blue and white academic hat

Job prospects: 5 questions to ask at university open days

If you’re thinking about studying a sports science degree and you’re just in the final leg of your FE studies, you’ll be occasionally looking up from your revision notes to think about what next. If sports and exercise science is your choice, you’re going to be amongst lots of others who have chosen to take this path of study (as I did – way back when).

What careers lie ahead?

Whenever I have done sessions at schools, the number one question at the end of FE is “What jobs can I get at the end of my studies?” This is interesting to remember, because this fundamental question seems to get lost at the next stage…

As you’re weighing up which university to chose, you’ll no doubt be thinking about accommodation, clubs and societies, safety, and maybe a bit about the course. When you get to this stage you’ll be asking about the course, “Does that sound interesting?” or “Can that hold my attention for 3 -4 years?” Often as you’re wondering about course content you’ve forgotten about that ‘jobs’ question.

As you hit the road to various uni open days, you’ll be greeted by branded volunteers, a tote bag, leaflets about the library (who goes to the library) and a nice message from the vice-chancellor and maybe a balloon arch! You are about to meet the people that will be running your potential course. Unless you DON’T want to work or if you want to stay in higher education forever or don’t really care what you study you’ll ‘just have the uni experience and find any old job’ – then you need to find a university that can actively help you get the right skills to stand out from a large crowd of graduates to land a job in sports and exercise science.

Now I’m not saying that university prospectuses are misleading, or that open days are founded on telling you what they are good at and not what you want…necessarily BUT it’s well worth keeping a clear sense of what’s important to you as you go in to the sales pitch. All told universities need to fill places (bums on seats). It doesn’t help them to dish out realities and withering stats about ‘no jobs out there’.

If a job in sports performance or exercise science is important to you then here are four things to look out for and 8 probing questions to ask to find out exactly how they will support your job prospects.

Look! A graduate worked for Man Utd

“Students studying this course have gone on to work at teams like Man Utd etc…”

Do the maths. Say 200 students go through that course each year – that’s 2,000 over the last 10 years. If they’re using ‘Man Utd’ or equivalent as the bait, be very careful – this probably isn’t the norm.

Everyone goes onto amazing things

“95% of graduates are in full-time employment or further study”

Be very careful with this one. The statistics here might or might not include, what is called ‘meaningful employment’. How graduate outcomes are measured has changed recently and universities are required to measure where you go and what you do with after your studies in specific ways. For example, it should be taken 15 months after graduating, so this leapfrogs further study like a masters. Also the survey asks if you are using the skills you picked up during your course – this is very telling. If the university are reporting older statistics this should be a red flag for you – chances are they are hiding the new data because it might paint a gloomier picture – it might include lots of people who are extending their studies, are working but not in relevant careers or jobs that didn’t need a degree in the first place, like a fitness instructor.

You can do a placement if you want 🤷🏻

(I was literally told this when I asked about work experience opportunities at a uni open day with my daughter).

Make no mistake about it work experience is THE thing that gets you from the long list to the short list. If you want good job prospects go for universities that offer work placements. The top combination should be a work placement year plus careers support during with extra links with industry for additional work experience. Next best is a work placement module, but even this is often not enough. A red flag is when course staff just say “It’s up to you”. This signals they have no interest, will offer little support and have little insight into the working world. Beware.

We have a careers centre you can visit

(Controversy alert) Careers centres will often offer generic advice. This is understandable because they are aiming to appeal and support 1000s of students. So be very clear, a careers centre will, more often than not, offer careers advice, CV advice, interview advice FROM the perspective of higher education NOT from the industry you are aiming to go into.

Questions to ask

If you take an opportunity to ask the following questions and you don’t get a substantive and compelling answer then maybe this isn’t the university for you if job prospects are important to you;

  • Can I do a sandwich placement, work experience module?
  • What links do you have with industry in the route I want to take?
  • What employability support do you offer throughout (1st to final year) the course?
  • How many graduates go on to jobs relevant to sports and exercise science?
  • How many graduates state they are using the skills they learned at university?
  • How much is problem based learning integrated into the course (ask for specific numbers)?
  • Do you use guest speakers from industry to share insights, who, when and how often?
  • Is the careers support and job application training specific and industry informed?

Don’t settle for generic answers. Get specifics. If course staff can answer your questions then this signals serious intent and support for your future work prospects. If so, this is far more important than the pool table in the lobby of the halls you’re about to look round! This is your future that could be accelerated.

Supporting Champions Employability Support?

Take a look at which universities are investing in our multi-stage, industry informed employability support. Ask about access at the next open day.