Sports Coaching Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

For those with a desire to coach athletes, becoming a trained sports coach offers a solid employment opportunity. Learn about the degree programs available, coursework and employment opportunities.

Essential Information

Although landing a head coaching job with a major college or professional team right out of school may not be realistic, public interest and participation in sports assures a steady supply of employment opportunities for trained sports coaches in the decade ahead. People with an interest in learning to coach athletes have education options at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Both programs may be available partially or wholly online.

In some instances, coaches may need to be state-certified, which requires passage of an examination that tests skills and knowledge. Career outcomes may include assistant and head coaches, as well as personal sports instructors.

Bachelor's degrees are typically completed in four years and require a GED or high school diploma for enrollment. Students transferring into a bachelor's program as an upper-division student through an articulation agreement need to have earned an associate's degree. A sports coaching master's degree may be earned in two years. Applicants need to have earned a bachelor's degree and sustained a minimum grade point average to enroll in a master's degree program. Programs may favor applicants with degrees in sports science or physical education.


Bachelor's Degree in Sports Coaching

Schools may refer to bachelor's degree programs in sports coaching as a Bachelor of Science in Sports Leadership or a Bachelor of Sports Science in Coaching. Program content integrates anatomy and physiology, fitness training, sports psychology, motivational theory and leadership theory. Students also learn the rules of particular sports and competitive strategies used in them.

Sports coaching bachelor's degree programs are often structured as a set of sports science core courses and coaching electives. Some programs may offer units for specific team and individual sports. Possible courses include:

  • Sports psychology
  • Conditioning and fitness training
  • Coaching technology
  • Coaching theory and methods
  • Officiating sports

Master's Degree in Sports Coaching

Sports coaching master's degree programs enhance existing professional expertise in leading a team or individual athletes through a competitive event and administering an athletic program. Course work addresses issues, including game day tactics, coaching philosophy development and external economic, legal and political factors shaping the contemporary sports industry. Students are encouraged to build a network of colleagues with whom they can solve common problems and communicate research findings of common interest to their sport.

Some sports coaching programs at the master's degree level have a standard list of required courses, while others have a core of 4-5 required courses and a set of electives. The following are possible sports coaching courses:

  • Research methods
  • Coaching and leadership principles
  • Sports administration
  • Sports medicine and injury prevention
  • Sports law

Popular Career Options

The majority of careers opportunities for people who earn a sports coaching bachelor's degree are available coaching sports such as football, baseball, basketball, soccer or track and field in educational institutions. Job possibilities include:

  • High school head coach
  • College head coach
  • Assistant coach
  • Personal sports instructor

Continuing Education Information

Most public high schools and some colleges require coaches to be certified by the state agency that oversees high school sports, the NCAA or that sport's oversight organization. Coaching certification often entails passing an exam, obtaining CPR certification and participating in a camp or clinic.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduating from a sports coaching master's program qualifies degree holders for coaching positions at all levels of amateur sports. Although an advanced degree might improve employment prospects at large college athletic programs and professional team organizations, those employers give greater consideration to candidates with accumulated field experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, coaches and scouts were expected to see a 6% increase in job opportunities from 2014-2024, which is as fast as the average for all jobs. The projected growth is attributed to increased athletic opportunities at schools and expansion in women's sports in colleges. In 2015, according to the BLS, the average annual salary for a coach was $40,050; those working at the college level earned $55,210 on average.

While no certificate programs are available in sports coaching, bachelor's and master's degree programs in sports coaching develop students' coaching, officiating and administration skills. Graduates may need state certification to work at different levels of coaching.


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