How to Become a

Sports or Athletic Coach

The complete career guide to be a Sports or Athletic Coach: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $40,050
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.9%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Sports or athletic coaches train sports teams and individual players how to improve their skills, how to succeed in a team, and how to overcome opponent teams. They may coach for any type of sport, and they may coach sports at any level—from preschool teams to professional teams.

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What is a Sports or Athletic Coach?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in sports or athletic coach roles:

  • Evaluate the skills of individual players and overall teams, and establish routines and practice sessions designed to improve player and team skills
  • Create individual plays for teams, and call plays during games to enhance the team’s chance of winning
  • Evaluate the skills of opponent teams to come up with a plan of offense and defense for individual—and important—games
  • Teach players about new techniques and strategies designed to help them improve skills
  • Motivate athletes before, during, and after games to improve team morale and optimism

A Day in the Life

Sports and athletic coaches help to ensure the success of sports teams and individual players. They may work on teams for a variety of sports—basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and volleyball, to name a few—and they can work on teams of all age and talent levels. Some sports coaches may work on a volunteer basis teaching preschoolers to play t-ball, while others earn significant incomes coaching athletes for professional sports teams.

The coach’s job is to teach athletes and teams how to be better players and win games. They establish a practice schedule and create routines designed to improve player and team skills. They design plays to be executed during games and teach athletes how and why to run plays. They also watch games of opponent teams in order to find ways opponents may be defeated. In this way, coaches help teams improve their skills overall as well as their skills playing against different types of teams and players.

Another responsibility of the coach is as motivator. They inspire teams to do their best before, during, and after games by encouraging teams to keep trying even in the face of defeat and instilling optimism about upcoming games. During games, coaches call plays, provide guidance to teams and players during breaks and time-outs, and determine which players should be active, which substituted, and which are on the bench. In many ways, the coach is as important to the success of the team as its players.

Typical Work Schedule

Coaches at the college or professional level often work more than 40 hours a week, especially just before and during the season. They may have breaks when the sport is out of season, but often they work over breaks as well. The hours a coach works tend to be irregular. While practice sessions may occur during the day, most games will be held in evenings or on weekends.

Coaches of elementary, middle, and high school teams typically coach part-time and hold other full-time positions. Many times, coaches at this level also work as PE teachers in their schools or volunteer to coach teams that their children are placed on.

 Athletic Coach Specializations

Specializations in the field of coaching consist of age-level, talent-level, and type of sport. Coaches may oversee teams of athletes at the preschool, elementary, middle, or high school level, they may coach college sports, or they may coach adults in professional sports who are paid to be on teams. Additionally, coaches are hired to oversee all sports teams and may coach basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, swim teams, and many other types of team that engage in sports.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Athlete, Educator
  • Mid-Career: Assistant Coach, Sports Coach, Sports Scout
  • Late Career: Athletic Director, Head Coach

Typical Employers

Coaches are most commonly employed by either public or private elementary, middle, and high schools, colleges, or professional sport teams. Some may also be self-employed and offer coaching on a freelance basis, often for individual athletes training to become professionals or to appear in the Olympics.

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How To Become a Sports or Athletic Coach

A bachelor’s degree is required for most sports or athletic coach roles. Most coaches—especially those who coach at the college or professional level—were athletes themselves and played during college while pursuing a degree. Common degrees pursued by aspiring coaches include sports science, physiology, nutrition, or sports medicine, though the degree earned isn’t quite as important. Some may study wholly unrelated subjects like business, accounting, or marketing.

The most important qualification of coaches is that they know the sport they’re coaching inside and out and are adept at training athletes on how to improve and work together. Often, coaches get this training by being athletes, working under a number of coaches, and watching teams play. Other times, coaches may get their start by working as physical education teachers or fitness instructors. Competition for high-visibility roles like college and professional teams will demand the most effective coaches.

On the other hand, it’s possible to work as a coach of a team of school-aged children or teens without a degree or much success as an athlete. A love of the sport and a thorough understanding of it can be sufficient for coaching at this level, particularly for teams of young children where coaching roles are volunteer opportunities. Often, aspiring college and professional coaches get their start coaching low-level teams and move up by proving their capabilities and talents.

Sports or Athletic Coach Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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National Hourly Wage

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How do Sports or Athletic Coach salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Sports or Athletic Coach's can make an average annual salary of $40,050, or --- per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $20,140 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #530 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Sports or Athletic Coach. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Sports or Athletic Coachs

  • 2.2%   Doctorate
  • 14.2%   Masters
  • 42.7%   Bachelors
  • 7.9%   Associates
  • 21.5%   College
  • 9.8%   High School
  • 1.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Sports or Athletic Coach job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 14,800 jobs for a total of 265,400 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.9% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #379 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Sports or Athletic Coachs

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Other schools and instruction; private 44,400 7,700 8%
Elementary and secondary schools; local 43,900 -2,000 -2%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private 31,000 2,400 2%

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