Is Kinesiology a STEM Major? (+Arguments & Case Studies)

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In a world where high-level skills and knowledge are sought in various industries, STEM qualifications become very relevant. 

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is characterized by disciplines that encompass scientific inquiry, problem-solving, and real-world application of these skills. 

Some of the well-known subjects that lie within STEM include chemistry, economics, and mechanical engineering. With this said, the classification of STEM comes with its challenges!

Kinesiology is defined as the study of human movement, well-being, and exercise, and is closely related to health science. 

With ties to health sciences and research applications that underpin many of the STEM characteristics, there has been room for debate on whether this discipline deserves to be considered a STEM major. 

Depending on the institution, we have seen that Kinesiology has gained this recognition and high-quality courses have been developed for students studying in this area.

Various other subjects such as finance have become recognized, which traditionally wouldn’t have had STEM classification. 

This raises the question of whether disciplines such as Kinesiology should also be considered even if they don’t have direct associations with STEM.

In this article, we will cover:

–   The arguments that support/not support Kinesiology as a STEM major

–   The various organizations and their classifications of Kinesiology as STEM or non-STEM major

–   The career prospects of STEM vs. non-STEM Kinesiology graduates.

Let’s get started!

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Is Kinesiology a STEM Major?

Kinesiology is not universally considered a STEM major. However, in some cases, it has been formally recognized as a STEM major among some educational institutions. 

Kinesiology does not necessarily fit the characteristics of traditional STEM disciplines, but over time it has become recognized within various programs across the United States due to its strong associations with science and research.

Arguments for Kinesiology as a STEM major

There are a number of arguments that support the idea of kinesiology as a STEM major. These are the most significant ones:

  • Kinesiology involves the study of sport, exercise, movement, and well-being. Encompassing multiple concepts within a single discipline demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of the major. This shows alignment with STEM and its focus on integrating multiple disciplines into education.
  • There may be no obvious link to STEM when looking at subtopics within kinesiology like biomechanics. However, if you delve deeper, you may start to notice that there are relevant connections. For instance, motor behavior looks at how humans control their movements and actions. This comes back to human science – a key element of STEM.
  • Another indirect association that kinesiology has with STEM is the psychology behind sport and exercise. This subtopic ultimately links back to neuroscience, a recognized subject within STEM.
  • Furthermore, grants from institutions such as the NIH (National Institution of Health) and Department of Education to Kinesiology faculty prove that there is support for this area of study. Funding encourages work in Kinesiology to contribute to STEM-related research
  • Support for kinesiology as a STEM major also comes from an unlikely source — the Masters of Finance program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, which recently gained a state-certified STEM designation. This happened due to a need for quantitative and technical skills in the finance industry

It was identified that the skills associated with this program were associated with many of the STEM principles, even though traditionally it does not align with STEM

What this tells us is that kinesiology, just like finance, could have the potential to also be considered as a STEM major if the knowledge and skills were sought.

Arguments against Kinesiology as a STEM major

With arguments that support Kinesiology’s place in STEM education, there are also blurry areas amongst the discipline that may suggest it is not suitable for the label.

  • According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), their mission is to support all fields of fundamental science and engineering apart from medical sciences. 

These fundamental sciences will include STEM subjects such as chemistry or biology. While Kinesiology will have elements of these core sciences in its research, it may not hold the same depth and scientific inquiry. 

  • With STEM’s huge emphasis on rigorous research, the study of kinesiology may not reach the standards that other STEM fields set in their research.  
  • When studying Kinesiology and looking at career paths, there is often a requirement for further education or postgraduate work to qualify for certain job positions. This suggests that Kinesiology alone might not offer as many job opportunities, which contradicts the nature of a STEM major that tends to have great career options after graduation.
  • The distinction of Kinesiology alone as a STEM major may also come with queries. For example, similar subjects such as exercise physiology and biomechanics clearly overlap with Kinesiology – making it hard to distinguish and put kinesiology in its own lane.
  • Another argument against Kinesiology’s place in STEM education is its reputation of being considered a soft science. Soft science is a field that interprets human behavior, but with measurable criteria that are difficult to establish. In contrast to this, the STEM criteria tend to lean towards the hard sciences which follow the natural world through hypotheses, theories, and experiments.

Universities and Organizations’ Classification of Kinesiology as a STEM Major

While there’s still some ongoing debate about kinesiology’s place among the STEM fields, some universities and organizations have made a stand about the issue. Let’s take a look at how some of them view kinesiology!

Florida University

After approval from the State of Florida, kinesiology was designated as a STEM major. 

This came after an increased number of courses became ‘STEM-based’ in the graduation requirements to align with the updated Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) criteria. 

The university acknowledged Kinesiology’s interdisciplinary nature and scientific foundations that aligned with STEM education

In their Master of Applied Physiology program, there is a focus on the scientific and technical aspects of the subject to prepare students for the various careers the degree has to offer.

Butler University

Butler University’s reasoning behind classifying Kinesiology as a STEM major comes from acknowledging the associations with health sciences that the field has

It was stated that students in this discipline engage in scientific inquiry that investigates movement, exercise, and physical well-being.


The University of California does not consider Kinesiology as a STEM major and does not offer it as a major at all

They do offer a physical therapy program whereby a Kinesiology major provides the most direct route to the program. 

Even then, physical therapy is not distinctly recognized as a STEM program according to the STEM disciplines the university provides. 

The lack of engagement and support behind kinesiology at the university indicates the academic priorities of faculty and administration parties. Priorities clearly do not fall within this subject as it does with the traditional STEM subjects, such as Biology and Chemistry.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF does not generally consider Kinesiology a STEM discipline, because it does not align with National Institute of Health (NIH) priorities. 

For instance, the NIH-wide Strategic Plan Framework includes emphasis on research areas such as disease prevention or treatments and cures. 

This does not coincide directly with kinesiology’s focus. This consensus may be a major factor that influences other institutions to not include the discipline as a STEM major.

What Are The Career Prospects For A Kinesiology Major Classified As STEM Versus A Non-STEM Major? 

Evidence suggests that STEM majors come with several benefits in regard to career outcomes. Benefits include greater earning potential, job opportunities, industry demand, and transfer of skills.

A STEM major graduate enjoys higher wages than their non-STEM counterparts. In fact, it has to be shown to be 26% more on average! 

Additionally, this greater earning potential is independent of whether the job role has anything to do with STEM or not. 

So, why is that? STEM workers play a key role in the growth and stability of the U.S. economy and thus are highly sought after in various industries.

With the skills developed in STEM disciplines, students are actually better equipped to transfer their skills to other areas of research, analysis, and critical thinking. 

This is essentially what makes STEM graduates more valuable, and what makes career options for these students more broad.

In general, having a classified STEM major may create better outcomes for career paths – but what is the prospect for Kinesiology as a STEM or non-STEM major?

STEM Major

Take the example of the Applied Physiology and Kinesiology program at the University of Florida, which is classified as a STEM discipline. 

This course gives students the opportunity to complete a thesis and a research project. It is stated in the description of the course that through research, relationships with departments such as the College of Medicine, the College of health-related professions, the College of Engineering, and many more have been established. 

This demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of the field, which is a key characteristic of the STEM criteria. The outcome of this is students who can transition into further academia such as medical schools or the health industry.

Non-STEM Major

Knowledge and skills in Kinesiology, no matter where it is gained from, will be valuable to students if they wish to pursue a career in this area. 

However, in institutions where Kinesiology is not considered a STEM major, opportunities may be more limited. 

For instance, in universities where the courses are not set up with Master’s or Ph.D. programs, students may have to undergo additional training or specialization to gain greater job opportunities. 

The demand for Kinesiology majors that aren’t identified as STEM will be less sought for due to the lack of critical thinking and extensive research that a STEM major is perceived to have.


There are many conflicting arguments for and against Kinesiology being classified as a STEM major. 

One side of the story suggests that Kinesiology lacks the depth and critical thinking that other STEM majors hold. 

In contrast to this, it is believed that the scientific principles that the field holds are closely tied to other STEM fields – making it a worthy candidate for a STEM classification. 

While the opinions on this vary from institution to institution, I think it is fair to say that Kinesiology should and could eventually be considered a STEM major by the majority.

With the growth in demand for STEM occupations and the inclusion of more fields such as finance, it is fair to say it only seems right for Kinesiology to be included in the near future. 

This will give the discipline a better chance of recognition in the health science industry, and subsequently greater research (and job) opportunities.


Is Kinesiology a STEM major in the USA?

Yes. However, this is dependent on the institution. For instance, universities may classify Kinesiology as STEM because it is linked with health science and health science is a STEM major. 

Being classified as STEM may also be dependent on whether it is through a Bachelor of Arts or Science degree.

What are the career options for someone with a Kinesiology degree?

Career options can vary in regard to the type of degree accomplished by the individual. Some of the career paths include:
–   Personal Trainer (Associate degree)
–   Exercise Physiologist (Bachelor’s degree)
–   Occupational Therapist (Master’s degree)
–   Physical Therapist (Doctoral degree).

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