The 4 Best Master’s Degrees in Coaching for 2021

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Lara Vukelich
Updated January 4, 2023 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Want to pursue a graduate degree in coaching but aren’t sure what to expect from a coaching curriculum? Master’s in coaching programs generally address the ethical, psychological, and sociological aspects of athletic leadership. They develop graduates’ skills in identifying and solving a variety of problems in the field.

You may learn theoretical aspects of holistic health and sports strategy in an athletic coaching degree program and have the opportunity to apply this understanding toward real-world problem-solving. You may discuss athletic challenges relating to ethics, gender, and team dynamics.

Coaching duties typically include athletic administration; exercise and strengthening strategy development; and general guidance and support on and off the field. Physical educators coach athletes in various environments, from school gymnasiums to professional arenas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median pay for coaches is $36,330 per year. As of the bureau’s most recent report, the coaching field is growing at a faster-than-average rate of 12%.

Explore these promoted online degree programs.

These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

Best Schools Offering Master’s in Coaching in 2021

  1. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    Founded in 1855, Michigan State University served as a model for all subsequent land-grant universities. The university is now one of the nation's largest by enrollment. It also leads in graduate coaching education, taking first place on this list. MSU's Sport Coaching and Leadership courses are delivered online through project-based assessments, reading assignments, and video lectures. Course examples include Promoting Positive Youth Development through Sport and Psychosocial Bases of Coaching. The curriculum culminates in an integrative capstone course. The capstone is offered with a hybrid section, which involves six days of on-campus instruction. The cohort program starts each year in mid-May and typically takes two years and four months to complete.

    • Graduation rate: 80%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $$
    • Number of programs offered: 200+ programs
    • City location: East Lansing, MI
    • Admission requirements: Transcript, letters of recommendation, professional resume, written academic statement, written personal statement
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: GRE not required
    • Contact: 517-355-1855
    • Website
  2. West Virginia University

    Morgantown, WV



    West Virginia University was founded under the Morrill Act as the Agricultural College of West Virginia. It is now a public, research-intensive university with land and space grants. WVU's Sport Coaching program is offered entirely online. Most courses are eight weeks in length, allowing students to focus on one class at a time. The plan of study includes courses in Leadership in Interscholastic Athletic Administration, Psychology of Coaching, and Sport Movement Analysis. Students commence the program with a Coaching Techniques course and conclude it with a coaching internship. The program can be completed in five semesters.

    • Graduation rate: 58%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $$
    • Number of programs offered: 350+ programs
    • City location: Morgantown, WV
    • Admission requirements: Transcripts, professional resume, written personal statement
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: GRE not required; TOEFL required for international students
    • Contact: 800-253-2762
    • Website
  3. University of Missouri

    Columbia, MO



    Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri was the first public higher education institution west of the Mississippi River. Today, the public research university is the largest in Missouri. Mizzou's Positive Coaching program is offered entirely online. Its curriculum covers topics including ethical and legal aspects of athletics, gender, multicultural issues in sports, and healthier school environments. The core curriculum consists of three courses: Applied Positive Coaching, Positive Psychology, and Sport and Applied Coaching Psychology. Students must also complete a culminating Positive Leadership capstone course. Most students complete the program part-time in two and a half years, while full-time students can finish their degree within one year.

    • Graduation rate: 68%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $$$
    • Number of programs offered: 300+ programs
    • City location: Columbia, MO
    • Admission requirements: Transcripts, undergraduate GPA of 3.0
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: GRE not required, TOEFL required when English isn’t your native language
    • Contact: 573-882-2491
    • Website
  4. Ohio University

    Athens, OH



    Established in 1804, Ohio University was the first university chartered by an Act of Congress. Today, the research university is ranked #91 among the country's Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Many students enrolled in the program work as graduate assistants for the university's intercollegiate athletic teams. OU's Coaching Education program requires courses in Ethics and Diversity for Athletic Coaches, Management and Leadership in Sport, and Psychology of Coaching. Elective offerings include Dynamics of Skill Acquisition and The Olympic Movement.

    • Graduation rate: 62%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $
    • Number of programs offered: 250+ programs
    • City location: Athens, OH
    • Admission requirements: Transcripts, undergraduate GPA of 2.75, three years of experience coaching, professional resume, written statement of personal experience, three letters of recommendation 
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: GRE not required
    • Contact: 740-593-4400
    • Website

What can I do with a master’s in coaching?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a coaching degree can work as coaches, trainers, or scouts. There are also jobs available in the entertainment fields.

The profession of coaching is growing faster than average when compared to other professions, with 292,000 related jobs available in 2019. Since coaches most commonly work in recreation or college settings, the freedom to work in non-traditional settings can be one of the most appealing things about the job.

Is a master’s in coaching worth it?

The highest 10% of paid coaches make over $80,000, and getting a master’s degree positions you to take advantage of higher pay. As of 2020, the median pay for coaches at the college and university level was just under $50,000. As noted, however, a higher level of expertise often translates to higher than average compensation. In addition to higher pay, you may also receive additional opportunities and higher job titles with the completion of an advanced degree that focuses on leadership and coaching.

How long does it take to get a master’s in coaching?

The length of time it takes to get your master’s degree will depend on whether you’re attending full-time or part-time. Most programs require between 30 and 36 total credits (sometimes called hours) to graduate. A full-time student can usually complete their degree within one to two years. Many courses are only eight weeks long, which allows you to complete multiple courses per semester, even if you only take a single class at a time. Part-time students will need to dedicate more time to their degree.

How much is a master’s in coaching?

Costs for many graduate degrees, similar to undergraduate degrees, are assessed based on the credits you take and the schools and programs you attend. If cost is a concern, look for financial aid opportunities that may help to offset some of the costs. Some employers will also offer tuition reimbursement, especially if you are already working in coaching and committed to using your degree at your current employer after graduation.

What to Expect From a Master’s in Coaching 

Most master’s in coaching degrees are taught through online programs, which are designed for working adults. You’ll cover leadership, sport psychology, physical wellness, and other topics related to the body and mind of athletes. Some schools and programs will also offer courses for aspiring administrators.

The majority of the schools that offer this type of program require you to have coaching experience to be admitted, which means that these programs are geared toward working coaches. That means they will typically offer flexibility around your current coaching schedule. Check with the programs you are considering to find out how many courses you are required to take per semester. 

Most programs can be completed in under three years, though the time it takes you to graduate will vary based on a wide range of factors.

Career Outlook for a Master’s in Coaching 

You can pursue employment in a variety of jobs with a master’s degree in coaching. These roles include college sport coach, athletic recruiter, team trainer, or high school coach. As high school enrollment is paced to increase over the next decade, the need for new coaches will continue to grow.

Other employment opportunities for this type of degree may include: 

Athletic trainer: People working as athletic trainers made an average wage of just under $50,000 per year as of 2020. The job is growing at a breakneck pace, with a job growth projection of about 16% through 2029. In this position, you will help to prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries of the bone and muscle in athletes. 

Athletic coach: In this role you will manage practices, strategies, the team roster, and coach games during your season. Most coaches work in recreation or college settings. On average, coaches made a wage of a bit under $40,000 per year as of 2020, but the average for the highest 10% of coaches is nearly double that. 

Physical education teacher: In this role, you will be responsible for organizing activities and coaching young athletes about fitness. Many physical education teachers work in high schools, though there are opportunities in elementary and middle school settings, too. On average, PE teachers earned a wage of about $62,000 per year in 2020. 

Admission Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Coaching

As with any other type of degree, not every master’s in coaching program will have the same admissions standards. The requirements for athletic coaching degrees will vary greatly depending on a number of factors.

That said, there are some common admission requirements you can expect when applying to these types of programs. For example, most schools will ask graduate candidates to have multiple letters of recommendation and a minimum GPA of between 2.5 and 3.0 during undergraduate study. 
In this case, it also helps if you already have a career in coaching or sports, as this graduate degree is geared toward working coaches. You may also be required to take the GRE to gain admissions to this type of graduate program.

Common Courses for a Master’s in Coaching  

The classes you take will vary depending on your program, but in general, you will be required to take classes related to physical health, mental health, and supporting athletes in these programs. The classes you take could include:

Ethics in Sport Coaching
Learning about ethics as it pertains to coaching makes you a better leader. You’ll likely see some emphasis placed on how to be an ethical coach and trainer in almost any program. In this class, you will hone your critical reasoning skills and learn to identify ethical problems. You will also learn to follow an ethically sound decision making process.
Sports Psychology
In addition to understanding physical anatomy, coaching requires a strong understanding of athletes’ mindsets. In this course, you will learn which psychological techniques are used by successful coaches and athletes. You may also discuss how differing personalities can be managed on the same team.
Injury Control
A major part of a coach’s job is injury prevention. These types of courses cover how to safely coach a team and identify a variety of risk factors to help mitigate injuries on the field and during training.
Wellness for Coaches
Self-care is also for coaches. This job can be high-stress, and it’s important to understand how wellness plays a role in the sustainability of your career. These types of courses discuss how you can avoid burnout and use a range of methods to help you maintain a longer career.
Athletic Training
You may also find athletic training helpful, even as a coach. Kinesiology and anatomy curriculum may be a part of athletic training courses. You will also learn techniques for improved training routines in this type of course.

Certifications and Licenses

Many roles in coaching require you to obtain additional certificates or licenses — especially at the collegiate level. What you’re required to obtain or pursue will depend on your role and the level you are coaching at, among other factors.

Be sure to educate yourself on what, if any, extra licenses you will need to coach effectively at your level and in your sport. These could include:

Sports Management CertificateThese certificates delve into the business and administration side of athletics. If you ever want to move into an administrative or management role, you may find it helpful to have this certification

Athletic Training Certificate

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association also offers a certification. You can take this program after you get your undergraduate degree. Once approved, you will get continued education each year and can find work as an athletic trainer.

PE Teacher CertificationSome PE teachers also need additional certifications. These include first aid and lifeguard training, as well as state exams.

Lagrant Foundation Graduate Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Lagrant Foundation offers financial awards to high-performing U.S. students who belong to racial minority groups. Candidates need permanent residency or DACA status and a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicants must be enrolled full time in an advertising-related graduate program at an accredited school. Applicants submit essays, a resume, a reference letter, and official transcripts.
Amount: $3,500
Deadline: February 26

Corporate Aviation Business Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time business students interested in corporate aviation can apply for this award from the National Aircraft Finance Association. Candidates must demonstrate citizenship or permanent residency and need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Learners should visit their school's financial aid office to apply.
Amount: $1,000-$5,000
Deadline: October 31

Lara Vukelich picture

Lara Vukelich


Lara Vukelich is a freelance writer in San Diego, California, who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, and others. Lara has written for publications such as Huffington Post, Quiet Revolution, Expedia, Travelocity, MyMove, and others. She has a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.

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