Do I Need a Degree in Coaching Education?

If you want to become a professional athletics coach, or in an adjacent/strongly related position, you’re in luck. Darren Heitner at noted that:

The sports market was worth $60.5 billion in 2014 and is projected to rise to $73.5 billion by 2019, making it one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy.

Being an athletics coach isn’t like becoming an accountant. There’s no one path to this career, rather you can take several different routes and still end up in the same place (or one of the many different, blossoming positions in an evolving world of advanced data and computer integration into athletics). But if you want to be a coach, do you need a degree in Coaching Education? Not definitively, but the right degree in coaching will only advance your hard and soft skills, knowledge, network, career opportunities and experience, not hinder them. If that sounds good to you, an excellent resource to point you towards a coaching degree can be found in our ranking of the 10 Best Online Masters in Physical Education Degree Programs, as well as our ranking of the 15 Best Online Masters in Coaching Education. Because earning a graduate degree is difficult, we’ve focused on online programs that often are more affordable and feasible to fit into your existing life and work responsibilities. Make sure to begin your quest to become an athletic coach and earn a degree that helps you do so by asking yourself some important questions.

What Sport Would I Like to Coach?

Some coaches are versatile in their ability to coach different sports, age groups and populations, especially at lower age levels of athletes, or in coaching positions that focus more on the holistic elements of athletics as opposed to more purely results-driven coaching. But often, coaches focus on one sport they specialize in. It may be the one you were best at, or the one you loved to play the most, but maybe not. Sometimes the people with advanced insight, analysis and leadership skills aren’t necessarily physical masters of their focus.


  • An outside perspective can be valuable in coaching, as can experiencing personal, defining failure that you can help others avoid.
  • Whether coaches recognize it or not, coaching often hinges on an understanding of psychology.
  • Physical Education degrees are more open ended, so if you don’t know the sport you want to coach yet, you’ll get a general education that can lead to specialization.
  • Whether you’re getting a Physical Education Master’s degree, or a Master’s in Coaching Education, the school you’re earning it from may specialize in a sport you hope to coach in.
  • If so, learning from faculty and coaches at top programs in the sport you hope to coach in is a great way to make sure you graduate with the tools, experience and connections to begin a career coaching in your sport of choice.
  • A great example in our Physical Education ranking is the University of Arkansas, where many faculty members are also involved in the immensely successful Division 1 football program (The Razorbacks).

Some might scoff at a perceived overestimated importance of psychology in sports, but those people likely haven’t studied the psychological impacts on performance, or how psychologically healthy coaching can add to the quality of life for both athletes and athletic staff. The top program in our Coaching Education ranking, at the University of Missouri, specifically tackles the cutting edge findings on sports psychology and coaching psychology in its Coaching Education Master’s program.

Becoming a Coach by Earning Degrees

Your experience in athletics, and any positions you may have held within the field will definitely help you in your pursuit of this career. However, when you apply for a Master’s in Coaching Education or Physical Education, you’re taking a concrete step towards earning credentials that will qualify you for far more jobs in this rapidly growing field. In addition to earning your degree it would absolutely behoove you to do the following:

  • Volunteer or work as a ref or coach in any little league, amateur sports league, or any other athletics program you have access to locally.
  • Read as much as you can about coaching.
  • Carefully peruse Coaching Education and Physical Education degree programs to make sure they fit your budget, lifestyle and career goals.
  • Stay up to date with the latest in athletics data, coaching strategies, exercise, nutrition information by setting Google News alerts.

In the pursuit of the above, here are some resources to help your search and goals in coaching:

Resources for Aspiring Coaches

Now get out there and start working towards your career in coaching!