Resource Detail

What’s the Right Master’s Program for Me?

Studying in a master’s program is a great commitment that helps determine your future career and requires you to devote a large amount of time and effort. Thus, an important question becomes how you should find the right master’s program for future success. The answer to this question seems difficult considering that the field of exercise and sports science is diverse and that a large number of institutions offer graduate programs. In this short article, I will provide step-by-step tips for choosing the right master’s program or research laboratory that best match to your academic interest. 

Step 1: Narrow down your academic interest and find what you want to study the most. 

  • This is the crucial step in choosing the right master’s program since studying in a graduate program is time- and energy-demanding. In addition, research interest(s) of individual laboratories are more specific than the broad scope of your undergraduate degree in exercise science. Thus, it is important to specify your interest as narrow as possible. For example, if your interest is in studying cardiovascular physiology, ask yourself a question that what aspect of cardiovascular physiology you want to study. Do you want to study cardiovascular physiology in relation to sports performance, clinical application, etc?  

Step 2: Maximize your resource and find several graduate programs or research laboratories.

  • Out of hundreds of institutions that have an exercise science program, finding the right master’s programs sounds challenging; however, there are some resources that are easily accessible to help you efficiently pinpoint the institutions.
  1. Ask the professors in your undergraduate program. Letting them know your specific interest in exercise science, they may be able to find you with the right master’s programs or research laboratories.
  2. Attend professional conference and network with people outside of your school. Your regional chapter of ACSM is student-oriented and provides a great opportunity to network with professors as well as graduate students from different universities.  You can find contact information for your regional student representative online. Student Representatives are a great resource to hear about their departmental programs or to put you in contact with students currently studying at your school of interest. Another useful resource is the ACSM Degree Guide ( This is where you can find the master’s programs that are currently accepting graduate program applications. You can search a based solely on location or complete an advanced search to highlight specific areas of focus. Once your results load, you can click on any school to find a description of the program and a link to the department website for further information.
  3. Find scientific articles that match to your interest. This may be one of the best ways to find research laboratories that actually conduct studies matched closely with your interest. Online scientific database (ex. Pub-Med) maximizes your capability to search scientific articles. The affiliations and contact information of investigators can easily be found in the articles.

Step 3: Contact graduate program adviser and/or principle investigator of research laboratory. 

  • This is the final but the most important step to obtain additional information that may not be available from your resources. After determining your specific interest and identifying several master’s programs or laboratories, you may now be curious about working environment of the institutions, including courses offered, requirements for graduation, and working atmosphere in laboratory. Graduate program adviser and principle investigator of research laboratory are usually very responsive to email especially if you are highly motivated to work in the institution. You should email to express your interest and ask more detailed questions about the institutions. 
I hope you can find the right graduate program that best matches to your academic interest and make a step closer to your future goal!

Takashi Tarumi, MA
Student Representative, Board of Texas
Graduate Student in Exercise Physiology
The University of Texas at Austin