In a world where sports are broadcast internationally, and children begin to compete at a young age, coaches play an important role. Furthermore, learning the best practices for encouraging fitness, building teamwork skills, and utilizing strategy on the playing field prepares individuals to be better coaches. A graduate degree in coaching can embed these skills for coaches at all levels of experience. Many programs have a variety of focuses, including customization options and networking opportunities for coaches of individuals in all stages of education. Others encourage the physical education side of the field. Regardless, the job market for coaches across levels and sports is supposed to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.
Best College Reviews provides degree rankings, such as the Best Online Master’s in Coaching, from carefully researched data sets published from government and non-profit organizations across the United States. Five primary factors affect how we rank degrees:
25% – Student Satisfaction
30% – Earning Potential
15% – Retention Data
20% – Affordability
10% – Acceptance Rates
For an in-depth breakdown of how we calculate each ranking, check out our Methodology page.
#25 XAVIER UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF EDUCATION IN COACHING EDUCATION AND ATHLETE
At Xavier University, students can complete a Master of Education in Coaching Education and Athlete Development that uses a cohort model. Xavier utilizes a three-fold pedagogy centered around coaching techniques, long-term athlete development, and character development. All courses include these prongs, and some examples include the Psycho-social Aspects of Coaching, Sport Leadership and Team Building, and Coaching Analysis. The curriculum was designed in accordance with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and follows the National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education’s National Standards for Sports Coaches. Cohorts start twice a year in January and in June with two built-in residency experiences.
#24 PITTSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN HEALTH, HUMAN PERFORMANCE, AND RECREATION
Pittsburg State University offers a Master of Science in Health, Human Performance, and Recreation. Students can choose from the following three emphasis areas: Human Performance and Wellness, Sport and Leisure Service Management, and a General Emphasis. The course of study requires 32 credit hours of classes composed of a core of 15 to 18 credit hours in addition to emphasis course options. Students can also elect to complete a thesis and/or an internship. Typically, the degree takes one and half to two years to finish. Courses include Technology and Instrumentation in Human Performance, Leadership and Legal Issues in Leisure Services, and Advanced Exercise Physiology.
#23 CANISIUS COLLEGE
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION
A Catholic, Jesuit institution, Canisius College offers a Master of Science in Physical Education. The program is designed so students earn their provisional certification. For those seeking to attain their professional certification in New York state, this degree also fulfills the master’s degree requirement. It is a 30-credit program and has been ranked #131 by U.S. News and World Report on its list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs. Courses include Health and Cultural Awareness, Leadership in Physical Education and Athletics, Recreational Activities for Individuals with Special Needs, and Coaching Theory and Techniques.
#22 JACKSONVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SPORT MANAGEMENT
At Jacksonville State University, students can complete their studies to earn a Master of Science in Sport Management. Students can earn a teaching certification in sport management through the program, though there is also a non-certificate course of study. The program is composed of 30 to 33 credit hours of classes. Students can also do an internship in order to grow their professional experience for credit in the program. Jacksonville State University also offers a wide variety of courses. Some examples include a Survey Course in Special Education, Current Issues and Trends in Athletics, and Law & Ethics in Wellness in Sports Studies.
#21 UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO
MASTER OF ARTS IN SPORTS COACHING
The University of Northern Colorado’s Master of Arts in Sports Coaching is a National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education accredited program. Its goals focus on areas such as sport pedagogy, injury prevention, sport psychology, training and conditional, international aspects of the field, and applied research. The program is 30-credits of coursework completed over five terms (18 months). Students can begin each fall. Courses offered include Psychology for Sports Coaches, international perspectives of sports coaching, Evaluation of Coaching using Technology, and Teacher and Coach Action in Research.
#20 BELLEVUE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN LEADERSHIP AND COACHING
In Bellevue University’s Master of Science in Leadership and Coaching, students can also earn a certificate of completion in Executive Coaching and are able to take the steps needed to finish a credential with the International Coach Federation. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the degree is 36 credit hours and incorporates theories on leadership, organizational behavior, team dynamics, and strategic leadership. The M.S. blends together and stresses the complementary relationship between coaching and leadership. In addition to three internships, courses include Ethical and Professional Principles of Executive Coaching, Executive Coaching Communication Skills and Assessment, Strategic Leadership, and Leadership and Team Dynamics.
#19 UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL MISSOURI
MASTER OF EDUCATION IN EDUCATIONAL, SCHOOL AND COUNSELING
PSYCHOLOGY WITH AN EMPHASIS IN POSITIVE COACHING
Accredited by both the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Higher Learning Commission, the University of Central Missouri offers a Master of Education in Educational, School and Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Positive Coaching. The degree can be completed on a part-time basis that takes two and a half years or on a full-time basis for one year. Courses are semester-based, offered in 8- and 16-week sessions. The program requires 30 credits to be completed and considers a variety of relevant issues. These include administration of athletic programs, training and condition, character and ethics, and emotional health and wellness of the athlete. Students also learn about gender and multicultural issues in sports and about self-care for coaches themselves.
#18 GREENVILLE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF ARTS IN EDUCATION WITH AN EMPHASIS IN COACHING
Greenville University’s Master of Arts Education with an emphasis in Coaching bring the institution’s Christian mission into the classroom, making the connection between faith and character develop in sports activities. Though the program is entirely online, renowned faculty members work to get to know students. The degree takes two years to complete and is best suited for those working in not-for-profit, community, and church settings. Courses include Sport Skill Analysis, Faith Development through Sports, Coaching Evaluation, and Advanced Sport Coaching Methodology.
#17 WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF ARTS IN COACHING SPORT PERFORMANCE
One of the two colleges in the United States to have achieved the highest level of accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education-accredited program, Western Michigan University’s Master of Arts in Coaching Sport Performance is very flexible. It is typically completed in four semesters and is accommodating to students who work full-time. There is no GRE required, and students can start in the fall, spring, or summer. Scholarships are also available to make the program more accessible for students. Courses include Principles and Practice of Effective Coaching, Psychological Preparation and Mental Training for Sport and Physical Activity, Sport Safety and Injury Management for Coaches, and Principles of Sport Nutrition and Energy Systems.
#16 NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY
SAN DIEGO, CA
MASTER OF EDUCATION WITH A SPORT AND ATHLETIC MANAGEMENT
Northcentral University offers a master of Education with a Sport and Athletic Management concentration. Typically, students can finish the ten courses in 15 months. During the course of the 30 credit program, they have a wide variety of opportunities to interact with faculty members. Furthermore, faculty members all have doctorate degrees. Students take classes entirely online and on their schedules, allowing to cater to their own personal and professional needs. The program works to grow its students’ leadership capabilities and apply lessons to leading an athletic program. Courses include Leadership and Administration of Athletic Programs, Legal Aspects in Athletics, Sports Governance and Policy Development.
#15 AMERICAN PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
CHARLES TOWN, WV
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SPORTS AND HEALTH SCIENCES
At American Public University, students can complete a Master of Science in Sports and Health Sciences. The 36-credit program accepts up to 15 hours of transfer credit, and it typically takes two years to complete. There are monthly course starts as well so that students can work on their schedules. Students can also choose from concentrations including, but not limited to, Exercise Science and Human Performance and Health and Wellness Management. They must also complete a capstone experience. Some examples of courses are Motor Learning, Advanced Exercise and Sport Physiology, Critical Thinking in the Sports and Health Industries, and Optimal Sports Performance.
#14 OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SPORT MANAGEMENT
Ranked #83 by U.S. News and World Report on its Best Graduate Education Online Programs list, Old Dominion University allows students to earn a Master of Science in Sport Management. The program is 36 credit hours with two options for a capstone. They are an internship with a comprehensive exam or a thesis option. Both are centered around offering students opportunities to add to their professional experience based on their long-term goals. For the internship, they have the ability to gain essential professional experience on the job in the sports industry while the thesis gives students the ability to pursue a research interest if they are looking to stay in academia and continue on for a terminal degree.
#13 UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
MASTER OF ARTS IN SPORT COACHING
The University of Denver’s Master of Arts in Sport Coaching is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its curriculum was also structured with the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education in mind. It is a fully online with the option to complete a Strength and Conditioning certificate. The program is also recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Students complete both a practicum in coaching and a capstone project of their own design over the course of the 36-credits needed for the degree. Courses include Psychology of Athletic Performance, Sociocultural Aspects of Sport Coaching, and Philosophy, Leadership, and Legal Issues of Sport.
#12 EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF EDUCATION IN HEALTH, PHYSICAL EDUCATION, AND RECREATION
Emporia State University offers a Master of Education in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. The degree has a number of interest areas for its students, including the social, psychological, and coaching aspects of sport, the role of teaching health education, and teaching physical education. The 33-credits typically take two years to finish, but students are able to do it in one year if they so choose. At its end, the program offers students the ability to either complete a master’s project or a thesis. It is also accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
#11 UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY
MASTER OF ARTS IN EDUCATION IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION MASTER TEACHER
Ranked 25th on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs, the University of Nebraska has a Master of Arts in Education in Physical Education Master Teacher. In order to be admitted to the program, students must have a teaching certificate. This is due to the heavy focus on education in the program, as students choose between either a pedagogy emphasis or a special education emphasis. The degree is 36 credits of coursework, with an option to do a thesis or take a comprehensive exam.
#10 UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
MASTER OF EDUCATION IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
For students wishing to finish their graduate degree in a year, the University of Idaho has a Master of Education in Physical Education and Physical Activity Pedagogy. Students can begin the program either fall, spring, or summer. The program is structured with two options, one for certified teachers to grow their knowledge of physical activity pedagogy and one for those with an undergraduate degree to get their master’s and a teaching certification. The program is 30 credits plus those required to get that certification. Courses include: Foundations & Assessment in Physical Activity Pedagogy, and Health Teaching Methods.
#9 OHIO UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF COACHING EDUCATION
With a curriculum built around the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Ohio University has a Master of Coaching Education for those who want to pursue professional careers as coaches in a variety of settings. It typically takes students two years to complete the 36 credits of coursework required to earn the credential. Classes are 100 percent online, but there is a Coaching Symposium each summer that offers students access to keynote speakers, cross-sport coaching techniques, and other networking opportunities. Courses include Psychology of Sport Coaching, Finance for Athletic Coaches, Ethics & Diversity in Sport Coaching, and Management & Leadership in Sport.
#8 DREXEL UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SPORT COACHING LEADERSHIP
Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a Master of Science in Sport Coaching Leadership. The program has four, 10-week quarters, and there are customizable course deliveries depending on level and sports of interest, meaning that coaches of different types of team and experiences can grow their experience in the knowledge and practice areas most relevant to them. The program is 45-credits, and there is an option for a 7-10 day international residency. Concentrations are available in lacrosse and rowing, and, like the course deliveries, students can also opt for a custom concentration.
#7 UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN SPORT COACHING EDUCATION
The University of Southern Mississippi offers a Master of Science in Sport Coaching Education that is 36-credit hours of classes. Students can elect to send a variety of different scores or certifications for admission, including the GRE, the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist credential, the Praxis II Area Subject Content Knowledge, or be a ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist. The curriculum is designed to be take part-time, and it can be finished in two years. Students can choose between a thesis or non-thesis option. Courses include Motor Learning, Foundations and Trends in Kinesiology, Organization Leadership and Management in Sport, and Sport Skill Analysis.
#6 WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SPORT COACHING
For all online programs, including its Master of Sport Coaching, West Virginia University students pay in-state tuition. The Master of Sport Coaching is centered on-long term athlete development and follows the International Council for Coaching Excellence Sport Coaching Framework. WVU has an issues-based approach to the curriculum, and so students are kept up to date with relevant discussions in the field. This program is 31-credits, and it takes six semesters to complete, which can be done in two years with summer coursework. Students cap off their experience with an internship to prepare them to enter or re-enter the profession with new practical experience.
#5 BALL STATE UNIVERSITY
MASTER’S IN ATHLETIC COACHING EDUCATION
Ball State University’s Master’s in Athletic Coaching Education allows for full-time professionals to complete an internship in their workplace for course credit. This program was the first athletic coaching education program in the United States, and its curriculum is built upon the National Association for Sport and Physical Education National Standards for Sports Coaches. It also offers an online license update in physical education with a coaching specialization for those who already have a teaching certification. The 30-credit program does not require a GRE score for admission and can be finished in five semesters.
#4 GEORGIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN KINESIOLOGY WITH A COACHING EDUCATION
Georgia Southern University offers a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a Coaching Education concentration. It consists of 12 classes leading to 36 credits. The program follows the National Coaching Standards for Level 5 Coaching Status. The program does not require the GRE for admission, and students must be coaching while enrolled, so that students can immediately apply lessons from their coursework to their real-life experiences. Students can earn their degree in four semesters, and U.S. News and World Report ranked it as #64 on their Best Online Graduate Education Programs list. Courses include Teaching Analysis, Psychology of Peak Performance, Sports Administration, Sports Biomechanics, and Injury Prevention.
#3 UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN EXERCISE SCIENCE
The University of South Florida’s Master of Science in Exercise Science is Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Faculty members explore a variety of research areas, including, but not limited to, physique enhancement, physical activity behavior, psychobiology of exercise, sports nutrition and performance enhancement, and strength and conditioning. This program is 33 credit hours, and students can join faculty members in the above research areas if they choose to complete a thesis option. Otherwise, a comprehensive exam is available. Courses include Fitness Assessment and Prescription, Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, and Neuromuscular Aspects of Exercise Physiology, Lifespan Fitness, and Sport in Society.
#2 UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
MASTER OF EDUCATION IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION
Ranked #56 on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs, the University of Arkansas allows students to complete their graduate studies to earn a Master of Education in Physical Education. This program exempts students from taking the GRE and takes two years to complete. As a capstone experience for the 33-credit hour program, students design and complete an in-depth research project. Leading up this experience, students can opt to take classes such as Professional Issues in Physical Education and Sport, Risk Management in Physical Education and Athletics, Scientific Principles of Movement and Performance, and Measurement and Assessment in Physical Education. These courses prepare students to do a comprehensive project as a professional development experience.
#1 MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
EAST LANSING, MI
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN KINESIOLOGY WITH A CONCENTRATION IN COACHING
Topping this list is Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Coaching. The program requires 30 credits to complete, and students have a variety of options for capstone experiences. Students can complete a thesis, an internship, a project, or a certifying exam to prepare them for entrance into the next step of their professional life. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Michigan State University #31 on its list of Best Online Graduate Education Program. Courses include Psychosocial Bases of Coaching, Ethics in Athletics in Higher Education, Issues and Techniques in Student-Athlete Development, Sport Law for Administrators and Coaches.