How to become a sports scientist (definition and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

A career in sports science can be diverse and exciting, offering many opportunities for success and progression. Becoming a sports scientist can involve time spent in university, building skills that allow you to improve your performance and knowledge of the field. It's helpful to understand how to become a sports scientist, as this may allow you to gain employment opportunities in a wide variety of areas, including education, health, fitness, science and sports. In this article, we discuss how to become a sports scientist, explore the definition of sports scientist and learn about the skills for success in this career.

What is a sports scientist?

To learn how to become a sports scientist, it's important to first understand what a sports scientist is. A sports scientist is a professional specialising in the branch of exercise and sports. This field deals with anatomy and physiology and the response of the human body to sports or exercise. Sports scientists are also interested in the identification, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. The nature of the field is multidisciplinary, with allied health professionals, medical professionals and sports scientists working together to deepen a scientific understanding of fitness and sports. Sports scientists can also work to promote healthier lifestyles.

As a professional in the field of sports science, you can use your expertise to help individuals train and prepare for major sporting or exercise feats. Knowledge of kinesiology allows sports scientists to adapt training plans and exercises for individual patients. The multidisciplinary nature of the profession also benefits from input by sports trainers and coaches. The field of sports science can also help athletes to achieve their physical goals, prevent injuries and treat existing ailments. Sports scientists can also use their unique knowledge of the human body, metabolism and physicality to contribute to the fields of dietetics and nutrition.

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How to become a sports scientist

Becoming a sports scientist can take years of specialist training and education at the university level. Sports science graduates often gain an undergraduate education, along with a master's or PhD. There are a variety of careers that you can pursue following an education in sports science, like exercise psychology or health advisory roles. It's helpful to gain insight into how to become a sports scientist, so you can ensure you maximise your opportunities for success in the field:

1. Complete a degree in sports science

To pursue the role of sports scientist, a degree in a related field can be helpful. Exercise scientists at the top of their fields often hold degrees in sports science, human movements or kinesiology. There are other related subjects that can be helpful for sports scientists, like dietetics, nutrition, medicine, physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Postgraduate qualifications can help to maximise your job potential and impress potential employers. A higher diploma in education or teaching may also be helpful if you have an interest in teaching others.

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2. Undertake work experience in a related field

It's also helpful to undertake work experience in a field related to sports science. You may seek volunteer opportunities that are similar to the role you wish to obtain in the future. For example, if you're interested in sports science education, you may choose to pursue volunteer exercise classes or teaching opportunities for youth or underserved communities.

If you have an interest in sports science research, consider volunteering as a research assistant or administrator for a university professor. You can also find work experience with outdoor pursuit companies, children's summer camps or local community health promotion initiatives. Often, sports science degrees include a period of work experience or volunteerism. This gives you an opportunity to gain insight into the career that you're interested in and establish industry contacts that may help you to find employment in the future.

3. Improve your sports science skills

Following an education in sports science, you can improve the skills related to your field to maximise your potential for employment. While education can give you an in-depth knowledge of kinesiology, sports performance and behavioural sports concepts, you can obtain and achieve practical sports science skills through work experience and practice. You can improve skills and knowledge related to psychology, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition and biochemistry. These subjects and their related skills can help you to become a well-rounded, knowledgeable professional. Helpful sports science skills can include:

  • verbal and written communication skills

  • awareness of physical and psychological client needs

  • analytical and research skills

  • problem-solving skills

  • mathematical and statistical analysis skills

  • technological skills.

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4. Network in the industry

Networking is also an important factor for succeeding in a career as a sports scientist. You may discover new job opportunities through industry contacts, colleagues or co-workers. Network contacts can also help you improve your knowledge of developments in the field of exercise and sports science. You can aid your professional development by attending industry conferences and talks by experts. You can use industry contacts to market your experience and skills, improve your professional reputation and potentially gain more clients. Stay in contact with colleagues through professional social media websites, email and conferences.

When networking in the sports science industry, it's helpful to discover a niche you're interested in. You may find it easier to build contacts in the field who have similar career interests and goals to you. For example, if you have an interest in sports science psychology or exercise education, you can communicate this passion with others in the field who may have similar interests. This allows you to build a deeper, more rewarding connection with those in the industry. Network contacts can be helpful as they may encourage, motivate and inspire you to develop professionally in your career.

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Skills for success as a sports scientist

There are also skills you can develop to be successful as a sports scientist. You can develop some of these skills through education, experience and practice, while you may already have other skills and traits as intrinsic personality characteristics. The following skills may be useful for success as a sports scientist:

Commitment to education

Working in the field of sports science can mean a lifelong commitment to education. Whether you choose to pursue teaching and impart scientific knowledge to others or choose to spend a career in research, commitment to education is vital in this industry. Given that the basis of this career is scientific, you may participate in research developments, essays and journals that contribute to education.

Ability to work under pressure

Sports scientists can also benefit from the ability to work under pressure. You may participate in high-intensity sports or exercise yourself or offer training and advice to high-level athletes. This means an ability to work under pressure can help you to succeed.

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Time management

As a sports scientist, you can also benefit from time management skills. Balancing your education, teaching or research requirements with client treatments or training plans. You may find it helpful to create a schedule that allows you to achieve your career requirements, ensuring you can manage your career priorities. Other skills and characteristics for success that may be useful as a sports scientist include:

  • Curiosity: sports scientists can benefit from curiosity. This may be a catalyst for new research questions and discoveries.

  • Creativity: creativity can also help you to become successful in this field, as you devise original ways to treat clients or perform research.

  • Determination: determination can help you to succeed in the field of exercise science, as you may encounter setbacks during the research or education process. It may also help you to remain motivated in your endeavours.

  • Logic: you can use logic skills to help you solve and understand problems you encounter. Logic can also help you to maximise your knowledge of concepts in the field and understand how they interact with each other.

  • Analytical skills: analytical skills can help you to perform successful research or even to devise clinical trials. These skills can help you to identify patterns and draw conclusions from your findings.

  • Interpersonal skills: interpersonal skills are also useful for sports scientists, as they allow you to build better working relationships with others in your field. This can also improve your communication style.

  • Technical writing skills: technical writing skills can also help you to succeed as a sports scientist, as you can use these skills in the research process. They can help you to craft journal articles and communicate the results of trials or scientific experiments.