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Sports development officer: Entry requirements

This career is open to all graduates and those with an HND, but the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • sport development/management;
  • sports science/studies;
  • leisure studies;
  • sport in the community;
  • health and exercise sciences;
  • physical education;
  • recreation/leisure management.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible. In this case, coaching qualifications and related work experience are likely to increase your chances.

A postgraduate qualification is not required for entry, although some sports development officers do hold such qualifications.

Pre-entry work experience in community, sport, school or voluntary organisations is essential. Coaching experience is highly desirable. This can be gained through working or volunteering for local authorities or sport national governing bodies (NGBs) and clubs.

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • initiative, self-motivation and the ability to motivate others;
  • ability to make decisions under pressure;
  • excellent communication skills, both written and oral, to communicate effectively with all sections of the community;
  • ability to work with other individuals in a group setting;
  • project management skills and the ability to manage people, including groups of volunteers;
  • capacity to work independently;
  • negotiation skills and political awareness of current sports issues;
  • excellent organisation, administration and IT skills;
  • a practical commitment to sport and an in-depth knowledge of a particular sport or a range of sports;
  • ability to build up good working relationships with client groups and partner bodies and the ability to work in a team.

Employers usually request an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service  check as part of their conditions of service. In Scotland this is provided by Disclosure Scotland  and in Northern Ireland by Access NI

It is preferable to gain as much experience as possible through voluntary or paid work in coaching and organising sports activities or holiday programmes. Building up experience of delivery in one sport is helpful, although a multi-sport approach is often ideal.

Competition for jobs can be tough. Networking and making contacts within the sports development sector through work experience will improve your chances of success.

Graduates can enter directly into a sports development officer or assistant development officer post. It is also possible to move into sports development from other jobs in sports, leisure and coaching, or from a relevant voluntary activity.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by Rachel Taylor, University of Edinburgh
January 2014

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