Those who enjoyed playing sports in their youth often desire to become coaches, and many wonder if they need a teaching degree to be a high school athletic coach. High school athletic coaches teach students the fundamentals of a particular sport and conduct conditioning training to reinforce techniques. They also organize games with local or regional sports teams and coordinate practices in preparation for successful performances. While one does not need a teaching degree to be a high school coach, it is important to have an academic background and experience that relates to sports, fitness or wellness.


Kinesiology is the study of the human body and its movements. Many reputable colleges and universities offer undergraduate degree programs in this subject; it is a popular foundational degree for those who want careers as athletic coaches, physical education teachers and health instructors. Many of the key concepts taught within undergraduate kinesiology degree programs emphasize improving fitness and performance.

Sports Science

A bachelor’s degree in sports science is one of the most popular degree programs for athletic coaches who train student athletes to compete in amateur athletic events. While a degree in sports science is usually completed by those who want clinical careers, more coaches are pursuing the program because of the improved curricula formats offered. Future athletic coaches can now study sports science with specializations in exercise science, fitness and wellness and even coaching. This degree program includes coursework in physiology, sports officiating and sports coaching methodology.

Nutrition Science

Another key aspect of athletic performance is good nutrition. Nutrition science degree programs provide comprehensive course work that covers the nutritional needs of both athletes and non athletes alike. High school coaches in particular benefit from understanding and passing along information to their student athletes about nutritional needs. A popular concentration area in this degree program for high school athletic coaches is the nutrition and fitness professional program. Courses that one can expect to take during this program are nutrition therapy as well as sports performance and conditioning.

Industry Certification For Athletic Coaches

The nation’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predict that the number of coaching jobs will grow at a rate that is faster than average among all careers. However, even with those positive statistics many high school athletic coaches seek to maintain their competitive edge within their career field by obtaining certifications and professional development training. The most recognized certification for this career is sponsored by the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA). Coaches can earn the national high school coach certification designation by taking a comprehensive NHSCA exam. The preparation coursework and examination also cover health and safety techniques like CPR and first aid that many schools require of their coaching staff.

While a coach is not always required to teach classes, many high school athletic coaches do teach classes, whether it be physical education and health or core curriculum classes.  High school athletic coaches who also work as teachers are required to obtain teaching credentials.  Whether or not a coach decides to pursue the teaching credentials, continued education and training are necessary to provide the best learning experiences for students.

Related Resource:  How much does a high school athletic coach make?