School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences

Career prospects

A row of six graduates standing outside, wearing graduation gowns and looking up as they throw their mortarboards up in the air.

Take your passion forward

Trying to work out what you can do with your degree can be quite intimidating. How do you choose what to do for a career?

Whether you're interested in sport and exercise (including coaching) or looking for a rehabilitation career in physiotherapy or sports therapy, a degree from our School can lead to you working with people of all ages and backgrounds.

You could help professional athletes improve their personal bests, guide people through their recovery and physical rehabilitation after an injury or medical incident, or inspire a love of sport in children.

Our School will support you to develop and enhance an important range of specialist and transferable skills that will make you suitable for roles in any sector. You can take advantage of opportunities to gain work experience through internal and external placements, take a year to study abroad at a partner institution, and study for additional formal qualifications in your area of interest.

The impact of our physical health on our mental health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important, especially in a post-pandemic world. The mental and physical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will live with us for generations, and you can be at the forefront of supporting people to have healthier and more physically active lives.

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Which jobs will suit me?
  • SRES graduates can go into a range of roles from personal trainers and sports performance analysis, to coaching sports teams and working to improve sport access for young people.
  • Trained physiotherapists are in high demand in the NHS. But you can also work as part of rehabilitation teams within the Ministry of Defence or join a private practice.
  • Our graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including Leicester Tigers Rugby Club, Ipswich Town FC, and The Abbeyfields Clinic.

Career opportunities

Private sector

The private sector is a huge recruiter, with opportunities available in companies range from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to national and international organisations with offices across the globe.

Private sector employers have of opportunities for graduates, such as:

  • Sports teams – A common employment route for many SRES graduates is through roles within a sports team or club. Depending on the size of the club you may find some roles are part-time only. These will require you to be pitch side during training sessions, with a rota for staff attending match days. Larger clubs may hire for full time roles, where you will work as part of a larger support team. You could be assessing performance post-match to identify areas of improvement, or helping players rehabilitate and return to match fitness.
  • Private clinics - There are many private clinics that offer physiotherapy and sports therapy services, especially as NHS waiting lists can be long. Some clinics will simply offer you a space to set up your practice in, with some appointment booking support available. Others may hire you on a contract to work a few days a week and provide you with a list of clients who are already referred. The size of the clinic may mean that you also work as part of a team of rehabilitation professionals, such as osteopaths.
  • Learning Support Assistant – Private schools with a focus on supporting children with disabilities and Special Educational Needs advertise Learning Support roles that include those with a sports and exercise background. You will work with children one-on-one or in small groups as part of a multi-disciplinary team. You will help feedback progress to parents and teachers, contribute to reports about students, and follow guidance from caseworkers to ensure children are given opportunities to develop and thrive.

Third sector

"Third sector" is a term used to cover organisations that fall between the public and private sectors. It includes charities, community organisations, and non-governmental and non-profit organisations.

Roles in the third sector can be very rewarding. You may be helping make a positive change in the lives of people in marginalised communities or working to create impact in local areas of deprivation. Your skills will make you an excellent candidate for jobs that combine sport with development, with potential roles including:

  • Programmes Officer – Charities with a focus on sports provision may receive funding for specific aspects of their work, such as helping grassroots sports clubs improve their facilities. You’ll need an understanding of how the charity aims support specific communities (such as young people or people with disabilities), good communication skills, knowledge of writing reports to show impact, and organisational skills.
  • Activities Manager – Organisations that support children and young people (for example those with disabilities or who are young carers) will run activities at weekends and school holidays. This can involve sports activities, arts and crafts, or day trips to the seaside or a local venue. As an Activities Manager you’ll help plan and organise a calendar of events that meets the needs of clients and families. You may be responsible for risk assessments, support budget management, and collate and report feedback.
  • Volunteer Co-ordinator – Third sector organisations often need volunteers to help support their aims and objectives. As a Volunteer Co-ordinator you’ll help recruit new volunteers, ensure they have a proper on-boarding experience, and deploy their skills effectively. This is a role that requires a lot of relationship building and coaching to help get the best out of people who want to dedicate their spare time to a cause that may be very close to their heart.

Public sector

The public sector consists of government departments with offices across the UK, as well as public bodies such as the NHS, and smaller non-ministerial departments. Many public sector roles often require evidence of skills and responsibilities rather than a specific degree.

Some of the roles your degree will make you suitable for include:

  • Commercial Support or Grants Manager – Large government departments have commercial or grants divisions to manage contracts and services delivered by external providers. This type of role involves excellent communication skills and teamwork, flexibility to manage competing deadlines, and some experience in reviewing and changing existing processes or procedures.
  • Policy Advisor – Policy making is one of the key functions of government. Policy Advisor roles focus on projects within areas of policy, such as improving literacy rates in children or encouraging more adults to cycle to work. The role requires excellent written and oral communication skills, an ability to work to short deadlines, and experience in weighing up information and data from different (and sometimes competing) sources to make effective decisions. As an SRES graduate you may find particularly interesting policy roles in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, or the Department for Health and Social Care.
  • Project Support – Often found in departments ranging from the Care Quality Commission through to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a Project Support Officer helps manage portfolios of projects being carried out by specialist teams. You’ll help maintain records and reports, assist in planning and scheduling works, monitor budgets, and maintain positive working relationships with colleagues at various levels of seniority.
  • Physiotherapy outside the NHS – Many physiotherapists in the public sector are employed by NHS Trusts. But there are other public sector departments that offer physiotherapy roles. One of the biggest is the Ministry of Defence, where you will work with service personnel who may have received an injury in combat or are recovering from a medical episode.

Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream is a professional development programme for graduates in the UK who wish to join the Civil Service in more senior roles.

There are fifteen schemes within the Fast Stream, ranging from 2 to 4 years in length. Starting salaries are in the mid-£20,000s, and on successfully completing your scheme you will be eligible for roles ranging from £40,000 to £55,000 a year.

The schemes have different entry requirements, based on the needs of the roles you will be working in. For example, the Project Delivery Scheme simply requires a 2:2 in any subject, while the Government Social Research Scheme requires a 2:1 or a postgraduate degree in a subject that features extensive training in social research methods. 

Self-employment and entrepreneurship

Many graduates in sports and exercise science or rehabilitation go into self-employment. It can give you the flexibility to choose the clients you wish to work with and help you balance work with personal responsibilities such as childcare.

Alternatively, you could look at starting your own business. This could be a private clinic that offers several types of physical rehabilitation, or a personal fitness company that helps other graduates find clients.

Along with our module "Starting your own business or being self-employed" (which is a core module for some of our degrees), the university also offers a package of opportunities to help budding entrepreneurs test their idea, identify funding sources, and learn more about marketing and management.

Support from the university can include:

  • The Innovation Centre, which offers support for businesses looking to scale up. Based on our Colchester campus, the Centre also holds talks, workshops and networking events to bring together local businesses.
  • The University Enterprise Zone, also located at Colchester campus, provides one-to-one support for entrepreneurs, a regular webinar series, and help identifying funding.
  • The Angels@Essex investment platform, which helps start-ups find an “angel investor”. In return for a stake in your company these individuals can provide funding and offer advice on developing and growing your business.


You may already be considering becoming a teacher after graduation. Physical education (PE) is an important part of the curriculum in schools across the globe. It teaches children teamwork, improves fitness and health, and gives them a chance to gain an interest in sport that can last a lifetime.

If you want to become a teacher after completing a sports degree then you will need to undertake a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) which will lead to you gaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You can get an additional student loan and maintenance loan to help cover your living costs while you complete your training.

Alternatively, you may be able to get a teaching apprenticeship or join a School Direct scheme which will let you earn money by assisting in teaching while you study. You may find there’s a requirement to have some teaching experience so you may need to work as a Teaching Assistant to gain the required experience before applying.

Further education and research

Undergraduate students who find that they particularly enjoy the research side of their degree could continue their interest through a research degree such as a PhD, and move into academia.

Completing a PhD doesn't mean you have to continue in an academic career path. Senior roles in healthcare organisations and research institutes can require the kind of specialist knowledge and research skills that you will only get through a research degree.

Alternatively, you may find that progression through your career will be helped by completing a Masters degree in your field of interest. A Masters degree will help you enhance the skills you developed at undergraduate level, and can be a useful stepping stone if you would like to carry out a research degree in the future.

Physiotherapy graduates can also specialise by undertaking Continuing Professional Development modules in musculoskeletal assessment, practice or sonography.

Ben Mendrys stood in front of hedge with arms folded.
Ben Mendrys: My start-up journey

In this blog post BSc Sports Performance and Coaching student Ben Mendrys talks about how his freelance work as a personal trainer combined with one his modules to give him a start-up business idea.

Read about Ben's start-up journey

Skills development

Technical skills

Your chosen field will require you to have a range of technical skills that you will be able to apply to your career.

Some of these may be specific to a certain field, such as physiotherapy and sports therapy,  but others will be common across all degrees and tailored to your field. These skills can include:

  • Physical assessments – Whatever your degree, you will learn how to carry out physical assessments on a broad range of potential clients. This could range from identifying how a professional athlete can strengthen muscles to improve performance, to diagnosing physical injuries and advising on the correct exercises to help the healing process.
  • Equipment and software – You will be expected to be familiar with the equipment and software that is a standard within your career path. From electrotherapy modalities to performance analysis software, you will learn to use the tools of your trade and how to apply them to a range of situations.
  • Data analysis – Throughout your degree you will learn how to identify and utilise different methods to collect data, how to analyse it using industry-standard software to draw conclusions, and how to counteract the risks around bias, both in data gathering and in analysis.
  • Research – Even if you’re not planning to move into a research-focused career, research skills are still important as you will need to regularly update your knowledge on your field. You will learn about the types of quantitative and qualitative research methods used in your field, and how to choose the appropriate method. You will incorporate your data and communication skills to collate evidence and write up your work, and you will gain an understanding of the ethical considerations in scientific research. 

Transferable skills

Your degree is more than the technical skills you learn in the classroom. There are a collection of transferable skills that are essential in all careers, whether you stick to a sports science or rehabilitation track or choose to move into something else.

The skills you will learn in your degree will include:

  • Teamwork – Working as part of a team is important in any career. But in a sports science, coaching, or rehabilitation career path it’s essential. You will learn the importance of working as part of a team, listening to the opinions of your colleagues, and drawing on each other’s strengths and knowledge in order to successfully complete a piece of work or project.
  • Communication – Communication is an essential life skill. Throughout your studies you will learn both written and oral communication skills through tasks such as in-class presentations and report writing. This includes learning to tailor your communications to your audience, and how to present your work effectively within word or time limits.
  • Self-directed learning – The fields of sports science and rehabilitation are always changing and developing. Learning how to keep on top of the latest research and news is an important skill, as you will need to keep yourself up to date on the newest developments in your field.
  • Organisation and time management – In your career you will be expected to manage your workload and prioritise your work to meet set deadlines. Through assignment deadlines, exam timetables and project work, you will learn how to manage your time effectively and organise your work to balance competing priorities.

Opportunities and support


One way to build up your experience is to take part in volunteering activities. Our School has a range of volunteering opportunities that our students can choose to take part in.

Staff running our physiotherapy and sports therapy courses arrange for a group of student volunteers to attend athletic events such as the London Marathon and the Colchester Half. With supervision from academics, students taking part will work with runners at the finish line to provide sports massages or exercise guidance to reduce the risk or impact of an injury.

Our School also has connections with local sports teams, such as non-league football clubs and school holiday groups. As a volunteer you may be managing activities for school children or helping coach youth players in a grassroots team. We also run the Human Performance Unit, based on Colchester campus, where students can volunteer to assist with outreach sessions with schools.

All these opportunities mean you can build up experience and apply the knowledge you gain from the classroom into real situations, while making a positive impact in a local community.

Self-employment and starting your own business

Many of our graduates move into self-employment or decide to set up and run their own business, such as a sports therapy clinic. This may be a common step in your field of interest, or if you’re an international student then perhaps you have already spotted a gap in the market in your home country.

Throughout your degree you can study modules on self-employment and entrepreneurship. You will learn how to write a business plan, how to look and apply for funding, and understand some of the hidden aspects that you may be unaware of, such as potential legal issues or how to hire and manage staff.

You can also take advantage of start-up events offered by the university, and facilities such as the Innovation Centre.

Additional qualifications

There are a broad collection of additional qualifications that you can undertake through professional organisations and sporting bodies, from first aid through to youth coaching badges.

Our School can support you in identifying and successfully completing relevant qualifications that may be helpful for you in finding work in your field. Some of these may already be built into your degree. For example, all BSc Sports Therapy students complete a first aid course in their first year, while BSc Sports Performance and Coaching students choose to qualify in either a Level 1 in football or an NCFE Level 2 Certificate in the Principles and Preparation for Coaching Sport.

Support offered by our School includes helping you identify volunteer opportunities to gain experience or a requisite number of hours with a team, identifying and accessing relevant reading materials, or access to facilities outside of lectures.


A work placement allows students to put their academic studies in to practice in a supportive environment, gain essential experience, and begin to build a professional network of contacts in your field.

Sports therapy and physiotherapy are practical courses by nature. Placements are built into these courses across undergraduate and postgraduate taught levels, as real-life experience is an essential part of your training for these roles. For these degrees your placements will be arranged through the School and will be allocated to give you professional experience in a range of settings.

Many of our other undergraduate degrees also let you undertake a placement year during your time at Essex. After successfully completing your second year, you will take a year to work in a relevant organisation, such as a football team or our Human Performance Unit. You will then return to the School to complete your final year and graduate.

Our School and the university’s careers team will support you to identify and apply for suitable placement opportunities, review your CV or application, and practice for interviews or assessments. Our students have undertaken placements at a range of sports clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Study Abroad

Many of our degrees can include a year studying abroad at one of our partner organisations.

Studying abroad brings a host of benefits. You can experience a new culture, expand your linguistic skills, build a network of international contacts, and be taught by other experts in your field.

We have partnerships with organisations across the globe, including the USA, Australia, and European countries such as the Netherlands and France.

But if spending a year abroad isn’t for you, then our summer abroad opportunities may be more suitable. These range from summer schools through to volunteering, or even taking part in an internship that lets you gain work experience and travel overseas.

Research project

In your final year you will complete a research project which will showcase the skills you have developed through your degree and enhance your understanding of the research process in your field and the ethical considerations around your field.

With support from your academic supervisor, you will identify a problem or area related to your degree specialisation. You will develop a research proposal, including the methods you plan to use and a review of relevant literature, carry out your research, and write up your results in a scientific report. You may also design a poster showing your research or deliver an oral presentation about your work.

Along with demonstrating your skills, your project may inspire you to take further steps in a research career path. Some students use their undergraduate project as the basis for undertaking a research degree. Successful completion of a PhD can open doors to many senior roles in the public and private sectors, or it can lead to a career in research and academia.

Specialist professional skills modules

Your undergraduate degree will help you develop a range of professional skills that you will use throughout your career. We understand that it can be difficult to recognise and identify those skills, especially if you are the first in your family to attend university.

Our undergraduate degrees include core modules on professional skills or preparing for professional practice. These modules will help you identify the different skills that you are learning in the classroom, understand how to develop them further, and learn how to discuss and evidence them in job applications and interviews. 

Chart Your Path and the Big Essex Award

Chart Your Path lets you find volunteering and other extra-curricular opportunities that can help you build skills and develop your CV. These opportunities contribute towards the Big Essex Award, which verifies the opportunities you’ve taken up and showcases the contributions you've made to your skillset and the local community.

Volunteer opportunities that count towards the Big Essex Award can include; trainee first aider (including with St John Ambulance), “Just Play” coach, and completing a Sports and Exercise Science work placement.

Skills development events

Along with the skills you develop within our School, you will also have opportunities to learn additional skills offered by the university. These can range from one-off classes, such as improving numeracy or learning how to use library-based tools for research, to enrolling in year-long programmes such as Languages For All.

These events are open all students in the university and may be repeated each term, giving you multiple opportunities to take part.

Our graduates

With 93% our School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences graduates in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2022), our graduates have moved on to careers in a range of organisations and sectors.

In the stories featured here our graduates talk about their time with Essex and where their degrees have taken them since they finished their studies.

Careers adviser looking at paper work
Your future matters, your career matters

You don't need to have your future all planned out. We offer a range of opportunities to build your CV, and gain valuable experience and expertise, including guidance on creating a start-up or becoming an entrepreneur, to ensure your career is on the right track for when you graduate.

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