Whether you dream of becoming a PE teacher, personal trainer, or sports scout, these courses prepare you for success in various roles across the public and private sectors

Further education sports qualifications

Offering a direct pathway to various careers in the sports industry, two qualification types you might consider are National Higher Diplomas (HNDs) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), both of which can equip you with the knowledge and skills employers are looking for. 

Both HNDs and NVQs cover a range of sport-related specialisms, such as sports coaching, sports development, and fitness instructing.

HNDs are Level 5 qualifications and typically last two-years. They provide a more academic foundation in sports. Examples include:

NVQs are competency-based qualifications that focus on developing specific job-related skills. Examples of these courses include:

For more information, see further education.

Sports coaching degrees

While a degree isn't mandatory to become a sports coach, it equips you with a competitive advantage in the job market. A sports coaching degree not only develops your coaching skills but also teaches you valuable transferable skills such as delegation, organisation, and motivation which you can apply to fields such as teaching and management.

An undergraduate sports coaching degree delves into the core principles of coaching. You'll explore subjects like anatomy, physiology, and sports psychology to understand athletes' bodies and minds. You'll also learn about movement analysis, sports management, policy, and sociology, gaining a well-rounded perspective on the sporting world. The curriculum typically blends theory with practical sessions, providing opportunities to refine your coaching skills through peer coaching.

Cardiff Metropolitan University's three-year, full-time BSc Sports Coaching programme offers a solid foundation. Core modules include applied sports pedagogy, physical education, and sports science fundamentals. You can further personalise your learning with optional modules like sports ethics, performance analysis, and the sociology of sport and health. The final year culminates in a project where you'll apply your knowledge in a real coaching scenario. For entry onto the course, you'll need three A-levels, with two at a B grade or higher.

The University of Northampton's BSc Sports Coaching programme lasts three years full time or up to six years part time. You'll develop skills in athlete development, long-term planning, and holistic training that considers physical, technical, and mental aspects. Core modules cover coaching philosophies and styles, while optional modules like fitness training and sports psychology allow for further specialisation. Tuition fees are £9,250 per year for UK students.

Find out what you can do with a sports coaching degree.

Postgraduate sports coaching courses

A Masters degree in sports coaching is your gateway to advanced knowledge and career advancement. These programmes offer invaluable networking opportunities that can connect you with industry leaders and fellow coaches.

Staffordshire University offers a flexible, part-time (two-year) MSc in Sports Coaching, allowing you to learn remotely via distance learning. Develop your skills in areas like effective coaching and skilled performance under pressure. The programme concludes with a research project, allowing you to delve deeper into a specific coaching topic. For entry onto the course, you'll need a Bachelors degree in a sports-related field and proof of progress in coaching qualifications. For UK and Channel Islands students, tuition fees are £8,865 in the 2024/25 academic year.

Liverpool John Moores University's MSc Sport Coaching programme is a part-time course, blending in-person sessions with online learning. You can choose vocational opportunities and assignments aligned with your interests, like sports psychology, training programmes, or talent development. Entry requirements are a 2:1 degree in a related field (or a 2:2 in exceptional cases) and a minimum of three years of coaching experience. In 2024/25 fees for UK students are £4,330 per year.

On the, full-time MSc Coaching Science at the University of Essex, you'll gain practical experience through eight to ten week placements with industry partners. You'll also have seminars on topics such as the social processes of coaching and youth athletic development. You'll need a 2:2 degree in a relevant subject for entry, and fees for UK students are £10,000 in 2024/25.

Search for postgraduate courses in sports coaching and learn more about funding postgraduate study.

Professional coaching qualifications

In the UK, to become a sports coach, you'll need to obtain professional coaching qualifications from the National Governing Body (NGB) associated with your chosen sport. 

These qualifications come in a tiered structure, typically offering four levels:

  • Activator/Foundation - This introductory level equips you with basic coaching principles and gets you started working with young players (often around age seven and upwards).
  • Assistant Coach (Level 1) - This level delves deeper into coaching fundamentals, often introducing the specific coaching philosophy of your chosen sport's governing body.
  • Lead Coach (Level 2) - You'll gain the skills and knowledge to plan and lead coaching sessions independently. You'll also explore advanced coaching principles specific to your sport.
  • Level 3 (and Higher) - These advanced qualifications cater to experienced coaches, focusing on areas like team management, advanced player development, and competition strategies. Some sports may offer Level 4 and 5 qualifications for elite-level coaches.

For example:

Football (English Football Association)

  • Level 1 - Introduces coaching fundamentals for players aged seven and above.
  • Level 2 - Provides a deeper understanding of coaching and the FA's coaching philosophy.
  • Level 3 (UEFA B) - Focuses on team coaching principles like attacking and defending strategies.
  • Levels 4 (UEFA A) and 5 (UEFA Pro) - Designed for elite-level coaches.

Swimming (Swim England)

  • Level 1 Swimming Assistant (Teaching) - Provides foundational knowledge to assist swimming instructors.
  • Level 2 Teaching Swimming - Enables you to independently plan and lead swimming lessons.
  • Level 3 Swim Coordinator - Equips you with the skills to manage a swim program, ensuring safety and adherence to teaching guidelines.

Learn more about professional qualifications.

Apprenticeships in sports coaching are available from Level 2 to Level 4 and offer a clear path for career development. See sports apprenticeships for more details.

Sports coaching jobs

You can find sports coaching roles in the public sector with councils and educational institutions, or in private organisations and clubs. Additionally, charities and non-profits promoting physical activity can be great places to explore.

To jumpstart your journey, consider researching these roles:

You can gain valuable experience through work shadowing or volunteering. These options allow you to observe professionals firsthand and contribute your skills while learning.

Structured opportunities, such as work experience and internships, provide hands-on experience and can potentially lead to future employment.

Find out more

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