Sports Development Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Sports development officers (SDOs) make sure that people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to take part in sport, develop their skills and lead a healthy lifestyle.

They work with the local community, liaising with clubs and schools, as well as agencies such as the police and sports national governing bodies (NGBs).

They may also work closely with specific groups, including those who may not have had access to sporting opportunities in the past. These could include:

- Socially excluded members of the community
- Young people
- Disabled people
- People from disadvantaged communities

Much of the work of a Sports Development Officer involves formulating and implementing strategies, aimed at increasing participation and improving standards. They may also:

- Organise volunteers
- Administer holiday activity schemes
- Help local groups to gain funding and grants

As a result, some time is spent:

- Organising and promoting events
- Employing coaches and volunteers
- Checking venues
- Supervising activities

They may also have very specific roles:

Community SDOs are involved in implementing social policy and encouraging greater numbers of people to take part in all aspects of sport. They may work with non-sports partners, developing specialist projects for disengaged groups, such as school truants and young offenders. Along with other bodies, they play an important role in the regeneration of a community.

Sport-specific development officers are linked to particular sports - e.g. rugby or athletics - and help to make sure that there are opportunities for people to participate and compete at the appropriate level. They form a link with county, regional and national teams.

The job of a Sports Development Officer may also involve:

- Writing reports
- Administration and record keeping
- Developing and maintaining databases
- Identifying the need and demand for new opportunities
- Monitoring and evaluating projects
- Managing budgets
- Promotion and marketing

SDOs employed by a local authority usually work a 36-hour week, with flexible working hours and overtime often available. Hours may vary from week to week, and often involve attending meetings and events in the evenings or at weekends.

SDOs split their time between office work and attending venues, community groups, schools, clubs and events.

The work involves regular local travel and may at times involve working outdoors in all weather conditions.

A Sports Development Officer starting as an assistant in a local authority may earn up to £16,700 a year. With a few years' experience they may earn up to £24,000. Managers or heads of sports partnerships may earn up to £40,000.

Many employers provide a car allowance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Sports Development Officers work for local authorities, the new county sports partnerships and national governing bodies (NGBs). A full list of NGBs is available from UK Sport.

There may also be opportunities in specialist sports colleges and through the school sport co-ordinator network.

Many SDOs are employed on short, fixed-term contracts.

Sports development is one of the fastest growing areas of the sports industry, with jobs available in all areas of the UK.

The decision to award the 2012 Olympics to London means that there is likely to be an increase in opportunities for Sports Development Officers over the coming years. There are currently around 100,000 SDOs working in the UK.

Sources of vacancies include websites run by Sports Coach UK, the Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure (ISPAL) and Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM), websites such as and and the local government jobs website at

Specialist magazines and local newspapers may also advertise vacancies.

Education and Training

Although there are no set entry qualifications, the role is increasingly becoming a graduate profession. With a good selection of coaching qualifications, it may be possible to enter at assistant level.

Many jobs specify two years' experience in sports development, and most entrants have experience of voluntary or paid work in coaching, or organising sport at a leisure centre, summer school or holiday camp.

Applicants usually have a first degree in sports development, sports studies, sports science, health and exercise sciences, physical education, or recreation/leisure management.

Entry to degree courses usually requires at least two A levels and five GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications.

Some have postgraduate qualifications in subjects such as sports studies, health and exercise sciences or leisure management. Entry would be with a first degree, not necessarily in a sport-related subject.

Other qualifications may be accepted including:

  • A BTEC National Award in sport (development and fitness): students need four GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications.
  • Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) in sports science, recreation studies, leisure management and leisure studies, or in sports coaching with sports development: applicants usually need one A level and four GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications.
  • NVQs at Level 2 in sport, recreation and allied occupations: coaching, teaching and instructing; or sport, recreation and allied occupations: activity leadership, are useful qualifications.
  • NVQs at Levels 3 and 4 in operations and development include units specific to sports development.

SkillsActive and the National Association for Sports Development (NASD) are currently developing a new range of qualifications, including a new NVQ Level 3 in sports development.

Coaching qualifications may also be an advantage. They can sometimes be gained as part of a degree or HNC/HND, but most are studied part time.

Experience of working in coaching or local community sports organisations is an advantage. Some entrants have been physical education teachers or lecturers.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.

Candidates may be able to gain recognition of their skills through Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL).

To work with children or vulnerable adults, applicants need to undergo checks through theCriminal Records Bureau (CRB).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

ISPAL and ISRM offer a number of qualifications that can be studied in various ways, including full time and part time at college or by distance learning:

  • The ISRM/City & Guilds Higher Professional Diploma covers a wide range of areas, from the sport and recreation environment, to human resources and sport logistics.
  • The ISRM/City & Guilds Master Professional Diploma is available at Rotherham College of Art and Technology.

ISPAL also runs a series of workshops to support continuing professional development.

Increasingly, SDOs also need knowledge of areas such as finance, marketing and human resources. Training in these areas is often offered on the job.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Sports development officers need:

  • A positive commitment to sport.
  • Enthusiasm and self-motivation.
  • Good interpersonal and listening skills.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • A flexible attitude towards working hours.
  • To be able to control people who are being disruptive.
  • A sense of humour.
  • To be able to make decisions under pressure.
  • Motivational skills.
  • Influencing and negotiation skills.
  • Strong organisational ability.
  • Time-management skills.
  • Good ICT and administrative skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

To reflect the demand for SDOs, many local authorities and NGBs have developed the role of sports development manager, which involves managing a network of SDOs.

Some SDOs may move into leisure management, while others become further involved in community-based work.

Promotion prospects for sport-specific development officers are limited.

Get Further Information

The Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure (ISPAL),
Abbey Business Centre, 1650 Arlington Business Park,
Theale, Reading, Berkshire RG7 4SA
Tel: 0845 603 8734

The Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM),
Sir John Beckwith Centre for Sport,
Loughborough University,
Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU
Tel: 01509 226474

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street,
London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 020 7632 2000

Sports Coach UK,
114 Cardigan Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3BJ
Tel: 0113 274 4802

Sports Leaders UK,
23-25 Linford Forum, Rockingham Drive,
Linford Wood, Milton Keynes MK14 6LY
Tel: 01908 689180

UK Sport,
40 Bernard Street,
London WC1N 1ST
Tel: 020 7211 5100

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