Coaches and Scouts

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Coaches and Scouts Do[About this section] [To Top]

Coaches teach amateur and professional athletes the skills they need to succeed at their sport. Scouts look for new players, evaluating their skills and likelihood for success at the college, amateur, or professional level. Many coaches are also involved in scouting potential athletes.

Duties of Coaches and Scouts

Coaches typically do the following:

  • Plan, organize, and conduct practice sessions
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of individual athletes and opposing teams
  • Plan strategies and choose team members for each game
  • Provide direction, encouragement, and motivation to prepare athletes for games
  • Call plays and make decisions about strategy and player substitutions during games
  • Plan and direct physical conditioning programs that enable athletes to achieve maximum performance
  • Instruct athletes on proper techniques, game strategies, sportsmanship, and the rules of the sport
  • Keep records of athletes’ and opponents’ performance
  • Identify and recruit potential athletes
  • Arrange for and offer incentives to prospective players

Coaches teach professional and amateur athletes the fundamental skills of individual and team sports. They hold training and practice sessions to improve the athletes' form, technique, skills, and stamina. Along with refining athletes’ individual skills, coaches are also responsible for instilling in their players the importance of good sportsmanship, a competitive spirit, and teamwork.

Many coaches evaluate their opponents to determine game strategies and to establish specific plays to practice. During competition, coaches call specific plays intended to surprise or overpower the opponent, and they may substitute players for optimum team chemistry and success.

Many high school coaches are primarily academic teachers or other school administrators who supplement their income by coaching part time.

Some people who teach the fundamental skills of individual and teams sports may be known as sports instructors rather than coaches. Like coaches, sports instructors hold practice sessions, assign specific drills, and correct athletes' techniques. They may spend their time working one-on-one with athletes, designing customized training programs for each individual. Sports instructors may specialize in teaching athletes the skills of an individual sport, such as tennis, golf, or karate. Some sports instructors, such as pitching instructors in baseball, may teach individual athletes involved in team sports.

However, many sports instructors work with people who simply have an interest in learning a new sport rather than athletes competing in events. For example, a skiing instructor may give individual or group lessons to those interested in learning how to ski.

Scouts typically do the following:

  • Read newspapers and other news sources to find athletes to consider
  • Attend games, view videotapes of the athletes’ performances, and study statistics about the athletes to determine talent and potential
  • Talk to the athlete and the coaches to see if the athlete has what it takes to succeed
  • Report to the coach, manager, or owner of the team for which he or she is scouting
  • Arrange for and offer incentives to prospective players

Scouts evaluate the skills of both amateur and professional athletes. Scouts seek out top athletic candidates for colleges or professional teams and evaluate their likelihood of success at a higher competitive level.

Work Environment for Coaches and Scouts[About this section] [To Top]

Coaches and scouts hold about 250,600 jobs. The industries that employ the most coaches and scouts are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 24%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 20
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 20

About 1 in 10 are self-employed.

Some scouts may work for organizations that work directly with high school athletes. These scouts collect information on the athlete and help promote him or her to potential colleges.

At the college level, scouts typically work for scouting organizations or as self-employed scouts to help colleges recruit the best high school athletes.

Scouts at the professional level are typically employed by the team or organization directly.

Those people who coach and scout for outdoor sports may be exposed to all weather conditions of the season. In addition, they must travel often to attend sporting events. This is particularly true for those in professional sports.

Coach and Scout Work Schedules

Coaches and scouts often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Professional or college coaches usually work more than 40 hours a week for several months during the sport’s season, if not most of the year. Many high school coaches work part time and may have other jobs aside from coaching.

How to Become a Coach or Scout[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Coaches and Scouts near you!

Coaches and scouts typically need a bachelor’s degree. They must also have extensive knowledge of the sport. Coaches typically gain this knowledge through their own experiences playing the sport at some level. Although previous playing experience may be beneficial, it is not required for most scouting jobs.

Coach and Scout Education

College and professional coaches must usually have a bachelor’s degree. This degree can typically be in any subject. However, some coaches may decide to study exercise and sports science, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition and fitness, physical education, and sports medicine.

High schools typically hire teachers or administrators at the school for most coaching jobs. If no suitable teacher is found, schools hire a qualified candidate from outside the school. For more information on education requirements for teachers, see the profile on high school teachers.

Scouts must also typically have a bachelor’s degree. Some scouts decide to get a degree in business, marketing, sales, or sports management.

Other Experience

College and professional coaching jobs also typically require experience playing the sport at some level.

Scouting jobs typically do not require experience playing a sport at the college or professional level, but it can be beneficial. Employers look for applicants with a passion for sports and an ability to spot young players who have exceptional athletic ability and skills.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most state high school athletic associations require coaches to be certified or at least complete mandatory education courses.

Certification often requires coaches to be a minimum age (at least 18 years old) and be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid. Some states also require coaches to attend classes related to sports safety and coaching fundamentals prior to becoming certified. For information of specific state coaching requirements, contact the state’s high school athletic association or visit the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Although most public high school coaches need to meet these state requirements in order to become a coach, certification may not be required for coaching and sports instructor jobs in private schools.

Some schools may require coaches to have a teaching license and complete a background check.

Certification requirements for college coaching positions also vary.

Additional certification may be highly desirable or even required in order to become an instructor in scuba diving, tennis, golf, karate, or other individual sports. There are many certifying organizations specific to the various sports, and their requirements vary.

Part-time workers and those in smaller facilities or youth leagues are less likely to need formal education or training and may not need certification.

Advancement for Coaches and Scouts

To reach the ranks of professional coaches, a candidate usually needs years of coaching experience and a winning record at a college. Some coaches may not have previous coaching experience but are nevertheless hired at the professional level due to their success as an athlete in that sport.

Some college coaches begin their careers as graduate assistants or assistant coaches to gain the knowledge and experience needed to become a head coach. Large schools and colleges that compete at the highest levels require a head coach with substantial experience at another school or as an assistant coach.

Other college coaches may start out as high school coaches before moving up to the collegiate level.

Scouts may begin working as talent spotters in a particular area or region. They typically advance to become supervising scouts responsible for a whole territory or region.

Important Qualities for Coaches and Scouts

Communication skills. Because coaches instruct, organize, and motivate athletes, they must have excellent communication skills. They must effectively communicate proper techniques, strategies, and rules of the sport so every player on the team understands.

Decisionmaking skills. Coaches must choose the appropriate players to use at a given position at a given time during a game and know the proper time to utilize game-managing tools such as timeouts. Coaches and scouts also must be very selective when recruiting players from lower levels of athletics.

Dedication. Coaches must attend daily practices and assist their team and individual athletes in improving their skills and physical conditioning. Coaches must be dedicated to their sport, as it often takes years to become successful.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to relate to athletes helps coaches and scouts foster positive relationships with their current players and recruit potential players.

Leadership skills. Coaches must demonstrate good leadership skills to get the most out of athletes. They also must be able to motivate, develop, and direct young athletes.

Resourcefulness. Coaches must find a strategy and develop a game plan that yields the best chances for winning. Coaches often need to create original plays or formations that provide a competitive advantage and confuse opponents.

Coach and Scout Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for coaches and scouts is $31,000. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,050.

The median annual wages for coaches and scouts in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $43,440
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 33,130
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 26,700

Coaches and scouts often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Professional or college coaches usually work more than 40 hours a week for several months during the sport’s season, if not most of the year. Many high school coaches work part time and may have other jobs aside from coaching.

Job Outlook for Coaches and Scouts[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of coaches and scouts is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising participation in high school and college sports should increase demand for coaches and scouts.

High school enrollment is projected to increase over the next decade, resulting in a rise in the number of student-athletes. As schools offer more athletic programs and more students participate in sports, the demand for coaches may increase.

Participation in college sports is also projected to increase over the next decade, particularly at smaller colleges and in women’s sports. Many small, Division-III colleges are expanding their sports programs and adding new teams as a way to help promote the school and recruit potential students. However, new rules allowing an increase in scholarship payments to student-athletes may result in funding cuts to smaller collegiate sports programs and the accompanying coaching staffs.

The growing interest in college and professional sports will also increase demand for scouts. Colleges must attract the best athletes to remain competitive. Successful teams help colleges enhance their reputation, recruit future students, and raise donations from alumni. Colleges, therefore, will increasingly rely on scouts to recruit the best possible high school athletes. In addition, as college tuition increases and scholarships become more competitive, high school athletes will hire scouts directly, in an effort to increase their chances of receiving a college scholarship.

However, funding for athletic programs at schools often is cut first when budgets become tight. For example, some high schools within the same school district may combine their sports programs in an effort to cut costs. Still, the popularity of team sports often enables shortfalls to be offset with help from fundraisers, booster clubs, and parents.

Coaches and Scouts Job Prospects

Strong competition is expected for higher paying jobs at the college level and will be even greater for jobs in professional sports.

Job prospects at the high school level should be good, but coaching jobs typically go to those teaching in the school. Those who have a degree or are state certified to teach academic subjects, therefore, should have the best prospects for getting coaching and instructor jobs at high schools. The need to replace the amount of high school coaches who change occupations or leave the labor force also will provide some jobs.

Coaches in girls’ and women’s sports may have better job opportunities due to a growing number of participants and leagues.

Competition is also likely to be strong for jobs as scouts, particularly for professional teams.

Employment projections data for Coaches and Scouts, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Coaches and scouts 250,600 265,400 6 14,800

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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