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Can a Felon Become an Exercise Physiologist?

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When it comes to getting a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging. They may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession. Those with interest in or experience with healthcare and rehabilitation might consider a career in exercise physiology.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become an exercise physiologist.

  • What is an Exercise Physiologist?
  • What Education/Training Does an Exercise Physiologist Need?
  • How Much Does an Exercise Physiologist Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is an Exercise Physiologist?

An exercise physiologist reviews patient medical charts and other medical information to design a fitness program to improve a patient’s overall health. He or she creates customized fitness plans to boost overall health rather than working for personal goals of weight loss or muscle gain.

Unlike a personal trainer, an exercise physiologist is part of the healthcare industry rather than the personal care industry. He or she uses medical equipment to perform fitness and stress tests as part of an exercise program.

Exercise physiologists may work in a hospital or a doctor’s office. Some of their job duties include:

  • Analyzing a patient’s medical history
  • Measuring blood pressure and oxygen usage
  • Developing and monitoring exercise programs
  • Assisting in supervising exercise

A certified exercise physiologist is committed to health and fitness promotion through programs offered in an agency, or a work or home environment.

Among the essential skills necessary to be successful as an exercise physiologist are:

  • Compassion
  • Decision-making
  • Detail-oriented
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills

What Education/Training Does an Exercise Physiologist Need?

In order to become an exercise physiologist, a person must have a degree in exercise physiology or a related field such as:

  • Exercise science
  • Kinesiology
  • Sports science
  • Human performance

An appropriate educational program includes course work in the following:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Fitness assessment
  • Exercise metabolism
  • Kinesiology
  • Research design
  • Environmental physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise and special populations

An employer usually requires an exercise physiologist to have basic life support certification or advanced life support certification, including CPR.

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) offers certification as an exercise physiologist (EPC). A candidate must pass an exam and be a current member of ASEP to gain certification. The American College of Sports Medicine also offers certification as an exercise physiologist.

Most states do not require an exercise physiologist to have a license, although this requirement is changing so it may be required in the future. Currently, only Louisiana requires a license to work as an exercise physiologist. Regardless, most employers want someone with the proper certification.

How Much Does an Exercise Physiologist Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 21,400 exercise physiologists in 2021. The median annual income for an exercise physiologist in 2017 was $47,940. The median salary is the amount at which half of exercise physiologists earned more and half earned less.

Experience will make a difference in how much an exercise physiologist earns annually. The area of the country in which an exercise physiologist works also makes a difference in earnings. Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than one that works elsewhere.

This field is expected to grow approximately 9% between 2021 and 2031. The increase is because of a continued importance given to individual fitness needs.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check.

Any felon that wants to get a degree to become an exercise physiologist can find a college that will accept him or her. A felon may have difficulty getting accepted into many exercise physiology schools, but there are programs that will accept a felon.

Another concern for felons will be with getting certified through ASEP.

A member of ASEP working as an exercise physiologist must follow their code of ethics. This code offers guidance for decision-making regarding ethical issues. Adherence to the code is expected, and an exercise physiologist will be held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The ethics code focuses on 10 main ethical values:

  • Accurately communicating and providing health and fitness services
  • Accountability for individual judgments and decisions
  • Maintaining high-quality practices
  • Professional competence conducting health and fitness assessments and services according to ethical and professional standards
  • Respect and protection of the privacy of individuals
  • Calling attention to unprofessional behavior
  • Contributing to the integrity of the profession
  • Participating in establishing high-quality services
  • Participating and encouraging critical sharing of information
  • Providing health and fitness interventions supported by research

The ASEP board of certification may refuse certification for an individual who has engaged in irregular activity related to exercise physiology.

A candidate who has committed any violation must answer to the board according to the following directives:

  • Must appear in person within 30 days
  • Must submit a timely response
  • May be represented by legal counsel and any hearing

A candidate must include all information relating to any type of felony conviction.

Many exercise physiology programs do a background check on applicants for their program. As many as 80% of exercise physiology programs require a background check of students at least once while they are enrolled.

Each state board for certification establishes its own criteria. While each state board sets its own standard for a background check, they will consider relevant factors such as type of offense, potential for harm to the public, and potential for reoccurrence of criminal activity.

The board then considers the type of felony, how long ago it occurred, and an applicant’s age at the time of the crime. Decisions are then made on a case-by-case basis.

A felony or misdemeanor conviction is not an automatic disqualification, but full disclosure must be made. Each report a defense will be investigated. A candidate should retain legal counsel for a background investigation if there is a criminal offense record.

In order to be successful in their pursuit of becoming an exercise physiologist, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. An applicant must submit a written personal statement explaining in detail all legal issues regarding circumstance, dates, and locations.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an exercise physiologist. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become an exercise physiologist. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming an exercise physiologist.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an exercise physiologist with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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