A career in biomechanics is essentially a sub-discipline of kinesiology, which is defined as applying the principles of mechanics to human motion. This is a sub-discipline that can be seen as a basic and an applied science. Biomechanists are a type of kinesiologist who often work in the biological sciences, exercise science, sports science and fitness.
Before you decide to start a career in biomechanics or kinesiology and get a master’s degree, it is important to understand exactly what people do in this field.
What a Biomechanist Does
For the majority of biomechanists or kinesiologists, you need to have at least a master’s degree. The positions that you can get will depend upon whether you have a master’s degree or Ph.D. Generally, master of science graduates can work in the following areas:
- Gait analysis research
- Strength and flexibility testing
- Designing man/machine interfaces
- Research and athlete testing
Most biomechanists earn a master’s degree in kinesiology with a specialty in biomechanics. This degree will need to include classes in anatomy, physiology, functional anatomy and biomechanics. You also should take classes in physics and mathematics. By earning a master’s degree specialized in biomechanics, you should have the background that you need to work as a laboratory tech or as a junior researcher.
Other professionals who earn their degree in this area of kinesiology will work in a variety of health, wellness, fitness and education fields. For instance, with a master’s degree in kinesiology, you will have the skills and background to be a successful personal trainer, athletic therapist or even an exercise scientist.
Generally, kinesiology is the study of human motion, and the curriculum in this type of program, as well as a biomechanics program, will allow you to have a better understanding of the many aspects that make up human movement.
Not only will you learn how human movement comes about, but you will also learn how to optimize it for physical performance.
Some of the other specialities that you can choose in kinesiology other than biomechanics are:
- Exercise science
- Human anatomy
- Injuries and rehab
- Health psychology
Licensing and Certification
With a background in biomechanics or kinesiology, you will have the option of becoming an exercise physiologist. While you do not need a license in most states, there are certifications that you may want to consider to increase your career options in health and wellness, fitness and exercise science:
- The American Society of Exercise Physiologists offers the Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) certification
- The American College of Sports Medicine offers the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP) credential
Types of Degrees in Biomechanics and Kinesiology
Because these two areas are very closely linked, you will usually see master’s degrees of kinesiology, possibly with a specialty in biomechanics.
University of Texas-Tyler
The Master of Science in Kinesiology prepares you for many careers that are related to many types of exercise. These include such exciting careers as exercise physiology, coaching, corporate wellness, personal training and wellness coaching. This degree program also is a good choice for practicing clinicians, which include physical therapists and athletic trainers.
The curriculum that you take that leads to this master’s degree can be taken online or in person. The total curriculum is 18 hours of core classes and 12 hours of electives. Six hours are required for your internship in a local site.
This program also requires you to complete an examination at the end of the two years and also completing a thesis.
Your required coursework includes:
- Research Design
- Biometric Methods
- Motor Learning
- Exercise Physiology
- Exercise Physiology II
Oregon State University
This university offers a Master of Science in Neuromechanics that combines biomechanics and motor control. This program is specifically interested in working on how the muskoskeletal system and nervous system work to produce advanced human movement. There also is a focus on discovering the relationships between specific patterns of movement and musculoskeletal health.
The study of neuromechanics at Oregon State is fully integrated with the exercise physiology program that is part of the biophysical kinesiology specialization. There are both master’s and Ph.D. programs that are offered. In both programs, the idea is for the student to have an excellent grasp of biological and physical parts of human movement and how that affects public health.
Students also gain a high level of training and experience in the methods and tools that are needed for you to be successful in biomechanics and exercise science. Your coursework will include work in exercise physiology, motor control, biomechanics, research methods, public health, engineering and psychosocial kinesiology.
The major foci of research in neuromechanics at Oregon State is focused on ergonomics and clinical applications of motor control and biomechanics. There is a strong focus on the prevention of injuries. You will use both experimental and modeling approaches in your studies. The research projects that are worked on in this program are usually in these areas:
- Preventing lower body injuries: Lower body injuries are very common during exercise. Joint injuries have a long term negative effect on health. This program does lab based studies where they look into the relationships between patterns of movement that are related to higher level of risk and modifiable movement patterns that are often associated with higher risk of injury. They also try to improve the health of the overall population by increasing the use of best practices to prevent injuries in the local community.
- Understanding and stopping falls: Falls and the fractures that occur during the fall are very serious health concerns for older Americans. This area of research studies the influence of neuromechanical factors, including protective stepping, gait patterns and overall muscle strength, and how this affects recovery and loss of balance.
- Safer transfers of those with mobility problems: To travel in a car or in a plane, many people who have disabilities have to go between a wheelchair and a car seat. This university is doing research that is trying to reduce injuries during such transfers. A strong focus is on the risk factors for serious back injuries for those who are trying to accomplish the transfer.
When you travel to campus for the intensive sessions, you can use the two research laboratories that the university has for the biomechanics program. Faculty and students in the master’s and Ph.D. programs are allowed to use both spaces and the equipment that is provided.
The Biomechanics Lab isa 2000 sq. foot research space that is on the first floor of the women’s building. There is an open data collection area that has plenty of space for conducting many biomechanics studies. There also are several workspaces nearby for strength testing, data analysis and device storage.
Graduate students in the neuromechanics program are strongly encouraged to do their thesis research in the research focus area of their major professor. Before you apply, you should contact the faculty member with whom you want to do your research.
You should be sure that your master’s or doctoral online degree program in psychology has been accredited by one of these regional organizations that are recognized by the Department of Education:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education,
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities