Earning a Master’s in Sports Medicine Online

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of jobs for health diagnosing and treating practitioners will increase by 16% from 2016 to 2026. Accordingly, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and exercise physiologists should see ample growth in opportunities in the coming years. Earning a sports medicine degree online can open the door to a fruitful career in this growing field. This page explains what to expect from a master's degree in sports medicine program, including degree requirements and course material, as well as the salary potential and job opportunities for graduates. This guide also discusses important resources, including professional organizations and scholarship opportunities.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine?

Students from diverse academic and professional backgrounds pursue online sports medicine degrees. Many students enroll in master's programs soon after earning bachelor's degrees in related areas, such as exercise physiology, nutrition, kinesiology, or athletic training. Additionally, some experienced professionals become master's students to increase their earning potential or expand their job prospects. Individuals with a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field may also be able to enroll in a sports medicine program, although they may need to complete prerequisite coursework.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine?

Pursuing Specialization

The best online master's in sports medicine programs enable professionals in the field to enter a more specialized role or change industries. For example, a general healthcare worker can decide to concentrate in exercise physiology after earning this degree. A master's in sports medicine can also give a personal trainer the skills and credentials needed to begin training athletes for a sports team or college.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Earning a master's in sports medicine might help a student land an advanced position with increased pay, responsibility, and prestige. While job experience and certifications can help you earn a promotion, earning an advanced degree demonstrates an exceptional commitment to and passion for the field. For example, an athletic trainer can become an athletic director or administrator with the help of a graduate degree.

Online Learning Technology

Online master's programs often afford sports medicine students benefits such as increased flexibility and lower overall costs. Online programs also give students the opportunity to master some of the latest communication technologies and software. Students can become proficient in video chatting and presentation tools, which they can subsequently apply to their careers. For example, sports medicine graduates may need to consult with clients or patients remotely.

Prerequisites for Online Sports Medicine Programs

The list below describes some common admission requirements for sports medicine programs. Each university sets its own requirements, so be sure to carefully research your prospective school's expectations.

  • Work Experience: Though related work experience may help applicants impress admissions officers, many sports medicine online degree programs only require a bachelor's degree for admission. However, be sure to check admission requirements at your prospective schools — some especially selective programs may only admit students with relevant professional experience.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Some schools require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Many programs require GRE scores and may post minimum score expectations. Master's programs commonly waive GRE requirements for students with exceptional grades or significant work experience.
  • Coursework: Online master's in sports medicine programs may admit students with a variety of academic backgrounds. However, while some programs accept students with any bachelor's degree, some require a related undergraduate degree in a field like athletic training or exercise science. Additionally, programs often require students to hold a minimum 2.5 GPA (or higher) for admission.
  • Recommendations: Applicants may need to submit two or three recommendation letters. These should be written by people who can affirm an applicant's work ethic, academic ability, leadership qualities, and personality. Applicants should consider requesting letters from former professors and/or supervisors.
  • Essays: To judge a student's writing ability, personality, and interest level, sports medicine programs often require applicants to submit essays or personal statements. Individuals can expect to write about their life experiences, passion for sports medicine, and career aspirations. Applicants may also need to describe their academic goals or reasons for applying to a particular program.
  • Interviews: Master's programs sometimes require applicants to sit for an interview with a faculty member or admissions officer. Interviews give applicants the opportunity to show off their passion, personality, and communication skills. Applicants who live far away from campus may need to interview on the phone or via video chat.
  • International Students International students typically need to satisfy a few additional requirements that do not apply to U.S. applicants. Generally, they must provide proof of financial resources and documentation describing their immigration status. International students from non-English speaking countries must also earn a satisfactory score on the TOEFL.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine?

Most sports medicine professionals earn considerably more than the national median income of $37,690. Depending on their experience level and role, athletic trainers take home $30,000-$70,000 per year, while occupational therapists earn $54,000-$120,000. While on-the-job experience can lead to promotions, higher education can develop broader skills and open the door to new career opportunities. In addition, sports medicine graduates can apply their skills to a variety of nontraditional job options, possibly leading to higher pay down the line.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Sports Medicine Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Exercise Physiologists

Median Pay: $49,090

Job Growth: 13%

Exercise physiologists work to improve the health of patients with chronic diseases. Working with physicians, they develop exercise regimens to enhance cardiovascular ability and flexibility. Exercise physiology attracts caring individuals looking to rehabilitate patients with serious medical conditions.


Median Pay: $68,640

Job Growth: 12%

Chiropractors care for patients' overall health and well-being, especially related to the neuromusculoskeletal system. They perform spinal adjustments and manipulations to treat conditions of the tendons, muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones. They also diagnose conditions through tests and X-rays.

Occupational Therapists

Median Pay: $83,200

Job Growth: 24%

These professionals rehabilitate patients and help them successfully perform daily activities. They assess a patient's condition and design a treatment plan that helps the patient practice basic tasks. They may also analyze the patient's workplace or home, suggesting improvements that can make important activities easier.

Physical Therapists

Median Pay: $86,850

Job Growth: 28%

Physical therapists help injured or ill individuals regain their strength and improve their mobility. They diagnose a patient's problem areas and develop a regimen that typically involves stretching and exercises. They may also massage problem areas and recommend hot or cold compresses.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nontraditional Careers for Sports Medicine Graduates

The table below outlines four less traditional jobs for graduates of sports medicine master's programs. These roles require many of the same skills as traditional sports medicine occupations.

Career Stats Description

Medical and Health Services Managers

Median Pay: $98,350

Job Growth: 20%

These professionals — sometimes called healthcare administrators — oversee a healthcare facility's operations. They supervise physicians and other employees, set goals, and manage budgets. Medical and health services managers need good leadership, organization, and administrative skills. Sports medicine programs sometimes incorporate coursework on management and administration.

Skills Overlapped: patient care; management, organization

Respiratory Therapists

Median Pay: $59,710

Job Growth: 23%

Respiratory therapists treat patients with diseases like asthma or emphysema. They also care for patients with acute conditions resulting from heart attacks or drowning. Respiratory therapists diagnose issues by testing lung capacity and through other assessments. They may also take blood to test for oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Skills Overlapped: patient evaluation; treatment

Registered Nurses

Median Pay: $70,000

Job Growth: 15%

Registered nurses primarily work in physicians' offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and urgent care facilities. They provide care alongside physicians, home health aides, and other nurses. These professionals evaluate patients, assess their conditions, and administer medicine. They may specialize in a specific area, such as public health, addiction, or intensive care.

Skills Overlapped: patient evaluation; diagnosis; treatment

Athletic Trainers

Median Pay: $46,630

Job Growth: 23%

Athletic trainers can find work in schools, hospitals, and fitness centers. They may also work alongside physical or occupational therapists. Athletic trainers prevent, assess, and treat sports-related injuries. They work with amateur and professional athletes, providing emergency care and long-term rehabilitation. These professionals work under the supervision of licensed physicians.

Skills Overlapped: athlete care; rehabilitation

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master’s in Sports Medicine

Many factors affect the cost of schooling for sports medicine students. Each school uses different tuition structures, and some universities charge different rates for different degrees. In addition, some colleges give online students tuition discounts, while others charge distance learners additional fees. Sports medicine students can sometimes save on per-semester tuition costs by pursuing an accelerated path of study. To help pay for school, students can take advantage of field-specific funding opportunities.

Scholarships for Online Sports Medicine Master's Students

College students can apply for a multitude of scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Private companies, nonprofit organizations, professional associations, and government agencies regularly offer funding to college students. Sports medicine students at the undergraduate and graduate levels should look out for financial aid opportunities to reduce their out-of-pocket tuition costs.

What to Expect from a Master’s-Level Online Sports Medicine Program

Sports medicine students typically spend around two years completing master's coursework, which comprises 30-45 credits. Learners complete a set of required classes along with some electives. Toward the end of their studies, master's students work on a lengthy research project or thesis. Some programs also incorporate an internship component into the requirements.

Major Milestones

  1. Start Internship or Practicum

    Two semesters prior to graduation

    Some programs require students to complete practical work experience as they near graduation. During these experiences, students can apply their sports medicine knowledge to practical scenarios.

  2. Begin Thesis

    Two semesters prior to graduation

    Students begin preparation for their thesis research. At this stage, students consult with a faculty adviser to identify an original topic and plan their research.

  3. Application to Doctoral Programs

    6-12 months before graduation

    Sports medicine graduates may decide to pursue a doctorate in order to work as physical therapists, chiropractors, and other highly trained professionals.

  4. Application to Jobs

    6-12 months before graduation

    Students who do not plan to continue their education should begin looking for jobs during their last year of study. Individuals should set aside time to put together applications and travel for job interviews.

  5. Licensure/Certification Exam Preparation

    Three months prior to graduation

    Toward the end of their studies, many students begin studying for certification exams related to their target careers.

  6. Thesis Defense

    One month prior to graduation

    Close to graduation, students who completed a thesis must defend their findings in front of a panel. They field questions from faculty members and explain their research methods.


Below, you can read about some courses commonly found in online sports medicine graduate programs. While each program boasts its own specific curriculum, most programs cover similar foundational concepts and skills.

Sports Nutrition

This course covers how dietary choices affect athletic performance. Students learn the basics of nutritional assessment and metabolism. They also study dietary supplements and their uses in treating injuries and improving performance.

Performance Enhancement

In this class, learners explore techniques for improving athletes' agility, speed, strength, flexibility, and endurance. They also learn to assess an individual's athletic ability and design a fitness regimen.

Sports Coaching Methodology

Learners study the basic theories of coaching. They cover coaching ethics, coaching philosophy, and successful coaching styles. Students may also study current trends and issues related to coaching.

Sport Psychology

This course explores the relationship between human psychology and athletic performance. Students develop effective coaching, motivation, and behavioral modification approaches. They also study the latest research in mental health counseling and sport psychology.

Emergency Management

In this course, students learn to deal with emergency situations at practices and sporting events. Coursework introduces methods and protocols for handling serious injuries resulting in concussion, loss of breathing, and spinal cord damage.

Degree Timelines

The length of a sports medicine degree depends heavily on its format and the number of credits you take each semester. The table below describes the various study timelines available to sports medicine students.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


2-4 years

Part-time graduate students generally take one or two classes each term, totaling 3-6 credits. Part-timers often need to balance their schoolwork with a job or other responsibilities. While part-time learners enjoy increased flexibility, most schools prohibit students from taking longer than six or seven years to earn a master's degree.


2 years

Each program defines full-time status differently, but graduate students usually need to complete 6-12 credits each semester. They take 2-4 courses per term and finish in roughly two years. Full-time study often appeals to students without major commitments outside of school, such as a job or children.


12-18 months

Accelerated programs attract students looking to finish their degrees as quickly as possible. These students take up to 15 credits each semester and dedicate a great deal of time to their studies. Students interested in graduating quickly often take courses during the winter and summer terms.

Licenses and Certifications

The list below describes a few common credentials that online sports medicine degree holders pursue. Industry certifications can help sports medicine professionals impress employers and land exciting job opportunities. Some certifications may be mandatory for professionals pursuing particular occupations. For instance, most states require athletic trainers to apply for licensure or certification. Optional certifications, on the other hand, simply boost a graduate's credentials and demonstrate expertise in the field.

  • Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist: ACSM offers this credential to exercise physiologists who hold significant experience in a clinical setting. Individuals must earn a master's degree and log at least 600 hours of clinical experience to qualify. Candidates must also pass a 125-question exam that costs $349.
  • Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics awards this credential to registered dietitians who hold graduate degrees in sports nutrition, exercise physiology, kinesiology, and related areas. Candidates must pass an exam and demonstrate at least 2,000 hours of professional experience.
  • Certified Athletic Trainer: To earn this certification from the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), applicants must graduate from an accredited graduate or undergraduate athletic training program. They must also pass a test that covers subjects like healthcare administration, emergency care, and injury prevention.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations can offer great value to sports medicine students, recent graduates, and experienced professionals. Professional associations advocate for workers and offer resources for career development, networking, and continuing education. For instance, the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) hosts weekly conferences that cover topics like biomechanics, surgical treatment, and rehabilitation. Additionally, ACSM organizes an annual Health and Fitness Summit where sports medicine professionals can meet each other and learn about innovations in the field.

  • National Athletic Trainers' Association: Established in 1950, NATA serves over 45,000 members. The organization offers certification, career resources, professional development workshops, and industry publications. NATA also hosts an annual convention.
  • American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM joins professionals from over 70 exercise science and sports medicine professions. Members gain access to publications and continuing education discounts.
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine: NASM serves personal trainers by offering certifications and continuing education opportunities. The organization provides training in several specialized areas, including nutrition, weight loss, performance enhancement, and corrective exercise.
  • American Medical Society for Sports Medicine: Founded in 1991, this organization supports primary care sports medicine physicians. Members receive discounts on an annual meeting and classes. They can also access the society's journals and newsletter.
  • American Sports Medicine Institute: ASMI operates as a nonprofit research and education foundation, working to enhance the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. The organization offers advanced training to physicians and other sports medicine specialists.
  • Journal of Athletic Training: This publication can help master's students conduct research to prepare their thesis or other projects. NATA publishes this journal for the benefit of members, students, and educators.
  • International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching: Through this academic publication, sports medicine students can learn about sports science theory and practice. The journal also publishes research on performance enhancement and coaching effectiveness.
  • International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training: This journal publishes peer-reviewed articles for athletic therapists and trainers. Students can learn about the latest clinical research related to injury and illness. Additionally, readers can explore innovative treatments and approaches.
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association - Sports Medicine Handbook: The NCAA — the nonprofit organization that oversees college sports — publishes this handbook, which provides guidelines on health and safety for college athletes.
  • ACSM's Resource Library: This page hosts an extensive collection of resources on sports medicine, exercise science, nutrition, physiology, and related topics.