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How to Become a Football Coach: Education and Career Roadmap

Nov 25, 2019

Head football coaching typically requires some education and experience. Learn more about how to become a football coach, including requirements at different levels of competition.

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How to Become a Football Coach

Football coaches work at several different levels, including from the amateur to the professional levels. Although requirements may vary slightly depending on the specific level and position, in general, football coaches need to have formal education, knowledge of the game, good coaching skills, and coaching experience. Below, we explore these general requirements in more detail.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most coaches need at least a bachelor's degree. While less education may be required to coach youth leagues or other beginner-level football teams, more education may be required at advanced levels, such as college or professional football.

These bachelor's degree programs can typically be in any field, but athletic coaching degree and certificate programs are available. Other popular subjects for coaches include fields like physical education, kinesiology, or sports medicine. Bachelor's degree programs in coaching are most commonly available as Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees, but Bachelor of Sports Science (BSS) degrees do exist. These programs may include coursework in subjects like:

  • Coaching dynamics
  • Sport psychology
  • Sports nutrition
  • Sports marketing
  • Leadership
  • Sport management
  • Athletic injuries
  • Officiating

Step 2: Develop Skills

The most important skill a football coach needs is knowledge of the game. This may be gained through the personal experience of playing football and/or observing and studying the game. Football coaches need to be up-to-date on the current rules of the game, particularly at their specific level of play.

Other important skills that football coaches need to continue to develop through practice and experience include communication, leadership, and decision-making skills. All of these skills are needed to work effectively with players and other coaches in the pursuit of winning football games.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Any type of advancement in coaching football, such as moving from an assistant coach to head coach or moving from one level of play to the next, typically requires experience as a coach. Coaches may need to stay in one position for a few seasons to gain experience and/or demonstrate a winning record before moving on to the next position. This work experience also helps further develop their coaching skills and/or grow their reputation as a coach.

Coaching Requirements at Different Levels

As mentioned, different levels of competition in football may have slightly different requirements. Here we examine a few of the different levels of play and what they may require of their coaches.

High School Football Coach Requirements

At the high school level, football coaches are often teachers or other school administrators. Becoming an education administrator or teacher may require additional education, such as a master's degree, and usually requires state licensure to work in a public school. Generally, high school educators have a background in education and need to complete student teaching and pass state exams for licensure or certification.

There are also many coaching-related certifications that high school coaches may pursue. For example, USA Football offers a safety certification for coaches in youth organizations or middle and high schools. The National High School Coaches Association also offers a coaching certification, as well as other benefits for members.

How to Become a College Football Coach

In order to coach at the collegiate level, most coaches need prior coaching experience. For head coaching positions, this usually means prior experience at the collegiate level as an offensive, defensive, or special teams coordinator. They also typically need some experience with recruiting at the collegiate level. Some colleges may also prefer head coaches with a master's degree.

How to Become an NFL Coach

NFL (National Football League) coaches usually need years of coaching experience and a winning record at the college level. Some NFL coaches are prior players, but may also work their way up from assistant coaching positions in the league.

Head Football Coaching Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), coaches and scouts made a mean annual salary of $43,870 in 2018. The BLS further reported that in 2018, coaches and scouts that worked in elementary and secondary schools made a mean annual salary of $39,380, and those in colleges, universities, and professional schools made a mean annual salary of $59,540. Coaches and scouts in spectator sports made a mean annual salary of $65,850 for the same year.

While it depends greatly on the employer and level of competition, some football head coaches can make an annual salary in the hundreds of thousands up into the few millions for coaching college football. This salary tends to grow in the NFL, where some head football coaches make millions of dollars annually.

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