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Exploring College Degrees for Student-Athletes

Student-athletes face unique challenges when it comes to balancing academics and sports. However, pursuing a college degree as a student-athlete not only offers many benefits but also opens up a world of possibilities for their future.

Written by

Christoph Willemsen

In this article, we will delve into the benefits of pursuing a college degree, the right type of college degree for student-athletes, available college majors, and the challenges faced in balancing academics and sports.

Benefits of Pursuing a College Degree As A Student-Athlete

Obtaining a college degree as a student-athlete provides numerous advantages that can significantly impact an individual's personal and professional life. Here are some key benefits:

Education and Knowledge

A college degree offers a well-rounded education, developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. These skills are essential in future career endeavors and can be beneficial on and off the field.

Enhanced Career Opportunities

Having a college degree expands the range of career opportunities available to student-athletes. While their athletic abilities may open doors in the sports industry, a degree provides a foundation for success in various fields, such as business, education, and healthcare.

Networking and Connections

College campuses often provide ample opportunities for networking with fellow students, professors, and professionals. These connections can prove invaluable later in life when seeking internships, job opportunities, or mentorship.

Personal Growth and Development

College is a transformative time in a person's life. It helps students develop independence, self-discipline, time-management skills, and a strong work ethic. These qualities are not only crucial in academics but also essential for success in sports and beyond.

Long-Term Financial Stability

Statistically, individuals with a college degree earn higher salaries over their lifetime compared to those without one. By investing time and effort into obtaining a degree, student-athletes position themselves for greater financial stability and a higher quality of life.

college degrees for student-athletes

Choosing the Right Type of College Degree As A Student-Athlete

When it comes to selecting a college degree, it is essential for student-athletes to consider their individual interests, passions, and long-term career goals. Here are some options to explore:

Associate’s Degree

It aims to give students the basic technical and academic knowledge and transferable skills they need for employment or further study in their chosen field. It is a 2-year program that sets you up to complete a Bachelor’s degree in 2 more years after graduating with an Associate’s Degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

The Bachelor's degree is the most common first degree in U.S. higher education and is the degree that gives access to advanced studies. U.S. bachelor's degrees are usually planned to take 4 academic years of full-time study to complete.

Master’s Degree

Master's degrees in the USA serve a similar purpose to those in other countries. They are postgraduate (or 'graduate') degrees following a related undergraduate course. Some offer the chance to study an academic subject in more depth. These programs typically take 2 years to complete.

best college majors for student-athletes

What College Majors Are Available for Student-Athletes?

Student-athletes have a vast array of college majors to choose from, depending on their interests, skills, and career aspirations. Some popular majors for student-athletes include:

  1. Sports Sciences: This major allows student-athletes to delve into the scientific aspects of sports performance, exercise physiology, nutrition, and injury prevention. It equips them with knowledge that can be valuable within the sports industry.

    Check out the school of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan
  2. Business and Management: A major in business or management provides a foundation in areas such as marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, or sports management. This major opens up opportunities in sports administration, sports marketing, or starting a business within the sports industry.

    Check out the Business School at Indiana University
  3. Education: Student-athletes who have a passion for teaching or coaching may consider pursuing an education major. This degree equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to become educators and mentors within the sports realm.

    Check out the School of Education at Syracuse University.
  4. Health Sciences: This major focuses on areas such as kinesiology, exercise science, or physical therapy. It enables student-athletes to explore careers in sports medicine, athletic training, or physical therapy, combining their passion for sports with health sciences.

    Check out the Health Science Program at Harvard University
  5. Communications and Media: With the rise of digital media, a major in communications or media provides student-athletes with skills in broadcasting, journalism, public relations, or social media. This major can lead to careers in sports broadcasting, sports journalism, or sports media management.

    Check out Syracuse's Newhouse School for Journalism

It is important for student-athletes to carefully research and consider their interests, skills, and potential career paths when choosing a major. Seeking guidance from academic advisors and professionals in the field can also provide valuable insight.

balancing academics as a student-athlete

Challenges Faced by Student-Athletes in Balancing Academics and Sports

Student-athletes often face unique challenges when it comes to balancing the demands of their sport and academic responsibilities. Here are some of the common challenges they may encounter:

  1. Time Management: Balancing practice sessions, games, and competitions with coursework, assignments, and exams can be extremely challenging. Student-athletes must develop effective time-management strategies to ensure they meet both their athletic and academic commitments.
  2. Travel and Absences: Sports competitions often involve travel, which can lead to missed classes, lectures, or exams. Student-athletes must communicate and coordinate with professors and classmates to make up for any missed coursework or seek additional support.
  3. Fatigue and Burnout: The demanding schedule of student-athletes can often lead to fatigue and burnout. It is essential to find a balance between rest, recovery, and academic commitments to avoid physical and mental exhaustion.
  4. Limited Elective Choices: Due to the time constraints of their sport, student-athletes may have limited flexibility in choosing elective courses that align with their interests. They must work closely with academic advisors to find alternative ways to explore their passions within their academic program.
  5. Academic Eligibility: Maintaining a certain academic standing is crucial for student-athletes to remain eligible to participate in their sport. The pressure to excel academically while excelling athletically can be overwhelming at times.

Despite the challenges, with dedication, time management, and support from the institution and coaches, student-athletes can successfully navigate their academic and athletic journeys.


Pursuing a college degree as a student-athlete is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor. It provides numerous benefits such as a well-rounded education, enhanced career opportunities, personal growth, and financial stability.

By carefully choosing the right type of degree and major, and effectively balancing academics and sports, student-athletes can set themselves up for a successful future both on and off the field. So, embrace the opportunity and explore the endless possibilities that await you as a student-athlete.

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