HNC/HND Sports Coaching and Development

The HNC and HND in Sports Coaching and Development gives learners the knowledge and skills necessary to work as professionals within the sector.

The topics covered range from human anatomy, physiology and biomechanics to sports coaching, sports development and professional practice — including research skills.

This HNC includes an embedded, stand-alone, industry-recognised Professional Development Award in Sports Coaching at SCQF level 7, and the HND includes an embedded PDA in Sports Coaching at SCQF level 8.  Both PDAs are jointly certificated with sportscotland and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity(CIMSPA).

These qualifications are available through colleges and some universities. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete, and an HND takes two years to complete.

HNC and HND in Sports Coaching and Development (current qualifications)

This subject will not have alternative assessment guidance for session 2023-24. You should refer to the Group Award/Unit specifications for detailed delivery and assessment information. For general support on delivery and assessment see the HNVQ assessment guidance 2023-24.


HND Coaching and Developing Sport GD7G 16, HNC Coaching and Developing Sport GD5R 15 (lapsing qualifications)

The following optional guidance can be used to support delivery and assessment as an alternative to the approaches outlined in the Group Award / Unit specification.

Optional assessment guidance 2023-24

Higher National Qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry - so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The unit-based structure supports flexibility. A unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There are opportunities to liaise with industry stakeholders and to offer internal cross-college projects.

The HNC and HND Sports Coaching and Development is suitable for a wide range of learners including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • people who wish to start their own business


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre.

Learners would benefit from having attained the skills, knowledge and understanding required by one or more of the following:

  • SVQ at SCQF level 6 in appropriate subjects
  • occupationally relevant skills and experience
  • some experience in sports coaching

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Progression and employment

Successful completion of the HNC and HND may lead to career opportunities which include, but are not confined to: sports coaching and/or activity leadership, active school roles, sports development, disability sports development, fitness/gym staff, leisure centre staff, swimming pool staff, and health and fitness staff.

Employers may include: local authorities, leisure trusts, national/sports governing bodies (NGB/SGB), local sports organisations, and private clubs/hotels.

The practical nature of the course will equip learners for work within the promotion and development aspects of sports or sports coaching. Throughout the sports coaching and sports development mandatory units there is a strong emphasis on placement learning and developing the practical skills relevant to modern sports coaching and development.

The PDAs are mapped to the sportscotland Effective Coaching Map. It is recognised by Community Leisure UK (Scotland) as a qualification that will meet their workforce needs and therefore represents a passport to employment.

The HNC in Sports Coaching and Development will articulate directly to the HND in Sports Coaching and Development.

Additionally, local agreements exist with a number of universities to allow entry into year 2 (or 3 following the HND) of a variety of degree pathways for those who wish to develop their knowledge and skills.

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process. Centres without devolved authority require to come forward for approval and should contact SQA's Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA's general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Systems and Qualification Approval Guide.

The embedded Professional Development Award in Sports Coaching at SCQF level 7 is available for delivery within further education colleges only.

Each individual Unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each Unit.

Qualification content and delivery tools


Group award code: GP7X15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Sports Coaching and Development consists of seven mandatory units (96 SCQF credit points).

HND Sports Coaching and Development

Group award code: GR5J 16 (240 SCQF credit points)



HNC Coaching and Developing Sport GD5R 15 has been replaced and will enter into its lapsing period on 31 July 2021.

The finishing date for this qualification is 31 July 2024.

HND Coaching and Developing Sport GD7G 16 has been replaced and will enter into its lapsing period on 31 July 2021.

The finishing date for this qualification is 31 July 2025.

Centres should note that when a group award is entered into its lapsing period, the following will apply:

  • The group award will be deleted from the relevant catalogue.
  • The group award arrangements document will remain until the qualification reaches its finish date at which point it will be removed from SQA's website and archived.
  • No new centres may be approved to offer the group award.
  • Centres should only enter candidates whom they expect to complete the group award during the defined lapsing period of 3 years (HNC) and 4 years (HND).

2008 Reports