Coaches are mentors, teachers, and motivators. They need keen insight, practical knowledge, and a well-honed ability to lead. And the best coaches are always looking for ways to improve.
Whether you coach on the basketball court, in an executive’s office, or somewhere in between, a graduate degree can help you better serve your team.
What kind of master’s degree in coaching should you get?
In this ranking, we use “coaching” in a broad sense. We’ve included degrees that focus on athletic coaching as well as organizational or leadership coaching. As you’re looking at the schools on this list, be sure to note whether the program’s focus is an accurate reflection of your career goals.
If you’re not sure that coaching is where your future lies, stop by our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Colleges for a Master’s. These schools offer outstanding value in a host of academic disciplines.
How much money do people make with a coaching degree?
No matter what type of coaching you choose, your job prospects are good with a master’s degree in this field. Many popular career paths in coaching are expected to see strong growth between 2016 and 2026.
Here are some of the most common job titles for coaching professionals. (Information is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Coaches and Scouts:
- Median pay: $32,270
- Expected growth rate: 13% (faster than the average for all occupations)
Fitness Trainers and Instructors:
- Median pay: $39,210
- Expected growth rate: 10% (faster than average)
- Median pay: $46,630
- Expected growth rate: 23% (much faster than average)
What can you do with a master’s degree in coaching?
The degree programs in this ranking are diverse, and they can lead to a range of possible careers. For example, some programs are designed for physical education teachers or educators who coach sports teams at the high school level.
Other degree programs focus on the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of collegiate or professional sports. These degrees can qualify graduates for a career as an athletic administrator or game day coordinator.
However, coaching doesn’t always mean sports. A number of degree programs on our list are ideal for students who are, or who plan to be, wellness coaches, executive coaches, or career consultants.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in coaching?
Many graduate programs will require you to submit a GRE score when you apply. Some universities might have a specific cut-off score. Others will look at your GRE results as just one aspect in the context of your full application.
Although all of the degrees on this list are offered online, many of them feature required internships or practicum experiences. Often, you’ll need to hold a coaching position before you start these programs so that you can use your current workplace to fulfill the internship requirement.
What are the most affordable online master’s in coaching degrees?
In this ranking, we’ve keyed in on net tuition costs as the most important factor. But educational quality is, of course, always a major concern. At College Choice, we only consider regionally accredited schools for our rankings – so even though these colleges have low tuition rates, every one of them offers valuable, respected academic programs.
We hope that our list of the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Coaching helps you find a program that fits your schedule, your budget, and your plans for the future.
Average Net Price: $6,349
With more than 50,000 alumni worldwide, Bellevue University is a recognized national leader in providing affordable, career-relevant education. The university’s main campus is located in Bellevue, NE, but students all over the world enroll through online programs. Bellevue is home to a number of dynamic initiatives, such as the Center for Project Management and the Human Capital Lab. These initiatives complement innovative graduate degree programs in fields such as Acquisition and Contract Management, Organizational Performance, and Leadership and Coaching.
A 36 credit-hour program at Bellevue leads to a Master of Science in Leadership and Coaching. This program is designed to prepare graduates to lead a large corporation or to consult on an individual basis. Students in this program will be required to earn three credit-hours through internship experiences. Coursework for the degree includes:
- Leadership Theories and Research
- Leadership and Team Dynamics
- Social Psychology of Leadership
- The Role and Relationship Dynamics of Executive Coaching
At the end of the program, graduates will receive a Certificate of Completion in Executive Coaching along with their master’s degree. If desired, graduates can also earn certification with the International Coach Federation. Whether students attend on campus or online, the 2018 tuition rate for this program is $575 per credit-hour.
Eastern New Mexico University
Average Net Price: $10,481
Eastern New Mexico University emphasizes liberal learning, promotes freedom of inquiry, and celebrates cultural diversity. With more than 6,000 students, ENMU is New Mexico’s largest regional comprehensive university. Among 81 public Southwestern institutions, ENMU is in the top 10 percent for lowest tuition rates. Graduate students can take advantage of ENMU’s exceptional affordability with online programs in education, administration, and coaching.
The Master of Science in Coaching requires 36 credit-hours. This program is offered through the Department of Health and Physical Education. It focuses on preparing students for a career in sport, fitness, and exercise. Students pursuing this degree may take courses such as:
- Social and Psychological Aspects of Sport
- Management and Leadership in Sport
- Sport and Recreation Facility Management
- Scientific Principles of Strength and Conditioning
Students at ENMU can also earn a Master of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Sport Administration. Additional graduate-level options include a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Communication. All of these degrees are available through fully online programs. Non-resident graduate students taking six or fewer credit-hours will pay the same tuition rate as resident students ($282.41 per credit-hour, as of 2018).
West Virginia University
Average Net Price: $10,814
Ranked as an R1: Doctoral University with Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Foundation, West Virginia University enrolls more than 31,000 students. WVU awards more than $433 million in financial aid each year, including $48 million in scholarships. The Sport Coaching program at WVU takes a holistic approach to coaching, integrating physical, mental, interpersonal, and technical aspects of sport performance.
The online Master of Science in Sport Coaching is intended for students who have a current coaching position (and who will continue coaching throughout the program). This includes teachers who coach at the scholastic level and non-educators who coach at the community or club level. The degree requires 31 credit-hours. Coursework will cover topics such as:
- Strength and conditioning
- Positive youth development
- Sport movement analysis
- Legal issues for coaches
No GRE score is required to apply to this program. However, applicants are expected to have significant experience in coaching before they enroll. Candidates for this degree typically take between four and seven credit-hours per semester. This reduced course load allows students to more easily balance their academic progress with other professional or personal obligations. For both West Virginia students and non-residents, the 2018 cost per credit-hour for this program is $546.
American Public University
Average Net Price: $11,470
Based in Charles Town, WV, American Public University is an online institution that specializes in serving adult students and nontraditional learners. In an alumni survey, 89 percent of APU graduates reported that they would recommend APU to a friend or colleague. Available academic programs at APU include master’s degrees in Public Health, Sports Management, and Sports and Health Sciences.
The 36 credit-hour Master of Science in Sports and Health Sciences focuses on the physical, physiological, psychological, and functional adaptations of humans. Students may choose to specialize in Exercise Science and Human Performance or in Health and Wellness Management. The degree is also available through a general track. No matter which track a student chooses, the following courses are required:
- Critical Thinking in the Sports and Health Industries
- Advanced Exercise and Sport Physiology
- Statistics for Sports and Health Sciences
- Advanced Methods of Strength and Conditioning
Full-time students can complete this program in two years. APU offers monthly start dates for all of their degree programs, so prospective students are never more than a few weeks away from beginning their degree. As of the 2018 academic year, the cost for this program is $350 per credit-hour. Students who qualify for a military grant will pay $325 per credit-hour.
University of Southern Mississippi
Average Net Price: $11,916
With campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, MS, the University of Southern Mississippi is a comprehensive, doctoral, research-driven institution. Southern Miss is home to more than 140 undergraduate programs and over 220 graduate programs. Alumni of the Sport Coaching Education program at Southern Miss have landed jobs as an athletic performance coach, college scout, and strength and conditioning coach.
Students at Southern Miss can earn a Master of Science in Sport Coaching Education by completing a 36-credit-hour, fully online program of study. This degree is available through both a thesis and non-thesis track. For the non-thesis track, students will complete a practicum as their capstone experience. Degree candidates in both the thesis and non-thesis track will take the following courses:
- Foundations and Trends in Kinesiology
- Organizational Leadership and Management in Sport
- Advanced Development of Strength and Conditioning Programs
- Advanced Sport Coaching Methodology
To qualify for admission, students must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 in the last 62 hours of coursework. Southern Miss also offers a fully online program leading to a Master of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Physical Education. All online graduate students pay resident tuition, regardless of state residency. Currently, the rate is $451 per graduate credit-hour.
Jacksonville State University
Average Net Price: $12,474
Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University is a public regional institution serving approximately 8,500 students. Over 79 percent of JSU students receive some type of financial aid, demonstrating the university’s strong commitment to accessibility for students of all income levels. The Sport Management program at JSU is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the job market in the modern sports industry.
The Master of Science in Sport Management is presented by the Department of Kinesiology. This degree requires between 30 and 34 credit-hours. Candidates for the degree will complete an internship, either in Sport Management or in Sport Marketing and Administration. The curriculum features the following required courses:
- Current Issues and Trends in Athletics
- Law and Ethics in Wellness and Sport Studies
- Human Resources Management in Sport
- Sport Facility Administration and Design
Applicants to this program must have at least two years of full-time, professional educational work experience to qualify for unconditional admission. This degree can lead to Class A teacher certification in sport management. Students may also pursue the degree through a non-certification track. For the 2018 academic year, the cost for online graduate coursework is $382 per credit-hour.
Emporia State University
Average Net Price: $12,939
In 1863, Emporia State University became the first public institution of higher learning in the state of Kansas. ESU boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of just 18:1, ensuring that every student receives personalized attention from the university’s distinguished faculty members. Emporia State was the first university in the nation to offer a master’s degree program in health, physical education, and recreation through a fully online program.
ESU presents a thesis-optional program leading to a Master of Science in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. All coursework for this degree is offered online (but students are welcomed and encouraged to come to campus). Degree candidates will take 15 credit-hours in elective coursework. Available electives include:
- Assessment in K-12 Physical Education
- Analysis of Teaching and Coaching
- Curriculum Development in Health Education
- Wellness Concepts and Prevention Strategies
To apply for this program, students should have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 2.50, and a GPA of at least 2.75 on the last 60 credit-hours of coursework. Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree in physical education or a related field, but a teaching certificate is not required. Students who are not residents of Kansas will pay a tuition rate of $470 per credit-hour for this program.
Pittsburg State University
Average Net Price: $12,967
Enrolling more than 7,400 students, Pittsburg State University is a public institution located in the southeast corner of Kansas. The academic options at Pitt State span 150 degree programs and four colleges. The esteemed College of Education is home to three departments: Teaching and Leadership; Psychology and Counseling; and Health, Human Performance, and Recreation.
The online Master of Science in Health, Human Performance, and Recreation allows student to focus on either Human Performance and Wellness or Sport and Leisure Service Management. The degree is also available as a general track for students who are seeking a broad foundation in sport, physical education, wellness, and recreation. The degree requires a minimum of 32 credit-hours. Coursework within the general track includes:
- Finance and Marketing in Sport and Leisure Services
- Leadership and Legal Issues in Sport and Leisure Services
- Advanced Exercise Physiology
A minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.70 is required for students applying to this program. Degree candidates who plan to go on to doctoral study can choose to complete a thesis as part of this program. Almost 80 percent of students at Pitt State receive some type of financial assistance, which may be in the form of grants, employment, loans, or scholarships.
University of Northern Colorado
Average Net Price: $13,065
The University of Northern Colorado is home to approximately 9,500 undergraduate students and 2,700 graduate students. These students attend UNC on the main campus in Greeley, at off-campus regional sites such as the Denver Center at Lowry, and through online programs. At UNC, students can pursue a flexible program that offers an innovative combination of leading-edge sports coaching knowledge, applied practice, and distance learning technology.
The Master of Arts in Sports Coaching requires 30 credit-hours and is designed to prepare practicing coaches to become leaders in their sporting fields. This fully online program is the first of its kind in the state of Colorado. The curriculum for this degree includes the following required courses:
- International Perspectives of Sports Coaching
- Introduction to Sports Injuries for Coaches
- Training and Conditioning Principles for Sports Coaches
- Bridging Theory and Practice in Sports Coaching
This degree can be completed in as little as 18 months, or five terms. At the end of their program, students will complete a 4-credit-hour internship in sport and exercise science. The current tuition rate for this degree is $555 per credit-hour. UNC also offers fully online programs leading to master’s degrees in Sport Administration and in Physical Education and Physical Activity Leadership.
Ball State University
Average Net Price: $13,369
For more than a decade, Ball State University has been recognized as one of the Best Universities in the Midwest by the Princeton Review. The university’s 22,500 students represent all 50 states and 68 countries around the world. The faculty members of Ball State’s Athletic Coaching program are published authors, active researchers, and nationally recognized experts in their athletic areas.
Candidates for the Master of Arts in Athletic Coaching Education typically take two courses per semester. By following this schedule, students will earn their degree in five semesters. The program does not lead to initial teaching licensure, but it can lead to a license update in physical education with a coaching specialization. The curriculum for this degree may include courses such as:
- Physical Preparation and Conditioning
- Teaching and Motivation for Coaches
- Sport Safety and Injury Prevention
- Growth and Development for Coaches
The GRE is not required as part of the admissions process. While this degree does include an internship, candidates will be able to complete this requirement through their coaching position at their current workplace. Class sizes are typically around 12 to 20 students. The basic tuition rate (before fees) for this program is $402 per credit-hour for Indiana residents, or $603 per credit-hour for out-of-state residents.
University of Missouri
Average Net Price: $13,567
Established in 1839, the University of Missouri was the nation’s first public university west of the Mississippi River. Mizzou is still a pioneer in higher education, offering more than 300 respected degree programs – over 90 of which can be earned fully online. The online graduate program in Positive Coaching from Mizzou is ideal for athletic and performance coaches, athletic administrators, wellness coordinators, and life coaches.
Mizzou Online’s 30 credit-hour program leads to a Master of Education in Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Positive Coaching. Coursework for this program may be offered in 16-, 8-, or even 4-week formats. Degree candidates will have the opportunity to customize their degree path with six elective courses. Available electives include:
- Legal Aspects of Sport and Coaching
- Administration of Athletic Programs
- Gender Issues in Sport
- Seminar: Psychology of the Injured Athlete
Students may enroll in this program on either a full-time or part-time basis. Part-time students taking two courses per semester will finish the program in two and a half years, while full-time students can finish in as little as one year. Based on 2018 tuition rates, the total estimated cost for the Positive Coaching degree is $12,494.70. All students in this program will qualify for in-state tuition rates.
Adams State University
Average Net Price: $13,888
Adams State University is a comprehensive, state-supported institution with roughly 2,500 on-campus students and another 10,000 students enrolled in distance learning programs. The university was the first institution of higher learning in Colorado to earn a federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution. The Coaching program at Adams State will provide students with advanced knowledge of proper training methods, relevant legal issues, and coaching styles and behaviors.
The online Master of Arts in Coaching is a 36 credit-hour program. This degree, which is presented by the Department of Human Performance and Physical Education, can be completed in two years. All candidates for this degree will take the following courses:
- Concepts in Exercise Science
- Sports and Exercise Psychology
- Social Aspects of Sport and Physical Education
- Strategic Management and Leadership in Sport
The Department of Human Performance and Physical Education also offers a Master of Arts in Applied Sport Psychology and a Master of Arts in Sport Management. Both of these degrees are available through online tracks. Students in distance learning programs will pay the same tuition rate regardless of in-state residency. In 2018, the tuition rate for online Human Performance and Physical Education graduate courses is $410 per credit-hour.
University of Florida
Average Net Price: $14,761
With a 2,000-acre main campus and facilities in all 67 of Florida’s counties, the University of Florida is a regional and national leader in groundbreaking research and top-tier academics. The university’s impact isn’t limited to its physical locations: UF offers more than 170 degree and certificate programs through distance learning. Graduates of UF’s online Sport Management program can serve as athletic administrators, game day coordinators, sports marketing professionals, and in many other roles.
The online Master of Science in Sport Management degree requires 36 credit-hours and offers three specializations: Athlete Development, High Performance Coaching, and Sport Law. Students who choose the Athlete Development specialization will be qualified to pursue certification through the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists. For the High Performance Coaching specialization, the following coursework is required:
- Sport Psychology
- Performance Enhancement
- Training High Performance Athletes
- Sport Ethics
A Capstone Project, which consists of a comprehensive reflective paper, serves as the exit requirement for this degree. In a survey, 95 percent of students reported that they were satisfied with the online MS in Sport Management program. The tuition rate for this program is $585.75 per credit-hour, for a total program cost of $21,087.
University of Idaho
Average Net Price: $14,787
As the state’s land-grant institution, the University of Idaho enrolls 12,000 students pursuing over 300 undergraduate and graduate degrees. The university has garnered a strong reputation for promoting interdisciplinary research, public service, and student-centered learning. The College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Idaho prepares a significant portion of the state’s teachers, coaches, and athletic trainers.
The Department of Movement Sciences, housed within EHHS, presents the acclaimed Master of Education in Physical Education and Physical Activity Pedagogy. This program can provide certified teachers with a deeper understanding of physical activity pedagogy. It can also lead to initial teacher certification in physical education (although the certification track may not be offered fully online). Available coursework in this program includes:
- Assessment in Physical Activity
- Health Teaching Methods
- Models of Teaching
- Leadership, Pedagogy, and Programming in Healthy Active Lifestyles
Students pursuing the Physical Education and Physical Activity Pedagogy degree will be eligible for a number of scholarships, such as the Edith Betts Scholarship and the Leon Green Scholarship. The University of Idaho also offers hybrid (blended) programs leading to a Master of Science in Athletic Training and a Master of Science in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Management.
Southwest Minnesota State University
Average Net Price: $14,824
Southwest Minnesota State University is a public institution committed to high-quality education in the liberal arts and professions. The community of SMSU includes 102 full-time faculty, 128 part-time faculty, and over 7,000 students. Graduate-level academic options at SMSU include degrees in business, education, and physical education.
SMSU offers a 34-credit-hour online program leading to a Master of Science in Physical Education: Coaching of Sport. The coursework for this program is built on the coaching standards of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education. Two practicum experiences are required. Candidates for this degree will be expected to take courses such as:
- Research Foundation in Sport: Methods, Statistics, and Analysis
- Sports Skills, Tactics, and Evaluation in Coaching
- Psychology of Athletic Performance
- Organization, Administration, and Marketing of Sport
Applicants to this program should have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. Students with a lower GPA may be considered for provisional admission. Once accepted, students can complete the degree in five semesters, including one summer semester. The current tuition rate for this program is $446 per credit-hour. Need-based financial aid is available to graduate students. SMSU does not charge out-of-state tuition fees for any of its programs.