The path to becoming a qualified Strength & Conditioning coach is closer than you think, as ATU Donegal opens enrollment for a new lifelong learning degree this September.
There is a wide-open market for qualified fitness coaches, according to lecturer and Letterkenny gym owner Neil Barrett.
In response to the demand, ATU Donegal has designed a three and a half year part-time Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Strength & Conditioning that students can fit around their own schedules. Tailored for mature students, this degree is taught online three hours per week, with intensive workshops each month.
As the health and wellness industry turns more to coach-led training, Strength & Conditioning and Personal Training qualifications make graduates highly employable and insurable.
“These qualifications will carry you anywhere,” says Neil Barrett.
“If you want to set yourself apart, having the qualifications to coach S&C will make you stand out in the evolving and growing industry.
“The market is saturated with facilities but is lacking in well-qualified coaches and trainers.”
This programme is delivered on a three-tier basis. Students begin by gaining a Level 6 Certificate in Personal Training in year one. They also finish year one as a certified group fitness instructor and a certified REPs accredited Personal Trainer. Students can either choose to complete their programme at this stage or progress into Year 2 of the BSc (Hons) in Applied Strength and Conditioning programme. By the end of Year 2, students gain a Higher Certification in Strength and Conditioning. Those who complete the three and a half years will graduate with an undergraduate degree.
Both programmes are part-time and delivered via one module at a time, which has been found to better suit mature learners.
Students also get to train in the high-performance gym on the ATU Donegal Letterkenny campus as well as the Sports Lab.
“A lot of the lecturers that are delivering this degree are all very highly qualified academically, and most are coaches and trainers, coaches and gym owners. You are getting that industry experience while learning how to put your own stamp on the market,” Barrett says.
Stand-out modules on the BA (Hons) degree include Athlete Evaluation & Load Monitoring, Youth Strength & Conditioning, Speed & Agility Development, Applied Nutrition and Applied Sport Psychology. There is a particular focus on the youth and female population, people with physical limitations and disabilities, giving graduates the ability to coach at a variety of levels.
“External qualifications are embedded in both the Personal Training certificate and in the degree,” Barrett adds. “As an Education Recognition Partner with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in the United States, a worldwide organisation, we have aligned all our content with getting students prepared for the assessments to become a certified S&C specialist with the NCSA. We also equip students with a Coaching Ireland level 1 in Olympic weightlifting.”
Strength and Conditioning opens doors to work in a wide variety of environments, from the grassroots club to the high-performance professional circuit.
Barrett says: “It’s no longer high-performance teams looking for Strength and Conditioning coaches, every single GAA, soccer and athletics club in the country is now bringing in strength training, sports-specific conditioning training for their athletes at a young age. Many don’t have the trainers to fill the roles.
“This is where it is all going, gym culture is changing, it’s no longer a commercial idea where you rent a space with machines and you do your own thing, a lot of gyms are client-centred coach-led sessions, a lot of them are strength and conditioning based, even if you don’t have the intention of working with the athletic population, just being well-qualified in S&C sets you apart within your normal gym facility.”
The Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree is directed towards people who want to develop their professional career, whether they have experience or none.
Students over the age of 23 may have the opportunity to fast-track their degree journey if they have other formal qualifications in the industry or they have built up experiential learning. Through the Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) process, eligible students may gain admission to the degree from year two if they have demonstrated prior knowledge in the field. For people already working in fitness, this may mean that they can become a fully qualified S&C coach within two and a half years if they qualify for RPL.
If you would like to strengthen your career prospects in the evolving fitness industry, further information can be found on these programmes at:
- Certificate (Level 6) Personal Training (1 Year, Level 6): https://www.lyit.ie/CourseDetails/D404/Inv06/PersonalTraining
- Bachelor of Science (Hons) Applied Strength & Conditioning (3.5 Years, Level 8): https://www.lyit.ie/CourseDetails/D404/Inv04/AppliedStrength&Conditioning
For Further Information, contact the Department of Tourism & Sport at ATU Donegal: +353 (0)749186613 / +353 (0)74 9186612
Head of Department: Nicola Dunnion
Telephone: +353 (0)74 918 6645