Dereck Haas - Exercise Physiologist
How to Become an Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Exercise physiologists study the proponents of physical movement and provide treatment to patients of many types. Professionals in this field offer assessments to patients with a broad range of conditions, illnesses, and rehabilitation needs. To become a professional in this rewarding field, you must earn a degree in exercise physiology (BS, MS, or PhD), and become board certified by passing the Exercise Physiologist Certification exam (or ECP). University programs that are American Society of Exercise Physiology (ASEP) accredited will best prepare students for the ECP exam. However, graduates of any exercise physiology program are eligible for the exam, provided they meet certain education requirements.
Completing an Undergraduate Program
Decide on an undergraduate program.Begin by spending some time imagining the type of job you hope to gain. (Will you work in a hospital or a fitness centre? Would you like to work with athletes or individuals with injuries? Is there anything you'd like to specialize in?) Once you have a clear image, you can look for an undergraduate program that will suit your needs. Read over the websites and credentials of different programs to determine what they focus on. When you have selected the right program, complete an application.
- A strong program will have a good job placement rate for graduates.
- Look for a program that offers hands-on course work.
- Look for a program that will provide work experience, such as an internship in a fitness centre or the opportunity to work in a rehab facility.
- Any good program will have ASEP accreditation.
Verify that your program is ASEP accredited.ASEP stands for the American Society of Exercise Physiologists. Any strong undergraduate (or graduate) programs in exercise physiology will be accredited by ASEP. Such accreditation attached to your degree will make it much easier for you to find work after you finish school.
Determine where you’d like to work.Exercise physiologists can be employed in hospitals, fitness centres, physical therapy clinics, cardiac rehabilitation facilities, and other places. Where you hope to work will determine what level of education you need, as well as which programs will be a good fit for you.
Determine what level of education you will seek.In general, a master's degree in exercise physiology is required for most professions. However, you may only require an undergraduate degree (a BS in physical education, exercise science, or health science) to work for a community organization or at the community level. If you hope to be a researcher or work at a university, you will need a PhD
- Determining what level of education you ultimately hope to seek will enable you to choose the right program.
- Some programs will be designed to lead into graduate programs, while others will be designed for you to head into the workforce.
Complete your undergraduate program.Once you have been accepted to a program, you will need to spend roughly four years completing it. As an exercise physiology student, you will learn about science and exercise, covering topics like athletic training, exercise science, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, and others. You will also do some clinical training, giving you hands-on knowledge and experience.
Earning a Graduate Degree
Decide if you would like to further your education.By the time you are in your fourth year of your undergraduate degree, you should be able to determine whether this is truly the right field for you. If you plan to move directly into a graduate program, you will want to start researching programs near the beginning of your final undergraduate year. Applications will usually be due near the beginning of the Spring semester (around January through March) of your final undergraduate year.
- Some programs may require you to take the GRE before applying. (This is similar to the SAT or ACT, but for graduate school.)
Consider an MS.An MS (or Master of Science) degree in Exercise Physiology can open you to more career opportunities. Some programs offer what’s known as a “fifth year Master’s,” meaning that after you complete your undergraduate degree (BS), you simply stay on for one more year to earn your MS. If your undergraduate university does not offer such an option, begin looking for ASEP accredited MS programs that suit your needs.
- When you find the right program, apply right away,
- Once you are accepted, spend 1-3 years completing your degree.
- Depending on your program, you may need to write a research report or thesis to finish.
Consider a PhD.A PhD in exercise physiology (kinesiology) will be a research-heavy program. Like an MS program, you will continue to study the science of exercise and nutrition. However, as a PhD student, you will be expected to conduct research and contribute new knowledge to the field. In order to complete your degree, you will need to research and write a doctoral dissertation. If you know you would like to complete a Ph.D., look for an MS program that will prepare you for a Ph.D., or better yet, an MS program that leads directly into a PhD program.
- Begin applying to PhD programs during your final year of your MS.
- Once you are accepted, spent 3-5 years (or more) pursuing your PhD.
- Make sure that any program you choose is ASEP certified.
Look for a program that offers assistantships.Many MS and PhD programs in exercise physiology will offer assistantships to students. This means that graduate students may complete teaching, research, or other types of work in exchange for a tuition waver. Beyond simply making graduate school more affordable for students, this hands-on professional training is excellent for students of exercise physiology at any level.
Becoming Board Certified
Ensure that you are qualified.In order to qualify for the Exercise Physiologist certification (EPC) exam, you must either have (a) an academic degree (BS or MS) with a major in exercise physiology, or (b) an academic degree with a major in exercise science, kinesiology, sport science, human performance, or a related degree, and grade of “C” or better in seven out of nine specific courses.
- The nine courses are exercise physiology, fitness assessment, exercise metabolism, kinesiology, research design, biomechanics, environmental physiology, nutrition, and exercise in special populations.
- You will want to take this exam as soon as possible after completing your highest degree.
- This exam is completed online. As such, it can be taken anytime throughout the year.
Become a member of ASEP.In order to take the EPC exam, you must have a current ASEP membership. Memberships cost 5 annually, and can be obtained through the ASEP website. Select the appropriate membership level (student, professional, fellow, international, or affiliate), fill out the form, and pay the fee.
Submit your transcripts.As it stands currently, graduates of both ASEP accredited and non-ASEP accredited programs may register and take the EPC exam. However, as stated above, you do need to meet certain academic requirements. Submit your transcripts through the ASEP website. It may take up to 48 hours for approval.
Register for the EPC exam and pay the fee.Once you are a current member of ASEP and your transcripts have been approved, you can register to take the exam. You will be required to pay a fee of 0, however, graduates of ASEP-accredited programs will be eligible to take the exam at a discounted fee of .
Prepare for the exam.Prepare for the exam by reviewing what you learned in school. If you graduated from an ASEP-accredited program, you will have been perfectly prepared for this test. If your program was not ASEP-accredited, you may need to do some topic-specific studying. According to the ASEP website, the exam covers the following 8 areas:
- Exercise physiology: 72 questions (36%)
- Cardiac rehabilitation: 37 questions (18.5%)
- Exercise metabolism and regulation: 23 questions (11.5%)
- Kinesiology: 21 questions (10.5%)
- Research: 13 questions (6.5%)
- Sports biomechanics: 12 questions (6%)
- Environmental exercise physiology: 12 questions (6%)
- Sports nutrition: 10 questions (5%)
Choose a good location.The EPC exam is an online test that you can take wherever you decide. The most important factor when selecting a location is a steady, trustworthy, high-speed internet connection. Next, you’ll want a place that is free from distraction, and where you stay for the four hours needed to complete the exam.
Take the exam.The test consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. You are allotted four hours in which to complete the exam. Each multiple choice item consists of a “stem” (which includes factual data or describes a situation) and four answer choices. You will select the best answer for each one.
- You should have a pencil, some scratch paper, and a calculator handy for the exam.
- Results will post immediately upon completion. They will also be sent to the email address on file in the member profile.
- Once you have passed, you are officially a board-certified exercise physiologist.
Finding work.As a board-certified exercise physiologist, you will have no trouble finding work. As a matter of fact, this is a rapidly growing field. Through your membership with ASEP and your board certification, you can search for job openings by logging into the ASEP member area. By virtue of your certification, you are not only eligible, but quite desirable for almost any position in this field.
- When learning how to become an accredited exercise physiologist, think about what you would like to do for your future career. Exercise physiologists have many career options, including health club instructors, sports consultants, fitness instructions, strength coaches and fitness experts in spas and resorts.
- Remember that you must be board certified by ASEP to be an accredited exercise physiologist. There are many other programs available in which you might qualify to be a trainer, but you must have specific training and testing to be an exercise physiologist.
- If you are planning to become an accredited exercise physiologist, be prepared to take courses for continuing your education throughout your career to meet ASEP qualifications.
- Be prepared to take many courses in science, biology and anatomy to become an accredited exercise physiologist. Other coursework will include math, health and chemistry.
- Do not choose the field of exercise physiology until you are positive this is what you want to do for your career. Try job shadowing an exercise physiologist to see what to expect in an actual work environment.
- Do not choose a school to attend until you know exactly what programs and degrees they offer in exercise physiology.
- Do not expect becoming an accredited exercise physiologist to be easy. The coursework is challenging, but rewarding.
Video: Christine Smith - Clinical Exercise Physiologist
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