The professional body BASES will help you explore the many and varied routes into a dynamic industry

Mention a career in the sport and exercise sciences and the image you'll get will almost certainly be of working with top athletes. In fact, this is just one arena in which these professionals work, with others including GP's surgeries and universities. So what's the best way of working out which strand of the work would suit you best?

Here's where the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) comes in. As the UK professional body for all those with an interest in the science of sport and exercise, one of its roles is to help young people explore career opportunities, as well as offering assistance in choosing the right courses at school, college or university.

Dr Claire Palmer, BASES' executive officer, explains some of the options. "In the area of sport, the roles are very much about enhancing performance. At the elite level, you'd probably work with coaches and athletes whereas at recreational level, you might work in a gym. In health and physical activity, the roles are about getting people active and staying healthy. So you might work through a GP referral scheme as a health promotion specialist or with a town council to improve cycling routes. Education is another example of the variation of jobs available. Here, you might work at undergraduate or postgraduate level, ensuring people are getting the right training."

To work in any of these fields, you'll need a degree and since more and more universities are offering courses specifically in sport and exercise sciences, you'll have no shortage of choice. Dr Palmer explains how BASES can help you narrow your options. "Our website ( www.bases.org.uk) offers quite a few facilities which you don't have to be a member to access. The course finder is an example of this; user-friendly, and specific to sports and exercise sciences. We also produce a careers guide, which is downloadable for free."

As you might expect from any professional body, a key priority for BASES is quality assurance in training. Dr Palmer points to its latest efforts in this area - the BASES Undergraduate Endorsement Scheme (BUES). "We have set out a criteria of what we think makes a good course in terms of providing appropriate curriculum, resources and opportunities for training students," she says.

The long-term vision is that all courses are endorsed by BASES, but as the scheme has only recently been launched, only ten of the 100 or so available have been endorsed in the first phase.

While most professional bodies offer membership to practitioners in the field, BASES is one of the few organisations to run a conference specifically for undergraduate and postgraduate students. "It's completely tailored to their needs in a non-threatening environment," says Dr Palmer.

The aim is to enable participants to increase their knowledge and mix with like-minded people. "It's a great networking opportunity to meet other students studying similar things at other universities. And we have lead sport and exercise scientists attending too in order to add to the value of the event. They're there to take questions and also present their experiences. It's aimed at being a social event too - this year, we'll have a Ceilidh."

Should you decide to go onto postgraduate study, BASES also offers guidance around studentships, and once you're ready to hit the job market, it can help with the latest job vacancies.

Sport and exercise sciences is a fast growing field, points out Dr Palmer. "BASES recognises people need all the help they can get in making the most of its careers."

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