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Graduate Degree Programs in Cardiac Rehabilitation Overview

Majors Overview March 10, 2016

This article talks about graduate degree programs in cardiac rehabilitation and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and certification options.

Graduate Programs in Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a reliance on nutrition and exercise plans aimed at staving off cardiovascular disease. Enrollees in master’s degree programs in exercise science are trained to work with athletes and patients who suffer from metabolic, cardiovascular, neurological, and orthopedic disorders. Enrollees in such master’s degree programs are allowed to opt for cardiac rehabilitation as a concentration area.

Coursework in a cardiac rehabilitation concentration is often a combination of lab experiences and classroom lectures, along with a field internship. Students gain expertise in assessing patients, prescribing exercise and conducting workshops in physical education. The basics of nutrition, exercise science, human physiology, and cardiovascular disease are also in the program. An optional thesis may be available. Students complete these programs within about 36 credit hours of coursework.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a baccalaureate degree. Prerequisite courses in kinesiology, exercise physiology, human anatomy and physiology are also required to have been completed.


Program coursework combines classroom lectures in physiology and nutrition, with clinical experiences, laboratory courses, and field exercises. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Nutrition and physical activity
•Clinical aspects of physiology
•Advanced exercise physiology
•Cardiac rehabilitation
•Fitness law

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek jobs in cardiac rehabilitation programs at medical facilities. They can choose from possible job positions such as:

•Cardiac stress testing specialist
•Health improvement director
•Exercise physiologist
•Cardiac rehabilitation specialist
•Exercise specialist

Job and Wage Outlook

In May 2012, exercise physiologists brought in an average annual wage of $46,270 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In November 2013, cardiac rehabilitation specialists earned $47,889 per annum, on average.

Certification Options

Certification options for entire cardiac rehabilitation programs, rather than only for individual employees, are offered by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). Specialists seeking careers in the field should opt to join a cardiac rehabilitation program certified by the AACVPR. Continuing education opportunities are also available through the organization for professionals in the field.

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