Mount Mercy University adding exercise science program

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids has a well-known nursing program, but starting this fall, students can start pursuing an exercise science degree as well. It's an effort to keep and also attract new students.

Professions like physical therapy, occupational therapy and athletic training are expecting to grow more than 20 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mount Mercy wants to help with the growing demand.

Normally at Mount Mercy, students would get an undergraduate degree in Biology before going somewhere else to pursue some of those positions. The exercise science program will be more specific for students pursuing careers like physical therapy and athletic training.

It's also good for students interested in sports, health and exercise- related careers that don't require as many science courses. Half of Mount Mercy undergrads are student athletes, so school leaders believe this is another way to recruit people wanting to go there for sports.

"For instance, if a student decides that he or she doesn't want to stick in a major like nursing, biology,” said Assistant Professor of Psychology at Mount Mercy University Dr. Matthew Bejar.”They may find that exercise science is a better fit for their career goals."

Mount Mercy hopes to have a dozen students in the program. They will spend their last semester doing an internship for their future career.

Down the road, the college will look into bringing in more staff.