Departments of kinesiology should be judged first and foremost on the quality of the programs they offer. Most departments require students to take a cluster of departmental courses known as "the core." This core requirement is important because it forms the groundwork for more specialized knowledge taught in various concentrations (e.g., teacher education, athletic training, etc.). The very best programs provide a solid grounding in the broad field of kinesiology, including exercise physiology; biomechanics; motor development, control and learning; sport psychology; and sociocultural analysis of sport and physical activity. See the American Kinesiology Association’s (AKA) recommendations listed in figure 1.4. The specifics of this core varies substantially from department to department; sometimes, for example, courses and subject areas are combined into single courses.
High-quality programs require internship experiences of varying durations; offer opportunities for students to get involved in research under the direction of faculty mentors; present opportunities to gain leadership experience in campus organizations; and facilitate students’ efforts to volunteer in campus or community service projects. For many exercise science classes, you also want to ensure that laboratory experiences are part of the instructional program. Here are some hints for selecting a department that will meet your personal and professional needs:
- Select a college or university that suits your general tastes. Are you afraid of getting lost in the shuffle of a large state university? If so, there are scores of smaller liberal arts institutions that offer programs in kinesiology. Although these schools do not have high-profile intercollegiate sport programs, which many students find attractive, they usually offer small classes and opportunities to establish close relationships with faculty. If, on the other hand, you think you would be happiest in a larger school, limit your search to those institutions.
- Examine the academic catalog. Is ample coursework offered in the kinesiology department to support your study? Does the program offer a concentration or a full-fledged degree program in kinesiology?
- Review the departmental website. Does the department seem alive? Are exciting things going on?
- Examine the faculty directory of the department on the website. Review their credentials, if listed on the site. Do faculty members share your interests? Are they fully engaged in their profession? Are they active in academic or professional societies? Are they sponsoring interesting projects? Are they publishing in academic and professional journals?
- Plan to visit the department. Set up an appointment with the department head or with faculty members working in areas that interest you. Send them an e-mail to introduce yourself before you meet with them.
- Talk to students during your visit. Current students offer a unique perspective on the department that others cannot. Use caution, though—do not accept opinions blindly; if students have had bad experiences with a single professor this might have tainted their feelings about the entire department. Talk to as many students as possible to get a complete picture.
Learn more about Careers in Sport, Fitness, and Exercise, edited by American Kinesiology Association.