New UMass Degree Option Provides Another Path for Exercise Science Students
Students enrolled in UMass Lowell’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences as exercise science majors now have their choice of two academic options to pursue. The first provides the coursework and clinical experience essential to becoming a physical therapist, physician’s assistant, or another healthcare practitioner.A new option in exercise and fitness management (EFM), combines courses in science with business, public health, and psychology to prepare students for careers as athletic trainers, exercise and fitness business managers, and more.
Westford resident Michael Hines, who enrolled in the exercise science program before the new option existed, found his way to the EFM option as one of its first students. An accomplished basketball player, he said the new option combines his twin passions: business and sports. As he prepares to graduate in May, he’s not sure if he wants to go on for his doctorate in physical therapy. But he does know that he wants to run his own athletic training or physical therapy business one day.
“I always had that entrepreneurial spirit. I want to work with athletes. I also want to work with younger kids, because I was kind of wondering when I was that age and I want to offer them guidance,” Hines said.
Hines is the kind of student the EFM option was designed for, according to Kyle Coffey, assistant teaching professor of physical therapy and kinesiology, who directs the exercise science program. The academic path for the EFM option was developed by the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business to provide enough elective courses in business for students to complete a business minor. Then, if they want to, they can go on for an MBA, Coffey said.
“The program is growing as we’re saying, ‘Here’s what you can do with it,’ and as the business school is saying, ‘If you’re interested in sports and fitness, do this as an undergrad and then come get an MBA,” he said.
It’s also a good choice for students who start off in the clinical option and then find that they want to explore other career possibilities, Coffey added.
“We have the state’s only public physical therapy degree program. That’s a big draw for students. Along the way, some of them realize they don’t want to be a practitioner but they want to remain in the fitness and wellness sphere and they can slide into the EFM option,” said Coffey, adding that EFM graduates may go on to land jobs in fields from health care management to biotechnology.
EFM is especially exciting for students who want to pursue careers in college or professional athletics, according to Coffey.
“To do that, you have to understand budgets, management, and organizational behavior – all of the things that go into a collegiate or pro program, which can be intense,” he said.
Women’s soccer player Gabrielle Weilding of Hopkinton said she chose the EFM option before the end of her first year once she learned about all of the different things she could do with the degree.
“With exercise and fitness management, there are so many options,” she said. “I’ve been an athlete my entire life, so I’ve always wanted to stay in sports. Sports marketing, sports management – there are so many jobs I’d be interested in.”
Coffey is hoping to grow the program with the addition of a for-credit internship, similar to the experience that students in the clinical option must complete.
Hines has already gotten a head start. With help from Coffey, he got an internship at Athletic Evolution in Woburn, which has high-level athletic strength and conditioning, physical therapy, and general fitness all under one roof, he said.
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Hines is already working with the certified strength and conditioning trainers. He will also get to rotate through the business operations and the physical therapy unit, giving him insight into several aspects of the operation, he said.
“It’s exciting. They’ve trained some players that have actually made it to the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and Major League Baseball. They currently have football players that are training for the NFL, along with many high-school athletes who want to go to D1 schools,” he said.
UMass Lowell is a national research university offering more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu