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Following my previous post, this blog gives two more tips for anybody looking to choose a degree in sport, built upon ten years working in universities and speaking to numerous students about different degrees. Below are all my tips, however today I focus on professional development and employability, this post is longer than intended, but employability is important when choosing a degree. If you find anything helpful, but have questions or feedback please contact me.

  1. Follow your passion
  2. Know the differences between degrees
  3. Understand how the course fits your strengths
  4. Ask questions about links to industry
  5. Ask questions about the other opportunities offered in the programme
  6. Look at the modules in the programme and ask questions
  7. Ask questions about the course size and teaching patterns
  8. Be careful of well-meant but outdated advice

Here are more of my tips:

Ask questions about links to industry

Firstly, I could make so many points about this topic, but will avoid completely boring you. Therefore, when thinking, about links to industry consider the following:

  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask about links to employment
  • Ask about opportunities in the programme to interact with employers
  • Ask if work placements are offered as part of the degree or through a central careers service?
  • Ask how regularly opportunities outside of placement modules are
  • You’ll spend years working so it is OK to pick something just because you are passionate about it

Questions about employment from parents on open days are usually insightful. While students get embarrassed by parents asking questions, these are often the most helpful when choosing degrees. Getting a job in sport is not a level playing field, some students have social networks and links in the industry they want to work in already while others have to work hard to forge these.

In my experience just having the degree doesn’t guarantee employment in your desired field, the industry experience gained while studying makes the difference. Therefore, it is vital you ask questions about links to industry and degrees. Not just who they have connections with, but how often are students exposed to industry, and how is this embedded in a programme? While somebody might name drop impressive organisations on an open day it is important to understand your actual opportunities.

Every university offers work placements, but these are different depending on the degree. Some are embedded throughout, helping you get professional accreditation, while others are an optional module offered by the university’s employability team. I’d ask how many hours you are expected to complete, who is responsible for finding work placements, whether it is compulsory or optional, and how it is assessed. Asking these questions is important so you can make judgements based upon your circumstances.

A degree talk about a student completing a placement with an impressive organisation, however if they say you are responsible for finding your own placement be sceptical. This person may have a personal connection. Also, remember employers are interested the experienced gained, not the name of the organisation. For example, while students at St Mary’s do placements with well-known sports clubs, for the last two years students who completed placements with local organisations won employability awards. It is what you do while on placement that counts!

Also ask questions about where industry insights are embedded in other modules. Will you meet individuals from industry in modules outside of placements? Will the assessments authentically prepare you for the work-place? For example, on a third year module I teach, students evaluate projects for a professional football club’s community trust. The focus is upon both the experience and skills they develop. The idea is to prepare students for work in the Sport for Change industry.

Similarly, my colleague runs workshops and webinars for performance analysis students, with experts from industry, which serve both as learning experiences and networking opportunities.

A caveat is, you will work for years after graduating and may want to study a degree where the topics are just interesting and that’s OK. I enjoy theory and asking critical questions about the sports industry, which led me to study a masters and PhD; developing my career in a direction I never expected. So, take a deep dive into something more theoretical if this feels right for you.

Ask questions about the other opportunities offered in the programme

I would encourage you to think about the following:

  • What opportunities to get qualifications are built into the degree?
  • What additional activities are available?
  • How can you make the most of every opportunity available to you?
  • How will the additional opportunities support you to invest in yourself?

Following on from questions of industry, ask questions about other opportunities to gain qualifications and experiences which will help you. For example, in Sport and Social Change we built coaching qualifications in to first year modules, and specialist workshops in second and third year. At open days ask questions about what other opportunities are offered and why?

These are not always just qualifications another example at St Mary’s is the chance to take part in mentoring programmes. My colleagues in employability run a paid mentoring programme for students of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage and another for students with disabilities. These are especially important for industries which lack diversity, as this support students to achieve their goals. Therefore, when you attend open days ask question about opportunities to gain valuable experience and skills outside of degrees. Remember when you pay your tuition fees this goes towards access to other services such as employability, not just access to lectures. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to maximise these opportunities and invest in yourself.

As Akala says “knowledge is power” the more you know before you start, the better choices. You can make throughout.

Sport degrees at St Mary's

We offer a wide range of sport and health degree courses in areas such as physiotherapy, sport science, nutrition, physical education and sports coaching.

Many of the degrees are endorsed by national industry bodies, such as:

View our sport degrees