National accreditation helps Norwich grads get jobs in exercise science

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 5:16 AM EDT
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NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - A national accreditation is helping Norwich University students majoring in exercise science get jobs right after graduation.

That accreditation is key, because starting in 2027, only students from accredited colleges can take the certification exam to work in the field.

The private military academy is the second school in the state to reach this threshold, and cadets say the tactical training they undergo sets them up for a unique future in these fields.

Juniors Marissa Gephardt and Destiny Sanchez are majoring in exercise science with a focus on physical therapy and strength and conditioning. “I want to become a Marine Corps officer. I want to help the enlisted from what I learned here, and then after that, I want to focus on being a strength coach,” said Sanchez.

Norwich University kicked off its new master’s program in athletic training last fall for students to transition from a bachelor’s in health and exercise science in five years. Now that the university is accredited by the American College of Sports Medicine, students can get to work shortly after they graduate.

“It really elevates the profession to make sure that our students who are graduating here are prepared. They’re going to be professionals in the exercise space,” said Norwich program director Rachele Pojednic.

But not without meeting physical standards first. Once a semester, cadets take the required army combat fitness test. The test includes deadlifts, a power throw, a hand release push-up, a plank, a two-mile run, and a sprint drag carry.

The U.S. Army has a soldier readiness system focused on holistic health. The five pillars of readiness are mental, sleep, nutritional, spiritual, and physical.

Program director Greg Jancaitis and Pojednic say thanks to this readiness system there is a call to hire exercise science majors and athletic trainers. “There’s a huge gap and a need for professionals who are willing to go into that work setting and have the familiarity with the armed services,” said Jancaitis.

“I want to work with rehabbing soldiers after they get injured in whatever aspect that may be. I think it kind of helps because I understand what they’re going to and what they’ve been through,” said Gephardt.