Exercise and Sport Studies Major

Why study Exercise and Sport Studies?

The exercise and sport studies major (EXSS) involves the study of human movement and its relationship to exercise and sport.  The courses focus on understanding the scientific aspects of human anatomy and physiology along with specific muscle movements for exercise and sport. Students also learn the mental preparation needed to accomplish the physical goals.  

Students who choose this major have a strong interest in helping others attain their exercise and sport goals.  They enjoy working with people on a daily basis either one-on-one or in a group or team setting.  They must be quick and comfortable with problem solving skills and be organized with excellent time management skills. 

This major has three emphasis areas including sport administration, fitness and wellness and exercise science. 


Students will take a wide variety of courses in the core for the EXSS major covering such topics as nutrition, first aid, psychology of exercise and sport, human growth and development, biomechanics, sport law and other legal issues, several foundation courses and an introductory course that discusses all the options within the field of exercise and sport studies. 

Within each emphasis area, students will take more specialized courses related to their area of interest.  Sport administration students will focus on the business aspect of budgeting, planning, facilities, marketing programs, and understanding how to correctly analyze and utilize data.  Fitness and wellness students will focus on learning about different activities to teach their clients, including proper mechanics for lifting and exercising, adapting activities for those with disabilities so they can participate at the highest level possible, and understanding psychological motivation to help individuals adhere to their exercise program or their sport of interest.  Exercise science students will focus on preparing a solid scientific base to bring forward to graduate school.  Courses would include human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, math, and psychology.  All emphasis areas require a 240-hour/6-credit internship to provide students the opportunity to apply the theory and techniques they have learned in the classroom to the real world setting.

Career opportunities

Depending on which emphasis area the student selects, individuals may pursue a career in sport administration or work within the sport business industry in a wide variety of capacities.  Those in fitness and wellness may become personal trainers or strength and conditioning specialists or become owners and run their own fitness facilities.  Students who choose exercise science usually pursue a master’s or doctorate in physical therapy, occupational therapy or chiropractic medicine.


Graduates of the EXSS major will have a fundamental understanding of the principles of physical activity from biomechanical, physiological, psychological, and developmental perspectives, as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills, and strong ethical, verbal, and written communication skills. In addition, graduates will have the ability to interpret and analyze data, the knowledge and understanding to work with diverse groups of people on a global level, cultural empathy and intercultural competence, what their role is as a leader and the legal aspects for their specific areas of interest. 

What are recent graduates doing?

  • Personal trainers
  • Graduate school for physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, sports administration
  • Staff members of university athletic departments
  • Coaches at the high school and collegiate levels—various sports
  • Athletic directors—high school and collegiate levels
  • Director of Athletic Marketing and Development in a collegiate athletic department
  • Strength and Conditioning coaches
  • Group fitness instructors
  • Golf course assistant manager
  • Ticket sales—collegiate athletics
  • Fundraising and development
  • Assistant managers and managers at sporting goods stores
  • Marketing and promotions

Job outlook (2012-22)

  • Fitness Trainers*
    • Job Outlook: 13% increase
    • Wages: The median annual salary for a fitness trainer was $31,720 in 2012, or $15.25 per hour.
    • View similar occupations 
  • Coach*

*Taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Exercise and Sport Studies is offered at the following Upper Iowa University location:

  • Residential Fayette campus