Are all degrees equal? - USA Athletics Scholarships

Are all degrees equal?


It’s one of the most commonly asked questions we get. Athletes realise that only 0.01% will ever make a career out of their sport, and therefore look at the worth of their degree as an important consideration. We encourage this approach.

We often jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘athlete-students’, rather than the official ‘student-athlete’ moniker handed out, but it is tongue-in-cheek. We realise the worth of our degree outstrips any success we’ll have in the sport. We have 45 year career ahead of us, perhaps only 10 as an athlete. Even if you do ‘make it’, the better you are equipped academically, the better you will fare when you do inevitably hang up the spikes.

This debate was brought up when we were sent an article about the worth of various lower tier public university degrees.  The irony wasn’t lost on either us or the person that sent it, with them having spent time at a university that could easily find itself listed here.

If you haven’t read the article, it  lists various degrees nationwide that cost more to fund than you could expect to see on your salary after graduation. So, essentially, graduating from these degrees would equate to a net loss once you have factored in the fees. The same dilemma occurs in the UK. The policy to give everyone a higher education was admirable, but without the jobs, it stifles wages and ultimately renders many degrees worthless.

So moving on, how does this affect UK or Irish students attending the NCAA?

We can break this down into four scenarios, or demographics.

1. Undergraduate with little or no desire to remain in the States post-graduation, and will opt to return and work in the UK

If you head stateside straight from school, then your decision requires the up-most thought. You’ll want to pick a degree that is from reputable institution and a course that is not ‘Ten Pin Bowling Theory’ from TexArkana State University. (This is in fact a module taken from a former NCAA Champion during their time in the NCAA – guess who?). Think logically about the potential to transfer this degree and how favourably employees my look at this.

2. Undergraduate with intention of using degree to open up opportunities to potentially remain in the US post-degree.

Now we realize that is virtually impossible to foresee your plans post-graduation but if you can foresee this as a possibility, then the degree should certainly encompass the requisites needed to survive post-graduation in the US. Without generalizing, your USA degree is likely to be worth more in the US, than in the UK, well-known reputable schools apart. A law degree for instance will be tailored to USA law, and usable in the US, but perhaps not in the UK.

3. A post-graduate transfer

There is always an inherent level of risk associated with going to States on your academic CV, as highlighted above. Perhaps, the lowest risk comes from graduates. A very common move is to take 2 years in the states once you have graduated from the UK. You already have your UK degree in the bag, so you can perhaps rest a little easier, safe in the knowledge that anything you do come out with in the US, is a bonus. This may have changed a little in recent years, with a masters increasingly needed to survive in the job market and many people pursuing the States as cheap way to bolster their CV.

4. Those who just want to enjoy themselves.

We can’t really affect this group.  What we would say is that you can enjoy yourself, get a good degree and improve athletically simultaneously. Don’t limit yourself.

But how do UK employers look upon US degrees. From our experience, there’s a mixed response. Many athletes now hedge their bets by undertaking internationally accredited courses such as an MBA. A degree curriculum that is as universally homogeneous as possible will enhance the worth of your degree.  It is one of the only measures in place to ‘control’ the vast discrepancies that exist between different universities.

So, to summarise. Have a plan as far as possible. Are you sure you wish to return to the UK to work and live? Will you be heading out as undergraduate or graduate? These factors should influence the level of influence placed on your academic choice.

In an ideal enviroment, these permutations shouldn’t exist for different scenarios, however very rarely do your ideal academic institution align with your athlete goals. While we don’t advocate letting athletic development being the only consideration, we have, where possible, tried to outline the approach required for each.

It should be noted that in many cases a 100% scholarship to a poor public state university many not be the better deal. It would require a very pragmatic and long-term approach from the recruit but often the 90% scholarship at a private elite school will be more beneficial 15 years down the line.  Certainly, this is the approach that we encourage our recruits to consider. Look at the whole picture and not just the next two, three or four years.

You may be flourishing athletically at a program, but there’s no reason why you can’t find an academically challenging environment too. Think beyond your athletics.

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