Advance Your Sports Career with an Online Education

online education in exercise and sports science
The perception of online degrees is changing among employers (Photo Courtesy:
There is an elitist stigma associated with an online education- the feeling of many is that they aren't as challenging or thorough as a traditional face-to-face experience.

Fact or Fiction?

As Sara Mathov, Director of the Exercise and Sports Science Masters program at the University of Western States points out, the truth is a developing narrative.

“The perception of online education has definitely changed in the past few years, mostly due to a large amount of research that has been done comparing online and traditional classroom education. As online education improves, the number of students enrolling in online courses has risen over the past 10 years from 9.6% in 2002 to 33.5% in 2012.

“Researchers have also evaluated whether learning outcomes for online courses are comparable to face-to-face traditional courses and have found that the majority of chief academic officers (74% in 2013) rate the learning outcomes for online education to be as good as or better than those for face-to-face instruction.”

Pursuing an advanced degree can be challenging for some, almost a Catch-22, as prospective students are often working full-time jobs to support their life and family, but need further education and training to advance in their career.

And that is why an online education presents such a unique opportunity – learning with flexibility.

To explore the University of Western States Masters in Exercise and Sports Science program, here’s more with program director, Sara Mathov:

University of Western States is offering a new online Masters of Science in Exercise and Sports Science - who is the target audience for this program? 

Mathov: We have four new Exercise and Sports Science (ESS) programs starting this fall in addition to our current program which focuses on sports medicine.

The four new tracks/concentrations are:

  • Fitness and Wellness Management (MS),

  • Sports Performance and Coaching Science (MS),

  • Sports and Athletic Administration (MA)

  • Sports and Athletic Counseling (MS).

The target audience is a little different for each group, although there is a lot of overlap as education at uws

For the fitness and wellness track, there has been interest from human resources personnel or others interested in developing corporate wellness programs as well as interest from a wide array of sports professionals from personal trainers to fitness instructors and club personnel looking to move into managerial positions and those interested in becoming a wellness or life coach.

The sports performance and coaching track is targeting health and physical education instructors, coaches, personal trainers, athletic trainers, and anyone else that does coaching/performance work with athletes.

The administration track is ideal for anyone interested in the business side of sports or interested in becoming an athletic director, event manager, and other administrative position in the athletic setting.

Finally, the athletic counseling track is a good fit for those people that work closely with athletes and wish to better understand how to help an athlete train and obtain his/her goals from a psychological aspect. This can be an athletic trainer, a coach, or a high school guidance counselor that would like to specialize in sports. It is also a good fit for life/wellness coaches.

A program like this sounds like it would be hands-on, but your program is online - how does a student get the requisite experience to be employment ready upon graduation?

Mathov: The sports medicine track (our current program) is a hybrid program, meaning that a good portion of the course material is online and most courses also have a hands-on lab portion that meets once per quarter.

university of western states online education sports science
Sara Mathov, Director of the Masters of Exercise and Sports Science program at the University of Western States
For the new tracks, the coursework will all be delivered online with an optional elective of "professional field experience" in the sports performance and coaching track (this would be arranged by the student).

Often when people think of online education, they think of sitting at a computer and reading. While there is certainly reading that occurs in an online course (similar to a traditional classroom setting), we work hard to make the courses as interactive as possible and encourage active learning. This occurs through videos, case studies, interactive or group work, discussion forums, and a lot more.

We really want our students to be involved in their learning process and actively participating as much as possible. Through all of this, a student will have the necessary experience and knowledge to gain employment upon graduation.

One of the main benefits of an online degree program is that the class time and curriculum can be flexible to work with a student’s schedule - is that the case with UWS? Does the program have flexible scheduling? 

Mathov: Online courses are definitely more flexible in that the student can choose when he/she is able to do the necessary work and can work it into his/her schedule. There are some people that believe online courses to be easier, but this is not case. The same amount of work occurs in an online course as in a traditional face to face course, the difference is that you control when you do the work as opposed to having to sit in a class at a given time.

In regards to scheduling, we will offer two courses per quarter starting with the core curriculum first. Students will have the option to take one or two courses per quarter – if taking two courses, the completion time is 7 quarters (just under two years) and if taking one course per quarter the completion time will be double that (14 quarters- 3 1/2 years).

In your eyes as director of the program - what is it that makes it special? 

Mathov: I have been a part of our current program, as a faculty member first and now the director, since the beginning and I have witnessed the growth of the program and the students that have gone through.

We have a very high satisfaction rate among our students (current and past) and all of those wishing to work with athletes have been able to do so - in a variety of settings from high school to professional sports. I truly believe that our new tracks will offer the same satisfaction and success. We have faculty members from across the US with years of experience in the field as well as teaching this subject material and we work very hard to ensure a quality education. online education university of western states sports science students

If a prospective student said to you, "I want to work in sports, I just don't know what I want to do?" - why is exercise and sports science a good direction to point them? 

Mathov: I would recommend making a list (I love lists) of what that students likes about sports and what he/she would be interested in doing. Usually, from examining that list, a trend can be found that will then lead to one of the tracks.

Another good thing to know is that you don’t have to choose your concentration in the beginning (and you can change it once you have started as well). All of the tracks start with common core classes which will give a glimpse into the various tracks and allow a students to determine which area he/she likes the best.

The potential careers are endless, really. This field is so vast and offers so many opportunities - whether working directly with athletes, helping develop wellness plans, helping people learn healthy habits, or working behind the scenes as a director or manager – there is a job for everyone.

Unfortunately, it is also quite competitive and this is where a graduate degree can really help you stand apart from the rest.

For more informaiton on the University of Western States Exercise and Sports Science program, click here.
By Brian Clapp | May 21, 2014
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