Britain's continued success in the sporting sphere has encouraged more people to participate in sports, because of this the demand for qualified sports coaches is increasing...

Sports coaching degrees

You don't need a degree to become a sports coach, but it may help you stand out when applying for jobs. It will also help you to build transferable skills such as organisation, delegation and motivation, all of which will be useful in other roles such as teaching and management.

On an undergraduate degree you'll learn about the principles of sports coaching, including:

  • anatomy
  • management
  • movement analysis
  • physiology
  • sports policy
  • sports psychology
  • sports sociology.

Courses involve both theoretical and practical learning and you will often use your peers to practise your coaching skills.

One example is the BSc Sports Coaching at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Lasting three years if studied full time, the programme has compulsory modules including applied sports pedagogy, physical education, and foundations of sport and exercise science. It also features optional modules such as sport ethics, sport performance analysis, and sociologies of sport, exercise and health. In the third year, you'll complete a final project and apply your knowledge to a coaching practical. You'll need at least three A-levels for entry, with two at a B-grade or higher.

The University of Northampton's BSc Sport Coaching degree takes three years if studied full time and up to six years part time. You'll develop your long-term planning and athlete-needs analysis skills, learn how to take a holistic approach to developing athletes by accounting for physiological, technical and psychological factors. Compulsory modules include coaching philosophy and coaching styles, then you can select from optional modules such as fitness training and sport psychology. The course costs £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 is a great way to pick up specialist knowledge within a specific field. Taking on a Masters in sports coaching will not only get you a qualification, it could also provide you with fantastic networking opportunities.

For example, Staffordshire University offers a distance learning, part-time MSc in Sports Coaching that takes two years to complete. During the course you'll take modules such as effective coaching and skilled performance under pressure. The Masters ends with a two-part research project comprising of a proposal and ethics followed by a journal article. You'll need a Bachelors degree of 2:2 or higher in a sports-related subject and proof that you're working towards your coaching qualifications. Tuition fees are £8,460.

Another course is the MSc Sport Coaching at Liverpool John Moores University, which can be taken full time (one year) or part time (two years). The programme is a blend of face-to-face teaching and flexible online lessons. There are also vocational opportunities and assignments where you can choose the topics such as sport psychology, pedagogy, training programmes, performance analysis and talent development. You’ll need a related 2:1 degree (2:2 in exceptional cases) and three years' coaching experience for entry onto the course. The full-time fee is £8,250 per year and part-time students pay £4,125.

Additionally, there's a year-long, full-time MSc Coaching Science at the University of Essex, which involves 8 to 10-week placements with employers. You'll have seminars on topics such as the psychology of coaching and youth athletic development. You'll need a 2:2 degree in a relevant subject for entry, and UK students pay a total fee of £9,660.

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

Professional coaching qualifications

In the UK you cannot become a sports coach without achieving the professional coaching qualifications from the national governing body (NGB) of each sport.

Generally, there are four classifications for professional coaching qualifications:

  • Activator
  • Assistant coach (Level 1)
  • Lead coach (level 2)
  • Level 3 (and higher)

One example includes the English Football Association's (FA) five levels of coaching:

  • Level 1 - courses are offered by the county council and introduce coaching to players from age seven upwards.
  • Level 2 - provides a more in-depth understanding of coaching and the FA's unique style.
  • Level 3 (UEFA B) - you'll learn more about being the coach of a team and various principles including attacking and defending etc.
  • Level 4 (UEFA A) and 5 (UEFA Pro) - available to elite-level coaches.

Swim England offers three levels of coaching qualifications such as:

  • Level 1 Swimming Assistant (teaching) - provides you with the essential knowledge needed to assist a teacher of a club or swim school.
  • Level 2 Teaching Swimming - gives you the skills required to prepare and lead swimming lessons independently.
  • Level 3 Swim Coordinator - furnishes you with the skills to manage a swimming workforce, including maintaining safety and teaching guidelines.

Other qualifications within Levels 1 to 3 include baby and toddler training, open water coaching, and education and training.

Learn more about professional qualifications.

Sports coaching jobs

Sport coaching roles can be found in the public sector through the county council, educational bodies, or private organisations and clubs. There are also charities or non-profit organisations centred around keeping the country active that you could look into. As a starting point research:

To gain some experience you could complete a period of work shadowing or volunteering.

Find out more about work experience and internships.

Sports coaching apprenticeships

You can take an apprenticeship at intermediate, advanced or higher level. For example, a Level 2 community activator coach (intermediate) apprenticeship will require GCSEs, including English and maths.

At Level 3 (advanced), which includes personal trainer or community sport and health officer apprenticeships, you'll need five GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths.

Level 4 sports coach apprenticeships (higher) require four to five GCSEs and some A-levels (or equivalent) for entry onto the course.

For example, Sport Structures offer a Level 4 School Sports Coach apprenticeship that lasts 18 months. Candidates will need at least a Level 2 NGB coaching qualification and have at least 12 months of independent coaching experience. You can select one of three pathways including school sport coaches, community sport coaches and high performance sport coaches. On the apprenticeship you'll be supported through developing your own coaching philosophy, designing and implementing effective coaching programmes and creating a positive learning environment.

First Step Training run an online-learning Level 4 Sports Coach apprenticeship that lasts 12 to 18 months. The course involves working with multiple employers across England, and it's aimed at people who want to work in the PE or school sports industry. There are nine core duties you must achieve as an apprentice and four optional duties you can select.

Discover more about apprenticeships and learn how to apply for an apprenticeship.

Find out more

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