Try this for size. The proportion of maths graduates from the class of 2012 who have full-time work in the six months after they graduate was 44.9%. Sports Science graduates in exactly the same situation, was 46.1%.
So much for so-called ‘traditional’ subjects leading the way then. This statistic surprised me even more when I saw that twice as many students took Sports Science as mathematics and that the unemployment rate was nearly half that of maths. For all the warnings in the educational world from experts that too many people take ‘soft’ subjects in their A Levels and then take less-traditional courses later at university, it does appear that our perceptions are a little way off reality. You won’t find Sports Science at Oxford University. Indeed, if you go onto their A-Z Guide of Undergraduate courses, you will find a rather snobbish view of the subject. “Oxford University does not offer an undergraduate degree in this subject. For information on sport as an extra-curricular please see ‘Living in Oxford’ “ Ouch. The traditionalists put the hammer down. Sport, to them, is an activity to be done in your free time. Most definitely not worthy of a degree, surely. Given many years of world-famous Oxford sporting tradition, it does seem a little strange. Despite the grim view of the old guard, The Complete University Guide lists a total of 76 institutions across the UK who offer the Sports Science course. Some of the most renowned sporting institutions, naturally, sit at the top, including Loughborough at #2 and Bath at #6. Right at the top is University of Birmingham, producing some of the finest sports teams university sport has ever seen. With nearly 10,000 graduates in the last class, there are clearly a few good reasons why some of the more athletic students out there could find themselves with some pretty good career prospects. Some of the reasons include:
- Sports Science degrees, as the name perhaps suggests, involves a lot of scientific work. Yes, the sporty kids are quite clever too. Work in areas such as management, finance and nutrition gives such students a very modern knowledge set. Away from the world of more traditional subjects, these sorts of areas are in particular demand at the moment. It seems that every week in the papers you’ll find an article of some damning report on obesity in this country. Whether or not you believe everything you ever read in the press, being able to look at important nutritional information and giving solid advice to people in different walks of life is going to be appealing to a prospective employer in the right field. Nutritional advice is quite important and so different employers (even if not strictly related to the subject) may see it as a sign of responsibility.
- As Benjamin Franklin once said “There are only two certainties in life. Death, and paying taxes.” Perhaps if we extend the morbid concept of death to getting ill too. The fact remains that people from all walks of life get ill. Everyone seems content in thinking that you leave this all to those from a purely medical background, though this isn’t always the case. After you’ve been to visit a doctor or had treatment of some description, you’ll be in for some work afterwards. For many people, you’ll find that this involves referring people on – and the majority of the time you’ll find yourself in the capable hands of a specialist, or someone who understands how the body works. Having a good knowledge of how the body works and how to understand what doesn’t work puts you in a market that will never really lose demand.
- As schools try and push their children further and further into uniformity when it comes to health, one has to consider that not all kids are exactly athletic and so it could well come down to the other key variable: nutrition. As a Sports Science graduate, your knowledge of what makes the body work well will prove to be a skill that people will look for in the public sector. When you consider the cost of a McDonald’s cheeseburger relative to a supermarket salad, you do wonder how on earth we don’t all look like the side of a house. Legislation in this country to curb obesity, diabetes and other illnesses is woefully inadequate – even if you make the argument we should be left to it. However, there are still traditionalists out there who feel that state-recommended nutritional advice is still an important part of our education in schools, making you a potentially very employable prospect in councils and other public sector areas to help protect public health. Ever since we as a nation got gripped by Olympic Fever, schools allocate a disproportionate amount of time to being a ‘healthy school’, organising activities and sports days. Whatever you think about it, understanding what is healthy, how the body operates and how to get a lifestyle balance are highly sought-after skills.
So, as you can see there are several skills that actually make Sports Science graduates and students quite employable, leading to an unemployment rate that is half that of physics graduates. So what could your options be?
Sports therapy is quite the market in the UK – for as long as there are athletes in sport there will be injuries and a need to get professionals back up to speed. Professional sports is a brutal business – you can be immensely talented and successful but a serious injury can derail dreams and aspirations. The Higher Education Career Services Unit (HECSU) looked at some of the most popular destinations for graduates – they found that one route that many Sports Science graduates took was into physiotherapy. This was usually to study an MSc – the Master of Science. You’ll find that this could well open up a door into sports therapy. Of course, therapy isn’t limited to the pros. As I’ve mentioned, many people are referred on from doctors or hospitals for help and your knowledge of the human body will set you up nicely.
Forgive me for reinforcing the notion that all Sports graduates do is teach. Put simply though, over a third of those who do more study after graduating go off and do a PGCE. It is the simplest way to get started with your degree and definitely is a very rewarding job. With the emphasis of school life on sports and exercise and being good role models, you’ll find that, being a teacher in sport and a guide in good lifestyles, you could well be a massive role model to many kids. Certainly from my experience, PE and sports teachers, coaches of sports teams and leaders of the sporting community in my school were some of the highest-regarded individuals, always being leaders in their field.
Depending on what you did in terms of modules at university, you might find a surprising yet rewarding application in tutoring and teaching. With a complex understanding of how the body works, you’ll be amazed how much biology and physical science you’ll know about. Students in particular may well discover a hidden talent as an A Level biology tutor. Such a sound knowledge of topics like homoeostasis and the like could make you a valuable asset. Who knows? You might find yourself teaching biology to the next sporting legend…
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