What Does it Mean to Study Sports Science?
Sports medicine professionals specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries that happen during sporting events, athletic training and physical activities. The study of sports medicine and sports science involves applying medical and scientific principles to sports, exercise, and the ability of the body to perform physically. These two fields are broad and can lead to many different educational and career opportunities, such as fitness instruction, coaching, scientific research, sports psychology and nutrition.
Preparing for Sports Science and Sports Medicine School
Most professional careers in this field require a health or medical related college degree. Healthcare professionals specializing in sports draw heavily on the scientific knowledge and applied practice gained in a degree program. Before you make the decision to enroll in a sports science or sports medicine degree program, however, you should give careful consideration to your personal interests, your preferred learning format (on-campus or online) and your career goals.
Students are often drawn to the field of sports science and sports medicine because they have a love for sports. While this can certainly be a boon to your career, this should not be the primary motivation. You should also have a sincere interest in science and medicine and be willing to dedicate your studies to serving the needs of others.
It can be difficult to decide exactly which aspect of sports science you would like to study. If you’re having this issue, try shadowing sports healthcare professionals in the workplace. You can take this opportunity to ask the professional questions about the field. What you learn might be able to help you focus your own studies and choices.
Once you make the decision to pursue a career in this field, compare and contrast sports science and sports medicine degree programs to find the ones that are most appropriate to your interests and goals. The more information you can gather about your options, the better informed your decision can be.
Types of Sports Science Degrees
Degree programs in sports and fitness help students develop the skills required by employers in the field. With many different concentrations available, students enjoy a variety of career choices. Whether you’re new to the field or are a sports professional seeking credentials for a raise or promotion, career training in sports science, medicine or fitness can be extremely beneficial.
Online degree programs in sports science are particularly appropriate for students who can’t afford to give up their jobs in order to study full-time. Students enrolled in such a program may virtually engage in online tutorials, web seminars, interactive training and other forms of distance learning. Degree programs that require clinical practice may require a brief residency, or may help the student arrange a local practicum.
Sports and fitness certificate programs can be worthwhile options for both students and working professionals who want to develop a certain set of skills. Certificate programs in sports science are designed to teach students how to apply current physical and psychological theory to the world of sports.
Most professional careers in this field require a college degree, but in many cases students can transfer the completed certificate credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree program.
Two-year associate degrees may tackle a broad introduction to the fundamentals of sports science, or they may focus on a specific sector of the field, such as exercise science, wellness or fitness. Earning an associate degree is usually sufficient for graduates to apply for entry-level positions in sports and fitness.
For most sports professions, a bachelor of science degree is the minimum requirement for employment. Generally, earning a B.S. in sports science or a related field requires four years of academic study. These degree programs emphasize the general concepts of physiology, medical science, nutrition, health and related training. Many schools offer different specializations such as physical therapy, medicine, athletic training and nutrition, among others. Online bachelor’s degree programs in sports and fitness give students the opportunity to obtain a thorough education online, making it possible to earn a college degree from the comfort of home.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Sports Science?
The many different degrees available in sports and fitness lead, of course, to many different careers. All jobs in the field of sports medicine and sports science combine the efforts of athletes, coaches, and the spirit of sports competition with the necessity of quality medical and health treatment, management, and training. Healthcare professionals who work in sports medicine and science truly play an important role in all levels of athletic competition.
An athletic trainer works with high school, college, and professional sports teams to treat, prevent, and manage the injuries of athletes. Educational requirements vary by location and type of position. In most states, however, athletic trainers must be licensed and must pass the National Athletic Trainers’ Association certification examination.
A personal trainer typically works with an individual or a group interested in maximizing physical health, strength, and endurance. Physical trainers plan and supervise conditioning programs to improve a client’s health or sports performance. Trainers can work independently or in a gym or health club setting. To work as a personal trainer, a college degree and certification, such as the ACSM or ACE, is a must.
The job of a physical therapist involves helping individuals rehabilitate from injuries or diseases of the muscles, joints, nerves, and bones. To qualify for this line of work, most physical therapy schools require an additional two to three years of education after college. A physical therapist must also pass a national examination to become licensed. Physical therapists generally find jobs in hospitals and clinics.
Strength and Conditioning Coaches
It is common for high school, college, and professional athletic teams to hire strength and conditioning coaches. Their main function is to develop and monitor a training plan that improves and enhances the agility, strength, endurance, flexibility, and power of athletes. Employment in this field usually requires a master’s degree as well as certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Sports Medicine Physicians
A sports medicine physician focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries. After medical school, a physician interested in sports medicine must pursue specialized training in sports medicine, orthopedics, cardiology or similar. Internships and residency training usually follow, with the possibility of fellowship training as well. Most sports medicine doctors are employed by professional teams, clinics or hospitals.
Dietitians and Nutritionists
Nutritionists and dietitians guide athletes and individuals in planning and coordinating the best diet for their level of activity. These healthcare professionals study dietary patterns, metabolism, and nutrients for sports performance and disease prevention. They must obtain a degree in dietetics or nutrition. Dietitians and nutritionists find employment in many different settings, including hospitals, clinics, sports complexes, school systems, and public health facilities.
An exercise physiologist studies acute and chronic physiological responses and adaptations that result from differing levels of physical activity. Generally, exercise physiologists work in commercial, clinical, and workplace settings for the purposes of increasing the health, fitness, and quality of life of the general population. To work as an exercise physiologist, a student must obtain an undergraduate degree. A master’s degree is often necessary, and obtaining certification is also important.
Sports Science Certification, Licensure and Associations
Certification in almost any area of sports medicine or sports science is a necessity. Students should certainly plan to obtain the certification available for their chosen field of sports medicine or sports science. The most popular sports certifications include: the Board of Certification (BOC) certification for athletic trainers, the American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer certification (cPT) and the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification.
Sports Science and Sports Medicine Associations and Certification Bodies:
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
- American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Council On Exercise (ACE)
- American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM)
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
- American Physical Therapy Association
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
- International Federation of Sports Medicine
- National Athletic Trainers’ Association
- National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification (NATABOC)
- “Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers-and-exercise-physiologists