Sports Science

In Australia, exercise and sports science professionals work in a diverse range of jobs, including strength and conditioning, sports science, sports coaching, exercise physiology, rehabilitation, research, workplace health and safety, corporate health and personal training.

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA, formerly known as the Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science (AAESS)) was established in 1991 to establish, promote and defend the career paths of tertiary-trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

The work

Traditionally, exercise and sports science graduates fall into one of three categories:
Exercise scientists are university-qualified health professionals who work primarily in prevention, corporate health and wellness, community health and exercise programs for low-risk clientele. An exercise scientist can also register with Fitness Australia and gain formal recognition as a personal trainer, working with gym equipment. Exercise scientists are not eligible to register with Medicare Australia.

Accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs) are four-year university-qualified allied health professionals specialising in delivery of exercise, lifestyle and behavioural modification programs for prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.

AEPs provide physical activity and behaviour change support for clients with chronic disease (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or osteoporosis), musculoskeletal rehabilitation and workplace conditioning and rehabilitation. AEPs are eligible to register with Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the state Workcover agency and be recognised by health insurance providers.

ESSA has developed clear skills and competencies for accredited exercise physiologists.

Sports scientists work in a multi-disciplinary field concerned with understanding and enhancing human performance. Sports scientists evaluate, research, assess and advise on coaching, training, competition and recovery practices in all areas and levels of sport to achieve the best possible sporting performance.

Major employers of sports scientists are sporting academies (e.g. the Australian Institute of Sport) and professional and amateur sporting teams.

What you need

  • University qualifications and training related to your area of practice
  • Sports and/or Exercise Science or Human Movement Studies degree for sports scientist roles
  • Registration with relevant health care services and insurers for certain practices
  • Personal trainer qualifications are valued, as is a knowledge of the relevant gym equipment
  • Postgraduate degree in Sports Science for overseas, academy-based or professional sports roles

Graduate salary ranges for selected relevant occupations are as follows:

  • Exercise physiologist/occupational therapist/physiotherapist and podiatrist: $35,000–$82,000

(Figures from National Health Award 2010. Ranges reflect full salary scale for positions; graduate salaries may vary based on chosen placement, field and practical hours gained during study.)

  • Fitness instructors: $34,000–$41,800
  • Recreation officer: $38,000–$47,000
  • Sports administrator: $37,000–$41,000

(Figures from the Australian Graduate Survey 2008, GCA. Ranges refer to the middle 50 per cent of salaries for bachelor degree graduates with permanent residency, in full-time employment in Australia October 2007 to April 2008.)

Industry at a glance

  • 73% male workforce (physiotherapists)
  • 33 years median age (fitness instructors)
  • Positive outlook (35% growth: physiotherapists, 2007–09)