A career as a sports coach allows you to pass your knowledge and passion of a particular sport on to others. Discover the qualifications you'll need to succeed in this competitive but rewarding field
According to a UK Coaching 2017 report, there are more than three million active sports coaches in the UK, around 6% of the adult population. With more people participating in sports, and Britain continuing to excel on the global sporting stage, the demand for qualified sports coaches is increasing.
Sports coaching degrees
A university education isn't a prerequisite but academic qualifications can equip you with useful transferrable skills and could also make you stand out to employers.
To gain entry on to the Sport: Coaching and Development BSc at Manchester Metropolitan University you'll need to have achieved BCC or BBC at A-level. The course takes three years to complete full time. In your first year you'll study core units including 'Sport Science and Coaching Practice', 'Examining Sports Development' and 'Understanding Sport'. In your second year you'll study two core units and optional modules such as 'Contemporary Issues in Sport' and 'Coaching and Performance Analysis'. In your final year you'll complete an undergraduate research project, as well as cover optional units including 'Profiling Sport Performance', 'Working in High Performance Sport' and 'The Olympics'. In 2019 UK and European Union (EU) students will be charged £9,250 tuition fees.
The BSC in Sports Coaching at the University of Brighton takes three years to complete and is assessed through a combination of written exams, practical assessments and coursework. During your first year you'll receive a broad introduction to coaching in topics such as physiology, psychology, biomechanics, training principles, sport development and sociology. In years two and three you'll explore your own interests by choosing from a range of optional modules. You'll need BBC or CCC at A-level to be accepted on to the course.
Postgraduate sports coaching courses
Masters degrees are particularly useful if you'd like to explore a subject in greater depth or if you have a first degree in an unrelated area. While not essential, a Masters in sports coaching or a relevant field, such as sports management or sports science, demonstrates your commitment to the profession and could provide invaluable industry contacts.
Postgraduate sports coaching courses are available at a range of institutions. For example, the University of Gloucestershire offers an MSc in Professional Practice in Sports Coaching. You'll need a 2:1 Bachelors degree in a sports-related subject to be accepted onto the course, which is assessed via written assignments, research projects, presentations and reflective writing. Core modules include 'Expert Coach in Context', 'Personal and Professional Development in Sport' and 'Coaching Pedagogy'. Tuition fees for UK and EU students are £6,300 in 2018/19.
At the University of Chester you can study for an MA in Sport Coaching and Development. The one-year programme includes compulsory units such as 'Understanding Behaviour Change in Sport and Physical Activity', 'Contemporary Issues in Sports Coaching and Development' and 'Coaching Practice and Pedagogy'. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, practical sessions and external speakers.
On the one-year MSc Sport Coaching course at Leeds Beckett University you'll study three core modules and have the option to learn about 'The Developing Talented Performer: Bio-Psychosocial Development', 'Coaching Practice', 'Understanding and Analysing Sport Performance' and 'Coaching Systems and Policy'. Graduates will be well equipped to work in community coaching roles or with sports clubs and governing bodies. Possible job roles include community sports coach, talent development coach or coaching co-ordinator.
Other institutions that provide Masters in sports coaching include:
- Cardiff Metropolitan University
- Liverpool John Moores University
- Sheffield Hallam University
- Staffordshire University
- University of Birmingham
- University of Central Lancashire
- University of Chichester
- University of South Wales
- University of Worcester.
Search for postgraduate courses in sports coaching and learn more about funding postgraduate study.
Professional coaching qualifications
While relevant academic qualifications may increase your understanding of sports coaching, you can only become a fully-qualified coach by gaining the appropriate coaching qualification, offered by the National Governing Body (NGB) of your chosen sport. It'll be impossible to progress in your field without the relevant qualifications, even with a sports coaching degree.
Professional coaching qualifications vary in length and may be studied full time, part time or via distance learning. Generally speaking there are usually four main types of qualification: Activator, Assistant Coach (Level 1), Lead Coach (Level 2) and Level 3 (and higher).
Activators organise and promote sporting events, assistant coaches typically need a Level 1 sport-specific qualification, while to coach independently clubs and governing bodies require a Level 2 sport-specific qualification. To climb the career ladder you may take a Level 3 course, while to lead teams internationally a Level 4 sport-specific qualification is needed.
For example, Basketball England runs five coaching pathways.
- The Activator Award - an introductory qualification designed to give participants the skills and basic technical knowledge to deliver recreational basketball.
- Level 1 - Aimed at those starting out in basketball coaching, it enables you to assist other coaches in delivering sessions.
- Level 2 - Provides participants with the knowledge required to coach sessions unsupervised at local level.
- Level 3 - For coaches who are going to lead coaching programmes in clubs, enabling you to coach players at all levels.
- Level 4 - For national and international team coaches. Enables you to design, implement and evaluate the processes and outcomes of long-term, high level coaching programmes.
The FA (Football Association) coaching courses span Levels 1 to 5, providing a clear path from grassroots to elite level, while British Cycling offer courses covering Levels 1 to 3.
UK Coaching also provides a number of online coaching courses, such as 'Discover Coaching', 'How to Coach: Plan, Do, Review', 'Inspiring Positive Behaviour in Sport' and 'Coaching People with a Visual Impairment'. To find out more, see UK Coaching - Courses.
Learn more about professional qualifications.
Sports coaching jobs
Coaching careers exist within a variety of organisations. For example, you could work in public, private or professional sports bodies, charities, academic institutions such as schools and colleges and in community settings such as sports clubs and fitness centres.
You could work as a:
- assistant coach
- PE teacher
- personal trainer
- sports development officer
- sports coach.
Work experience and internships can help increase your chances being accepted onto academic and professional courses and of finding a job. Do some research to see if you can shadow or assist coaches of your preferred sport at local or regional level, take up part-time work at a fitness centre or volunteer to help out at youth or after school sports clubs.
To find out more, see work experience and internships.
Sports coaching apprenticeships
If you'd prefer to earn while you learn there are a number of sports coaching apprenticeships on offer.
Sort and fitness apprenticeships can be taken in variety of fields, spanning intermediate to advanced levels. On an intermediate sports coaching apprenticeship you could train for the following roles:
- community sports coach
- diving instructor
- swimming coach
- tennis coach.
At advanced level you could become a club coach, fitness coach or senior coach.
You can also take an apprenticeship to train for the role of a PE teacher.
UK Sport provides the Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme (ECAP), which aims to accelerate the development of emerging coaches already working in the high performance system.
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