on training is the biggest key, because employers or universities want strength and conditioning coaches to be somewhat polished, even in the first year. I’m currently a graduate student in an exercise science program, and the classes I am taking are very resourceful, but they seem to be geared more to the clinical side of exercise science. I am definitely a baseball guy, and I feel that my program is not going to prepare me for training baseball players, so the importance of being placed in a premier internship will be key to further advance my career.

    Good stuff EC.

  5. Brian Says:

    Perfect list of resources!

  6. Brian Says:

    where would you start? specific order for the books?

  7. Andrew Heffernan Says:

    To the Grad-School question: when I write health and fitness articles I am generally instructed to seek out people with MA, MS, or PhD after their name as sources. It’s these people, then, who get the benefit of national name-recognition in wide-readership publications. If I want to include an expert who doesn’t have a Master’s, I have to have a good reason for it (they wrote a bestselling book, they coach someone famous, they themselves are famous). Being cited as an expert in national fitness magazines isn’t the be-all end-all of this profession, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If that’s the level you’re shooting for, and you’ve got the time and resources, I’d say grad school–in PT, exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field–is a great option.

  8. Espen Nordhagen' Says:

    I can honestly say that I learned more from your products than all my years at school combined!

    When that is said: I wouldnt understood your products/language/terms well enough without a lot of the knowledge I gained through the academia world though…

  9. Gordon W. Watts Says:

    I totally understand your logic behind option #3 above (because the cost of education is so OBSCENELY high! that it’s not worth it to go to college in many cases), however, with all due respect, Eric:

    Even in spite of what I would *want* to do if I could do it all over again (& avoid going DEEP into collage-loan debt), the stark reality of the matter is that almost NO places will accept you without that sheepskin. So, where’s that leave us?

    With MY proposed solution: “Educate” yourself about ‘education,’ and then *DO* what I suggest (if it’s possible). DO or DO NOT: There IS no ‘try.’ –Yoda

    THE FACTS: Back in the 1950’s college was like 100-200 US Dollars per YEAR (about 1 or 2 grand in 2011 dollars), in other words, NOT expensive, so why’s it gone up MUCH faster than the rate of inflation (even worse than healthcare costs?)?!? (Students need a FAT cheque & fatter banque account just to pay for your most basic college tuition & “get on 1st-base,” sadly.) Because if the ‘increased’ quality of education?… NOT. America’s colleges AND students back then were TOPS in the world, but anymore, we’re getting beat by just about every other industrialised nation (even the communist ones LOL). On my honour: This is true. How off-centre!

    So, what happened? Two things:

    #1 — LIBERALS in the 50’s & 60’s make laws that provided loans to students for ‘financial aid,’ but colleges realised students could afford more & just raised tuition to match, effectively making his ‘admin’ aid (example: Million dollar salaries for college presidents, coaches, professors, useless expensive buildings & goofy programs, etc.)

    #2 — CONSERVATIVES (well… ‘neoconservatives,’ or fake RINO’s, etc.) lawmakers under George W. Bush’s tenure passed (and I think he signed into law) The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-394, enacted October 22, 1994), which amended the FFELP (Federal Family Education Loan Program), removed ALL standard consumer protections (truth in lending, bankruptcy proceedings, statutes of limitations, etc.) to Student Loans.

    Then, colleges knew students had no defense (that even credit card borrowers had), and preyed upon them worse than loan sharks in a financial sea.

    Three good articles to explain this is #1 — my thesis on student loans:

    And, believe it or not, 2 Wikipedia articles (which I hope to incorporate into MY own research, they’re so good).


    So, everybody, we need to follow my recommendations in my research paper & return to the method that worked, even IF it rubs rich academia the wrong way.

    That’s my story, and I’m a stickin’ to it.

    (-:/ ** Look forward to part 3. ** :D

    — Gordon Wayne Watts
    BS, The Florida State University, Biological & Chemical Sciences – with honours
    AS, United Electronics Institute – Valedictorian
    Ph.D. in the ‘School of Hard Knocks,’ he heh (I’ve got knocked! Oh, and DEEP in college debt.) -LOL-

  10. Danavir Says:

    Wow, I loved this post (and the last one too).

    I’m one of those 18 year olds who DOES have the discipline to plan out their educational destiny like that.

    Last thing I bought was Alwyn’s Fat Loss Programming Manual.

    I’ve spent hundreds on other fitness products like muscle gaining secrets, assess and correct, Training For Warriors DVD, Combat core…etc

    I’ve stocked up with business books (Special thanks to Borders sale ;) ) Getting my hands on some more.

    I have every free thing given out.

    I have a folder with S&C coaches from A-Z and the size at over 50GB.

    All of that while breaking my back so I can spend money on these type of things.

    I’ll be investing on some fitness business products like Zach Even-esh’s operation thunder and secret business files. Hopefully start a business within the next 6-8 months and start getting back everything I have invested on.

    In the meantime, finish highschool while still getting more business/training products and interning at a gym.

    I want to start the business early (next 6-8) months because I can’t spend so much money on these things without having nothing left for myself. Hurts my wallet!

    But if I start training people, I can get money and use what I’ve learned! Without having to get a job (I don’t want a regular job)

    I’m going to major in marketing as I was already thoroughly convinced before these posts that the major you pick (if you get any) does not matter much at all if you want to build a business.

    But yea, this was a great post man. Keep it up!

  11. Dan Henchy Says:

    This really struck a chord with my own experience in higher education. My undergrad degree is in mathematics and I swapped to exercise physiology at post-grad level so I guess I followed a path similar to numbers 1 and 2 above. A few things spring to mind:

    I was able to swap from maths to ex phys but there’s no way I could swap the other way – not sure that’s a positive reflection on undergrad sports science courses? Maybe a harsh comparison?

    I work predominantly in cycling which is incredibaly data driven – my maths background has been a huge benefit in this and with hindsight I would not change my path if given the choice again (if you’d asked at the time, I may have said differently!)

    Most importantly, I met my business parter while studying for my Masters and I know many of my clients were (partly at least) drawn by my academic qualifications so the cost/benefit ratio is definitely in my favour.

    All that being said, being based in the UK means the cost of my tuition was significantly below the figures quoted above. This is all change at the moment and I’m struggling to recommend my younger siblings follow the same ‘standard’ university path.

  12. Eric Cressey Says:


    I’d probably start with Building the Efficient Athlete, which you can buy with Assess and Correct to save on shipping.

    Then, you can go to Amazon and buy everything else except Optimal Shoulder Performance and Precision Nutrition. Some of them will be very challenging reads and test your will to continue, but if you plow through it and work to understand it, you’ll be in the top 1% of your industry within 1-2 years…guaranteed.

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    This is an OUTSTANDING contribution. That last sentence was clutch. Thanks!


  14. James Cipriani Says:

    Excellent follow-up. I think the two big things to take out of both of these posts are:

    1. You must be passionate about this field if you are going to pursue it.


    2. No matter what path you choose, you must continue to educate yourself. And I would recommend using more than one venue. Just like in marketing, when it comes to learning, the more poles you have in the water, the more you are apt to learn and be successful.

    I personally have 4 of the mentioned resources you posted above. And I have found them all very valuable…and this was on top of being #1 in my undergraduate class for Health Science.

    Eric…you may have just coaxed me into purchasing a few more :-)

  15. Josh Says:

    Wow, Mr. Cressey.

    These posts could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. I am also 18 and and graduated from high school this past summer.

    My passion and drive behind nearly everything that I have done for the past two years has been leading me closer to the realization that this is truly what I need to be doing in life. I have drawn training and business inspiration from professionals such as Roman, Nate Green, Joe Dowdell, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson,Jason Feruggia, everyone at Cressey Performance and countless others whom I am sure you know personally. Having just ordered Michael Ellsberg’s book, “The Education of Millionaires”, I draw considerable influence from his point of view as well.

    As of late, I have been struggling with the choices ahead of me in regards to post secondary educational paths. There are a number of Diploma and Degree programs in Sport Science, Human Kinetics and equvalents in my area of British Columbia, Canada.

    As I look at the course content of these programs, I cannot help but to think I would be capable of gaining the same knowledge through my passion for self study and continuing education. Yet, the internships at places such as Athlete’s Performance, Fitness Quest 10 and related facilities all have an undergraduate degree program as conditions for entry. The internship that you house at Cressey Performance is one of the only facilities that I hold in high regard that does not have these pre requisites. I believe an internship at this level is one of the most valuable steps one can take.

    Currently, I have been working with my former high school senior Rugby team as a Strength Coach Assistant on a volunteer basis. On top of this, I work at a local privately owned club at the desk and have become a Certified Personal Trainer. My passion for knowledge and advancement of my skills has led me to purchase multiple resources and avidly refer to blogs and websites such as yours.

    I desire to become an athority and leader within this industry and to help in breaking free from the “fall back” reputation that certain sectors have produced. As soon as I am able, I plan on spreading my wings to move to a more central location (possibly California, or even Eastern America) where I can benefit from the environment and professionals that I look up to. Writing, training, public relations, and forward thinking approaches to issues is what I am truly pasionate about.

    My question to you is:
    1)If I were to obtain a diploma in Exercise Science, are there any valuable hands-on internships available to me? (Is this enough?)Or, If persuing a degree program, would it be more wise to attack a different major entirely, even though my passion truly lies in Strength, conditioning and training?

    2)As an 18 year-old, the world is at my fingertips. I have a tenacious appetite to learn. I plan on attending Perform Better Seminars as far as my budget will allow this year. The CanFitPro Conference in Vancouver is also taking place in less than two weeks. What other seminars and/or events have you found particularily beneficial from both an educational and networking point of view?

    Thank you Eric. Your blog, products, insight and motivation have served as a guide for me thus far. I plan on shaking your hand in the nearest possible future.

    (Sorry for such a long, rambling comment)

    Josh Hamilton.

  16. Robert Says:

    Great series Eric. This discussion hits home for the majority of us. For myself I have a BS in exercise science and am extrememly happy with my the quality of my educational experience…but it has left nothing for job prospectives.
    Pursuing a Physical Therapy degree makes the most sence for me given my interests but I don’t like the current change to DPT programs. I am currently looking into a Masters in Nursing program with the hopes of gaining an opportunity to apply all we know in health and fitness to those at risk of developing serious health issues. Definatley not looking to abandon Exercise Science, just a way to make it work in the career world given my situation.

    I would love to hear more from anyone out there who has taken a similar approach.

    Thanks for another awsome contribution Eric

  17. Brad Corcoran Says:

    Being a fellow seeker of greater knowledge I too ventured into a Graduate program in Exercise Science. Due to constraints on competition and practice as a member of the golf team during my undergrad, I took the majority of the graduate level courses because of their schedule to allow me to both study and compete at the best of my abilities. This allowed me to take a more hands on role during graduate school, leading the human performance lab and spending time at numerous facilities in New York City. It was the hands on nature that allowed me to truly develop my skills. Before I set foot into the real world, I had completed over 500 clinical assessments and worked with various populations under the supervision of professors and field experts.

    I do find, however, because the vast majority of my clients come from higher education fields (doctors and lawyers), they have a greater respect for my formal education as the understand the sacrifices one has to make to achieve a Masters degree.

    The greatest asset I have as a trainer is the people I associate myself with. Continuing my education on a weekly basis reading posts like this one, staying up to date with research and using practical application of new techniques allows me to stay current and evolve and grow.

    This exact question came up while working with a high school exercise science class yesterday. “what and where is the best program in Canada to accel in this industry?” the three of us working with the group, two of us with Masters Degrees and one with no formal education all had the same answer. It’s not about where you study, it’s about how you continue to grow regardless of where you are in your career. It’s all about continuing education and surrounding yourself with great people.

    Some of the smartest guys I work with do not have a formal education in the field, they just have a passion.

  18. Scott Umberger Says:

    Great thoughts Eric. About 5 years ago, Forbes put out the Top 40 under 40 list or something similar to that. Something like 30% dropped out or didn’t go to college.

    In my opinion, I agree 100% with the PT concepts, one thing that we do correctly is medicine. It’s the sports science where we are tremendously lacking. I would strongly suggest investing in just about everything that Joseph Johnson has at Ultimate Athlete Concepts along with any other Non US Sport Science that you can get your hands on. I also strongly suggest looking at everything that Charlie Francis has done. Charlie was brilliant at seeing the “whole picture”. His newest videos are great. Seeing Charlie on a white board is priceless. From a training standpoint, this material is light years ahead of what we’ve done regarding anything in the ball park of Sport Science. We simply don’t fund Sport Science Research in the US.

    That being said, I do feel that the PT side of our an American education does hold a lot of value. Those in Eric’s “Crew”/colleagues(Hartman, Robertson, Weingroff, etc) do a fantastic job with structural issues and producing quality products. That education can only help the entire industry as well as rookies looking to get into the field.

    I’m spending time learning more about both the structural aspect as well as the CNS and learning skills associated with these “functional” problems. That’s not something that I would’ve learned at any college.

    Regarding masters degrees.. I had a choice between a Kinses degree researching non athletes or helping Todd Hamer at RMU with 600 athletes 60 hours a week for 2 years. I chose the coaching experience and a Education/Sport Management MS and haven’t looked back.

    Ok.. I’m taking a deep breathe and jumping off of my soap box. This PSU crap has me all fired up!

  19. Jimmy Says:


    Another great read. I agree that you should have a good reason for pursuing the degree but I think if we take it one step further we can get the best of both worlds here. I’m currently working towards my DPT in a direct entry program. Although I do believe the price of the degree I will end up with is absurdly expensive I had to take a look at a different perspective. While pursuing my degree I am in contact on a daily basis with several professors and current physical therapists that provide knowledge which you just can’t get from a book. I’m a part time personal trainer at my gym and once I complete my undergrad I am going to pursue my CSCS because it will allow me to become that much more valuable as a physical therapist. Lastly, I know that the networking I receive from the program wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t enrolled. I have the opportunity to travel abroad and work at world renowned hospitals and care facilities. Keep up the good work Eric!

  20. Corey Says:

    Most of the guys that are good have master’s degrees. I want to be good. I feel like I should get a master’s degree.

    The problem with teaching myself is that there is no one guiding me on my educational pathway. If I decided to quit college right now and just start watching videos and reading books on my own what says I’m reading the right material and getting the right information out of it to build a career on?

    I don’t like going to college because it’s boring and most prereq information is useless. At this point I hope that I’ll actually get to some classes on the way to an exercise science and wellness degree that can answer the questions I have.

  21. Greg Says:

    I’d have to agree with you Eric. At 43 now, 7 years into being a personal trainer, the only reason I would go back for an Exercise Science degree is for my own purpose. There is so much great information out the from guys like you that can give you everything you need to be a safe and effective trainer, why spend that money on college? Also, with the average amount a trainer make in a given year, $30,000ish, how would you ever pay it back?

    As far as separating yourself from the industry, you gotta be yourself. Personal Training most of the time is less emphasis on the training and more on the personal.
    Thanks for a great article!


  22. Ryan Jobs Says:

    Josh Hamilton

    I would love to connect with you and may be able to help you make some decisions.

    I live in Abbotsford work all over the Fraser Valley. I have an HKIN degree (Kinesiology Stream) this topic is a great one as I look back and wonder if I would have chosen the same route. (Full disclosure, my parents paid for my degree on top of the Bball scholarship I was on.) The discussion is a good one and should really be thought through as many things have changed since Eric and others graduated even 10 years ago. I now have done many of the things you are looking towards (Meeting Eric, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Alwyn Cosgrove, Charles Staley, John Berardi, Lee Burton etc.)While those interactions have done me wonders, the credibility I have because of my schooling is very measurable.

    Send me a message –

    Thanks for continuing to push the envelope Eric, the discussion is super valuable for the industry and I wish there was more of it when I was making my decisions.

    In Health,


  23. Jonathan Fass Says:

    Interestingly enough, a big part of my decision to earn my DPT was based exactly on your reasoning: at the time, I was a personal trainer contemplating my next move: my undergrad degrees were in politics and history, and I know that earning a health-related degree would be important to me personally, as well as in my career; however, to earn a Masters in exercise meant that I’d basically end up doing the same thing that I was already doing without a degree. PT just made far more sense in terms of versatility and abilities, and even if I discovered that I didn’t love PT, I could still find use for my PT degree. It just made more sense to me.

  24. Jeff Johnson Says:

    Great article!!!! I get questions about this stuff all the time. Here is something I have started working on and am wondering if anyone her has experience with it. The CHEK Institute.

  25. Brent Carter Says:

    I’m still thinking about my next move. As an undergraduate in Exercise Science is fairly useless (though as I said looks good on paper). There is a masters program at teachers college part of the Columbia network here in NYC that has a program that integrates nutriton and exercise. I wonder if that would be any more usefull. Anyone here with a nutrition related degree?

  26. moshe richmond Says:

    Great article. I’m currently in undergrad school with the goal of becoming a DPT. I was under the impression that you need a Bachelor in science to get into the top DPT program. Is this true? Is an undergad degree in ATC enough to get into grad school for DPT? What schools do you recomend for undergrad school for an ATC degree?


  27. Jonathan Says:

    Eric, I am a PT and can honestly say that our industry could use more PROFESSIONALS such as yourself with a desire to learn more and truly understand the needs of a patient or client. As a PT I see so many other so called “professionals” do the bare minimum and have absolutely no rationale for what they are doing. They simply have a degree and sign notes to collect a paycheck….it is so rustrating to see. Thank you for continuing to push the envelope and advance athletics, training, and rehab principals. Keep up the good work man. I wish you were closer to Ohio because I would love to come and check out your place and sessions.

  28. jason @ personal trainer Says:

    May I suggest that for jobs in gyms that certification is a necessity and for jobs as a personal trainer that it is a help but reputation counts for so much more – very much in the mould of A levels and degrees at any other sort of work.

    as soon as you actually get a job, it is how you perform in that that shapes your next move – no employer is interested in degrees etc when they can find out how you performed at work!

  29. Joe Giandonato Says:

    Great advice, Eric!

    An undergraduate degree in exercise science, or any field for that matter, DOES NOT guarantee success. Although I later completed a master’s in Exercise Science and earned my CSCS among other certifications, I feel that I benefitted most from my unbridled passion to help others, insatiable desire to learn, networking like a maniac, and busting my ass off in the gym each day.

    I urge any aspiring or burgeoning professional, degree in hand or not, to assimilate the works of guys like you, Tony, Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, Charles Poliquin, Joe Dowdell. Purchase their products, attend their seminars. I’d also strongly consider joining the NSCA and ACSM to receive their journals and to regularly check out reputable sites, such as yours and all of the coaches I mentioned above. Do this and you’re already ahead of 99.9% of trainers in your area. This option is far more affordable and feasible than dropping 100k on a college education.

    Joe Giandonato, is there an acronym for being passionate?

  30. Mo Skelton Says:

    I read your stuff all the time and value your expertise. I am a P.T. I find myself with the reverse of your problem I am DPT, CSCS,YFS Level I. I have also taught at the graduate level. Now, I work in a hospital setting and find it difficult to reverse the perception that a P.T. can appropriately and successfully coach an athlete. Once you are in a medical field, if you are not in a private setting or willing to go it alone, it can be difficult to not spend your time in a “Medicare/insurance only” situation. Specializing in athletes is not easy in this business. That being said, education will always set you apart if you allow it to. We all know people who scraped by in education that have the same credentials as we do, but don’t care how well they do their job. Then there are highly motivated people with a great knowledge base that were not formally trained. Who you are will always trump what you are, but the what i.e. the letters behind a name can change the direction the path takes. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. A professional is always determined by their actions and not their degree plan. I commend you on your professional respect for those in related fields.

  31. Dean Leach Says:

    Looks good, I just quickly scanned it & will finish later. Can’t wait!

  32. Jenn Pilotti Says:

    Great blog. I found this really interesting from a personal perspective. I have a B.S. in exercise physiology and worked as a personal trainer for 9 years before beginning my graduate education. During that time, I read many of the authors you referenced above, as well as others, some of which were good, and others which weren’t so good. When I was doing just self-education, I found it difficult to figure out which sources would be most beneficial for improving my ability to help my clients. The most interesting aspect of graduate school is I find myself thinking back to some of the theories presented in texts I read during those in-between years and understanding now how to implement them. Prior to graduate school, they were just theories that were clearly beneficial, but I lacked the confidence to use them. I do think the personal training field in general is missing a mentoring/hands-on component as part of the certification process. Passion is what makes the great trainers/coaches/therapists great, but I think education is important in bringing credibility to the field.

  33. Mark P Says:

    This two-part article is great – it really provided some good insight on the education of trainers. One question that I have yet to see answered is – does an education make-up for someone’s lack of physical ability?

    I have injured myself quite a bit and am set back for a while (probably years) before I become active again. Would having a degree (BS, MA/MS, DPT) or a high quality cert. (ATC, CSCS, CPT from ACSM/NSMA) “off-set” the irony of being inactive as a trainer? Any opinions?

  34. Tom S Says:

    I sent you a lengthy response in your Part 1, but guess it didn’t get posted. So, here Part 2, at least you recommended and praised folks getting the Master’s or higher degree.

    The disheartning part of this industry is that when I guy/gal gets their PT and starts paying you and others for your PRODUCTS, they still are paying for education. So, it doesn’t matter if the college gets paid or all your guys that have fitness products or speaking at seminars, folks will still have to invest in their CEU’s or CEC’s or go back to school.

    In the end, it really comes down to REGULATE THE INDUSTRY as follows:

    1. BS or higher degreee in the Exercise Sciences
    2. Reputable NCCA cert from NASM, ASCSM, or NSCA
    3. Minimum 5+yrs in the field as a PT before even being considered WELL QUALIFED or an ECPERT
    4. Insurance, License, Bond, and CPR/AED
    5. Take a Board Certified exam similiar to Doctors or Lawyers.

    In the end, if folks don’t do these five things, they wouldn’t be allowed to practice or train clients as PT’s.

    No different if doctors are not State Board Certified, they can’t practice medecine.

  35. Josh Says:

    I defintley found this post late, but again great insight and knowledge. Thank you for sharing your perspective and trustworthy opinon and being humble. Someone who has achieved “great success” as alot would diem in our industry, yet shares a bit of his journey and trials and professional opinion. Thanks a bunch Eric.

    I can relate to everyone who posted on here. I have a B.S. of Ex Sci with 1 Year of Strength and Conditioning Internship. But I sit here writing this in front of a desk working @ and I.T. Place. Defintley not my passion and torn what to DO!! I have the entreprenuerial spirit, without a doubt as Eric does. But I want to work in the field I studied so I was heavily contemplating doing PT merely to enhance my sport training but again thinking alot of the knowledge I could just gain from those educational materials , books and professional development otherwise without the debt of school…

    Bottom line goal: to have my own training facility that would be similar to a DeFranco, Cressey , Robertson but have that huge desire to be great, only to make others greater. So what is the best route to the final desired goal/ outcome?

    Obviously mentorship IS essential in all things, and everyone who wants to succeed should have one. I know EC and M Robertson have that elite mentorship,I just dont know if that information is covered.

    Thanks EC and thank you everyone for your comments.

  36. Jonathan P Says:

    I think I am in a different position than most people here, and would really appreciate your guidance. I have no background in exercise science, but I have a BA in International Relations with a concentration in Global Health, Nutrition, and the Environment. I work at one of the biggest technology companies in the world doing sales & marketing in the mobile industry.

    I have a passion for training and nutrition, and I was a D3 All-New England track athlete in college. I spend most of my time outside of work researching sports skills, training, and nutrition especially after I ruptured my achilles last year. That being said, I feel that I am in the wrong industry and would like to formally get an education in Exercise Science so I can change my career.

    My main goal is to start my own business in the health industry, but I want to be formally educated with a degree or certification to prove my knowledge. Should I be looking to get an ATC first, and then think about getting a Master’s? I do plan to start with some of the education material you highlighted above, but I want to have something next to my name.

    I would really appreciate your feedback.


  37. Eric Cressey Says:


    Consider three scenarios…

    1. Invest $200K+ in an exercise science degree, then leave college and be considered as qualified as the guy who got a weekend certification. Plus, kick yourself for years knowing that you spent up to $100K on core curriculum classes that had nothing to do with your major or intended life path.

    2. Take that $200K and invest it in stocks/bonds and, assuming a 7.2% rate of return, double your money every ten years.

    3. Take that $200K and invest it in the best training and business internships – plus loads of books and DVDs.

    I find it very hard to believe that option #1 will make you profitable, successful, or more prepared than #2 or #3. Just my opinion.

    Give this a read:

  38. Jonathan P Says:


    Thanks for the advice.
    I think my mind is all over the place because of the frustration I have with my current training situation. I was a Div3 athlete in the Boston area, and have been working at a company in Korea for the past 2 years. Last year I tore my achilles tendon and got surgery, and now I am rehabbing on my own. I don’t trust the trainers in Korea because their focus is on making money by making people look good. I want to get back to dunking the basketball and jumping like I used to, and I have a good base of knowledge to get myself athletic again, but with such a serious injury I’m finding it hard to get past 80%. On top of that I have tight hips (pain in lateral hip during abduction), herniated disc from working long hours at the desk (C5-C6), and I find that every time I play sports I find a new joint that hurts.

    Due to time and facility constraints I work out in the company gym during lunch time, and I have started pilates to help with rehab, but I’m sorely lacking a solid program to help me.

    I guess the question I’m getting to is, do you know anyone like you that is out here in Korea? Or is there a way I can get evaluated online?

  39. Eric Cressey Says:


    I don’t know anyone in Korea, but would be happy to help if you want to drop me an email: ec at

  40. girl in korea Says:

    i live in korea and i know someone who is professional, experienced PT. His name is Tyson Dewees. You can Google him.

    and there is also an english gym in yongsan called Body and Seoul, they may be able to hook you up with certified physiotherapy and their trainers are all certified and have several years expierence.

  41. Guillermo Muñoz Says:

    Hi Eric,
    Great series of articles that keeps you thinking. What you are saying applies somewhat to my particular situation. I’m mexican and the education is quite differently here. I was in Med School for 2 and a half years and I dropped out- the medicine lifestyle was not for me. Since then, I’ve been learning everything I can get my hands on regarding training and nutrition. I was thinking of going to the US for a masters degree in exercise science and sports nutrition, but didn’t have the money for it. Those type of degrees don’t exist in Mexico. Neverthless, I will continue reading books, articles, etc. and educating myself. I’ve learned a lot in 6 months of self-education.

    I don’t believe that a degree justifies your knowlegde. I’ve talked to many people with degrees (doctors mostly) that stay with what they learned in school and don’t pursue further education. The same applies to trainers. Expertise should be based on your current knowledge and how you apply it. Not on what a piece of paper says. The advantage that university offers is the networks that you build and that doors are opened for easily. In in the end, it all comes down to how much effort you put into it, regardless of having a degree or not.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been looking for mentors in my area that are qualified with no luck. But I’ve found digital mentors, like yourself, that I can learn from. So thanks. Do you know any good trainers in Mexico?

    I’ll just have to get more practical experience and work more with people. Later on I’ll probably get access to the Elite Training Membership.

    PS. Great list of resources. I’ve already got Muscles: Testing and Function. It’s a hard, but good read.

    Thanks Eric.

  42. Joe Bonano Says:

    Great write up Eric,
    I’m finishing up at Springfield College with my Exercise Science degree. Even though I enjoy this field, mainly the strength and conditioning side of things, I kind of feel this degree doesn’t have the “ironclad” license as Physical Therapy or Athletic training. That’s why my plan is to take a year off and get working at a private sector and work at a PT aide; continuing my education in 2014 and going to PT school…your thoughts? I just like the benefits, structure, and job market to be honest in the PT world.


  43. Cody Hahn Says:

    Hey Eric,

    Quick question, you said that if you could change one thing about your degree and career, you would have gotten an undergraduate degree in either Physical Therapy or Athletic Training. The Athletic Training I understand, but to be a Physical Therapist you either have to have a Master’s or a Doctor of Physical Therapy (the Doctor becoming much more common) or be a Physical Therapist Assistant. Is this a discrepancy, or could someone still get an undergraduate degree in Physical Therapy when you were in school?

    Not picking, just curious so that I can clear things up for myself. By the way, that is an interesting idea that you mention about one of the coaches at Cressey Performance getting licensed as a Massage Therapist so that he could provide a more versatile, complete service to athletes.

    Cody Hahn

  44. Bryan Chung Says:

    As someone who has spent well over the $250 000 on my education, I’ll take an indirect counterpoint to this :)

    1) I can’t and won’t defend the curricula of Exercise Science programs, but, I will make comment that apart from professional programs such as Engineering, Education, Law, etc, the role of the University as a churner-outer-of-jobs is really quite misplaced and misguided (not to mention relatively recent). No one expects that a degree in the Liberal Arts will prepare them for a specific occupation. Why should a student pursuing a degree in a science field expect any more? If you’re going to university and NOT in a professional degree program, and you’re expecting a pathway to an occupation in the same way a pharmacy student expects to become a pharmacist, you should probably not be there. Universities straddle the odd space of having the mandate of producing knowledge (even if it’s knowledge for knowledge’s sake), and imparting knowledge. The transformation of the expectation that somehow all imparted knowledge be directly applicable to a marketable and employable skill is actually quite new, relative to the existence of universities, and something that I think will be struggled with for a long time.

    To those of you in programs where you seem to know more than your professors, I would argue you’re at a crappy school for your field, your professor is really not very good at teaching, or you’re actually not getting it right. Where do you think all the knowledge to write products like Precision Nutrition, Assess and Correct, and Supertraining came from? In most good institutions, your professors are at the leading edges of their fields. They are producing the knowledge that will enable the next Supertraining that hasn’t yet been written or conceived of. If you pay attention, you might actually learn something. Something that WILL make you stand out.

    2) Undergraduate education is the new high school. Such is the sad devaluation of higher education. Gone are the days where you could actually fail 2/3’s of a class. I mean seriously, when did it become okay for a university student’s mother to call their professor about a mark? I won’t say anymore about that.

    3) I would suggest that if you’re looking to help people and have a passion for fitness, that instead of staying in the box of training, that you make sure you take a good look outside of the box; and that THIS is really what a university education offers–the opportunity to create some breadth. The societal pressure of having to have what I consider to be one of the most myopic views on occupation and interest is higher than it ever was. Stop tunnelling down on how you’re going to be a great trainer, just for a moment. Try something you’ve never tried before. Who knows, you might end up being a surgeon or something.

  45. Chris Finley Says:

    I love all your articles! I’m actually planning on going the Athletic Training to Physical Therapy route. In addition I have seen many professionals who are held in high esteem just because they care more than others. They study, they have passion, they care about others, and they push for progress. They learn in every way possible and they take care of their clients regardless of pay. They go the extra mile. Enough said.

    Great article and great comments!

  46. Eric Cressey Says:

    Great post, Bryan! However, I can’t say that I learned a thing that is in Assess and Correct in school. It was all about being out in the field, experimenting, asking questions, and surrounding myself with good coaches.

  47. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s been a shift that’s been taking place over the course of the past decade (first DPT program was launched in 1992). Just looked it up on Wikipedia to confirm all the dates:

    “The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) will require all programs to offer the DPT degree effective December 31, 2015.”

    As of right now, 226 of the 227 accredited PT programs in the country are DPT.

  48. Eric Cressey Says:

    I think it’s a good plan, Joe. You can always “fall back” on EXS with a PTA or DPT after your name. Takes three hours to sit for the CSCS.

  49. Chris Says:

    Eric: quick question

    I have a BS in ex phys. and have done an internship at a large d-1 school. Job offers however have been incredibly slim. I have always wanted to open my own gym, but am not sure about my chances for a business loan. Would getting a masters be any better at helping me in this regard?

  50. Eric Cressey Says:


    In my opinion, no.

  51. Tyler Says:

    Hey Eric,

    First of all, I just wanted to say that I loved the article. I learned much more about the exercise science degree from your article than all of the college advisors that I’ve spoken with. Which brings me to my situation. I’ve just finished my junior hockey career and will be playing college hockey this fall. I know for a fact that I want to go to grad school for Physical Therapy, but I want to get a bachelor’s degree where I can make a decent living if grad school doesn’t work out.

    My two questions are: 1.) Is a bachelor’s degree in exercise science alone enough to get a decent job as a strength and conditioning coach? If so, what kind of salary would I be looking at?

    2.) Which major would take more time to earn a bachelor’s degree, exercise science or athletic training?

    I know I want to be a physical therapist, but I also want to have a decent bachelor’s degree as a back-up plan.

    Thanks for the great info!

  52. Eric Cressey Says:


    1. Yes, I think so. Salary is entirely dependent on location, responsibilities, etc. I know people making well into 6/7 figures without a college degree!

    2. Might be slightly longer for the athletic training major because of the hours requirement.

  53. ab mo Says:

    noting to say

  54. Jordan Says:

    Eric, I really liked what you had to say. I’ve been researching a Physical Therapy profession and the statistics show that exercise science is the top undergraduate program for a graduate school physical therapy program. If I’m sure about going down the road of Physical Therapy, would you recommend exercise science still, or some other undergraduate program?

  55. Eric Cressey Says:


    I’d probably try to get into a program that combines the ugrad PT degree with the DPT designation.  I believe UCONN works this way, for instance.

  56. Cody Says:

    Love the article, what steps would you recommend for someone wanting to start going after a degree in exercise science. I ran a CrossFit gym in Virginia before moving to Washington in which I decided I really enjoy working with athletes and would like to further my education. Any advice would be great.

  57. Eric Cressey Says:


    As you can probably tell from the articles, I’d recommend minoring in EXS and doing athletic training or physical therapy, if you’re going to take the time to do a degree.

  58. Jacob Says:

    Is there any advantage of going PT over AT or vice versa?

  59. robynn Says:

    Hey Eric,

    Quick question, I am doing my undergrad in Exercise science with a concentration in cardiac rehab, I want to get my master but not sure if I should just continue with exercise science?

    Thanks for your help

  60. Eric Cressey Says:


    I can’t speak to how it is nowadays, but in my experience, cardiac rehab folks are almost always getting master’s degrees in exercise physiology and then going for ACSM’s registered clinical exercise physiologist test.

  61. Eric Cressey Says:


    Absolutely.  You can diagnose and bill insurance.

  62. cs Says:

    If you want to go into sports medicine and then an orthopedic surgeon. Do you exercise sxience or athletic training needa to be my undergrad major

  63. Tom K Says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for taking the time to consistently share your knowledge with us. You are without a doubt an authority in your area and it’s refreshing to see how you give back to the health/fitness community.

    At the end of your article you say, “If you’re in your 40s and considering a career change to the fitness industry, though, I think you’d be crazy to start an undergraduate degree in exercise science from scratch. Different strokes for different folks.”

    I’m 32 years old and have worked my way up the corporate ladder. I work in Silicon Valley as a CTO for a public company and I’ve been in software development/engineering in one way or another since I was 12 yrs old. I’ve always enjoyed the problem solving aspects of what I do, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting more and more interested in exercise fitness.

    I currently make $200k/year salary, have full benefits (401k, health, etc) and a large chunk of RSUs/stock options. I’m sure it would take a long time to get to a similar income level, but even at $125k/yr I could meet all my financial obligations like mortgage/family expenses. I’d be looking more at the benefit of doing something I’m really interested in and helping people vs continuing in tech and losing interest.

    My question is how would you recommend investigating and pursuing a career change to the fitness industry for a person like myself?


  64. Eric Cressey Says:


    What percentage of personal trainers do you think make $125K/year?

    I’ll give you a hint: less than 1%.

  65. Tom K Says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    I’m sure it’s rare, but so is my income level at my age ;) .

    What about if you were mentoring someone like me?

    A 32 yr old guy with basic lifting (consistent the last 6 years) and a past collegiate athlete (heavyweight rower at UC Berkeley) who loves nutrition and has a general fascination with optimizing performance for anything (tech, health, etc).

    What path would you recommend?

    I’d really like to know your thoughts. If the standard income level for something you recommend is much lower than $125k/year – no problem I’m sure I can supplement it if need be.

    Thanks again


  66. Eric Says:

    Hello Eric,

    I am currently pursuing an Exercise Sports Science major with a concentration in Pre PT, and I want to become a physical therapist. Realistically, I know the field is highly competitive and I’m worried that I won’t be able to get into graduate school. I without a doubt want to go to graduate school, even if I’m unable to do physical therapy. So my question is, what other options do you recommend for me regarding graduate school if I am unable to pursue physical therapy?

  67. Eric Cressey Says:


    You could do a master’s in athletic training or look at a PTA option.

  68. amigo2020 Says:

    this article is so Funny, i guess everyone here started to read about this weird degree (Kinesiology or exercise science)…. an advice from me to you guys try switch out from this unknown degree that well not get any where. Try to study something like Engineer, Accounting,MBA, Science teacher….etc

    Even Though with the economy we have its really hard to find a job …. but stick to something known

    You mention ATC and Phys
    again its really hard to find a job in ATC and if you do its really competitive

    Phys…. its reallly reallly hard to get in this program you need a high GPA and its crazyy competitive (limited seats)…

    its really sad … we had do so many science class like 3 phys (meach, Elec, waves, and three math CAl 1 and cal 2 a and linera algbera, 2 general chemisrty 1 and 2…

    when you started this program you will not use any of these classes ….

    you will end up studying anatomy,physiology and rehab classes …

    this degree is not even considered as professional practitioner like phys or even message therapy!!! read about it and you will see.

    Bottom line now … if you decided to stick to this degree make sure you have good grades so you can pursue a master in pyhsio later on.

    if you cant do physio so these are the options:
    (1) make sure to do as much certificates as you can like CSCS,PTS,FMS Level 1 and 2,nutrition certificate, Biosignature certificate,Fascia stretching level 1 and 2 (Good certificate, Darby Certification…. and make sure you do message therapy (all kind if you can)
    you will end up makin more money in message therapy than exercise science

    You don’t need to do all these certificate but it will you help A LOT to find a job

  69. Israel Branford Says:

    Eric Cressey, my name is Israel. I really needed your advice because you were in my shoes. I’m at a crossroads in my career. I got my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, and I currently work at Gold’s Gym. I also work at a Physical Therapy clinic as a tech. I really enjoy this field, but I’m unsure of what to do next. I love teaching people, but I’m not to fond of selling. Unsure if I want to put myself in the hole with more education. I actually came out of school with small amounts of debt, and I want to keep it that way.

  70. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s really impossible to say, as only YOU know what you enjoy doing.  If you don’t know yet, then volunteer in a few different realms and see which is something you can see yourself doing for years to come.

  71. Israel Branford Says:

    Eric, do you know of any opportunities for volunteering or interning? Do you have any positions available?

  72. Eric Cressey Says:


    Here you go!

  73. Israel Branford Says:

    Eric, I think you’re amazing. I read your blogs and articles, and I can see myself doing that as well. I find what you have to say fascinating. I’m currently studying for my CSCS certification. When did you figure out what you wanted to do? What age were you? I am also applying to Physical Therapy School. This road has been so tough, and I still have a long way to go, but thank God for you, I have some hope. Thanks a lot.

  74. Jeff Says:

    Hi Eric,

    I’m currently 3 quarters through my masters of science in Kinesiology and looking to make a career move here in Canada. This is an online course that I started while teaching ESL in Korea. I figured that I needed the credentials of a Masters as my undergrad was in His/Geo. Anyways I know its not ideal as there is no hands on. What would you recommend for me to do now that I am back in Canada, intern at strength and conditioning facility?

  75. Eric Cressey Says:


    You’re never going to regress from taking on an internship!

  76. Scott B Says:

    Hi Eric,
    First off, thanks for the great articles and taking time to answer all of our questions! A two year old blog post still gathering comments speaks volumes to the issues you raised. Like some of your readers, I am in that late 30’s/early 40’s category of career transfers in to fitness with no college degree. I have 6 years of previous corporate training experience for Whole Foods that transfers well in to the health field and am also engaged to a Physical Therapist. I also should be a NASM CPT by the end of the month. I would love to have a training business that primarily helps my fiancee’s patients with rehab and after reading your articles, I am caught between just becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant or a Personal Trainer with certificates that would aide my knowledge. Does it make sense to battle the General ED classes at a Junior College, enroll in a PTA program, and be patient for 3 years or to continue my personal training certification & education with some of the resources you recommended? Thanks for any advice!!!

  77. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s your call, but if you’re looking to be a rehab extender, you shouldn’t need a PTA program.  I’d probably stay the course with self education and use your wife’s expertise as a resource that allows you to expand your skillset in different, complementary ways.

  78. Omar Says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the article. I want to know your opinion about the nutrition RD route. I am a trainer working for a gym for the last 4 years,and I’m completing my first two years of prerequisites.I was planning to finish the exercise science degree but after reading some post here I don’t think its worth it. I love the nutrition aspect of training, and I am thinking of changing to that major and then get my CSCS. Would that be a good option? Thanks in advance.

  79. Eric Cressey Says:


    That could definitely be a great approach, as it won’t hurt to move EXS to a minor. You’d still be able to train people as long as you’re certified, and we all know it’s what you do to continue to be educated once you’re in the field that matters.

  80. Anthony Waggoner Says:

    Hello Mr. Cressey,

    You had me completely convinced, and I was extremely backing you with regards to your education and knowledge, until you said the statement, “Had that trainer done a degree in physical therapy and become licensed, he could still do all of that, but also bill insurance for it.”

    I am a current student at CSU, Chico, and am Exercise Physiology Major. One doesn’t simply “do” a physical therapy degree. It is typically a three-year doctorates program. There is a distinct differentiation between an ATC and a DPT licensure.

    Best of luck to you and others in their future,
    Anthony Waggoner

  81. Eric Cressey Says:


    I’m aware of that. Did I imply something else? Sorry if it was unclear.

  82. Denise Says:

    Hello Eric,
    Couple quick questions of you. Looking to become an Exercise Therapist once all said and done. First step towards this goal is to become a certified trainer through ACSM and then self study therapeutic exercises for: pain control,flexibility, balance and the like. Wondering can I enter into ET without having an DPT,PTA, EXS or Kinesiology degree?

    The second question I have is that I have a degree in Business Admin, would go back to school to receive a PTA etc…but the cost is far out reach for me unfortunately. With having a admin along with ASCM cert will this not be good enough to make it very far with what I’m trying to accomplish?

    Let me know your thoughts when you have the time/chance.

    Thank you Eric


  83. Paul Learmonth Says:

    Hi Eric

    Do you know about the differences in the Australian system? I believe were in a similar system. My issue is, I’d like to travel to America and work with my Australian qualification.

    I’ve completed our Personal Trainer qualification (certificate III/IV in fitness).
    My grades in high school weren’t great so I’m in an exercise science first year degree now (with excellent results). The options for me going forward in Aus. seem to be some sort of science undergrad with a masters in Osteopathy or Physiotherapy, or continue in exercise physiology (science) and come out in the same boat I’m in now. However, here we can bill insurance (some) for exercise physiology sessions too. I’m still leaning towards Osteopathy, however ( a big however), here it’s just Manual treatment and not a medicine qualification so it isn’t really recognised in USA as far as I can see.

    What’s your thoughts?

  84. kari Says:

    Eric Thank you got the article. I was pursuing a degree in exercise science upon more research exercise physiology kept coming up can you explain the difference? Also if I were to complete my bachelors in exercise science would I still be able to get into a pt school?

  85. Eric Cressey Says:


    I would say that exercise physiology would be more clinical in nature. Cardiac and pulmonary rehab come to mind, if that makes sense?

    Yes, I know a lot of people who have done EXS and then gone on to PT school.

  86. Eric Cressey Says:


    You should be able to do so without a degree, but I’d inquire to ACSM to be sure.

    I don’t think the lack of a PTA degree would be a problem, but again, there is no way to no for sure. I’d say to try applying to positions and see how it goes!

  87. Denise Says:

    Hello Eric,
    Thank you for your response, and will take your advice. :)

  88. Anthony Says:


    Seeing as this article is nearly three years old now, I was wondering if you have any updates to your list of resources for self teaching?



  89. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Yes, I keep a running list at

  90. Jordan Moorhead Says:

    Great article. I’m currently finishing my Bachelors in Marketing and taking prerequisites for a masters in EXS. Glad to see that is something you might recommend Eric!

  91. Riley Says:

    I think an important point to mention around graduate degrees is how students will learn to read, interpret, and criticize the scientific literature. Until you have done research and have hands on experience with the challenges involved it is much more difficult to understand the strengths and limitations of any particular study. While I agree that graduate school isn’t for everyone, this is one benefit that is tough to gain any other way.

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