Natalie Hensley, a first-year physical therapy doctoral student from Ringgold, Ga., practices palpation on Blake Jones, a first-year physical therapy doctoral student from Chatsworth, Ga., during a basic skills lab. The new exercise science degree at Brenau University would allow graduates to apply for doctoral-level programs like Brenau’s physical therapy program. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Natalie Hensley, a first-year physical therapy doctoral student from Ringgold, Ga., practices palpation on Blake Jones, a first-year physical therapy doctoral student from Chatsworth, Ga., during a basic skills lab. The new exercise science degree at Brenau University would allow graduates to apply for doctoral-level programs like Brenau’s physical therapy program. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

New Exercise Science Degree at Brenau Offers Students Door to Health Care Industry

Jul. 5, 2017
Kristen Oliver

Brenau University will begin classes in August for a new coeducational exercise science degree program, offering students a new ideal entryway to the health care industry.

Following approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the university is currently admitting students for the Gainesville campus-based program. The first 30-student cohort will begin work in the fall term, which commences on Aug. 28.

Brenau views the program as both a stand-alone initiative to prepare graduates for work as athletic trainers, coaches and others in the field. However, said Gale Starich, dean of the university’s College of Health Sciences, “it is also an outstanding feeder program” for the university’s graduate programs in physical therapy and occupational therapy.

“A degree in exercise science opens the door to a range of career opportunities, from aerobic or group exercise instructor, to personal trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist, exercise physiologist or an employee fitness director,” said Dr. Timothy Tolbert, director of the exercise science program. “Graduates with a bachelor’s in exercise science will be prepared to continue their education beyond the undergraduate level. Students are prepared to pursue graduate degrees in programs such as athletic training, biomechanics, dietetics, medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy and occupational therapy.”

Tolbert, who was previously an associate professor of exercise science at Georgia Gwinnett College, said Brenau’s exercise science program will incorporate courses that specifically prepare students who are interested in continuing their education as well as courses that prepare students for certification exams in a variety of areas.

Tolbert said it is his goal as director of the program to prepare students for a career in exercise science and any health profession through a rigorous curriculum that includes traditional classroom lecture and hands-on learning opportunities.

“Several of the courses will include a lab component where students will be exposed to and learn to operate the various equipment used in exercise science,” he said. “Additionally, each student will be expected to complete an internship during their senior year. This internship experience will provide the students with real-world experiences outside of the classroom.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in exercise physiology are expected to grow by 11 percent by 2024, while occupational therapy positions are predicted to increase by 27 percent by the same year. The need for physical therapists during that time frame is expected to rise by a remarkable 34 percent.

These can be lucrative careers, according to the bureau. The annual mean wage for athletic trainers is $48,000, while the mean wage for physical therapists is more than $87,000, and more than $83,000 for occupational therapists.

In addition to the program’s required classes, students will complete six credit hours of internships and nine credit hours of exercise science electives to specialize their interests in their fourth year.

The degree program is really in two parts, said Dean Starich. “It includes two years as a pre-exercise science student, followed by an application and admissions process,” Starich said. “Then students complete two years in the exercise science major in order to earn a Bachelor of Science in exercise science.”

Brenau’s new major will benefit both current and future students. Ellie Johnson, Brenau sophomore from Cumming, Georgia, and defender on the Golden Tigers soccer team, said the new degree gives students more options in the fields of health science and medicine.

“I am interested in exercise science because I am very interested in how the body works,” Johnson said. “I think it is cool how everything is attached. I would like to go into orthopedics eventually, but I’ve also thought about sports medicine. It is awesome that they are adding this because exercise science can lead you into either one of those and many others.”

The major provides all the prerequisites for Brenau’s master’s degree in occupational therapy and doctorate in physical therapy programs, both high-quality and competitive programs. An undergraduate degree in exercise science would provide an excellent foundation to enter either field of advanced study.

General inquiries: info@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6299 or +1-800-252-5119 | Admissions: admissions@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6100 or +1-800-252-5119 ext. 6100