Want a career in sport? Postgrad study might be essential

If you’ve been keeping your finger on the pulse of Australia’s sports industry, you’ve likely noticed it’s booming, largely thanks to the growing professionalisation of sport. And in turn, that has led to a higher calibre, more competitive workforce.

Many sporting organisations are now demanding more than an undergraduate degree from jobseekers, says Dr Lyndell Bruce, a senior lecturer in sports science at Deakin.

In her experience, employers now want to hire or promote people who undertake continual professional development well beyond that initial degree – and that often includes postgraduate study.

So if you’ve already completed an undergraduate degree you might be asking yourself: is that enough? Or should you go a step further and study postgrad sport science, potentially giving yourself an edge?

Alternatively, you might already be working in the sports industry and be considering taking on a masters to accelerate your career and step into a more senior or management role.

Why jobs in sport are getting harder to win

With more universities now offering undergraduate exercise and sports science degrees, you’re in good company among your passionate and qualified peers, says Dr Bruce.

‘Because sports science is a relatively new field, say the last 20 to 30 years, there’s been a lot of growth,’ she says.

Ten to 15 years ago, you might have been able to do an undergraduate degree and waltz into a job in professional sport, but now that’s not always the case, Dr Bruce says.

‘The challenge often becomes if you want to move jobs or move to another club or organisation then it’s much more competitive than it was, and that’s where the additional qualifications or further study are really beneficial.’

What are employers looking for – and how could postgrad study help?

Aside from your knowledge and abilities, employers are always looking for ‘soft skills’, Dr Bruce says.

‘They are your communication skills, your ability to build rapport with a client – so an athlete or a coach – and have a holistic approach so you’re not just there to make the athlete fitter, stronger, faster.’

Then there’s other, more technical skills. ‘For instance, if you’re a performance analyst, it’s knowing how to do the coding, what to extract, what the coach is looking for and providing reports and feedback,’ Dr Bruce says.

If you decide to study at the postgraduate level, you’ll be strengthening some of the topics covered more briefly in the undergraduate degrees.

‘Where you might touch on a particular method, tool or software package in your undergraduate, you would cover that in greater breadth and depth in your masters or postgraduate units,’ Dr Bruce says. ‘There’s also greater application for the sports science masters to the sport industry.’

And while high performance management is not covered at undergraduate level, it is a focus in Deakin’s postgrad courses.

Studying postgraduate sport at Deakin

Deakin’s sports department is highly regarded, and was ranked third best in the world and first in Australia by ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Sport Science Schools and Departments in 2018.

The university offers the Master of Applied Sports Science, which is mostly cloud-based and runs across three consecutive trimesters.

There’s also three new courses, available as of trimester 1, 2020: the Graduate Diploma of Applied Sports Science, the Graduate Certificate of Strength and Conditioning and the Graduate Certificate of Sport Performance Analysis. All are studied online.

Why Deakin’s postgrad sports courses are different

Deakin has strong industry networks and connections in sport, which may be the clincher when you’re looking to crack into the job market. Courses also have a strong emphasis on evidence-based learning.

‘Another unique aspect of our masters is that students choose either a practicum elective or a research pathway, and students who do well in a particular research unit can gain entry into a PhD program,’ she says.

‘Most masters are coursework and there’s not really a research pathway, but we’ve designed our Master of Applied Sport Science specifically so students can go down that research route if they choose.’

And when it comes to landing that dream job...

Yes, that postgrad study could help you not only crack into that professional sporting club or institute of sport, but supercharge your career too.

‘I think it’s really about the upskilling of yourself and giving yourself a point of difference to all the other people that you’re competing against,’ Dr Bruce says.

‘Our Master of Applied Sport Science and associated graduate certificates and graduate diploma not only cater for those looking to enter the sport industry but are also ideal for those working in industry who wish to accelerate their trajectory in the field,’ she says.

‘Our high performance management units provide students with the skills to transition into senior or management roles within their current organisation or another organisation.’

Keen to study postgraduate sport? Start with a graduate certificate, and have the option of transitioning to a masters later.

Read more about our Graduate Certificate of Strength and Conditioning or our Graduate Certificate of Sport Performance Analysis.