Push Yourself Further: How to Get into IT with an Exercise Science Degree
You listened to the old adage to study what you loved in college, but now you're having trouble supporting yourself with your job – or maybe you're having trouble finding one at all. You even majored in a science.
It might be hard to find a job related to your exercise science degree, but the skills you've picked up along the way could serve you well in one of the best careers possible: the IT field. While other professions stagnate thanks to disruptive apps and the increasingly competitive global economy, IT has many of the top jobs in demand.
Comparing a Career in Exercise Science to One in IT
While many may find exercise science to be a personally rewarding field to work in, not nearly as many find it financially rewarding. Some jobs available to exercise science majors, like personal training or coaching at the high school level or below, have very low barriers to entry – often, having the right certifications is more important than having a degree. If you have an exercise science degree, you may wonder why you put in so much time, money and effort. These jobs also tend to have nontraditional work schedules and may include an excessive amount of travelling, leading to a sense of social isolation.
On the other hand, if you want to get a prestigious job training at a Division 1 school or working as an exercise physiologist, you'll likely need two to three years of grad school, which can come with another six figures of debt. Even that, though, is no guarantee of gainful, long-term employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level exercise science jobs, such as fitness trainer or coach, have median salaries of $38,160 and $31,460 respectively. In contrast, the median salary for computer support specialists, an entry-level IT job, is $52,160.
If you're thinking of changing careers, there's a chance that IT isn't even on your list. But that's a mistake. While we're all familiar with the stereotypes of IT professionals working alone in front of their computers all day, but that's not necessarily the case. IT is a vibrant, diverse field that offers an array of career options. There are as many types of technology jobs as there are types of technology.
The Skills You Need to Work in IT
Think about your personal experiences with IT professionals in the workplace or at school. If there was a problem with your computer, chances are they came over to fix it and then explained to you how to prevent the problem from happening again. Like exercise science, IT jobs involve helping people on a constant basis. And just like how a trainer makes small talk during reps or exercises, an IT pro makes small talk while troubleshooting.
Most of us think of support specialists when we think of IT careers, but one of the top IT jobs is actually project manager. Although it's not an entry-level job, changing careers means making long-term plans – not just the job you get now, but also the ones you have 5, 10 or more years down the road. The best careers in IT, like in any other field, take time to work up to. However, those with experience in exercise science should find IT project management particularly rewarding.
Project management requires many of the same job skills as personal training or coaching. Just as a trainer or coach will have several clients or athletes to manage, an IT project manager works with many people, making sure that everyone is on task and that the task at hand gets accomplished. Coaching and project management have especially transferable job skills because both involve considering how each individual's strengths and weaknesses can best be utilized to serve the group as a whole.
Another thing that exercise science and IT have in common is that both require effective communication. For example, both trainers and coaches have to be able to simply and accurately convey their instructions to their athletes. Similarly, an IT professional must make sure that people know how to use the technology they've been given to best accomplish whatever their job requires. In both cases, it's not enough just to know what you're doing. You need to know how to make sure your clients and co-workers know what they're doing, too. For this and other reasons, IT is one of the best careers for people looking to pivot away from exercise science.
What's It Like Working in IT?
IT is a rapidly expanding field, and with our growing reliance on technology, you should only expect it to grow further. Looking at two popular entry-level IT jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the job availability of computer support analysts to grow 10 percent between 2014 and 2024 and for help desk technicians to grow by 12 percent in the same time span. Both of these are faster than average. In our uncertain global economy, IT is not only one of the most lucrative and rapidly growing professions, it's also one of the most stable.
|Help Desk Technician||Computer Support Analyst|
|Salary||$52,160 average||$52,160 average|
|Availability||“Normal” work hours||Generally requires some nights and weekends|
|Work–Life Balance||Can leave work at the office||Can leave work at the office|
Possible Career Path
|Help Desk Technician → End User Support Specialist → Network Administrator*||Computer Support Analyst → Coder → Software Developer*|
|Training||College degree not necessary, but certifications are beneficial||Associates degree or post-secondary classes often required|
|Job Outlook||12% growth expected||10% growth expected|
Estimated Time to Career Change
(Statistics and information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; items marked with an asterisk (*) are from itcareerfinder.com.)
How to Change Careers from Exercise Science to IT
If you're seriously considering a career in IT, you'll definitely want to have a knack for using computers as well the ability to communicate effectively and work as part of a team. Take our free career quiz to help you narrow down which IT career you are best suited for, and from there you can figure out what sort of further training you will need. For example, would a CompTIA CertMaster course be the right fit for you or maybe a MOOC, Lynda.com, or a training boot camp?
If you going to change careers from exercise science to IT, you know that certifications are quicker and more cost effective than a degree, and they often get your foot in the door. In fact, 96 percent of HR managers use IT certifications as screening or hiring criteria during recruitment.
Certifications programs can also be more flexible than degree programs. Most entry-level certifications, such as CompTIA A+, can be earned after just a few months of study. Students have the option to self-study, take online classes or take instructor-led classes at a facility. Although taking instructor-led classes in a physical classroom is the most expensive option, it's still much less of a financial investment than a traditional college or graduate school.
Once you have training, an industry-recognized certification and some hands-on experience (such as setting up a neighbor's network printer or building your own website) it's time to sell your unique skillset to potential employers. Highlight your skills, experience and certifications so they can see that you have the ability to complete the tasks they need you to perform. Your time in another field may be looked at as a plus, as it gives you a broader range of experience than applicants who have never held a full-time job.
Take our free career quiz to see what IT career is most suited for you. Once you have an idea of what career path to embark upon, you can start researching, training and getting the credentials you need to land a job.