MSc Coaching Science in Sport

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 90)


Programme director: Dr Katy Horner

In this MSc programme you will learn about the cutting-edge science that underpins diverse aspects of coaching, e.g. tapering and peaking to optimise performance, the coach-athlete relationship, performance and notational analysis in sport. You will also undertake original research of your own on a topic that is relevant to you. Critical evaluation of academic knowledge and its practical application is a distinctive feature of this advanced programme.

Good practice in sports coaching is fundamental at all levels and ages for athlete development and success. This programme is intended for sports coaches, coach developers/educators and those working in closely related fields, to extend their scientific knowledge and understanding of the coaching process.

We value and encourage our students to be autonomous learners. We expect them to share their own experience with faculty and peers, as well as critically reflect on their own practice in order to enhance their existing knowledge and skills.

We aim to provide a learning environment that facilitates the comparison and contrast of theories and ideas from a range of relevant disciplines in order to integrate them into personal coaching practice.

In this programme we use a blend of the most innovative teaching and learning approaches and assessment strategies, such as seminars, laboratory-based experiential learning, web-based interactive learning, case-studies, group work, etc. These are informed by the world-class research carried out by our faculty in addition to the prestigious guest speakers.


Careers & Employability

Graduates may gain employment as sports coaches, coaching officers, game development officers, coach developers/educators, in the following agencies and sectors:

  • Professional and national sports teams
  • National governing bodies
  • Sports and fitness clubs
  • Physical and sport education
  • Sports training camps
  • Performance analysis in sport

Some recent graduates have accepted a job offer as: Strength & conditioning coach of a League of Ireland Premier Division soccer team; Coach education and development coordinator with the Camogie Association; Assistant coach (men's soccer) and head strength & conditioning coach (men's soccer & women's basketball) of Fort Lewis College (Colorado); Outdoor Recreation Specialist at Ballyhoura Development CLG; Club Performance Coach with Bromley and Beckenham Hockey Club in London; Lecturing position at the University of Southern California; Coach Development Graduate Internship to enhance quality sport opportunities for Special Olympics athletes; Technical development of players and coaches for Avoca hockey Club; Assistant Manager, senior women's Irish football team; football coach, ChinaClub Football Beijing; Training Scientist (Strength) at Olympiastützpunkt Hamburg; Coach development specialist at Special Olympics Ireland; S&C coach of the Chinese National Women's Rowing Team;

Curricular information is subject to change

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

Part Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. No

On completion of this programme students should:

1. Be able to integrate the scientific, socio-ethical and psychological dimensions of sports coaching in order to develop new insights into this area of knowledge

2. Be able to make use and integrate the current and emerging technologies in sports coaching practice

3. Be able to develop a training plan and organise training sessions to maximise the learning experience and impact of those athletes with whom they will interact, but also reflect on social and ethical responsibilities associated with this process

4. Show advanced levels of essential skills such as written and verbal communication, digital literacy, numeracy and problem solving in ill-defined contexts

5. Demonstrate specialised skills of analysis, enquiry, critical reflection, evidence based practice and leadership and use these to enhance their own professional practice

6. Be prepared to undertake a career in sports coaching by understanding organisational life, skills required to succeed in this environment and its overall complexity

7. Engage in original and novel practice, also by taking responsibility for continuing professional development, to fully meet the needs of their athletes, at all levels of ability and talent, and contribute to their overall development

Programme graduates who published their dissertation. 


- Andrew Grannell, 2017 (supervisor: Prof G. De Vito)

- Breanna Drew, 2018 (supervisor: Dr J. Matthews)

- Brian McMorrow, 2019 (supervisor: Dr B. Egan)

- Eileen Gleeson, 2019 (supervisor: Dr S. Kelly)

- Fergal Lyons and Brendan Doyle, 2019 (supervisor: Dr R. Neville)

Jedd Pratt and Arianna Hoffman, 2020 (supervisors: Dr M. Ditroilo and Dr A. Grainger)

- David Williamson, 2020 (supervisors: Dr M. Ditroilo and Dr E. McCarthy)

- Jon Mackey, 2021 (supervisor: Dr K. Horner)

- Jamie R Queeney, 2022 (supervisor: Dr P. Horgan)

- Simon Lowry, 2022 (supervisor: Dr S. Kelly)

Conference presentations:

Kelly, S. & Gleeson, E. (2018). The role of self-confrontation interviews in exploring female players in-game decision making in elite competitive soccer. Presentation at the European College of Sport Science Congress. July, 2018.

Gleeson, E. & Kelly, S. (2018). Analysis of expert decision making in elite competitive soccer from an expert players perspective. Presentation at the European College of Sport Science Congress. July, 2018.

Andrews, F. & Kelly, S. (2017). Exploring Strength & Conditioning Coaching Behaviours in Elite Sport.Presentation at the Fourth International Coaching Conference. CMU, Cardiff, September 2017.

Andrews, F. & Kelly, S. (2017). The Behaviours of Professional Strength & Conditioning Coaches in the GAA: A Systematic Observation of Inter-County Coaches. Poster presentation at the GAA Games Development Conference. January, 2017.

Griffin, C., Egan, B., Blake, C. & Horgan, P. (2017). The Practice of Resistance Training Among Elite Irish Distance Runners and Knowledge and Perceptions Among Coaches. Poster presentation at the UKSCA Conference. August 2017

View All Modules Here

Semester 1 timetable: 

  • The Science of Coaching: Theory and Practice (10 credits). Thursday, 18:00 - 21:00.
    Module leader: Dr Orlaith Curran
  • Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition (10 credits). Friday, 10:00 - 13:00.
    Module leader: Prof Kate Pumpa
  • Applied Sports Psychology and Skill Acquisition (10 credits). Friday, 14:00 - 17:00.
    Module leader: Dr James Matthews


Semester 2 timetable:

  • Sports and Performance Analysis for Coaches (10 credits). Thursday, 18:00 - 21:00
    Module leader: Dr Sinead Holden
  • Planning in Strength and Conditioning (10 credits). Friday, 10:00 - 13:00.
    Module leader: Dr James Timmons
  • Research Methods and Applied Statistics (10 credits). Friday, 14:00 - 17:00.
    Module leader: Prof Catherine Blake


Semester 3:


MSc Coaching Science in Sport (X772) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 10200
nonEU    fee per year - € 22000

MSc Coaching Science in Sport (X773) Part Time
EU          fee per year - € 4880
nonEU    fee per year - € 14550

***Fees are subject to change

Tuition fee information is available on the UCD Fees website. Please note that UCD offers a number of graduate scholarships for full-time, self-funding international students, holding an offer of a place on a UCD graduate degree programme. For further information please see International Scholarships.

The fees for each of the modules taken independently as CPD are € 900 (EU) or € 1800 (nonEU).

  • A minimum of a second class honours degree (NFQ Level 8) is required in:
    • a sport-related discipline or
    •  another discipline with relevant work experience and involvement in sports coaching
  • Applicants who do not hold an honours degree will be considered on a case by case basis. These applicants should have significant relevant work experience and involvement in sports coaching, with a coaching qualification recognised by their national governing body. 
  • All applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element) or equivalent.
  • An interview with the Programme Director may also form part of the application process. For entry in 2025 and onwards, an interview with the Programme Director will form part of the application process.

What was your favourite part of the programme and why?

"The programme is a powerful one, with a structured focus on all aspects of a coach's needs and is delivered in a very open, inclusive and participatory manner.  It deftly manages to accommodate coaching challenges across a spectrum of sports, from individual, coactive, measured and team.  The lecturers, both staff and visiting, clearly offer more than an academic insight and were an absolute pleasure to deal with. I was particularly taken by the modules on culture, strength and conditioning and physiology but found relevance in all facets.  As a rowing coach, the opportunity to concentrate on skill acquisition and the language of sport, was tremendously beneficial."

Barry O’Connor, Programme Graduate
Rowing Coach, University College Dublin Boat Club


"I loved the style in which the lectures were run. They were very interactive with many group tasks. This meant that you got to work with everyone in your class who all came from different sports and had different areas of expertise. I found this really accelerated my learning. The interactive style of lectures meant you could learn more and apply the knowledge or concepts to real world situations and possibly your sport. Reflecting on my own coaching journey was valuable and helped me to understand how my philosophy developed. The variety of subjects on this course kept me working hard but gaining knowledge across a wide range of areas. Some lectures were literally so exciting! Now I apply the skills I learned quite often reading the latest research with a critical eye. It has opened up a whole new world and way of thinking. It has given me great confidence in my sports career going forward and probably is one of the best things I've ever done for career development."

Jessica O'Keeffe, Programme Graduate
Outdoor Recreation Specialist at Ballyhoura Development CLG


"My favourite part of the programme was the huge variety of modules relating to high performance sport that were covered. I feel much more confident approaching my career path in sport with the sound theoretical knowledge regarding performance analysis, nutrition, strength and conditioning and sport psychology, all hugely important in an athlete’s development. I also enjoyed the practical discussions and personal development surrounding coaching and how to be the best coach you can be."

Breanna Drew, Programme Graduate
School Counsellor at St Philip's College, Alice Springs (AU)


"The most helpful part of the program was getting to work with a combination of both professors and a broad range of professionals working in different fields. We had lectures or worked hands on with strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, performance analysts, coaches, and researchers from a number of sports. This allowed me to see details into specific professions and create a better idea of what exactly I wanted to do after graduating."

Keane Hamilton, Programme Graduate
Head coach of U18 Girls Premier
Missoula Strikers Soccer Club, Montana (USA)

In addition to UCD lecturers, this programme is delivered by visiting academics from international universities (Northumbria University UK, Cardiff Metropolitan University UK, University of Teesside UK, University of Bath UK, University of Hull UK, Salford University UK, Queens University Belfast UK, University of Limerick Ireland, Dublin City University Ireland) and guest speakers from Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Leinster Rugby Dublin, Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Professional Golfers Association Ireland (PGA), Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and Sport Ireland Institute.

The following entry routes are available:

MSc Coaching Science in Sport FT (X772)
1 Years
Full Time
MSc Coaching Science in Sport PT (X773)
2 Years
Part Time


In addition to filling out the online application, the following documents must be uploaded with each application

1) Copy of your degree parchment (or official degree certificate issued by the University) as well as full transcripts of your results. If you have yet to graduate but are about to do so, please submit a signed letter from your University stating that you have completed the programme and will graduate, including degree classification.

2) Copy of your certificate of coaching qualification awarded by a national governing body (this is not mandatory but you are encouraged to submit it as it would strengthen your application)

3) Reference letter/s (on headed paper) of your sports/sports coaching experience

4) If your first language is not English, you must submit the original certificate of completion of an English test

Scanned documentation is preferable to photos. If you upload photos of the documents, please make sure the pages are completely legible. Blurred images will not be accepted and will delay your application review.

NOTE: If you provide scanned documents or copies of documents, you will be required to have your documentation verified (academic transcripts and English certificate, if relevant) as part of the enrolment procedures. Your end of year examination results will not be released if you have not fulfilled your document verification requirements. Please visit UCD Registry webpage for further information.


The Occasional Coaching Science in Sport (CT45) programme allows a student to take up to 3 of the following independent modules (it is not a route to the masters degree)::

  • The Science of Coaching: Theory and Practice (10 credits). First semester, Thursday, 18:00 - 21:00
  • Applied Sports Psychology and Skill Acquisition (10 credits). First semester, Friday, 14:00 - 17:00
  • Planning in Strength and Conditioning (10 credits). Second semester, Friday, 10:00 - 13:00
  • Sports and Performance Analysis for Coaches (10 credits). Second semester, Thursday, 18:00 - 21:00

In addition to filling out the online applicationthe following documents must be uploaded with each application

1) Copy of your certificate of coaching qualification awarded by a national governing body

2) Reference letter/s (on headed paper) of your sports/sports coaching experience

3) If your first language is not English, you must submit the original certificate of completion of an English test

You will need to provide original documents for verification prior to registration (only item 3). For items 1 and 2, please scan the documentation to be uploaded (do not take a picture). Please visit UCD Registry webpage for further information.

To apply, please click here.

Q: There are two different options, I'm still unclear which one I should choose

A: If you hold a relevant degree (at least 2:2 degree classification), you can apply to the one-year full-time MSc Coaching Science in Sport course.

If you hold a degree in another discipline (minimum of a 2:2 degree) and have significant experience in sports coaching and hold a coaching qualification awarded by a governing body, you can also apply to the one-year full-time MSc Coaching Science in Sport course.

If you want to do the modules as Continuous Professional Development (CPD), you can apply to the Occasional Coaching Science in Sport option and take up to 3 independent modules as CPD.


Q: I hold a relevant degree, is that enough to get me a place on the MSc Coaching Science in Sport?

A: You should have a minimum of a 2:2 degree. We also strongly advise to strengthen your application by detailing your experience in sports/sports coaching either in the form of certificates or letters of support or a portfolio or similar. Additionally, do submit any certificate of professional/coaching qualification. Places available are offered based on the overall quality of the applications.


Q: Is a Bachelor of Education degree relevant to this programme?

A: Yes, it is, however see response to previous question.


Q: I graduated with a third class degree, can I still apply?

A: In this case you will be looking to register for independent modules that accounts for experiential learning i.e. your own coaching and sporting background. You are expected to hold a coaching qualification recognised by a national governing body. Supporting letters of your previous experience and certificates of your qualifications will help your application. The modules in this occasional programme are offered as continued professional development (CPD). (Fees paid per module, see ‘How to apply’.) If you apply for the Occasional Coaching Science in Sport programme, pleae note this does not constitute a route to the masters programme.


Q: I am not sure if I have the time to commit to the Masters in Coaching Science in Sport. Are there any other options?

A: Yes, you can take up to 3 modules as CPD (each 10 ECTS credits). They are:

- The Science of Coaching: Theory and Practice (Semester 1, Thursday 18:00 - 21:00)

- Applied Sports Psychology and Skill acquisition (Semester 1, Friday 10:00 - 13:00)

- Planning in Strength and Conditioning (Semester 2, Friday 10:00 - 13:00)

- Sports and Performance Analysis for Coaches (Semester 2, Thursday 18:00 - 21:00)

What this means is you just register and pay for a specific module. You will also have to attend and pass the assessment for each module.


Q: Are there part-time options on the programme?

A: No. The masters is full-time course.


Q: What is the timetable?

A: Semesters are for 12 weeks, with no end of semester exams, only continuous assessment in semester. Modules run from 18:00-21:00 on Thursdays, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00 on Fridays in both semesters (see ‘What modules can I take?’).


Q: How much time should I commit to be successful in this programme?

A: A total of 36 hours of lectures are delivered throughout the semester for each module. We advise that at least an equivalent amount of hours of autonomous activity towards the module are required to succeed. This could be in the format of directed or independent reading, engagement with brightspace (our virtual learning environment), practice for assessment tasks, completion of assessment tasks, etc.


Q: Typically, how many students are taken onto the MSc programme each year?

A: We take between 20 and 30 students each year, selection is based on the quality of the application. We would recommend an early application, around March/April.


Q: What is the nature and structure of classes?

A: Learner knowledge and understanding will be imparted by on-campus lectures, industry expert workshops & seminars. A number of lectures will be delivered by academics from other Institutions and coaches with an established reputation. A vibrant teaching and learning environment will incorporate active student engagement, discussion and debate, student-centred and problem-based learning with an emphasis on reflection and peer-to-peer learning. There will be a limited number of practical classes carried out for some of the modules (Planning in Strength & Conditioning and Exercise Physiology & Sports Nutrition).


Q: Are there work placement opportunities associated with this programme?

A: This programme does not offer work placement opportunities; however, depending on the topic and setting of your dissertation, you may have a chance to work in a real coaching environment. For example, some students have carried out a dissertation in collaboration with Hockey Ireland, UCD swim team, Sport Ireland Institute, etc. 


Q: What does the dissertation involve?

A: The dissertation constitutes the final stage of the MSc programme in Coaching Science in Sport. It presents an opportunity for students to conduct applied research, demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, as well as to develop and defend their ideas. The projects typically focus on current coaching and/or sports science issues in an Irish and/or international context. To successfully complete the dissertation, you will be required to analyse and synthesise the relevant academic literature, to develop a conceptual framework, to produce a formal research design, to perform primary data collection and analysis or secondary data analysis and synthesis, and to report, present and defend the findings.


Q: If, once enrolled in the programme, I feel the dissertation takes too much time and effort, what are my options?

A: If you have successfully completed the 6 modules and gained 60 credits you can exit the programme and you will be awarded a GRADUATE DIPLOMA in Coaching Science in Sport.


Q: What percentage of graduates go into full time employment after completion?

A: On average more than half of the students enrolled in our programme are already employed, usually as coaches, coaching officers, games development officers or coach developers/educators. They see the Masters programme as an opportunity to keep up to date and improve their skills and knowledge. Even though we are unable to keep track of all our graduates, a good few of them have been offered a coaching job after they completed the MSc Coaching Science in Sport (see ‘Careers & Employability’).