Physical Demand: Careers Aren't Just About the Knowledge!

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Southwestern currently offers prerequisites or all required training for over 70 occupations in 6 disciplines that are heavily predicated on physical fitness in order to perform adequately in those professions. A student interested in any of these occupations should both understand and practice a health and fitness routine that best acclimatizes their bodies to longevity in any of those professions.  In some of these areas where physical fitness appears to be in a severe deficit, physical fitness would be a clear competitive advantage over other candidates for an open position.

Through statistical analysis of online job descriptions, this skills study attempts to quantify aspects of those requirements so that PE & Health curriculum developers can effectively lobby for inclusion as well as build courses and materials best suited for those areas.  



Read the full report here or check out this summary which includes information about careers in:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Forestry & Natural Resources
  • Healthcare
    • First Responders!
  • Welding


Criminal Justice is an area where physical fitness appears to be in severe deficit. Because cops on the beat are presumed to have lots of walking and the readiness to pursuit on foot, we didn't see this as a specific required skill. But our American lifestyles have gotten much less active. So much so, that "physical demand" has made its way into one of the most frequently listed skills in job descriptions for openings.

Criminal Justice jobs appear to require a high level of physical agility and strength, but the use of that capacity is largely untapped during the course of a shift. One wants to be prepared to run hard, leap, carry heavy objects or restrain powerful individuals, but that preparation isn’t often used. That may indicate a special regime just for these types of jobs.

Many Trades Name Multiple Top Skills That are Physical in Nature

While these trades didn’t exhibit an entrance or increase in requests for the specific “physical demand” skill, they all have a large portion or a majority of activity that involves non-desk work and very physical in nature. A demonstrably physically fit person with a noted practice in physical fitness and well-being would be a competitive advantage. These trades would be very well served with a PE & Health component.

Healthcare Careers

Occupations trained at Southwestern all have a core of top skills physical in nature. Those skills are best described in terms of clusters of skills. The cluster names should be self-explanatory, but all involve large periods of standing or walking, carrying, moving people or supplies and equipment that can be, say, 10-50lbs.


These occupations had physical tasks for 6 of the top 10 requested skills across occupations, including naming “Physical Demand” as a top skill. These jobs appear to be more like Criminal Justice jobs where physical capacity needs to be large in terms of speed, strength and agility, but that shifts can go with long periods of no such activity.

Forestry & Natural Resources  

These jobs are characterized by field work where endurance and balance across varied terrains are part and parcel of daily work load. All aspects of the physical labor top skills are expected to be practiced outdoors, unlike our other discipline areas. These jobs usually require a person to carry some amount of equipment into the field strapped on with backpacks and utility belts, say, 20-40 lbs[1], depending upon what’s required for the task.


Like mechanics, these jobs tend to have heavy lifting as well as body movement across distances as a course of normal activity during a shift. Sometimes a level of quick, fast and strong activity may be required, but not like that required of positions in Criminal Justice or First-responders. As well, backpack-based carrying of equipment isn’t in the physical tasks of these jobs, but carrying very heavy equipment across short spaces is and probably is more than the demands of mechanics.


About the Author: Jenny Jones has Master's of Science in Mathematics and an MBA. Her writing stems from her research as a TAACCCT grant data analyst and her passion for empowering individuals to greater intellectual heights through life-long learning.