Group Fitness and Leadership

Group Fitness and Leadership Online Master of Science (M.S.) – Group Fitness Leadership Concentration

About Group Fitness Leadership

Inspire and motivate as you guide your clients through a group fitness workout.

With a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion from PennWest California, you can focus your studies on group fitness leadership – and move to the head of the class.

PennWest California has partnered with Les Mills™, internationally acclaimed for its group exercise workouts, to create a unique academic program built around group fitness research and real-life experience.

As a student in PennWest California’s online group fitness leadership program, you’ll learn advanced strategies in fitness leadership and master the concepts essential to becoming a top leader in group fitness and exercise. This master’s degree concentration covers topics such as:

  • Class motivation.
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
  • Group flexibility training, and more.

Advance your career in group exercise leadership.

At health clubs and fitness centers across the country, an increasing number of employers require fitness workers to have an advanced degree in a health- or fitness-related field, such as exercise science and health promotion.

PennWest California is a recognized leader in online education for exercise science professionals — and its one-of-a-kind partnership with Les Mills is designed give you a competitive edge.

Whether you’re teaching cardio, weight training, barre, spinning, flexibility training or other fitness courses, you’ll be prepared to motivate and support your clients every step of the way.


Earn Your Fitness Degree Online: PennWest California’s group fitness leadership concentration is delivered entirely online, so it fits with your busy schedule. Complete the 36-credit program on a full-time or part-time basis, or combine group fitness leadership with a second concentration to earn a 48-credit dual concentration degree.

Personalize Your Program: Customize your M.S. in Exercise Science and Health Promotion by choosing focus areas that help you reach your professional goals. Complete the group exercise leadership concentration alone, or combine it with one of these programs to create a dual concentration:

For students seeking a professional credential instead of a master’s degree, a 12-credit post-bachelor’s group fitness leadership certificate is available as a stand-alone credential. In fact, PennWest California offers certificates in all of the program areas listed above.

Inspire a Passion for Fitness: PennWest California’s online degree program is designed for professionals who lead choreographed exercise classes that are typically 30 to 90 minutes long. It provides advanced education regarding group fitness and leadership principles, so you can inspire your clients to maintain their health and well-being through exercise. This program is ideal for group fitness instructors and personal trainers who are looking to earn a master’s degree, whether they work in coaching, the military, a wellness center or the fitness industry.

Learn more about applying

Number of academic programs nationwide that partner with the Les Mills fitness and group exercise organization.
Number of certified Les Mills instructors worldwide.
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Degree Benefits

The online master's degree concentration in group fitness leadership lets you:

  • Work full time while earning a graduate degree from a historic state university.
  • Complete your fitness degree online, efficiently and affordably.
  • Learn from exercise science faculty with years of professional experience.
  • Build a professional network of peers who are skilled group fitness leaders.
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Graduate Outcomes

Group fitness instructors are generally fit, healthy and energetic, since they are expected to participate physically in the classes they lead, rather than merely providing verbal instruction. Students who complete the online exercise science degree can work in a variety of areas; graduates of the group fitness concentration typically will be employed as instructors at fitness centers, health clubs and college fitness centers.


Curriculum, Admission Requirements and Related Programs



Course Credits
PRF 700  Orientation to Exercise Science and Wellness  3
PRF 701  Advanced Topics in SAQ and Endurance Training 3
PRF 705  Industrial, Clinical, and Corporate Wellness 3
PRF 715  Business and Entrepreneurship in the Fitness Industry 3
PRF 717  Strength and HIIT in Group Fitness Exercise 3
PRF 720  Essentials of Human Movement Science 3
PRF 757  Cardiovascular and Flexibility Training in Group Fitness Exercise 3
PRF 760  Leadership and Professional Development 3
PRF 765  Nutrition for Peak Performance 3
PRF 770  Exercise Physiology: Assessment and Exercise Prescription 3
PRF 781  Current Topics in Fitness and Wellness 3
PRF 800  Research in Fitness and Wellness 3
Total 36



Admission Requirements


Regular Admission Requirements

  • Regionally Accredited Bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Official transcripts from a regionally accredited undergraduate institution

Conditional Admission Requirements

  • Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements:
    • Regionally accredited Bachelor’s degree with a GPA of a 2.99-2.50 will be conditionally admitted with the stipulation of earning a 3.0 GPA in the first term
    • Regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.49 and below will be reviewed for a decision once the following documentation has been received:
      • Resume
      • Two professional letters of recommendation

An interview may be required by the Program Coordinator to determine potential success in the program.

Provisional Admission:
Applicants who have provided unofficial documentation of test scores, prerequisite courses, transcripts or lack of letter(s) of recommendation may be admitted provisionally.

This policy also applies to undergraduate students who apply for graduate admission pending bachelor degree completion. Upon receipt of all official documents, a student will be changed from Provisional Admission to either Regular Admission or Conditional Admission. Provisional Admission students may take classes for one term but will not be eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

How to Apply:

  • Submit official transcripts by mail or email to:
    • School of Graduate Studies and Research
      PennWest California
      Box 91
      250 University Ave. 
      California, PA 15419
      Phone: 724-938-4187

For additional information:
Phone: 1.866.595.6348


Select a single concentration as the focus of your degree or add a second approved area of focus to create a dual concentration. Post-bachelor’s certificates are available in these areas as well.


  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • Corrective Exercise Specialist
  • Certified Specialist in Speed and Explosion
  • Certified Wellcoach
  • Fusionetics®
  • Les MillsTM 
Les Mills logo.

International Partner

PennWest California is working directly with Les Mills Fitness to develop its group exercise leadership program. Les Mills workouts are licensed to more than 19,500 fitness clubs in 100 countries, and its 130,000 certified instructors lead creative, motivating workouts every day for millions of people around the world.

A Group Fitness and Leadership student uses a kettle ball.

Find the Right Fit

Les Mills offers 20 different programs encompassing a wide range of exercise styles, including high-intensity interval training, youth programs and virtual programming solutions. Our group fitness graduates lead classes that suit their style, as they inspire, engage and motivate their clients and fitness club members.

fitness and leadership

Military Tuition Discount

PennWest California discounts tuition costs for active-duty service members and veterans of all U.S. military branches, as well as their spouses and eligible dependents, when they enroll through the University’s Global Online division.


Additional Resources

Top 10 Reasons To Get An Exercise Science Master Degree

What Can You Do With An Exercise Science Master Degree/Careers

How To Choose An Exercise Science Concentration

Group Fitness Leadership Faculty

Justin Barroner, PGA, MS, MBA
Chair of the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies / PGM Program Director

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Wendy Batts
Adjunct Professor

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Dr. Carol Biddington

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Julie Ramsey Emrhein
Part-Time Assistant Professor

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Dr. Marc S. Federico

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Dr. Jeffrey R. Hatton

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Melissa Hatton
Adjunct Professor

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Dr. Rebecca A. Hess

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Christina Lombardo

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Dr. Barry E. McGlumphy

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Dr. Brian Oddi
Assistant Professor

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James "J.R." Pond, PGA
Internship Coordinator: Professional Golf Management

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Dr. Benjamin Reuter
Associate Professor

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Dr. Christine Romani-Ruby

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James Thornton, MA, ATC, PES, CES
Adjunct Professor
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Dr. Ronald Wagner
Associate Professor

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Dr. Ellen J. West

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Dr. Tom West

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