Welcome to the Only CAAHEP Accredited Exercise Science Program in the State!
Exercise Science is the study of human movement performed to maintain or improve physical fitness. Exercise Science graduates are well trained to assess, design and implement individual and group exercise and fitness programs for individuals who are healthy and those with controlled disease. They are skilled in evaluating health behaviors and risk factors, conducting fitness assessments, writing appropriate exercise prescriptions and motivating individuals to modify negative health habits and maintain competence as a leader of health and fitness programs in the university, corporate, commercial or community settings in which their clients participate in health promotion and fitness-related activities. Exercise Science students will be prepared to become a certified American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP) during their senior year in the program. Students will also be prepared to become a certified Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Exercise Science students have the opportunity to gain hands on experience by completing an on campus internship and an off-campus field experience. Students have worked selected sites both domestically and internationally in the fields of strength and conditioning, cardiac rehabilitation, worksite wellness, fitness management, community physical activity promotion and biomechanics.
Areas of Employment
Exercise Science graduates from SDSU go on to thrive in graduate programs related to allied health such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and chiropractic. Graduates also excel in sports performance, fitness and wellness related occupations like personal training, fitness management, worksite wellness, strength and conditioning coaching and cardiac rehabilitation.
- Hospitals – cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise specialists, clinical exercise specialists, exercise stress testing technologist, research technologists, disease management, diabetes education and wellness/health coaching
- Corporate – corporate fitness management, personal training, strength and conditioning, pharmaceutical sales, health and fitness technology development and medical device sales
- Community – worksite wellness, wellness programming, health education, fitness club management, personal training, health programming, state and local health department specialist
- University – strength and conditioning, research technologist, wellness programming and health education.
- Military – research technologist, exercise physiologist, exercise testing technologists and wellness center manager
The Exercise Science program at South Dakota State University is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs upon the recommendation of the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES). CAAHEP is the largest accrediting agency in the health science field and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Currently, SDSU has the only CAAHEP accredited Exercise Science program in the State of South Dakota.
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
25400 US Highway 19 N., Suite 158
Clearwater, FL 33763
The goal of the Exercise Science program is to provide quality academic instruction and learning experiences to:
- Prepare students to procure entry-level employment in the health/fitness/wellness field, or continue formal education in schools offering advanced degrees in health-related graduate programs
- Prepare students to obtain the ACSM Health Fitness Specialist certification
- Produce qualified employees in the health and fitness profession
- Provide academic satisfaction to student graduates
- Provide an academic curriculum that engages students with hands-on experiences and individual support to foster student retention
- Implement personal fitness assessments
- Prescribe exercise and healthy lifestyle habits
- Create comprehensive wellness programs for diverse population needs
- Demonstrate effective communication/interpersonal skills
The Exercise Science curriculum at SDSU includes the performance domains and associated competencies documented in the Standards and Guidelines for the Accreditation of Educational Programs in Exercise Science. A breakdown of the Performance Domains and Associated Competencies assigned by course is reviewed and updated annually.
All SDSU Exercise Science students complete a 350-hour culminating field experience during their last semester of the program. The percentage of SDSU Exercise Science students who successfully complete their field experience.
- 2022 Graduates: 99%
- 2021 Graduates: 100%
- 2020 Graduates: 100%
- 2019 Graduates: 100%
- 2018 Graduates: 100%
- 2017 Graduates: 100%
National Credentialing Exam
All SDSU Exercise Science students have the opportunity to sit for the American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist Exam in the final semester of the program. Across the nation, pass rates were 72% in 2019 and 78% in 2020 respectively for first time candidates. The SDSU Exercise Science program consistently scores higher than the national average.
- 2022 Graduates: 91%
- 2021 Graduates: 88%
- 2020 Graduates: 100%
- 2019 Graduates: 96%
- 2018 Graduates: 77%
- 2017 Graduates: 84%
Percentage of students who are accepted to the program and complete the course requirements for graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science:
- 2022 Graduates: 98%
- 2021 Graduates: 82%
- 2020 Graduates: 90%
- 2019 Graduates: 93%
- 2018 Graduates: 100%
- 2017 Graduates: 100%
Percentage of students that gain employment in the field of Exercise Science and/or are placed into pre-professional or graduate schools to further their education:
- 2022 Graduates: 94%
- 2021 Graduates: 97%
- 2020 Graduates: 96%
- 2019 Graduates: 92%
- 2018 Graduates: 94%
- 2017 Graduates: 96%
- 2016 Graduates: 100%
Meet the Faculty & Staff
Not sure if this major is for you?
Jake Steffen - Class of 2012
Jake graduated from South Dakota State University in the Spring of 2012. “I always have had a passion to help and impact people through relationships. And what better way to do that than in an environment that I love! Health and wellness!” Jake spent 2 years at the University of Sioux Falls as a Graduate Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach while obtaining his Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on Healthcare Management. At the completion of his master’s, he joined Sanford Health in the role of District Manager with Profile by Sanford. He is directly responsible for the success of all locations located in the Midwest region and helps direct the focus of Nutrition, Activity and Lifestyle within the Profile program. Profile is a weight management program created by doctors using coaching, meal replacements and technology to help members reach their weight loss goals. He works to maintain healthy work environments while ultimately helping all locations reflect the mission of Profile, to change lives one relationship at a time.
Kelsie Denhoed - Class of 2015
Kelsie is a Conditions Management Health Coach with Health Management Partners in Sioux Falls, SD. “My role with Health Management Partners involves one-on-one telephonic or web-based health coaching. Most of my members have conditions such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, pre-diabetes, low risk anxiety/depression; most of which can be improved with diet and exercise changes. Our company focuses on self-managed wellness goals, and we as health coaches encourage members to set a goal for themselves and serve as an accountability partner. My job is very rewarding in the sense that when my members see improvements or make strides towards their goals they realize that their struggles were internal, and sometimes all it takes was an extra push from an outside source. The Exercise Science staff was completely committed to me and my success, and they were genuinely interested in my personal goals and interests. This is definitely a “hands-on” program, and really encourages comfortable communication with clients, which is important in the health field.
Sara Quail - Class of 2010
Sarah is the Cancer Programs Coordinator for the South Dakota Department of Health. “When I started the Exercise Science program at SDSU, I didn’t know exactly what career I aspired to after graduation. I just knew that promoting a healthy lifestyle was a passion of mine. My senior year internship led to a job offer after graduation, and eventually brought me to where I am now. I feel very lucky that my degree from SDSU steered me toward a career that I love; feeling like I'm making a difference and doing important work to reduce the burden of cancer in South Dakota.
Hilary Overby - Class of 2013
After graduating with her B.S. degree in Exercise Science, Hilary went on to earn a Master’s in Nutrition, Exercise and Food Sciences with a specialization in Exercise and a certificate in Transdisciplinary Childhood Obesity Prevention from SDSU. Hilary currently works at Volunteers of America, Dakotas as the Southeast Region Tobacco Prevention Coordinator on contract with the South Dakota Department of Health Tobacco Control Program. “I chose Exercise Science because I wanted to work with communities and health promotion efforts. Exercise Science offers so many opportunities for where you can go in life. The Exercise Science program was great at providing opportunities to discover real-life experiences and see what options are out there for you.”
Cory Jacobsen - Class of 2016
Cory is attending the University of Sioux Falls (USF) where he is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and serves as a Strength and Conditioning Graduate Assistant. Cory works with Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Women’s Tennis, Softball, Pole Vault and the Football teams at USF. “After finishing my Exercise Science degree, while also playing basketball for the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University (SDSU), I wanted to stay involved with sports and athletics. I am honored to now be serving as an assistant strength coach for the USF Cougars. During my time with the Exercise Science Program at SDSU, I was grateful to build relationships and learn from peers and faculty. I am now able to apply my knowledge and experiences with numerous athletes daily at USF.”
Eddie Stenger - Class of 2012
Having always had a strong interest in health and fitness, the decision to apply for and join the Exercise Science Major at SDSU was an easy one for me. With the strong Anatomy and Exercise Physiology background SDSU provided me with I was able to obtain my Master’s Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse after finishing the undergraduate Exercise Science program. I now work as a Cardiac Rehab Therapist and absolutely love helping individuals recover from their cardiovascular and pulmonary injuries. The Exercise Science Major at SDSU opens up many career opportunities and the staff and faculty do a wonderful job at guiding their students to reach their personal, academic and career goals.
Willie Jones - Class of 2007
Willie is an Associate Football Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Illinois. He also spent 7 years at the University of Nebraska as an Assistant Football Strength and Conditioning Coach. “I am fortunate to be in the position I am today because of the excellent curriculum through the Exercise Science Program at South Dakota State University. South Dakota State’s Exercise Science Program has given me the tools in my professional career to strive past all my goals. For that I am thankful.
Taylor Specht - Class of 2015
Taylor Specht is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “My exercise science degree from SDSU provided me with a great foundation for continuing my education. So much of my ability to succeed in graduate school is because of the education I received at SDSU from highly qualified faculty. Anatomy, physiology and exercise physiology are all used heavily in my field especially in the amputee population. Helping people improve their gait and ultimately their lives is a rewarding career and I am thankful SDSU set me up to succeed. Many of my patients, classmates and coworkers have never met someone from South Dakota but I make sure to share my Jackrabbit pride every opportunity I am given!”
After graduating with my degree in Exercise Science I decided to further my education with the Health and Nutritional Sciences Department at SDSU to purse my master’s in Nutrition, Exercise and Food Science with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I selected Exercise Science because of the variety of jobs this career path offers and the vibrancy of the material you learn. It’s a fascinating line of study and applies to everyone! In 2014 I accepted a position with SDSU Extension as a Health and Physical Activity Field Specialist where I promote, create and coordinate public health related programming and research efforts across the state. To find out more about my position and the work check out SDSU Extension at https://extension.sdstate.edu or follow the link below to my YouTube profile video.
Kristen Roles - Class of 2013
Kristen is currently a clinical research coordinator at Washington University Program in Physical Therapy in St. Louis, MO. “As a young athlete I went to a physical therapist who helped me recover from a shoulder injury. From that point on I knew I wanted to be in the health profession and improve the lives of others. I entered college with the hopes of being an Exercise Science major since I had a passion for understanding the human body and how we move. I cannot give enough praise to the faculty and staff within the Exercise Science Department for their preparation and guidance which helped me to be an immediate asset in my new position. I currently work on a NIH funded grant comparing two different physical therapy treatments for people with chronic low back pain. My primary responsibilities include overseeing day to day operations of other staff/students, collection of motion capture, data analysis and a variety of other tasks. Research is great because no two days are ever the same!“
Angela Hill - Class of 2008
After completing my B.S. in Health Promotion from South Dakota State University in 2008, I attended graduate school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for my Masters in Physician Assistant Studies. I am a certified physician assistant and work in orthopedic surgery. I work in the hospital, clinical and surgical settings. The foundation that the Health Promotion program and education provided for my application to graduate school, and now my career, was a great building block for my desire to work in a health care profession.
Josiah Fitzsimmons - Class of 2012
I really cannot say enough about my experience in the SDSU Exercise Science program. All of my teachers were top notch professors who really knew their subject areas and did great jobs at delivering the appropriate content. There are a lot of classes in college that seem like they do not apply to real life but I did not feel that way in the Exercise Science program at SDSU. It was a great combination of hands-on and classroom learning that really set me up well as I went on to get my Masters at SDSU in Nutrition, Exercise and Food Sciences as well as my recently completed Doctorate in Chiropractic. I would highly recommend SDSU’s Exercise Science program to anyone who wants to be in the health field and wants a challenging, yet fun environment to grow in.
Renee Burnham - Class of 2014
Renee is currently in her 3rd year of graduate school at the University of South Dakota pursuing a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. The Exercise Science program at SDSU really prepared me for physical therapy with the heavy sciences and exercise physiology classes. I feel I have a better understanding of muscle biomechanics, anatomy and physiology of the human body, and exercise prescription thanks to this program. I interacted with so many people and patients while in the program and had so much hands-on experience that it felt like second nature to communicate with my PT patients. The hands-on experience and lab time you gain while at SDSU helped me immensely with my PT skills and abilities. The faculty are truly vested in your education and careers and give you so many opportunities to become successful!
Lacey Beckett - Class of 2014
Lacey Beckett owns her own small business, Element Cheer & Dance, an athletic facility in Miller, SD that offers programs such as competitive and recreational cheer and dance, tumble, adult and child group fitness classes, and private personal training sessions. “I was able to jump right into my dream career thanks to the knowledge and experience I received from the Exercise Science program here at SDSU. The classes offered at SDSU were very hands on and personal. They gave me the tools I needed to be successful with the services that Element provides. The small class size in the program allowed personal relationships with both the faculty and other Exercise Science students, creating a lifelong network as well as friendships.”
Seth Daughters - Class of 2013
Seth is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at D1 Sports Training in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "When I began the Exercise Science Program at SDSU, I realized that when you find what you are passionate about, the work involved isn’t really work, but rather something you strive to excel at. The Exercise Science program helped me develop the skills and knowledge that it takes to be successful in the career I have chosen. Along with invaluable knowledge and the skills needed to succeed, the Professors helped me establish a desire to continue learning long after I graduated from the program. The Exercise Science program will prepare you for the science, the practical application, and the ability to continue building the skills you have learned as an Exercise Professional.”