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How Much Money Do College Coaches Make?

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There are coaches for every type of college sport that exists, from golf and swimming to wrestling. However, the big money is made by football and men's basketball coaches. And "big money" is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, many coaches make more than the university's president – and not just a little bit more. For coaches who are among the highest-paid employees at their university, the average take-home compensation is $554,996 more than the university president's salary.


The median coach's salary came in at $32,270 per year in 2017.

Job Description

Coaches are professionals at training and developing athletes. Head coaches at universities often have very public profiles and are paid more than other coaches. The coach works with the team to improve skills and to win games. Coaches duties include holding training and practice sessions to improve the athletes’ form, technique, skills and stamina. In addition, coaches are responsible for instilling in their players the importance of good sportsmanship, a competitive spirit and teamwork. Coaches also work a great deal on game strategies and establish particular plays for the team to practice.

Education Requirements

Most college coaching jobs require a bachelor's degree, as well as experience playing the sport they plan to coach. The degree can be in any subject, but preferred fields of study are sports science, physiology, exercise or some other sports-related field. Many head coaches begin their careers as assistant coaches. In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median annual salary for a coach at $32,270. That means that half of the coaches earned more and half earned less. But when you start looking at head coaches at top schools in the NCAA, the salaries are considerably higher.

An annual poll conducted by USA Today looked at contract information provided by the schools, and publicly available tax returns in order to ascertain the highest-paid coaches in 2017. These numbers reflect salary alone, and don't include bonuses, endorsements or other types of income.

  1. Nick Saban, head football coach at the University of Alabama: $11,132,000
  2. Dabo Swinney, head football coach at Clemson University: $8,504,600
  3. John Calipari, head men's basketball coach at University of Kentucky: $7,140,000
  4. Jim Harbaugh, head football coach at the University of Michigan: $7,004,000
  5. Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State University: $6,431,240


According to the International Coach Federation, the coaching industry is growing with the addition of approximately 1,500 coaches per year. Western Europe had the highest number of coaches with 18,800 in 2016, but North America followed closely behind with an estimated 17,500 coaches in 2016. The number of professional coaching organizations is also increasing. In 2017, there were 36 professional coaching associations, up from 23 in 2014.

Job Growth Trend

Head coaches tend to move around quite a bit. Schools can fire coaches at will and may do so if a team continues to perform poorly. A coach may also decide to pick up and leave if a bigger paycheck is offered elsewhere. In general, employment of coaches is projected to grow 13 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the average for all occupations. Rising participation in high school and college sports will likely increase demand for coaches and scouts.


Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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