Sports medicine is a field of study that prepares students to treat and prevent exercise-related injuries. If you are a sports fan, but not cut out to be an athlete yourself, or have a passion for medicine and are looking for a unique specialty, sports medicine may be the right field for you. In practice, sports medicine majors may work as athletic trainers or, if they choose to go to medical school, physicians. Students majoring in sports medicine should expect to study human anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, injury assessment and prevention, concepts in physical therapy, nutrition, and human performance.
Graduates of a sports medicine program can work for clinics, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, high schools, colleges or universities, physical therapy facilities, or professional sports teams. It is important to note, however, that licensing is required for most positions in this field, whether as a certified athletic trainer or a licensed medical doctor.
Classes and Assignments of a Sports Medicine Major
Students majoring in sports medicine should expect an intense course of study, including lectures, seminars, clinical education, and field experience courses. Most programs in sports medicine cover human anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, injury prevention, training therapeutics, athletic training, nutrition and performance, and statistics. Depending on the specific program's requirements, students may also be required to take courses in chemistry, biology, and physics.
As far as assignments, sports medicine students should be prepared to complete clinical observations and other field work in addition to writing papers, taking exams, and giving presentations. At the graduate level, students may even begin to treat patients themselves in supervised clinical practicum courses.
Degree Levels for a Sports Medicine Major
- Associate. Online associate sports medicine degrees are the minimum requirement for most opportunities in the field of sports medicine, though many have master's or online PhD sports medicine degrees. For this reason, an associate degree in sports medicine is most useful as a launching point towards additional study. Graduates with an associate degree in sports medicine are qualified to fill entry-level administrative or assistant positions in clinics, sports facilities, schools, rehabilitation centers, or physicians' offices.
- Bachelor's. Students pursuing online bachelors sports medicine degrees can expect a blend of lecture, seminar, clinical education, and field work courses. As with most bachelor's degrees, sports medicine students must also meet the school's core educational requirements. Online degrees are available in sports medicine for working adults or non-traditional students. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in sports medicine who earn the appropriate certification are qualified to work as athletic trainers at schools, clinics, fitness centers, and rehabilitation centers.
- Master's. At the graduate school level, sports medicine students will complete more advanced clinical practicum and research coursework. To prepare to earn their license, students will often treat patients in supervised clinic courses. Working adults looking for a curriculum flexible enough to accommodate their schedule can find a number of self paced online masters degree programs. Graduates with a master's degree in sports medicine who earn the appropriate certification can work as athletic trainers for schools, clinics, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, or professional sports teams.
- Doctoral. Those who wish to work as medical doctors in the field will need to complete all pre-medicine requirements as undergraduates, attend medical school, and complete a residency specializing in sports medicine. Also available are non-M.D. programs designed to help prepare students for careers in research and academia. Graduates of a doctorate program in sports medicine who receive the necessary licensure are qualified to work as athletic trainers at schools, clinics, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, or for professional sports teams. Those who graduate from medical school and receive their physician's license can work in these same industries as a medical doctor or team doctor for a professional sports organization.
A Future as a Sports Medicine Major
Licensing requirements can vary, but almost all states require athletic trainers to be certified. In most locations, certification requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, though, due to the specialized nature of the field, a master's degree or higher is typically the best college degree for future employment opportunities. Athletic trainers earned a median salary of $39,640 in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Those who complete medical school with a specialization in sports medicine undertake a much longer and much more rigorous course of study, but also can earn much higher salaries once they graduate. The median annual salary for physicians was $166,400 in 2010, according to the BLS. However, it is important to note that salaries can vary based on location, level of experience, industry, and the general job market.