UHCL's exercise and health sciences degree offers career options, work experience

May 3, 2018 | Katherine Adams

UHCL's exercise and health sciences degree offers career options, work experience

University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Exercise and Health Sciences Master of Science program is embarking on a new era in student training and research. The program, recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association for the content and practicality of its sport science curriculum, has expanded and now offers its students an opportunity to specialize in public health.

Additionally, the program has a growing reputation in rehabilitation research that will expand significantly with the opening of the new Recreation and Wellness Building, containing three state-of-the-art human performance labs. 

“Graduates from our program have worked at the highest levels in sports science and strength and conditioning, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, NASA, and well-known private sport facilities,” said William Amonette, associate professor of exercise and health sciences. “Because of our outstanding students, the program has developed a national reputation and graduates are sought after for some of the best employment opportunities in the field.”

In the program, students are encouraged to engage in research projects that pertain to their career goals. “Every graduate student is involved in research, and it’s a great point of pride for us to have had over 100 student authors and co-authors presenting and networking at national conferences over the last eight years,” Amonette said.  “In competitive industries such as exercise and sport science and public health, employers are looking for differentiators. We believe the best ways for an applicant to be competitive are to complete a great internship and publish research.”

Amonette said that the program places strong emphasis on facilitating these opportunities for students. “Their work ethic and professional competence has reflected positively on our program, and it has also provided an opportunity to show employers that, along with completing an advanced degree, they contributed significantly to a team that produced a research product that was respected enough to be published.  It’s great to have that on your resume in an interview.”

The Exercise and Health Sciences M.S. is a great fit for students looking for an opportunity to build the evidence base to help people with chronic disease or disabilities. “Through coursework, internship, and research opportunities, students are exposed to a variety of opportunities within the field.” he said. “For some, clinical research might be a viable option for a career in rehabilitation.”

Amonette pointed out that the competition for acceptance to physical therapy programs is becoming increasingly fierce. In 2016-17, 19,005 prospective degree-seekers competed nationwide for only 9,707 available admission seats in 214 accredited physical therapy programs, the American Physical Therapy Association reported. Those 19,005 applicants filed more than 118,000 applications on APTA’s centralized applications portal – an average 6.4 per applicant.

“There are so many great candidates for physical therapy programs, but not enough seats,” he said. “Students who applied and were not accepted on the first round to physical therapy can complete our M.S. degree and gain valuable skills and clinical research experience. They might decide their passion lies in research, exercise physiology, public health, or sports science.”

The degree’s other concentration, public health, has a number of advantages, said Isabelle Kusters, assistant professor of public health. “Our society is increasingly seeing the value of preventive care and health promotion efforts.  An advanced degree in public health is essential for students interested in careers in which they can have an impact on the health of communities and populations.”

Formal training in disease prevention, epidemiology, critical thinking, and health systems and policy are an asset in today’s ever-changing health care climate. “What really distinguishes UHCL’s public health program is that we are a complete liberal arts and science institution,” Kusters said. “The benefit for public health students is that the field is interdisciplinary. Our students have the opportunity to take courses available in health-related fields, such as sociology, geography, cross-cultural studies, and others, giving them the opportunity to learn about public health in an integrated manner.” 

Additionally, Kusters said that UHCL’s location makes it very accessible to people living or working in Galveston, League City, Clear Lake, Pasadena, or Baytown.

UHCL’s state-of-the-art 83,000-square-foot Recreation and Wellness Center scheduled to open this fall, is the new home of the Exercise and Health Science program. The facility contains dedicated weight room and cardiovascular exercise space, group exercise rooms, an indoor running track, and turfed open space for training.

“This facility is a tremendous asset for our campus and a giant leap forward for the student body at UHCL,”  Amonette said. “Our program will have three distinct and spaces for biomechanics, exercise physiology and motor control. The labs will be equipped with state-of-the art tools and I believe that we will have the most advanced lab spaces for applied sport and rehabilitation research in the region.”

As an additional benefit, the Student Life Office will be hiring a significant number of students to work in various capacities in the new recreation center. “It’s another example of the opportunities for students to gain the experience needed to be better suited for jobs in fields related to exercise science,” Amonette said.

For more information about the Exercise and Health Sciences M.S. visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/exercise-health-sciences-ms.