Introduction: Exercise and Sport Science (ESS) is a multidisciplinary field, with undergraduate degrees offered at most Universities in Australia,. No previous studies have explored the content of the curriculum across Australian undergraduate ESS courses, and this is important to understand as these programs respond to and shape industry trends and directions and aim to prepare graduates with broad knowledge and skills to equip them for professional work in the field or to pursue further study (e.g. postgraduate). The aim of this project is to provide a snapshot of the range of units offered in Australian ESS courses, to conceptualise the broad content that encompasses the study of ESS and the preparation of graduates in the field.
Methods: Data for this exploratory study was gathered through publicly available University course material, with 31 ESS courses included. Authors independently reviewed the description and learning outcomes of each unit of study, and grouped them according to commonalities. Only core units were included in this study (i.e., elective choices were excluded). Descriptive statistics were used to compare frequency of units across the Australian ESS programs.
Results: 65 distinct core units were identified following analysis. The 10 most common units delivered across Australian ESS programs (in order) were Biomechanics (100% of courses offered this unit), Exercise Physiology (100%), Exercise Prescription and Delivery (90%), Research Methods and Data Analysis (90%), Exercise and Sport Psychology (87%), Functional Anatomy (84%), Advanced Exercise Physiology (77%), Motor Control and Learning (71%), Advanced Biomechanics (68%), Physical Activity and Exercise for Health (68%). 55% of EXSS courses offer a Career Development unit that involves placement plus career preparation classes, and 39% of courses offer a Strength and Conditioning Unit. Sports Medicine and Injury Prevention was offered in 35% of courses.
Discussion: Australian ESS programs appear to have a strong focus on exercise-related components, which may reflect current accreditation requirements for exercise science. This shift is reflected as exercise-related courses such as Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Prescription and Delivery are offered more frequently than sports-focused units such as Strength and Conditioning or Sports Medicine. The literature suggests a key focus on developing soft skills (e.g., interpersonal), and ability to translate scientific knowledge to key stakeholders such as coaches to be vital for ESS practitioners, suggesting that course developers may consider offering more units such as Career Development.
Impact and application to the field: This project provides a summarised snapshot of the range of content offered across Australian ESS programs, providing a picture of what ESS is conceptualised of as in academic contexts and the content that is shaping the graduates from ESS courses and thus the profession. This knowledge helps recognise the content provided in Australian Universities, allowing future research to analyse whether these content areas and how they match professional and further study requirements. Further, this will allow academics to understand how ESS courses change in the future.
My co-authors and I acknowledge we have no conflict of interest.