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How to become a high school coach

Male high school coach holding a basketball

This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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This article has been reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

At a glance

Coaches help student-athletes improve their performance in a range of competitive sports. Whether leading students in rec-league soccer or preparing football players to play in the NCAA, coaches instruct, teach and inspire.

But how do you become a high school teacher who can coach, and do you need a college degree? Coaches are often teachers who take on coaching duties, including after school hours. This means most coaches need some higher education but not necessarily all need it.

If you are interested in becoming a high school coach, consider starting as a teacher. You can then consider a coaching role and start growing your experience leading youth athletes. Here’s what you need to know.    

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High school teachers: Can they coach?

Every school and district has its own policies regarding who can work as a high school coach. Some schools require coaches to also be full-time teachers with a teaching degree or certificate, and follow the same hiring process as any other educator.

There are some exceptions for niche roles within the school. A high school might have an athletic director on staff who works as part of the administration team. This person usually manages the budget for sports and guides the teachers who also work as coaches.

Coaching vs. teaching

There are multiple similarities between teachers and coaches in high school. Both teach skills to high school students, for example, while preparing them for life after graduation.

While teachers, generally speaking, may focus on an array of subjects, like English, history or math, teachers who choose to be coaches typically specialize in health and physical education during their teaching hours. 

Important skills for a high school coach

Work history also plays a role in qualifying for a high school coaching role. Coaches rely on several important skills when working effectively with students. These are:

  • Communication: Coaches must clearly explain what students need to know and why it is important.
  • Decision-making: Leading a team means making objective decisions that are also fair. 
  • Interpersonal skills: High school students are still maturing. Coaches must know how to connect with them in ways they understand.
  • Resourcefulness: Coaches might not have the budget or equipment they want to run their team. This means they need to get creative.

High school coaches also need a deep understanding of the sports they oversee in order to lead their teams.

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High school coach job outlook and salary

Not all schools have the budget to hire full-time coaches. Instead, they offer extra pay to educators who are willing to step into coaching roles. Because many high school sports teams meet after school, these teachers need to work longer hours than other teachers.

While a high school might have a dedicated coach for a major sport like basketball or football, few institutions have the money to finance coaches for every single sport the school offers. This means you might have a better chance at a coaching role if you already work as a PE teacher or other educator first.

Teachers’ salaries are a great place to start when looking for average pay for a high school coach. As of May 2021, the salary for high school teachers ranged between $46,090 and $100,310 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, this salary varies by state, district and other factors.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Some requirements for a high school coach

Many professional coaches have to follow the same path as K-12 teachers, who must earn education and certification credentials. Many schools prefer to hire teachers or administrators for coaching roles because those employees already know how the education environment works. 

If high school coaching is your ideal outcome, here are a few steps you can take.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Most states require at least a bachelor’s degree to work at a K-12 school. Consider completing this degree if you haven’t already and think about what kind of degree program would help you lead a classroom effectively.

2. Obtain a state teaching license

After you secure a bachelor’s degree, check your state licensure requirements for teaching. You may need a certain number of field hours to pass a test to receive your certification. Some states expect you to renew this certification every few years.

3. Complete additional courses or requirements as needed

Many districts have additional requirements for teachers and coaches before they are ready to work at a school, including fingerprinting and background checks. Seek out CPR certification and other first-aid training that could prepare you to work with athletes as well as for classroom emergencies. 

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How to become a K-12 teacher: Teaching degree requirements

Can you coach without a degree in education?

While a bachelor’s degree in education is the program most aligned with the duties of a high school coach, other bachelor’s degree programs can be sufficient if you are trying to earn a state teaching license. You do not necessarily need a teaching degree to become a teacher.

Keep in mind that each state has its own requirements for coaching, so brush up on local requirements to see what applies to you. And, if you don’t currently work in a high school but would like to coach someday, you can potentially:

  • Substitute teach: Look into state requirements to become a substitute teacher and seek opportunities in PE classes. This is a good way to learn what teaching and coaching are like.
  • Look for assistant coaching jobs: You might not need a teaching degree to start as an assistant coach, especially if you work with an extracurricular league or team. 
  • Earn an education certificate: There are multiple continuing education programs that might align with your current degree. A teaching certificate could be faster to complete.
  • Earn specific coaching credentials: The National Federation of State High School Associations offers a 3-level national coaching credential that can better prepare you to step into a coaching role. Some schools might even require this. 

Multiple paths lead to working as a high school coach, which can be incredibly rewarding as you teach students the tools to succeed on and off the field. However, you can further this impact by working with all students as a teacher. Consider entering the teaching field if you are passionate about helping the next generation of young adults navigate their time in high school.

Earn a degree in education at University of Phoenix

While University of Phoenix does not have a direct degree or certificate that can lead to a position as a high school sports coach, it does offer education degrees that prepare graduates for teaching positions.

Photo of blog author Michael Feder smiling.


Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!


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