How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach

By Published On: October 20, 2022

Strength and Conditioning Coach: Career Outlook, Salary, and Definition

Strength and conditioning are fundamental elements of every athlete’s training. Strength and conditioning coaches are experts in exercise medicine and wellness, drawing from subjects like kinesiology and physiology to develop custom training plans for their students or clients.

What Does a Strength and Conditioning Coach Do?

Coaches that specialize in strength and conditioning help athletes make the most out of their personal abilities to reach their goals and enhance their performance safely. As a strength and conditioning coach, you would conduct sports assessments, develop personalized, safe training plans, and provide guidance for sports injury prevention and proper nutrition.

Strength and conditioning coaches are certified through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Concordia University Chicago’s MS in Applied Exercise Science, Strength & Conditioning concentration is the perfect stepping stone for any professional or aspiring coach that wants to prepare for the NSCA CSCS exam.

Perform Sports Health Assessments

Before they can develop a program, coaches have to understand each individual’s unique body composition, skills, and ability. They use performance assessments to test each person’s strength, mobility, stamina, and skills relevant to their sport in order to determine where their strengths and weaknesses are.

The results of their sports assessments help them create concrete goals for training.

Throughout the season, strength and conditioning coaches routinely perform athletic evaluations to determine each player’s skill level and strength. They will work alongside sports medicine specialists, coaches, and other sports faculty to improve the overall strength and conditioning program for the entire team.

By understanding each player’s needs, the strength and conditioning coach helps create a deeper understanding of each team’s greatest strengths and target areas for improvement.

Develop Strength and Conditioning Training Plans

A strength and conditioning coach can advise individuals or entire teams. Their plans are all customized to suit every person’s needs, abilities, and objectives. For example, a strength coach training a football quarterback will have a much different plan in place for a soccer player.

Factors like age, weight, skill level, position, and experience all factor into the training plan. Ultimately, the coach’s goal is to design a physical education training program that’s effective, safe, and rewarding.

A deep understanding of the human body, kinesiology, and exercise physiology allow them to create plans that are personal, safe, and supported by science.

Create In-Season, Off-Season, and Pre-Season Training Programs

The needs of players change depending on what part of the season they are in, so training programs have to reflect the evolving needs and goals of their team. In addition to in-season training, strength coaches will help develop training plans that athletes can follow in their off-season to keep them in shape, and in the pre-season to prepare them for competition.

Conduct Risk Management Assessments

Part of healthy training is understanding the physical risks athletes face as part of their sport. The strength & conditioning coach recognizes unique risks from a science-based perspective. They can help coaches, athletic directors, and faculty members create safer environments for athletes at all levels.

Create Budget Proposals

As part of the academic department faculty, the strength and conditioning coach plays an important role in improving students’ access to resources and training equipment. Part of your job would include drafting budget proposals to submit to the athletic director for new equipment, staff training, and other tools for students.

Fundamental Strength & Conditioning Coach Skills

Exercise Science Education

Every strength and conditioning coach needs to be well-versed in exercise science. The Strength & Conditioning concentration at Concordia University Chicago helps coaches develop a deeper understanding of sports health and wellness.

Coaching Skills

A good sports coach knows how to personalize their approach, motivate students, and guide them toward positive outcomes. In addition to keen observation skills, you’ll also have to be an active listener, have empathy, and be a skilled mentor that students trust.

Skilled coaches are positive, inspiring, and empowering to everyone they teach. They recognize and acknowledge their students’ struggles, and help them develop the skills they need to overcome challenges with confidence.


Strength and conditioning coaches are considered experts in their field, and they’re a trusted source of knowledge and guidance to the entire athletic department. You will have to be a skilled communicator and leader if you want to thrive in this field.

In this context, leadership involves taking a proactive approach toward training, advocating for players’ needs, and embodying the core values of your profession to inspire others.

Weight Room Management

A strength & conditioning coach must be able to maintain a safe and effective workout environment for their players. This includes monitoring the weight room, organizing and maintaining equipment, staff, and schedules to optimize performance and training outcomes.

Interpersonal Communication

Building bonds with the players and faculty is one of the most rewarding parts of being a strength & conditioning coach. In order to do this, you must have good interpersonal skills, which include self-awareness, empathy, active listening, and respectful conflict resolution.

What Qualifications Does a Strength & Conditioning Coach Need?

At the foundational level, every strength and conditioning coach will need at least a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Typically, kinesiology is a great concentration for aspiring coaches who want to help players build their strength and skills.

To become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree, or to be currently enrolled in a qualifying program, and hold active CPR/AED certification.

Earning a master’s of science in strength and conditioning can help you advance in the field and qualify for higher-paying positions. You could earn your master’s if you want to become a sports and conditioning coach for a top university, or if you dream of working with a team in a major sports league.

Steps to Become a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach

1. Earn a Degree in Exercise Science

You can earn your bachelor’s or master’s from Concordia University Chicago. The applied exercise science degrees give students and professionals alike the expertise, knowledge, and skills they need to pass the NSCA exam.

2. Earn NCSA Certification

Becoming a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association is a fundamental qualification for aspiring coaches. The conditioning coach certification qualifies you as a professional-grade coach capable of working with athletes of all skill levels. Passing the certification exam also shows your dedication to conditioning coaching.

3. Gain Experience as a Coach

You can complete internships or volunteer as a strength & conditioning coach to build a strong resume and professional network. In the athletic world, connections help you grow and become a part of a much greater community of coaches across the nation.

Aim for at least 2 years of experience before applying for entry-level coaching jobs at a high school or a state college. More years of experience are often required for those that wish to work at universities or with professional teams.

4. Continue Professional Development

If you want to deepen your skill set and demonstrate your expertise to employers, having an advanced degree is the best way to do so.

5. Interpersonal Skills

A strength and conditioning coach needs advanced communication skills and motivational skills to succeed in student or professional sports teams.

What to Expect as a Strength & Conditioning Coach

Work Environment

Coaches work in high schools, at colleges and universities, and sometimes, with professional teams at various complexes. No matter where you work, you will be able to choose an environment that aligns with your passions and interests. Whether it’s college football, soccer, or with a professional team, you can expect to always work in constant communication and connection with players and faculty alike.


The average conditioning coach salary is $39,792 to $53,825. With a master’s degree, you can increase your earning potential.

Earning potential is affected by your certifications, education, and experience. Coaches that want to maximize their earnings and gain access to greater opportunities can benefit from pursuing advanced degrees in their specialty.

Get Started

At Concordia University Chicago, we have a dedicated, expert faculty with extensive backgrounds, who are all here to help you succeed.

Apply now to get started, or reach out to us anytime for more information.

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