Occupation:Athletes, Coaches, Sport Officials, and Referees
Category:Arts, Culture, Recreation and Sport

About the job

Nature of work:

People in these jobs administer, supervise, and participate in recreation programs and sports. Athletes participate in competitive sports events on an amateur or professional basis; or in games such as poker or chess. Athletes are employed by professional team organizations or they may be self-employed.

Coaches prepare and train individual athletes or teams for competitive events. They are employed by national and provincial sports organizations, professional and amateur sports teams, sports clubs and universities or they may be self-employed. Sports officials and referees observe and enforce rules and regulations governing sporting events, athletic games and sports competitions. They are employed by national, provincial and local sporting commissions, organizations and leagues.

Job duties:
Athletes perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Train under the direction of a coach or trainer to qualify for competition.
  • Attend scheduled practice and training sessions.
  • Participate in local, regional, provincial, national or international competitions and sporting events.
  • Assess performance after an event to identify strengths and weaknesses.
Coaches perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of athletes or teams.
  • Plan, develop and implement training and practice sessions.
  • Nurture and develop athletes' potential skills and abilities.
  • Develop, plan and coordinate competitive schedules and programs.
  • Motivate and prepare athletes or teams for competitive events or games.
  • Formulate competitive strategies, develop game plans and direct athletes and players during games or athletic events.
  • Analyze and evaluate athletes' or teams' performances and modify training programs.
Sports officials and referees perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Officiate at sporting events or athletic competitions to maintain standards of play and to ensure that game rules and safety regulations are observed.
  • Record lapsed time and keep scores during events or competitions.
  • Judge the performance of competitors, award points, impose penalties for infractions and determine results.
  • Compile scores and other athletic records.
  • Establish and maintain rapport with coaches, players and organizing committees.
  • Verify credentials of athletes or animals engaged in sports or related special events, and respond to written protests.
Sample job titles:
  • athlete
  • athletics judge
  • coach
  • gamer - video games
  • referee
  • scoreboard operator
  • scorekeeper
  • sports official
  • sports scout
  • umpire

To work in this field, you should be determined, patient, and self-confident. You must be able to organize and plan activities as well as motivate and encourage others to perform at their best. Leadership and decision-making skills may be needed in coaching and training. Both verbal and written communication skills are essential for teaching and instructing. Good physical stamina and an interest in sports and physical fitness are also advised.

Athletes are required to have a demonstrated ability in a particular sport and must train extensively under a coach. Coaches may be required to have a degree in physical education and must have technical knowledge of the sport. Completion of the National Coaching Certificate program is usually required. Sports officials require certification and registration with a sport governing body or commission. Referees require completion of an officiating program offered by a sport governing body.

Job requirements:
  • A background combining athletic training and college or university studies is strongly recommended.
  • Demonstrated ability in a particular sport is required.
  • Experience in and technical knowledge of the sport is required.
  • Extensive training under the supervision of a coach is required.
  • Certification with a particular sports federation may be required.
  • Completion of the National Coaching Certificate program is usually required for individual and team sports coaches in all sports.
  • National Coaching Certificate Level 3 is usually required for provincial coaches.
  • National Coaching Certificate Level 4 is usually required for coaches of national team athletes.
  • A degree in physical education may be required for coaches.
  • Sports officials require certification by and registration with a sport governing body or commission.
  • Sports referees require completion of an officiating program offered by a sport governing body.
Other considerations:

Depending on the job, workers may work only part of the year and be unemployed in the fall and winter.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Limited

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “limited”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is below average when compared with other occupations in Nova Scotia. This is not a large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities may not be that frequent and jobseekers may face competition. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow moderately over the next few years, which will likely provide some additional opportunities for employment (yet overall job prospects are still considered limited). With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Athletes, Coaches, Sport Officials, and Referees may either be working full-time or part-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically temporary positions (such as a term, contract, or casual work).

The median employment income for 36% of Athletes, Coaches, Sport Officials, and Referees who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $38,075. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Athletes390Moderate growth40Low
Minimum: $11.00
Median: $12.50
Maximum: $25.00
Minimum: $1,044
Median: $16,068
Maximum: $77,210
All NS Occupations427,305Weak growth33,315Moderate
Minimum: $11.00
Median: $19.89
Maximum: $40.00
Minimum: $2,872
Median: $29,983
Maximum: $83,126
AthletesCompared to: All NS Occupations
Percent employed full-time52%78%
Percent self-employed1%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentAthletesCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton7%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley9%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeAthletesCompared to: All Arts, Culture, Recreation and Sport
% Employed% Employed
Median Agex38
GenderAthletesCompared to: All NS Occupations
% Employed% Employed
EducationAthletesCompared to: All Arts, Culture, Recreation and Sport
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high school9.5%x10.2%$2,298
High school28.5%x26.2%$7,127
Trades certificate2.5%x3.6%$13,575
College certificate or diploma7.6%x20.3%$20,158
University certificate or diploma1.3%x1.7%$20,801
Bachelor's degree37.3%$22,00227.5%$19,705
University advanced certificate or diploma1.3%x1.5%$18,274
Master's degreeN/A$70,2998.0%x
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryN/Ax0.1%$11,741
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

No regulating bodies were found under this occupation profile
Useful contacts:
Department of Health and Wellness - Active Living
PO Box 488
Halifax, NS B3J 2R8
Tel: (902) 424-4807
Sport Nova Scotia
5516 Spring Garden Road, 4th Floor
Halifax, NS B3J 1G6
Tel: (902) 425-5450
Fax: (902) 425-5606
Coaching Association of Canada
1155 Lola Street, Suite 201
Ottawa, ON K1K 4C1
Tel: (613) 235-5000
Fax: (613) 235-9500

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Kinesiology and exercise science
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the college or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any scientific program that focuses on the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and biophysics of human movement, and applications to exercise and therapeutic rehabilitation. These programs include courses in biomechanics, motor behaviour, motor development and coordination, motor neurophysiology, performance research, rehabilitative therapies, the development of diagnostic and rehabilitative methods and equipment, and related analytical methods and procedures in applied exercise and therapeutic rehabilitation.
See all institutions providing this program+
Acadia University
15 University Avenue
Wolfville, NS B4P 2R6
(902) 542-2201
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
St. Francis Xavier University
PO Box 5000
Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5
(902) 867-2219
Additional resources:

There are no additional resources for this occupation.