When Sir Chris Hoy powered to Gold at the 2012 Olympics, he did so on a bike created by sports engineers. Sports engineering helps athletes get the absolute most out of their performance. And, In the world of elite sport, tiny advantages are the difference between winning and losing. Careers in sports engineering can involve everything from working on the latest running shoe, to building sensitive performance testing equipment.
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For a career in sports engineering, you'll need the right qualifications. Several universities in the UK offer sports engineering courses, including Sheffield Hallam, Queen Mary University of London, and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. In most cases, courses are postgraduate or masters degrees. They require bachelor degrees in maths, physics or engineering, with some accepting sport science degrees provided you can show evidence of a strong engineering mind.
Careers in sports engineering are as varied as sport itself. For example, you could find yourself working on computer software that helps reduce water drag for swimmers. In the world of Paralympics, technology such as running blades allows athletes with missing limbs to compete in sprint races. Even big sports brands, such as Nike and Adidas, employ sports engineers to help develop their latest products for the mass market.
Sports engineering is a competitive career path. Despite the varied opportunities, you'll have to keep your eyes open for possible openings. For example, in January 2013 some of the jobs listed on the International Sports Engineering website include roles at the Adidas Innovation Team, professorships at leading universities, and a position at a baseball equipment manufacturer. Some sports engineers work on research and development at organisations such as the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam.
Along with a love of sport, the absolute must-have for a sports engineer is a sharp engineering mind. Unlike some other areas of sports science, sports engineering is highly technical. While an understanding of an athlete's nutrition, biology and performance helps, it's more important to look at sports from an engineering point of view. That means an aptitude for maths and even computer programming. You'll need patience, accuracy and an ability to see the bigger picture even when focusing on minute details.
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