4. Post-graduate education

What is the value of Postgraduate education in the sports industry?

London 2012 was undeniably a huge success. The promise of a legacy in sports in Great Britain, one of the pillars which helped the capital secure the victorious bid, can only truly be assessed over the next 10-20 years; however, taking this premise as a would-be fact should see an increase in interest in sport for generations upon generations yet to come. The sport industry is worth billions of pounds, and degrees in sport have never been more popular.

Postgraduate degrees in a general sense have also increased in popularity, with students now commonly moving on from Undergraduate straight into Postgraduate degrees. The value of obtaining a Master’s degree is an ongoing discussion with arguably no foreseeable end (read ‘What does a Postgraduate degree offer me?’ for more information on Postgraduate education), but while the validity of arguments are all equally applicable for the business of sport as in any other industry, the legacy of the 2012 Olympics might yet steer matters in a slightly different direction – at the very least in the UK.

The sport industry is a rigid business marred by the existence of overly-complicated hierarchies and old-fashioned structures. The absence of transparency, one of the industry issues addressed by GlobalSportsJobs, and, to a certain extent, the overall deficiency of the business of sport as a well-rounded industry, can only gain from this increased interest from today’s youth.

An increase in interest will propagate competition – more athletes, more graduates, more business, more professionals competing amongst themselves in the industry. The search for employment opportunities becomes fiercer and professionals seek out the competitive edge that will set them apart and take up furthering their academic qualifications by moving into a Postgraduate degree. Students mature and perfect skills acquired in Undergraduate studies, and expand their network of contacts. As a result, better qualified academics are injected into the market, which pushes change forward. In these terms, rather than evaluating the relevance of Postgraduate education in the sports industry, it becomes a matter of assessing what Postgraduate education can do FOR the industry. And in this light, a large influx of qualified candidates can help bring positive changes and improve the future of the industry.

As a candidate, many Postgraduate programmes offer internship opportunities as a way of better preparing students, which may well help in the introduction into the job market. Contacts made at Postgraduate level are also invaluable – the business of sport is a very well-connected industry, so tutors, guest lecturers and fellow peers are all contacts worth keeping for life.

Many Postgraduate degrees are also research orientated; they perfect the student’s critical and analytical thinking. “Students learn the core modules of the sport industry: Sports Economic, Sports Governance and Regulation, Sport Marketing and Event Management, Sport Policy. But they will also debate about the issues and gain a critical perspective about the sport industry. Our programmes are vocational, but effectively academic,” says Sean Hamil, lecturer at Birkbeck Sports Business Centre.

It is worth noting, however, that organisations in sport will almost always favour a balance between academic and practical knowledge when considering job applications, and what Postgraduate students make up for academically, they tend to lack in hands on experience.

For the industry, an increase in highly qualified professionals arguably holds a bright future. For the individuals, the matter lies within weighing the return of investment – as no degree can offer the guarantee of a desired job vacancy, is it worth investing in what can be perceived as the greater good, or will Postgraduate education be a prerequisite for future sports industry employees?