Universities always encourage students to apply their higher learning to real-world situations. Today, students can literally get their feet wet, from the first day of school all the way through graduation.

Across the country, more and more universities and colleges are offering aquatics as undergraduate degrees.

?Aquatics has really expanded and mushroomed. There are so many different recreational skills now that are aquatic-related,? said Dr. John Mark Carter, professor of aquatics and recreation at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Ky.

In 1985, 25 institutions had some kind of aquatics program. Five were declared minors. The other 20 were aquatic concentrations or emphasis. By 2004, the most recent statistics available, 35 schools offered 41 programs. Seventeen had minors. Two Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and Salem State College in Salem, Mass. have four-year bachelor?s degrees.

Carter brought the aquatics minor to Campbellsville University when he switched from Wingate University in Wingate, N.C. Campbellsville?s courses end with a certifying exam from a national agency, which Carter said is helpful for students? résumés and becoming necessary for jobs. ?We?re all certification- and licensed-based in so many areas,? he said. ?We?ve had it in law, medicine and education.?

Bob Ogoreuc agreed. ?Aquatics is certification-based and experience-based,? said the assistant professor at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pa. The school has more than 50 students taking its aquatics minor right now, a number that keeps growing each year. ?If I want a teaching job at a high school, I need my WSI. An aquatics director needs certification in CPO. [Students] are starting to realize the value of certification in our world.?

Ogoreuc said his school?s program is structured to make students think creatively. ?I?ve been trying to tell our minors to take a look at [their] aquatic program from high school or the community, and what can [they] do to make it more interesting.?

Slippery Rock requires 19 credits to graduate with an aquatic minor. Its courses include lifeguarding, adapted aquatics, canoeing and instructor classes.

?There are other programs out there,? said Lee Yarger, coordinator of aquatics at Ball State University and researcher behind the 2004 evaluation of universities with aquatics curriculums. ?It?s a fairly new discipline to academia.?

The programs run the aquatic gamut. Salem State?s aquatic management program focuses on aquatic management, requiring kinesiology, physiology and aquatic administration courses. Ball State bases its four-year training through accreditation courses, which total up to 30 or more certifications.

Related areas in aquatics are offered for focus, too. State University of New York in Stony Brook offers a minor in adapted aquatics, and students at the University of Pittsburgh?s School of Education can pursue its minor for a teaching or coaching career. Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., gives a scuba minor for students who take 22 credit hours of related classes. And students of Keiser College can be miles away from its Fort Lauderdale, Fla., campus: Its associate degree in aquatic engineering can be obtained online.

Industry advocates hope aquatics facilities will recruit from those universities for post-graduation jobs. ?Those schools are like any other business,? said Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo. ?They should give those graduates good jobs and help them excel in their careers. We should help those universities continue to have those programs and grow them in aquatics.?