How to Become a Football Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn what you need to do to become a football coach. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career in coaching.

Do I Want to Be a Football Coach?

A football coach leads a team of football players by organizing practices, designing plays and determining a depth chart. While organized football leagues are available at the junior high and high school level, most full-time football coaches find opportunities at the postsecondary and professional levels. Junior high and high schools often hire football coaches who also work as teachers in the school system.

Because football is a team game and extremely physical, football coaches may need to motivate players and inspire team play. They also may need to travel for away games and other sporting events. Coaches usually must work evenings and weekends, when a lot of football games are scheduled.

Job Requirements

There are technically no formal postsecondary education requirements for football coaches, and in some cases, experience in the sport may be enough. Some positions, such as K-12 teaching and sports instructor jobs, will generally require a bachelor's degree and certification. Helpful majors include physical education, sports science and coaching education. Before obtaining a head football coach position, an individual will typically need to work as an assistant. The table below includes the requirements for coaches in general, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Requirements
Degree Level A degree may not be required, but a bachelor's degree may be necessary for some positions
Degree Name Sport coaching education, physical education, exercise and sports science
Licensure or Certification Coaches who want to teach at the K-12 level must earn a state teaching license
Experience Experience as an athlete can prepare an individual to work as a coach; experience as an assistant coach will often be necessary before obtaining a head coaching position
Key Skills In addition to having a strong understanding of the game, coaches need to be good leaders, very detail-oriented and excellent communicators

Step 1: Learn About the Game

While not all coaches have the size or skills to play football at the junior high or high school level, it's important for prospective coaches to have a love of the game and follow football at the high school, college or professional level. Learning the basic rules, strategies and technicalities of the game is essential to functioning as an effective coach.

Success Tip

  • Participate in organized football. Playing the game at the high school level is an option for some individuals; however, if an individual is unable to play on a team, opportunities are also available to work as a team manager. This is a chance to be around the game and learn about practices, team camaraderie and pre-game and post-game rituals.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Football coaches planning to work in public schools need to earn a bachelor's degree. Coaching at the middle and high school level may require prospective coaches to become teachers. To prepare for certification as a teacher at the middle or high school level, students typically need to major in a specific subject area, such as math, physical education, English or history. They will also need to complete coursework focused on education and complete a student teaching experience.

Success Tips

  • Take courses that are relevant to coaching. An aspiring coach may choose to study subjects like leadership, coaching and physical education at the undergraduate level. While these programs may not cover specific football related topics, they will prepare students to lead teams and help their players reach their full potential. The curriculum in a coaching-related program at the bachelor's degree level will teach students about physical conditioning, sports psychology, injury prevention, nutrition and athletic training.
  • Gain football experience at the postsecondary level. While a bachelor's degree is a requirement to work as a coach, it's also important for prospective coaches to gain football experience. Many individuals who want to become football coaches are former collegiate players who want to stay in the game. Those who want to become coaches and are not collegiate players, can work as voluntary team managers and assist with practices.

Step 3: Gain Teaching Licensure

Teaching licensure, also known as teaching certification, is required by all 50 states for individuals who want to teach public school at the K-12 level. An aspiring football coach who wants to work as a teacher at a public middle or high school will need to pass a licensing exam and complete the appropriate teaching experiences and coursework in order to be licensed.

Step 4: Gain Coaching Experience

Football coaches often begin their careers as assistants. While each team has an offensive and defensive coordinator, new coaches will work as position coaches. At the college and professional level, each position has a coach who works with them in practice and in meetings. For example, quarterbacks, linebackers, wide receivers, defensive lineman and running backs all have their own position coach. In order to advance into large collegiate or professional football coaching positions, coaching experience, a winning record and awards are commonly required.

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