The Critical Role of Black Professionals in Kinesiology, Sports, and Fitness

The field of kinesiology (sometimes called exercise science) sits at the intersection of science, health professions, and sports/fitness. It’s an ideal major for anyone who is interested not only in human biology, but also the practical applications of understanding how our bodies function and move. 

At its most basic, kinesiology is the study of human movement. But it’s also much more than that: kinesiology includes the study of how physical activity affects our health and lives, how to optimize physical performance, how to prevent and treat common movement-related injuries, and all of the factors that influence those things. 

Why We Need More Black Kinesiology Majors

Simply put, a greater representation of Black individuals in kinesiology-related majors and professions has strong potential for addressing the specific needs of athletes of color and non-athletes who face barriers to fitness goals. Having more Black kinesiology professionals in a variety of fields can open up paths to better performance in sports and fitness alike, improving the overall success of anyone in need of physical training.

Barriers to Exercise in African American Communities

For many people in African American communities — particularly those in low-income households and neighborhoods — getting the exercise necessary for managing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is hindered by significant roadblocks. These may include any of the following:

  • Limited or no access to safe exercise environments (such as parks, sidewalks, and nature trails)
  • Limited or no access to affordable gyms or culturally relevant fitness programs
  • Inadequate grade school fitness and wellness programming for children
  • Feeling uncomfortable exercising in public spaces due to racism, fatphobia, and other factors
  • Busy work schedules and associated fatigue
  • Health concerns that may limit mobility or endurance
  • Caregiving responsibilities 

These challenges are compounded by social and structural inequalities that disproportionately affect Black communities, leading to higher rates of chronic diseases (including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers) that could be prevented or mitigated with regular physical activity​​. 

The presence of more Black fitness role models and trainers can serve as a powerful counterforce to these barriers, making fitness more accessible and appealing. Further, major fitness influencers and celebrities can encourage everyone — but particularly Black women — to celebrate their bodies and identities and engage in more self-love and self-care. These figures can not only normalize fitness and inspire individuals to reach their goals, but facilitate greater and more equitable inclusion of people of color in fitness communities.

The Need for Culturally Competent Athletic Trainers

In the realm of sports and athletics, where African Americans have had a profound impact, the importance of Black athletic trainers and mentors cannot be overstated​​. Given the significant representation of Black athletes in college and professional sports, having mentors who understand the cultural nuances and the unique pressures faced by these athletes can enhance performance, mental health, career longevity, and more. 

Opportunities for Financial Mobility and Prosperity

Furthermore, the field of kinesiology offers lucrative career opportunities that can pave the way for socioeconomic mobility and prosperity among African American graduates​​. Obtaining high-paying, high-quality jobs offers Black professionals greater economic power, quality of life, resilience, and positive influence in their communities. Some of the highest-paying kinesiology roles include

  • Sports medicine physicians
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Fitness club managers
  • Sports consultants
  • Chiropractors
  • Exercise physiologists
  • Fitness trainers
  • Physical education teachers
  • Athletic coaches

Whatever your interest, students who plan to pursue these careers will need to enroll in a kinesiology, exercise science, or sports science degree program. In general, kinesiology tends to be a hands-on discipline. As a kinesiology major, you’ll learn how to help people connect with the way their bodies move, from various types of therapy and physical rehabilitation to improving athletic performance. Your coursework will likely include classes in subjects such as:

  • Foundational sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics)
  • Physiology and anatomy
  • Exercise science
  • Biomechanics
  • Sports management
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology and/or neuroscience
  • Motor skills and learning

Careers in Kinesiology

A kinesiology degree will provide you with a versatile skill set that can be used in a wide variety of professions, including the healthcare field. Some potential career options include:

  • Personal trainer
  • Physical education teacher
  • Physical therapist
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Physician’s assistant
  • Chiropractor
  • Athletic program administrator or director
  • Sports psychologist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Nutritionist or dietitian
  • Ergonomics consultant
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Rehabilitation therapist
  • Health educator

*Note that some of these professions, especially those in the healthcare sector, may require additional education or advanced degrees. 

HBCUs Can Help You Start a Career in Kinesiology

Given the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college admissions, more Black students are likely to turn to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for their education. In response, these institutions will do everything they can to meet increased student demand. HBCUs help more students earn college degrees, compete successfully for well-paying jobs in competitive career fields, improve workforce diversity, and increase upward economic mobility.

People of all ages, races, and life paths can help to improve diversity in American kinesiology disciplines by supporting scholarships and other forms of funding for HBCUs with related programs. You can make a difference in the lives of kinesiology students in one easy step by making a donation today.

Want to learn more about kinesiology as a possible major or career path? Have questions about which UNCF colleges and universities offer this program? Looking for help with financing this degree? 

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How to Prepare for Success

Kinesiology is a scientific discipline that focuses on the human body. As such, making sure that you have a solid foundation in biology, chemistry, physics, and math is the biggest thing you can do to prepare yourself for your university coursework. 

However, as a kinesiology professional, it’s highly likely that you’ll spend a substantial amount of time interacting with other people, particularly if you choose to go into the healthcare field or practice some type of therapy. For that reason, it’s important that you know how to motivate your clients/patients, as well as communicate effectively with them. To that end, it may also be advisable to take courses in English, writing, and psychology, as available.


UNCF Schools to Consider

Multiple high-ranking UNCF-member schools offer degrees in kinesiology, including:  

Additional UNCF members offer education opportunities in related fields, including exercise sciences and sports:

Professional Organizations

If you’re thinking about majoring in kinesiology, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the programs, membership options, and resources offered by professional organizations. Exploring these will also give you a good idea of the scope and professional opportunities the field has to offer. 


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There’s no better way to start on your path toward a successful career in kinesiology than with a solid financial foundation. Fortunately, many scholarships are available through UNCF, including some specifically for kinesiology majors. Keep an eye on the UNCF website for current scholarship opportunities and announcements.

Search for specific scholarships and view those that are currently accepting applications here! Students should also check with each college or university to see if there are additional scholarships available to study kinesiology.

As you explore your options, be sure to use our guide to applying for scholarships and grants. You can also receive guidance by submitting a major interest form if you are interested in a career in kinesiology. Submit the form on our website to get started, and follow us on UNCF social media channels to receive notifications about our scholarships and member HBCUs. Reach out today!

You can also show your support for students pursuing careers and furthering equity in fitness industries by contributing to UNCF member schools. Education is the greatest tool we have in creating a just and equitable society where truth reigns and economic mobility is available to all. Help us achieve this future by donating today!