What Degrees Can Student-Athletes Earn That Will Help Them after Sports?
Student-athletes attending colleges and universities around the United States on scholarship have a great opportunity presented to them: the chance to earn a degree without amassing a fortune in student loan debt.
While it is a great opportunity to prepare for life after their athletic career ends, how many of these student-athletes take advantage of the chance, and do they choose majors that will be useful in finding a post-athletic career?
What Majors Are Student-Athletes Choosing?
The choice of a major is an extremely important decision for a student to make. Some majors have clear career paths, while others may be a bit broader. A recent survey by OneClass.com looked at the preferred majors of student-athletes at a cross-section of universities around the country. For student-athletes at Louisiana State University, the University of Florida, the University of Mississippi, and Virginia Tech, one of the top majors is business/finance. This is an excellent major for a post-athletic career, and it also is useful if the athlete has a professional sports career.
At Duke University and UCLA, psychology is one of the top four majors for athletes. The increasing emphasis on mental health and well-being in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the struggles many athletes go through in their athletic career and their transition to a life after sports. Several professional athletes have either retired or temporarily stepped away from the game for mental health reasons. The struggles of Simone Biles and Mikaela Shiffrin in the recent Olympic Games were well documented and covered extensively in various media. Sports psychologists are increasing in number, and a person with a degree in psychology and experience in the sporting world is well positioned for a career helping other athletes deal with their troubles.
The STEM majors in particular are very valuable and sought after by companies. Recent statistics from the NCAA reveal that while 27 percent of the student bodies of Division I and II colleges and universities major in STEM, only 16 percent of student-athletes are choosing this area for their major. Interestingly, the rate of women student-athletes in Division I schools pursuing STEM degrees is comparable with the overall rate of women students, while their Division II counterparts choose STEM majors at a higher rate than their non-athletic peers. The male student-athlete STEM rate is considerably lower than the overall student body rate.
What Majors Are Best for Student-Athletes Looking Ahead?
There are many majors offered at most universities. While some young people have a clear sense of exactly what they want as a career, most are undecided. In the case of athletes, their commitment to their sport often puts future career considerations on the back burner. What are some of the best majors for athletes to consider for a successful post-sports career?
Besides the three mentioned above (business/finance, psychology, and STEM), there are a few other majors that can position athletes well for the future.
Education is another great major for athletes looking to get into coaching at the K-12 level. Most coaches at the grade, middle, and high school levels are also teachers. Having an education degree and sports experience can put a former athlete in a great position to land a coaching/teaching job. Also, there is overlap in the areas of teaching and coaching. Athletes can use some of the skills they learned in their sport, such as leadership, to use in both coaching and teaching. If the athlete wishes to stay physically active, a degree in physical education can be very appealing.
Similar to coaching and teaching, physical therapy translates well as a career for former athletes. Most athletes undergo physical therapy at some point in their athletic career. They know the difficulties involved in recovering from an injury and can empathize with their patients. They can combine this experience with a degree to start a career in physical therapy.
Student-athletes have a great opportunity to earn a meaningful degree while on scholarship at a university. Choosing a useful major is imperative. Unfortunately, many athletes in sports that have a lucrative professional career path, like football and basketball, squander this great chance and wind up leaving college either without a degree or with a degree in general studies or another non-marketable field. Most athletes do not look beyond their athletic career to prepare for the time when they will need to work in some other field. Gaining a useful degree from a reputable university will go a long way toward ensuring a stable and rewarding future after sports.