top of page

What Now? Expert Advice for New Sports Science Graduates


You have graduated. But now what? What do you do you with this shiny new degree?

After years of working towards your qualification, it can be a bit overwhelming pondering your next move. After all, you are simply one graduate among 1000’s in a competitive jobs market.

A wiser person than you is simply someone who has made, and learnt from more mistakes than yourself. Listening to those who have already walked a similar path to you can be invaluable. They have forged the track ahead of you, and understand its difficult twists and turns.

That is enough pontification for now. My attempt at a profound introduction simply builds to the fact that I posed a question on twitter asking people to offer advice to sports science / strength and conditioning graduates.

Given the quality of both the contributors and advice it would be a shame to let it fall victim to the algorithms and be forever banished to the archives of twitter. I hope this advice offered by this wide-ranging group of professionals may provide you with some valuable insights and food for thought.


Des Ryan (Director of Coaching & Performance at Setanta College, Previously Irish Rugby and Arsenal FC):

“Complete more coaching courses at university and coach/observe more at university. Make connections and good impressions at university. Put your hand up for the not so nice rolls, be diligent, be on time, be mannerly and bring something new to the table.”


Dr. Helen Collins (S&C Coach and Lecturer at the University of Dundee):

“Just because you have graduated does not mean you know everything… it’s just the beginning. Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid not to understand everything.


Dr. David Kelly (Senior Lecturer in Exercise Science at TUS Midlands):

“Approach people in careers you are interested in and go speak with them. Find a mentor, build relationships, establish a network. Do it your own way, no one size fits all!”


Josh Fletcher (S&C Coach and founder of Career Blueprint):

- Periodise your development

- Invest in your network (and HOW to network)

- Invest in a mentor

- Build an exit strategy before you need it

- Work on your professional awareness

- Join a network (silly value and a readymade network)


Jonny McGailey (S&C Coach at the Sydney Kings):

- Get as much coaching experience as you can while studying.

- Network, Network, Network

- Say yes to any opportunity

- Take time to fins your niche

- You won't make a lot of money so have a back up.


Philip McDonald (Senior Lecturer Department of Sport, Health & Nutrition at Leeds Trinity University):

“Keep schedule with specific targets. Avoid filling the void left by end of formal education with only non-career focused work. Foster networks from your year group(can lead to work). Accept that some things you will do will not pay off immediately.”


Kieran Collins (Research Scientist in Applied Exercise Physiology):

“Volunteer, get in front of people and communicate. Coach kids. Broaden your skill base, look at short courses outside of sport e.g. project management. Learn, make mistakes and reflect. Attend events and introduce yourself to others, network and make a project of it.”


Paul O’Connor (Professor of Exercise Science at Central Michigan University):

“Be aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect!!”


Dr. Aoife Lane (Head of Department of Sport and Health Sciences at TUS Midlands):

“Take opportunities that come your way… they do so because you’ve earned them. Have high expectations and standards for yourself in all of these roles. Finally, don’t be in too much of a rush.”


Greg Bennett (S&C Coach and Tutor at Setanta College):

“Coach as much as possible and up skill your knowledge in the areas which will be most beneficial rather than wasting time with elements that take up minimal training time.”


Dave Hembrough (S&C Coach at Sheffield Hallam University):

“It's less about the theory and more about the doing. Get stuck in, find experiences that make you nervous. Ask good questions, listen more than you speak. Telling people what to do doesn't work.”


Paul Talty (Head of Physical Preparation at Swim Ireland):

“Start taking caffeine right away, doesn’t matter if you drink it or chew it, it works!!! (Only half joking btw) Also, don’t panic about getting to the end point. Instead, be methodical in identifying and addressing the gaps in your skillset, in other words, periodise your career path.”


Hugh Gilmore (Applied Sports Psychologist and Coach Developer at British Weightlifting):

“The closer you get to losing your job but still keep it the faster you learn. And if you don’t ask for a pay rise then you aren’t worth one.


Joe O’Connor (Lecturer at MTU Kerry, Owner of NISUS):

“Embrace the commercial fitness industry. You will not greater variety in industry. Train many, and train often.”


Cyril McGrath (High Performance and Rehabilitation Coach):

“Never underestimate yourself and your ability.”


Rob Anderson (Owner of Athletic Evolution):

“Find someone who is successfully running their own private coaching business and go beg them for a job. You’ll have a better work life balance than pro sport, make better money and learn business skills for free!”


James Kilkenny (Physical Activity Promotion officer with Galway Sports Partnership):

- Build Relationships.

- Take opportunities

- Evaluate/Report on your work


About the author:

David Nolan is the founder and head of coaching & education at Synapse Performance. He is an experienced sports scientist and S&C coach. David is currently a lecturer in the Department of Sports and Health Sciences at TUS Midlands. David is also an experienced researcher and is currently completing his PhD in applied sports science at DCU under the supervision of Dr. Brendan Egan.

David offers consulting services to teams and companies. If you are interested in more information please contact us via email at:


Subscribe to the Synapse Performance Podcast to avail of free discussions with world leading coaches, researchers and practitioners.


Want to get notified when we release new content?

bottom of page