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Helping People Lead Healthy Lives

UNC has a national reputation for excellence in Sport and Exercise Science education, offering superior preparation for careers related to health, physical fitness, rehabilitation and K-12 physical education. With a broad foundation of knowledge, you'll be equipped to work with individuals across the health and age spectrum. UNC’s sport and exercise faculty possess an exceptionally wide range of clinical experience and expertise, enabling you to specialize in a niche that supports your academic and career goals. 

At UNC, you’ll attend small classes that ensure plenty of interaction and strong relationships with faculty. You’ll also gain hundreds of hours of practical, hands-on training, developing skills and experience that strengthen your resume for jobs and graduate school placements. We have a long tradition of alumni excellence and achievement. Become part of it, and get your career off to a healthy start.

Degree Options

B.S. in Sport and Exercise Science, Exercise Science Concentration

Choose this option if you’re interested in a career in medicine, physical or occupational therapy, athletic leadership and related fields. You’ll focus on the scientific study of human movement, with coursework in biomechanics, kinesiology, exercise physiology, human anatomy and chemistry. Electives enable you to gain specialized knowledge in subjects such as cardiac rehabilitation, exercise therapy for cancer patients and strength and conditioning.

Related Programs


Your Future in Sport and Exercise Science

UNC Sport and Exercise Science alumni have an outstanding record of success in the job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects above-average job growth between now and 2024 for exercise science professionals in all career categories. You’ll find an appealing variety of opportunities to work with diverse populations in schools, health care facilities, corporate fitness centers, rehab clinics, recreation departments and many other employment settings.

Consider UNC’s B.S in Sport and Exercise Science if you want to:

  • Work as physical education teacher
  • Start a career in physical or occupational therapy, fitness training or a related field
  • Promote healthy lifestyles
  • Get a versatile degree that offers a wide range of career options

You’ll learn:

  • The science of movement, strength and physical conditioning
  • How to teach, communicate and motivate
  • Therapeutic applications for exercise
  • Anatomy and physiology

Sample courses:

  • Biomechanics
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Anatomical Kinesiology
  • Social Influences on Sport and Exercise Behavior
Justin Layden

Student Spotlight

Justin Layden
Sport and Exercise Science Major

At UNC, a student finds a perfect fit between his love for exercise and his goals for helping others. Justin Layden was starting his senior year at UNC as a Sport and Exercise Science major when he took an elective class—Exercise Programming for Cancer Patients. His professor, Dr. Robert Brustad, knew that Justin liked helping people with exercise and told him it was a class he might enjoy. 

Justin’s hands-on experience at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute ended up inspiring him to shape his career path to focus on cancer rehab. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2012, and has started working on his Master’s in Exercise physiology.

Beyond the Classroom

At UNC you’ll have the opportunity to gain experience at the UNC Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, a pioneering leader in the application of exercise science to promote recovery in cancer patients. You’ll also have the chance to work with elite athletes in our NCAA Division I sports program. Additional internship opportunities are available in a wide range of professional workplaces, including fitness centers, schools, hospitals, clinics, medical offices, assisted living facilities and PT/OT firms. The Phys Ed concentration includes a one-semester student-teaching assignment. No matter which emphasis area you choose, you’ll get real-world experience in sports and exercise science.

Where can your degree take you?

  • K-12 physical education teacher
  • Physical or occupational therapist
  • Corporate fitness director
  • Cardiac or cancer rehabilitation specialist
  • Gerontological fitness trainer

Current Research in Physical Education

Relationship Between Physical Activity and Learning Conference

With a growing body of literature that connects physical activity to learning outcomes, K-12 schools are incorporating more movement programs into their daily schedules. Nearby elementary schools Mead and Red Hawk have both introduced new programs designed to increase the physical activity of students throughout the day.

These schools were recently the emphasis of a Speaker Series hosted by the University of Northern Colorado addressing how schools can support the development of healthy generations of students. The conference featured discussions of research and practices from local and national experts, including the executive director of Let's Move! Active Schools, which is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign. 

Dr. Russell Carson, an Associate Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at UNC, specializes in this field of research and says that physical inactivity has become a pandemic. He cites adolescent obesity rates in the United States quadrupling since 1980, with fewer than 10 percent of adolescents meeting the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity each day. "Sedentarism is now a word," Carson said. "Inactivity is tied to more deaths in the U.S. than smoking." 

With leaders like Carson and others in the College of Natural and Health Sciences, UNC will continue to pursue research and other initiatives to address this important challenge, including a new online Master of Arts in teaching degree that is one of the first in the nation to prepare educators to assume the role of physical activity leaders within schools.

 Children on playground equipment

Found in Translation

Groundbreaking UNC research melds scientific lab work with real-world clinic to reveal benefits of exercise for cancer patients. 

Sitting in a small, instrument-packed lab in Ross Hall is a squat, benign-looking gray tank that contains liquid nitrogen. It also contains a spectrum of cancer cells from various lines. But this is one instance where cancer cells are helping make cancer patients’ lives better.

Read More

UNC Cancer Rehabilitation Institute Director Reid Hayward

UNC Cancer Rehabilitation Institute Director Reid Hayward, Ph.D.

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