Being a professional gymnast is not a lifelong career. Most professional gymnasts start training before puberty, and the work often consumes them right up until college, according to an April 2013 article in the "Slate" magazine. Then they have to decide what to do for the rest of their lives. Professional gymnasts might go into health careers, such as medicine or physical therapy, or become physical education teachers or gymnastics coaches.
Going for the Gold
You don’t need a degree to be a professional athlete, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- a high school diploma will do. Most gymnasts take lessons from personal coaches or in professional classes. You’ll also get a tremendous amount of experience simply by competing and learning about the sport. You must know the rules and regulations, as well as strategies to help win in a competition. What you must also have are superior athletic ability, desire and the necessary dedication to practice, good coordination and physical stamina. Don’t forget the all-important characteristic of flexibility.
Staying in the Field
Professional gymnasts rarely continue in that career once they reach their late 20s, and college gymnastics is typically the last stop, according to "Slate." At that point, some become coaches. Gymnastics coaches might have a degree in related subjects, such as kinesiology -- the study of muscle movement -- or physical education. They might also hold degrees in completely unrelated subjects, such as business. Those who stay in the sports field might become managers, business owners or physical education teachers. Others might coach while going to school and then move on to professions such as social work or psychology.
The Profession of Fitness
Physical fitness is another possible field for professional gymnasts. This is another field in which a high school diploma is often sufficient, although the BLS notes more employers have begun to require an associate or bachelor’s degree in a field such as exercise science, kinesiology or physical education. Certification, however, is often required or preferred in this field, and the BLS notes advanced certification does require at least an associate degree. Most certifications are related to a particular discipline such as Pilates or yoga.
The Sky's the Limit
Your choice of degree really depends on what your long-term career interests and goals are. You might want to go into a field in which your gymnastics knowledge and experience are valuable, such as high school physical education. Some medical careers are related, such as sports medicine, in which case you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school and a residency or fellowship. In other cases, you might opt for an entirely different field and become a lawyer, firefighter or accountant.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Athletes and Sports Competitors
- Slate: Where Do Gymnasts Go When the Olympics Are Over?
- Los Angeles School of Gymnastics: Our Staff
- Berea College: Careers in Physical Education
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fitness Trainers and Instructors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.