Best Online Master’s in Coaching Programs 2021

by TBS Staff
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A master’s in coaching online expands professional opportunities in the private and public sectors.

The degree may focus on sports coaching, coaching education, and athletic administration or emphasize life skills, business leadership, and executive coaching. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life coaches work as rehabilitation counselors, school and vocational counselors, and personal care and service workers, fields poised for 13%–15% growth by 2026.Athletic coaches will experience comparable growth in 2026, with a projected 13% rise.

In an online master’s in coaching program, students study theories and techniques of motivation, performance, and leadership while applying course content to experiential learning exercises and activities. Many programs include an internship, allowing learners to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting.

Courses in research, communication, management, and team dynamics provide students with information and resources applicable to working with individuals, groups, and organizations. Online coaching programs may prepare learners for professional licensure in coaching, strengthening employment and earning potential.

The Best Online Master's in Coaching Programs

  1. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $10460

    Founded in 1956, USF currently serves over 50,000 students at its three campuses and online learning centers.

    The College of Education offers a fully online master of arts in physical education program requiring 30 credit hours for completion. Curriculum consists of six credit hours of core coursework, 18 credit hours of content specialization, and a minimum of six credit hours of electives. Studies conclude with a comprehensive exam.

    Admission requirements include a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and meeting minimum academic levels for the graduate school.

  2. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Tuition

    $17437

    Established in 1853 as the Seminary of Learning of the State of Louisiana, LSU currently consists of 18 schools and colleges.

    The online master of science in kinesiology with a specialization in health promotion and sport performance program requires 36 credit hours for completion at a cost of $640 per credit hour.

    To apply, prospective students will submit official transcripts proving a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a professional resume, a personal statement, and a statement of purpose.

  3. Emporia State University
    Location

    Emporia, KS

    Tuition

    $13670

    ESU currently hosts about 5,800 students across more than 200 academic programs of study.

    The Teachers College provides a completely online master of science in health, physical education, and recreation program in both thesis and non-thesis options. Both options require the completion of 33 credits of coursework consisting of 18 credits of required courses and 15 credits of electives.

    Prospective students must hold a degree in physical education or a related field with a minimum 2.5 GPA, complete an online application, and submit official transcripts and a resume.

  4. Jacksonville State University
    Location

    Jacksonville, AL

    Tuition

    $12243

    Founded in 1883, JSU currently serves over 9,200 students annually across 95 academic programs and concentrations.

    The School of Health Professions and Wellness provides a fully online master of science in sport management program requiring 30 to 33 semester hours for completion. Curriculum highlights include current issues and trends in athletics, sport finance, and sport marketing.

    Aspiring students must submit an online application, proof of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, GRE or GMAT scores, and official transcripts.

  5. Ball State University
    Location

    Muncie, IN

    Tuition

    $13642

    Ball State currently serves over 22,500 students across seven academic colleges and over 100 offered online programs.

    Ball State Online, in conjunction with the School of Kinesiology, offers a master of arts in athletic coaching education program that requires 30 credits for completion. Students can typically finish in five terms, or two years with one summer session.

    Applying students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.75 GPA and submit official transcripts, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and a resume.

  6. Eastern New Mexico University
    Location

    Portales, NM

    Tuition

    $10918

    With over 85 years of academic preparation, ENMU now offers more than 90 programs and 1,200 course options with both on-campus and online availability.

    The College of Education and Technology, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food Science, and Kinesiology, offers a completely online master of science in physical education program in both thesis and non-thesis options. Both options include 36 credit hours of coursework.

    Admission requirements include a completed bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, general admission requirements for the graduate school, and a letter of intent.

  7. SUNY College at Brockport
    Location

    Brockport, NY

    Tuition

    $14723

    Established in 1835, Brockport currently serves almost 8,300 students at its campus in Brockport, New York, and online.

    The Department of Kinesiology, Sports Studies, and Physical Education offers a fully online master of science in education in physical education degree requiring 30 credits for completion. Available concentrations include adapted physical education, athletic administration with or without certification, and physical education/teacher education.

    Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a New York teacher certification, plus submit standardized test scores, official transcripts, a statement of objectives, and a resume.

  8. Valdosta State University
    Location

    Valdosta, GA

    Tuition

    $13630

    Founded in 1913 as a normal college for women, VSU currently supports more than 10,500 students across degree programs ranging from associate to doctoral levels.

    The Department of Teacher Education offers an online master of arts in teaching with a concentration in health and physical education program requiring 36 credits for completion. Graduates pursue careers as athletic directors, health educators, corporate trainers, and more.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts with a minimum 2.75 GPA, competitive GRE scores, two recommendations, and a personal statement.

  9. West Virginia University
    Location

    Morgantown, WV

    Tuition

    $12181

    Founded in 1867, WVU currently serves over 29,000 students annually across 14 schools and colleges and 359 majors.

    The online master of science in sport coaching program through the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences requires 30 total credit hours for completion at a cost of $615 per credit. Curriculum aligns with that set forth by the International Sport Coaching Framework.

    Applying students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA and submit an online application, a resume, a personal statement, and official transcripts.

  10. Pittsburg State University
    Location

    Pittsburg, KS

    Tuition

    $13906

    Founded in 1903 as the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School Auxiliary, Pitt State has grown to support five colleges and more than 200 academic programs.

    The Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation offers an online master of science in sport and leisure service management program requiring 32 credit hours for completion at a cost of $370 per credit hour. Students can complete the program in either a thesis or coursework option.

    Admission requirements include a completed online application, associated fee, and official transcripts from all previously attended institutions of higher learning.

Best Online Master's

Online Master’s in Coaching Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Master's in Coaching Programs

What is a Master’s in Coaching Degree?

Students in a master’s in coaching program take courses covering general topics, such as anatomy, sports medicine, psychology, and leadership. These courses prepare coaches to address the physical and mental needs of their athletes.

Many online master’s degree in coaching programs offer concentrations. Students who select a sports administration concentration learn how to manage and improve sports programs. A specialization in kinesiology teaches students how to promote physical strength and endurance.

Some programs require distance learners to complete a practicum wherein students coach at a local facility under a supervisor.

Online Master’s in Coaching Programs

Online master’s in coaching degrees allow learners to complete coursework on a flexible schedule. Students working full time can complete classes at a convenient pace while maintaining personal and professional responsibilities. Part-time and full-time students enjoy access to lectures, assignments, and assessments through an electronic platform.

Asynchronous programs provide classes in a flexible, non-sequential format, which is ideal for part-time learners. In synchronous programs, typically offered with a cohort model, students progress through coursework at the same pace as their peers. Both asynchronous and synchronous programs include 2–3 years of coursework. In accelerated degrees, learners may graduate in 12–18 months.

Coaching degrees often include practicum or internship requirements. Current coaching professionals can complete internships at their current place of work, applying degree knowledge to practical experiences. Learners new to the coaching field may work in sports settings, business organizations, or counseling settings. Programs with thesis options prepare students for graduate study. Students develop a research question, acquire and assess data, and report findings under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

The Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Coaching

A bachelor’s in coaching degree prepares students to work as athletic coaches in elementary, middle, and high schools. Master’s in coaching online programs develop managerial skills applicable to coaching careers and athletic administration professions. Students learn how to motivate and work with individuals, groups, and teams. Earning a master’s in coaching online also provides learners with opportunities to participate in practical learning experiences, applying theoretical and technical degree content to real-world experiences.

A master’s in coaching builds executive leadership and motivational skills for business professionals, education and vocational counselors, and caregivers. With a graduate degree in coaching, learners advance to administrative and leadership positions or work in an entrepreneurial role as a life coach. A master’s in coaching also gives learners the tools and capabilities to pursue doctoral study in organizational leadership, coaching education, sports management, and related disciplines.

Choosing an Online Coaching Graduate Degree Program

When choosing an online coaching graduate degree, students should consider factors such as cost, school size, program length, and degree requirements. Degree length varies by credits, internship requirements, and options for thesis or research projects.

In-state schools often offer more affordable options to students than out-of-state schools, although many colleges and universities provide flat-fee tuition for online learners regardless of residency. Students with previous coursework should explore prospective schools’ transfer policies.

Accreditation for Online Coaching Master’s Degrees

Colleges and universities maintain regional or national accreditation through a body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). As a government agency, the ED establishes educational policies for colleges and universities. An industry group, CHEA includes more than 3,000 member institutions. Both the ED and CHEA cooperate with accrediting bodies to ensure schools’ compliance with national educational standards. Accrediting bodies work with colleges and universities to maintain academic standards through voluntary oversight and accountability.

Regional accreditation indicates an institution offers a rigorous, research-based program, while nationally accredited schools provide vocational and technical programs. Nonprofit schools usually hold regional accreditation. Programs and departments within a school may hold programmatic accreditation through a professional or specialized agency. Online master’s in coaching programs may hold accreditation through bodies like the International Coaching Federation.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master in Coaching Degree Program?

Degrees in coaching include 30–36 credit hours of coursework. Students complete online master’s in coaching programs in 1–3 years depending on part- or full-time status. Accelerated degrees allow students to enroll in multiple classes at a time, while traditional programs may offer only one or two classes each term.

Additional factors that influence the length of a degree include whether or not the program provides synchronous or asynchronous coursework. Learners in a synchronous program who miss a class offered on a specific timetable may extend their degree until the course becomes available again. Internship and practical requirements also affect the length of a program.

Whether students complete a degree on a full-time or part-time schedule can influence tuition costs, with many schools offering lower tuition for students enrolled full time. Programs with per-credit tuition, however, cost the same for all learners.

Courses in an Online Master’s in Coaching Program

  • Strategic Leadership: Strategic leadership coursework introduces students to theories and techniques of leadership while teaching learners how to analyze, assess, and apply principles of strategy to lead organizations and teams. Students study strategic initiatives, issues facing leadership development, and how to align resources with organizational and team goals.
  • Ethical and Professional Principles of Coaching: Ethical and professional principles of coaching classes emphasize ethical guidelines for coaching individuals and groups. Learners explore record keeping, dual relationships, and dynamics of coaching. Coursework also focuses on preventing, managing, and addressing ethical dilemmas.
  • Evaluation in Coaching: These classes provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to acquire data and improve athletic and programmatic performance. Learners explore evaluation techniques and tools used in coaching individuals and groups. Students use case studies to apply evaluation methods and practices.
  • Sport Coaching Methodology: In this class, students study theories and practices of sport team development and individual athlete coaching. Students learn techniques for coaching in a sports context and how to develop success among athletes.
  • Coaching with Technology: Coaching with technology introduces coaches to tools and trends in coaching, such as data collection technology and instructional online resources. Students learn how to incorporate diagnostic equipment, tablets, handheld devices, and other technological tools in coaching.

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Coaching?

Coaches with experience and education enjoy diverse career options. The professions below represent common career paths for graduates.

true Athletic Coach $39,750

With a bachelor’s degree, individuals can coach at elementary, middle, or high schools, while a master’s in coaching allows coaches to work in collegiate or organizational settings. An athletic coach provides instruction, guidance, and motivation to athletes on physical performance, strategy, and team cohesion. Athletic coaches work with parents, teachers, and other education professionals to strengthen student performance. Athletic coaches also attend workshops, oversee budgets, engage with local communities, and supervise assistants and team managers.

true Athletic Director $63,250

Athletic directors work at schools, colleges, and universities or within organizations to plan and oversee athletic events. Athletic directors work with coaches, parents, and administrators to schedule events, manage facilities and equipment, and coordinate budgets. Athletic directors also monitor compliance with school, state, and government regulations while upholding standards for academic performance, sportsmanship, and ethical behavior.

true Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor $49,750

Vocational counselors assess an individual’s abilities and interests to determine personal and professional aptitudes. Vocational rehabilitation counselors may work in an educational setting, collaborating with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students thrive. They also work in community and social contexts to coordinate rehabilitative access and services. Vocational counselors advocate on behalf of patients and clients and provide motivational support.

true Life Coach $58,750

Life coaches work with individuals and groups to address specific needs and goals. They interview and assess clients to determine how to achieve well-being through behavioral, therapeutic, and cognitive techniques. Through research on wellness, exercise, aging, and similar topics, life coaches offer assistance and services to clients. Life coaches may work within public agencies or professional organizations or function as entrepreneurs.

Source: PayScale

Coaching Professional Organizations

The NCAA provides a list of coaching associations for coaches at the collegiate level. Coaches from Division I and Division II classes can access links to their specific sport. The NCAA also provides a platform for Division III coaches. Each sport website includes membership information, professional development resources, and event information. The ICF advances coaching by promoting high standards and ethical excellence in the field. Members gain access to business development, lifelong learning, and networking opportunities. Coaches participate in ICF’s conferences, development series, and convergence activities each year. ICF also offers credentials to coaches with requisite experience and training. IAPLC promotes, supports, and inspires life coaches through certifications, trainings, and career guidance. Members fall into 15 categories based on credentials and experience, creating networks of life coaches who enjoy the association’s publications, telesummits, and giveaways. Designed to promote the field of corporate executive coaching, ACEC integrates organizational and transformative coaching competencies into educational and training programs. ACEC and the MEECO Leadership Institute examine tools, research, and techniques within corporate executive coaching through conferences and university partnerships. Members receive access to MEECO TV, webinars, research publications, and mentorship opportunities. PCA partners with 3,500 schools and youth sports groups to provide online and live workshops, courses, and publications. PCA also provides resources for leaders, coaches, parents, and athletes to build truthful, constructive, and supportive sporting environments.

Header Image Credit: John Giustina | Getty Images

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