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Jobs in Exercise Science

A group of Exercise Science students and faculty member administer a high intensity exercise test called the Wingate test.

A group of Exercise Science students and faculty member administer a high intensity exercise test called the Wingate test.

As a long-distance runner who competed for his country and came just three minutes short of qualifying for the British Olympic marathon team, Dr. Michael Green has first-hand experience of how Exercise Science helps improve athletic performance. As a graduate of Troy University himself, Dr. Green used his athletic and academic experience to help design TROY’s Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science program and guide his students down the track to successfully find jobs in Exercise Science.

Hailing from the North of England, Dr. Green initially arrived at TROY on a track and field scholarship.

“I was a distance runner and that was my life,” recalls Dr. Green. “I had been offered a place at a UK university but delayed it for a year to come over here to see if I liked it.”

As it turns out, he found a lot to like. Dr. Green describes his experience as a student-athlete at TROY as the closest thing to being a professional athlete. 

“I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship,” says Dr. Green. “It covered everything, like food, books and classes. As a kid running for Blackburn Harriers back in England, we had to buy our own kit and even pay for the buses to go to races. Here, you go to races and you don’t have to worry about anything else other than running.”

Dr. Green never looked back.

“After a year, I thought, ‘Weather’s good, I’m enjoying my classes, and I’m successful as a runner,’” says Dr. Green. “I was getting patted on the back from the school for both my academic and athletic achievements — so I thought I might as well stay!”

After graduating from TROY, Dr. Green took a job as a fitness director in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where he stayed for a year before deciding to return to education and study for his Ph.D. in Sport Science.

“Toward the end of my Ph.D., I heard that there was a job opening here at TROY,” says Dr. Green. “One of my previous instructors had become the dean. So I was fortunate enough to be hired for her job and was back teaching the Exercise Science classes that I used to take myself as a student.”

What Is Exercise Science?

Despite his own experience as a student-athlete, Dr. Green is eager to remind students that Exercise Science isn’t just an option for fellow sportspeople.

“Exercise Science does involve sport and physical fitness, but its real focus is on exercise, health and wellness,” says Dr. Green. “It looks at the physiology of the body and how it adapts to exercise. Then we look at things like lack of exercise and how it can contribute to disease.”

While the program does involve some physical activity, it does so primarily to illustrate the effect exercise has on the body.

“In one class, we run an experiment called the Wingate Anaerobic Test,” says Dr. Green. “During the test, students have to pedal on a stationary bicycle as hard as they can for 30 seconds. This isn’t really done to test their performance. We do it so we can point out, ‘Oh, by the way, the energy for that effort came from this particular energy system,’ and the students will have a better understanding of that.”

In other tests, Dr. Green encourages students to compare health and fitness results depending on an individual’s size and level of fitness.

“We’ll get students to walk or run on a treadmill, and we’ll measure how much oxygen they are using, and we convert that to calories,” says Dr. Green. “I’ll try to get a small person and a big person to walk at the same speed so we can compare and contrast the number of calories they burn. This is really cool because many of our students already monitor this information on smartwatches, and I want them to know how accurate this information is and how it is estimated.”

Although Dr. Green won’t go into the quality of the information shared on smartwatches, he did share that as a long-distance runner, the most complicated piece of equipment he relies on to measure his performance is a cheap, basic digital watch.

Dr. Green also has some fascinating personal insight regarding calories and athletic performance as a former college athlete.

“In my prime, I ran 120 miles per week,” says Dr. Green. “To maintain this, I was eating thousands of calories every day. There were a lot of carbs and a lot of meat. I teach a sports nutrition class and we talk about imbalance. For example, surprisingly a runner will often eat more calories per kilogram of their body weight than a bodybuilder. So when you look at a body builder’s food consumption, there will be a lot of food on their plates, but there is also a lot more of that person when you take into account their body mass.” 

While the students enjoy these applied classes and labs, there’s also a lot of traditional classroom-based learning.

“It is a science,” says Dr. Green. “In my exercise physiology class, we’re currently learning about the cardiovascular system. So we learn about the anatomy of the heart, the chambers, the valves, the main blood vessels, and how it pumps. When we understand how it works, we can then ask what happens when you exercise? Why does your heart rate go up to 200? How much blood does it pump per minute compared to rest?”

Who Studies Exercise Science?

Dr. Green explains that there are typically three types of students in the Exercise Science program. These students are attracted to the program based on the different options available for the degree, including pre-health profession, nutrition, and wellness and fitness concentrations.

“The majority of our students are hoping to go to graduate school to study physical or occupational therapy,” he says. “So a lot of students use our program as a stepping stone, almost like a pre-med degree.”

According to Dr. Green, TROY’s Exercise Science program isn’t too different from a pre-med degree for students in the pre-health profession concentration.

“As a pre-health program, theoretically, a student could take our degree, take two or three extra classes, and they could go to med school with it.”

Similarly, students who follow the nutrition concentration are typically looking to progress to a graduate program to study dietetics.

Dr. Green explains that to become a sports nutritionist, you typically become a registered dietitian first, and the nutrition concentration is the first step in that journey.

“We have a registered dietician on our faculty, Dr. Theresa Johnson, and she teaches many of those classes. She’s worked very closely with several other universities to design the program. So we’ve got a connection with those other schools, where some of TROY’s nutrition classes will actually transfer into their graduate program.”

The third cohort of students in the Exercise Science program is the wellness and fitness concentration.

“The wellness and fitness concentration is more for your traditional Exercise Science student who wants to remain in the field and work in various careers in Exercise Science,” says Dr. Green. “Either they go on to graduate study, or maybe they want to go into areas like strength and conditioning or personal training.”

Students, particularly in the wellness and fitness concentration, are encouraged to acquire professional certification to complement their degrees.

“The National Strength and Conditioning Association has a pretty rigorous certification program,” says Dr. Green. “The American College of Sports Medicine also has several challenging certificates. We encourage our students to take them as soon as possible after they’ve been with us while our curriculum is still fresh in their minds. We teach them the content, but they’ve still got to go away and align themselves to these organizations if they want to do well.”

What Can You Do With an Exercise Science Degree?

While most students in the Exercise Science program go on to graduate programs, students also find jobs in Exercise Science directly after graduating with their bachelor’s degree.

“The wellness and fitness grads typically go into roles like personal training, strength and conditioning, and cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory rehabilitation,” says Dr. Green. “These jobs will often be at the collegiate or high school level, but they are still considered entry-level positions. If they want to move up in the world, they are most likely going to have to get their master’s.”

He highlights medical sales as a common alternative career path for many Exercise Science graduates.

“It might seem a bit weird having an Exercise Science degree and then going into sales, but that is a common route for many of our students,” says Dr. Green. “They’ll learn a lot of the sales skills on the job. Their companies will train them, but the Exercise Science program gives them the confidence to speak to doctors and other medical professionals at the level required.”

Pre-Health Concentration

Students in the pre-health concentration often opt for careers in physical therapy-type roles.

“They’re working in hospitals and physical therapy clinics,” says Dr. Green. “This is a real growth industry. Clinics are popping up everywhere. With the aging population, there’s a real need for physical therapists.”

Dr. Green’s assessment of the opportunities available to physical therapists is supported by data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS). The BLS states that the job outlook for physical therapists will improve by 21% between the years 2020 and 2030. This means that nearly 50,000 new physical therapy positions will need to be filled.

Dr. Green attributes the wider acceptance and availability of physical therapy to a generational shift in the way we look at the aging process.

“When I was a kid, if one of my grandparents had a ‘bum knee,’ they just put up with it for the rest of their life,” says Dr. Green. “There’s been a real shift in the fact that we are not only living longer but have a desire to live better. If you have an injury as a kid, you get fixed. If you have an injury as an older person, you can still get it fixed. So we see a greater demand for that kind of health care.”

Fitness and Nutrition

For students interested in following the nutrition concentration, Dr. Green points to the success of a former student who, after completing her master’s program, now works as a sports dietitian at a large university.

“A lot of the bigger universities now employ sports dieticians to work with their athletes,” says Dr. Green. “As a Brit, it took a bit of getting used to, but sport really drives a lot of things in the university system in America, and that creates a lot of these types of opportunities.”

TROY alumna, Alyssa Zediker, went down a different career path with her Exercise Science degree and concentration in nutrition. Today, she works as a clinical trials regulatory specialist at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. “Through this role, I get to work with all sorts of trials ranging from oncology to pediatrics, neurology, etc.,” she says. “I work with the sponsors, doctors and study staff to ensure that start-up, trial duration, and close-out go smoothly. This means gathering necessary documents, being knowledgeable about the protocols, submitting for IRB [Institutional Review Board] approval, and making sure that our site is in accordance with the FDA and IRB at all times.”

Zediker, who also completed a master’s in Exercise Science in 2020, enjoyed the nutrition focus. “I loved the nutrition classes — general nutrition and Exercise Science nutrition,” she recalls. “They were practical and interesting to me. Exercise physiology was very useful, as it allowed us ample hands-on learning in the exercise physiology lab.”

An internship added to her skillset. “I completed an internship where I was able to shadow a registered dietician, work in the lab with the graduate students and learn more about what job opportunities are in my field.”

Why TROY?

As an alumnus and faculty member, Dr. Green has a lot of great things to say about TROY. He is particularly proud of the university’s sporting and recreational facilities available to students.

“I’m definitely slightly biased because I went to school here,” says Dr. Green. “TROY has an amazing campus — it’s really beautiful. Our athletic facilities for both the student-athletes and the general student population are fantastic. We’ve got a new recreation center that was built a couple of years ago, and it’s unbelievable. It’s constantly packed full of students working out and exercising.”

He also highlights TROY’s small class sizes as a significant benefit to students.

“The class sizes are fantastic,” says Dr. Green. “In my program, we don’t go any bigger than 35 to 40 students in a lecture setting. Then our labs are typically 10 to 15 students per section. So the faculty can really get to know their students, and that’s important. I think our smaller class sizes are definitely a big selling point.”

For Zediker, the program’s emphasis on research and hands-on teaching stood out the most and it is having a big impact in her current job. “I not only received a lot of experience in the lab but also was able to take part in research studies and learn how they are developed, which is helping me in my career field now,” she says. “Research is so important in advancing our knowledge. In the medical field, I feel that it is even more important because we are potentially expanding the face of medicine. Patients come into our offices all the time with problems or illnesses that we don’t yet have an answer to. We get to be at the forefront of finding an answer for them.”

Aside from the research experience, Zediker was also able to develop all-important “soft skills” that are in high demand in every job and that she is putting to practical work in her career. “The Exercise Science program taught me skills such as leadership, communication, and time management, which I use every day,” she says.

Learn More About Preparing for Jobs in Exercise Science

Two degrees later, Zediker, who also teaches Pure Barre a few times a week and is a certified exercise physiologist, is looking forward. “The Exercise Science program definitely fine-tuned my professional skills, ranging from job preparation to working with others in a professional Exercise Science setting such as a gym, office or lab. It not only prepared me with book knowledge but also the social skills that I needed to continue on with my career path.”

And like every TROY alum, she shares Dr. Green’s enthusiasm for their alma mater. “I definitely recommend TROY to anyone who is looking for a great place to learn and grow,” she asserts. “Troy University is home to a beautiful campus with a small town, yet big college, vibe. The courses at TROY will challenge you both personally and academically, pushing you to be the best version that you could possibly be.”

For Zediker, the connections made a TROY are lasting ones. “It’s a place where you will meet friends that you will grow with and cherish for a lifetime,” she says. “Troy University will always hold a special place in my heart. As our fight song says, “Here’s to the school we love. We are Trojans one and all.”

To learn more about how TROY can help you get on track for jobs in Exercise Science in a variety of professional environments, visit the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science program page on our website.

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