Interview with Dr. Beau Greer
John Cody of SportsDegreesOnline.org connected with Dr. Beau Greer and he talked about his academic journey and his career thus far in sports, while also providing helpful advice for students looking to advance in the sports industry.
About Dr. Beau Greer
Dr. Beau Kjerulf Greer is the Director of the Exercise Science and Nutrition Master's Program at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Dr. Greer earned his PhD from Florida State University in Human Movement with a concentration in Exercise Physiology. As a competitive powerlifter, he held multiple state, national, and world records in the drug-free World Natural Powerlifting Federation, some of which still stand. Dr. Greer is the Director of Nutritional Education and Fitness Testing at Sherpa in Westport, CT, and he is the health and conditioning consultant for the Bridgeport Police Academy. He has been published in numerous journals and recently presented his work at the International Conference on Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences held in Athens, Greece.
John: Tell us a bit about your academic journey, and why you choose this path in Exercise Science and Nutrition?
Dr. Greer: Well I likely would have ended up as an academic no matter which undergraduate major I pursued. My original intent was actually to be a professor of art history, but an introductory course to exercise science was the first time I found myself so interested in the classroom content that I often did not have to even take notes in order to retain the information. I also appreciated how most of the information was immediately applicable to the real-world, as opposed to being bogged down in theory without much practical application.
John: Some people out there might not understand exactly the scope of exercise science, and what a degree in exercise science can lead to. Can you please explain a bit about how diverse this field is and current opportunities?
Dr. Greer: Perhaps the best aspect of exercise science as an academic pursuit is its diversity. The foundations of exercise science as a discipline are the biological, chemical, and physical sciences. With the addition of field-specific content, students are well prepared for careers within the traditional outlets such as cardiovascular rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, or various roles within the health and fitness industry; however, it is just as common for students to use their academic background as a springboard into licensed professions like physical or occupation therapy, physician’s assistant programs, or medicine (e.g., MD, DO, etc.).
John: How do you see COVID-19 affecting this field?
Dr. Greer: We have expectantly seen the rise in virtual training or group fitness classes; to some extent, the Peloton craze predicted this shift towards at-home training. Whether gyms will repopulate to the point of pre-COVID-19 is the biggest question in the fitness industry today, but I think most small gym (i.e., not large chains) owners have found creative ways to monetize their offerings in a virtual world. One would hope those efforts will continue past the point when individuals feel comfortable reentering a crowded gym environment. Perhaps we can even capture a larger market since some individuals simply never felt comfortable in a gym setting in the first place.
John: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue your PhD?
Dr. Greer: I believe it was during my senior year of undergraduate work. Honestly, I would have preferred to just be a student forever, so becoming an academic was the closest I could get to that dream.
John: Why do you feel that a profession with a foundation in exercise science could be an excellent choice for young people out there who were athletes themselves or who are passionate about sports?
Dr. Greer: Well I think the athletes or people with a vested interest in sports are the no-brainers when it comes to pursuing a degree in exercise science. I would suggest that individuals with limited interest in sports per se but whom are intrigued by the basic sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry) would be equally benefited by an exercise science academic foundation. We typically are the only undergraduate major on campus, with the obvious exception of Nursing, that perform physical assessments (e.g., blood pressure readings, exercise stress tests, etc.) with human subjects in our laboratory sections. In my opinion, this often provides more useful experience than students may acquire in more traditional majors for a career in medicine.
I think the athletes or people with a vested interest in sports are the no-brainers when it comes to pursuing a degree in exercise science. I would suggest that individuals with limited interest in sports per se but whom are intrigued by the basic sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry) would be equally benefited by an exercise science academic foundation.
John: What are some important things that prospective students should look for when comparing Exercise Science Master’s programs?
Dr. Greer: I think if the student is planning to enter the workforce immediately after graduation, they should focus on programs that are highly applied in their curriculum and present a clear vision for student outcomes. Many programs are often just a continuation of undergraduate work at a higher academic level, offering a wide range of classes to choose from. While this may sound ideal in terms of flexibility, often the students do not leave as well trained practitioners for either clinical, strength and conditioning, or fitness settings.
John: What factors set Sacred Heart’s Exercise Science Programs apart from your average program?
Dr. Greer: Every Exercise Science program I’m familiar with has tremendous faculty, and we are no different. I think the unique cornerstone of our MS program lies in applicability. As a physiologist by training, I love teaching metabolic pathways and somewhat esoteric ion channels and the like, but applying that kind of information to a real strength and conditioning setting is a real stretch. If we cannot justify how information can be used directly for improved sport performance, we remove it from the curriculum. While we have had former students succeed in Ph.D. programs and later in academia, our program is focused on training future practitioners, not bench scientists. Likewise, the role of data analytics has exploded in the sports world, perhaps best displayed in the book or subsequent movie Moneyball; we have added an entire course in analytics so that our strength and conditioning students can operate not just as competent coaches but also as qualified sport scientists.
Our internship program is also unique in regard to the autonomy our students are given within the D1 S&C program at Sacred Heart. Students, under the mentorship of full-time S&C staff, will actually be designing the programming for their assigned team, as opposed to solely implementing a full-time coach’s program.
John: Is there anything you wish you had known before you started pursuing your post-bachelor’s degrees?
Dr. Greer: Not really. I feel the recent push to fully assess the financial or earning potential of a graduate degree is very understandable from a debt risk assessment perspective, however the approach is inherently short-sighted. I think smart, curious, and clever individuals will likely find a way to monetize knowledge and/or skills they develop in a solid graduate degree program.
John: So would you say the demand is high for exercise science degree holders in the professional world?
Dr. Greer: The field is divided between facilities in which academic degrees are required (e.g., clinical settings such as hospital-based rehabilitation programs, collegiate or professional strength and conditioning departments, higher end fitness studios, etc.) and facilities (typically larger gym chains) that only require fitness-focused certifications, of which there are a multitude of options (some highly regarded, some less so). With this context, the demand coming out of the Covid-19 era should increase dramatically but the field needs to do a better job advocating the need for qualified professionals that emerge out of academic programs.
John: Is there anything else you would like to share with the next generation following in your footsteps?
Dr. Greer: Well, I would say one thing for students interested in the exercise and health sciences. You will never regret dedicating your career to the helping of others. In the words of Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home.”