By REBECCA HERSH
Correspondent

Middlesex College is launching a new Associate of Science degree program – Health and Exercise Science (HES.AS) – just in time for the new academic year this fall.

“The health and fitness fields have been expanding rapidly as the population has taken a renewed focus on their health and well-being. Graduates will find abundant well-paying and satisfying careers in the health and fitness industry,” said Professor Timothy Hack, chair, History and Social Sciences Division of Liberal Arts, where the HES.AS program will be located.

Designed to nurture students’ ability to understand the effects of physical activity on the human body for the purpose of maintaining or improving health, fitness and athletic performance, the new degree program combines a general education core with foundational courses in exercise science, health and sports studies, according to information provided by the college.

According to Hack, the program’s general education courses serve the dual purpose of supporting immediate career entry and ensuring transferability.

“The program is ideal for students looking to enter the workforce immediately in occupations such as fitness or personal trainer, health education, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning coaching, wellness coordination and many other health and physical fitness-centered fields,” Hack said in the statement.

He added that for students who want to continue their education, all specialized courses in the program are informed by best practices in the field and a careful review of four-year program offerings at New Jersey institutions, including Kean University, Monmouth University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Rider University, Stockton University and William Paterson University.

And the program also could be the entry beyond the fitness profession into a career in physical therapy.

“The general education and core course selection in the HES.AS program align well with area transfer institutions and should provide the foundation for seamless articulations,” Hack said in the statement.

The college currently has four full-time faculty members, who have the expertise to deliver the content in the program’s new courses, along with six adjunct faculty with credentials to teach various courses within the new degree program if the need warrants.

And while the purchase of some minor new equipment will be required, the college’s Physical Education Center houses an extensive fitness center, year-round Olympic-size pool, and various classrooms designated for physical education coursework to support program outcomes, according to the statement.

Hack estimated that by the end of the year, up to 25 students will be enrolled.

The new degree program directly responds to labor statistics that show employment in exercise science and related fields continues to grow both locally and nationally, according to the statement. According to labor market analytics firm Emsi, there is an expected 8.6% job growth in the health and exercise fields (2013-23) in the Middlesex County area, with median hourly earnings of $25.37.

More broadly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 10-year growth (2019-29) in occupations aligned with the exercise science curriculum, including fitness trainer and instructor (15%), athletic trainer (16%) and exercise physiologist (11%).

“Middlesex College has long used economic and labor data to identify emerging fields and develop programming that would serve students and fit the academic mission. Given the expected growth of the industry and the global shift to more conscious health awareness, this new degree program will help satisfy the job market in our area,” Hack said in the statement.