A career in sport might be about trying to reach the elite level, but there’s plenty more on offer, like coaching, personal training, running leisure facilities or working in a retail sports store. Or perhaps you’d rather get outside in the fresh air assisting people taking part in active pursuits like mountain biking or hiking.
About Sport and Fitness
You don’t have to be a football fanatic or gym geek to get a winning career from sport: we’re talking about physical activity and wellbeing in general, not just the competitive stuff that gets us shouting at the TV.
What Can I Do?
If you want to work up a sweat and help others reach their goals and get fit, you can absolutely do that as a fitness instructor, coach or activity leader. You might be based in your local leisure centre, a private gym or perhaps a spa, working with individuals and groups on a daily basis; alternatively, you might be out on the river leading a rafting trip, or even working at one of the many obstacle races that have become popular in recent years.
On the science side, you could be working with elite athletes to understand more about performance at the highest level, developing training regimes, recovery techniques and technology that will ultimately help everyone get fitter – elite sport knowledge informs all the products that we use, from shoes to fitness trackers. You might also be developing the kit that will help people with limited mobility or disabilities take part in sport at all levels.
Meanwhile, the various places we exercise and the sporting events we attend don’t run themselves, so if you’re not preparing people to compete or getting them fit you might be assisting at matches or working in a range of leisure facilities to make sure they run smoothly.
That includes keeping anyone watching safe, or perhaps making sure everyone in your community has access to sport and physical activities, no matter what their physical condition.
Less sweaty but no less important are the front of house and behind the scenes jobs. They include things like reception desks at gyms and leisure centres, or working in an office dealing with the admin side of things, whether that’s organising a netball tournament, ordering equipment or managing the membership of your local gym.
Sport and fitness skills
You don’t need to be an athlete to have a successful career in this sector. If you’re planning on being a personal trainer or working with professional sportsmen and women you probably will need to be in decent shape (get started on those pressups), but that’s just one path available to you; there are many others.
The more general skills you’ll need include getting on well with people: you’ll need to be a good communicator to motivate a spin class, recruit new gym members or work with reluctant children to get them interested in exercise. You’ll also have to have a good grasp of numbers if you’re working on the admin or more science-based side (or even if you’re keeping score during a cricket match).
There’s no single way to get your body into shape, and the same is true of your career skills…
Work-based & work-related qualifications
Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:
Don’t forget: BTECs etc. can also pave the way for a degree.
There are relevant Apprenticeships at four levels:
Level Two (Intermediate) – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades
Level Three (Advanced) – equivalent to A Levels / Highers
Level Four / Five (Higher) – equivalent to Foundation Degree / Advanced Highers
Level Six / Seven (Degree) – equivalent to Bachelor’s or master’s degree
A Levels, Highers and Bachelors Degrees
Useful A Levels / Scottish Highers might include:
Already know that a degree is the way you want to break into the sector? Head to UCAS and find out what qualifications (A Levels / Scottish Highers / Scottish Advanced Highers / IB modules) you’ll need for the course that interests you.
Industry-specific degree programmes in this area include Bachelors programmes in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Sport Management and Sport, Coaching and Physical Education.
It’s worth knowing that some unis specialise in this area and have facilities and industry links to match. In England, Loughborough Uni is often associated with elite sport; in Wales, there’s the well-regarded Cardiff School of Sport at Cardiff Met; and in Scotland, the University of Edinburgh is in the world’s top 20 unis for sports-related subjects and boasts Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy as a graduate.
This sporting life
Your day as a sport and fitness professional could start early, especially if you work in a gym or other leisure facilities where people like to go before work. It could also end late, as we like to play our games in the evenings – you’ll need to be OK with flexible hours and be prepared to travel.
What you get up to depends very much on the path into sport and fitness that suits you best. An administrative role will probably stick fairly closely to office hours (around 9am to 6pm), usually Monday to Friday, and involve working with computers and learning to be a part of the office team.
Teams of the sporting kind keep very different hours though, so if you’re out on the field, helping at events or preparing competitors to get out there, expect some antisocial hours: that means early mornings, late nights and putting up with every kind of weather. It wouldn’t be sport if you weren’t training at all hours, out in all conditions and pushing yourself (and others). That’s part of it.
You’ll find yourself working with a lot of different people as well. In some roles you might be trying to find a coach for a community centre or trying to persuade people to donate to your charity; in others, you’ll be persuading them to grind out one more rep or reach just a little higher on the climbing wall. Whatever you do, your career will stretch more than just your muscles as you enhance your people skills and boost your technical knowledge on anything from the human body and competitive mindset to swimming pool maintenance.
You could work in…
The sport industry employs more than 350,000 people across 170,000 organisations across the UK. Sport generates more than £20 billion for the economy every year, according to Sport England. Two million more men than women play sport regularly, but three quarters of women would like to do more – maybe you can help do something about that
You could be: