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 amateur, college, or professional level. Many coaches also are involved in scouting potential athletes for their team.


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 competition
  • Direct, encourage, and motivate athletes to prepare them for competitions
  • Call plays and make decisions about strategy and athlete substitutions during competitions
  • Plan and direct physical conditioning programs that enable athletes to reach maximum performance
  • Instruct athletes on proper techniques, strategies, sportsmanship, and the rules of the sport
  • Keep records of athletes’ and opponents’ performances
  • Identify and recruit potential athletes
  • Arrange for and offer incentives to prospective players

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

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

Some high school coaches are teachers or school administrators who supplement their income by coaching part time.

Coaches may assign specific drills and correct athletes’ techniques. They may spend their time working one-on-one with athletes, designing customized training programs. Coaches also may specialize in teaching the skills of an individual sport, such as golf, ice skating, or tennis. Some coaches, such as baseball coaches, may teach individual athletes involved in team sports.

Scouts typically do the following:

  • Research news media and other sources to find athletes to consider
  • Attend competitions, view videos of the athletes’ performances, and study data about the athletes to determine their talent and potential
  • Talk to the athlete and the coaches to gauge whether the athlete is likely to be successful
  • 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 assess 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

Coaches and scouts held about 244,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of coaches and scouts were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private      26%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 20
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 17
Self-employed workers 9

Some scouts work for organizations that deal directly with high school athletes. These scouts collect information on the athlete and help sell his or her talents to potential colleges.

At the college level, scouts typically work for scouting organizations or are self-employed. In either case, they help colleges recruit the best high school athletes.

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

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

Work Schedules

Part-time work is common for coaches and scouts. Their work schedules vary and may involve irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Full-time coaches may work more than 40 hours a week for several months during the sports season. High school coaches may work part time and have other jobs aside from coaching.

Education and Training

Coaches and scouts typically need a bachelor’s degree. However, educational requirements for coaches and scouts may vary from no formal educational credential to a bachelor’s or higher degree. These workers also need 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.


Many coaches and scouts have a bachelor's degree, but educational requirements vary. Part-time workers and those in smaller facilities or youth leagues may be less likely to need formal education.

Coaches and scouts who attend college may study a recreation and fitness field, such as kinesiology, physical education, or sports medicine. Others major in a business field, such as marketing or sports management.

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. 

Other Experience

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

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification often requires that coaches be at least 18 years old and be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid. Coaches also may need to attend classes related to sports safety and coaching fundamentals.

Public high school coaches may need to be certified or complete mandatory education courses. Coaches who are also teachers must meet state licensing requirements, including a background check. For information about specific requirements, contact the state’s high school athletic association or visit the National Federation of State High School Associations.

College and university coaches may need to meet certification or training requirements as outlined by college athletic associations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Organizations specific to various sports, such as golf or tennis, may offer certification for coaches. Check with the sport’s national governing body for information on approved programs.


To reach the rank of a professional coach, a candidate typically needs years of coaching experience and a winning record at a college. Coaches who do not have coaching experience may still be hired at the professional level if they were successful as an athlete in their sport.

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

Other college coaches may begin 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.

Personality and Interests

Coaches and scouts typically have an interest in the Building, and Helping Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a coach and scout, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Coaches and scouts should also possess the following specific qualities:

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.

Decision-making skills. Coaches must choose the appropriate players to use at a given position at a given time during a game and find a strategy that yields the best chance for winning. 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 utilize the talent on a team to achieve the best chances for winning. For example, a coach may change players during the game to meet the defensive needs of the team.


The median annual wage for coaches and scouts was $38,970 in May 2021. 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 $22,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,720.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for coaches and scouts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private      $48,710
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 46,910
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 37,850

Part-time work is common for coaches and scouts. Their work schedules vary and may involve irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Full-time coaches may work more than 40 hours a week for several months during the sports season. High school coaches may work part time and have other jobs aside from coaching.

Job Outlook

Employment of coaches and scouts is projected to grow 20 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 39,900 openings for coaches and scouts are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020 and is likely to occur early in the projections decade.

The growing interest in college sports, professional sports, and sports recreation instruction will increase demand for coaches and 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. Therefore, colleges will rely on scouts to recruit the best high school athletes.

Geographic shifts in population may lead to an increase in the number of professional sports teams. Some professional sports leagues may expand to new cities in the United States, forming new teams and job opportunities for prospective coaches and scouts.

Growth in the demand for sports instruction is expected to rise, as concerns about lack of physical activity continue to be a focus for the public.

For More Information

For more information about coaching and scouting for team and individual sports, visit

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA)

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA)

For more information related to individual sports, contact the sport’s national governing body or coaches’ association.



Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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