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Advertising paid and unpaid job roles in sport: an updated position statement from the UK Strength and Conditioning Association
  1. Chris John Bishop,
  2. Peter McKnight,
  3. Crofton Alexander,
  4. Edward Archer,
  5. Richard Hunwicks,
  6. Daniel J Cleather
  1. UK Strength and Conditioning Association, Lytham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Chris John Bishop, London Sports Institute, Middlesex University, London NW4 1RL, UK; C.Bishop{at}

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The strength and conditioning (S&C) industry within the UK has seen an unprecedented growth in the last 10–15 years. More jobs exist than ever (figure 1), and the profession is held in increasingly higher regard by those looking to enhance athletic performance. This growth has been accompanied by a substantial rise in those seeking professional accreditation; this reflected by an increase in UK S&C accredited coaches doubling from ~400 in 2011 to ~800 in 2017. Consequently, the growing interest in S&C has also seen a dramatic increase in internships,1 many of which have been advertised as unpaid.

Figure 1

Current distribution of S&C coaches in the UK at the start of 2017 (results taken from the UKSCA state of the Nation Survey). S&C, strength and conditioning; UKSCA, UK Strength and Conditioning Association.

Whether unpaid internships are legal or not is ambiguous. The government (HM Revenue and Customs in UK) website states that: ‘An intern’s rights depend on their employment status. If an intern is classed as a worker, then they’re normally due the National Minimum Wage’. The definition of a ‘worker’ indicates that a contract is exchanged between the two parties involved. However, if an applicant accepts a volunteer role, no monies need to be offered to the recipient. This contentious issue has been reflected by recent publications on the topic,1–5 which have highlighted that clear criteria are required from professional organisations as to the responsibilities interns will undertake and how it will further their development in the profession. Our aim is to provide an updated position statement from the UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) on advertising paid and unpaid job roles in sport.

Advertising ‘illegal’ unpaid positions

The UKSCA’s position on advertising illegal internships has been formalised since 2013. Any organisation that outlines the specific responsibilities of employees or workers without the national minimum wage are clearly informed that the associated advert will not be publicised on the UKSCA website. It is our view to then work with, and educate, employers who may be inadvertently offering illegal roles through lack of knowledge. Feedback is provided on an individual basis regarding areas of the job advert that require amendments so as to ensure that such discrepancies are avoided in future. It should also be acknowledged that additional opportunities such as student placements can be a requirement of academic degree programmes. Such opportunities are unlikely to involve much (if any) remuneration; however, it may be useful for the development of aspiring S&C coaches in the early stages of their career, and should not be discouraged. For further clarity, we have provided definitions of such developmental opportunities in table 1 to ensure optimal context for both employers and coaches.

In 2016, the UKSCA launched a State of the Nation Survey, and 243 S&C coaches responded regarding remuneration from their latest internship. Seventy-two per cent received no payment for their services, and a further 13% received expenses only which made for a frustrating read. However, a notable positive was that 44% of internships led to paid employment with the same organisation. This indicates that many internships provide a platform from which clubs recruit additional support staff.1

Advertising paid positions

Any paid position offering at least national minimum wage can be advertised on the UKSCA website. Advertisements that have offered poor financial remuneration have often garnered backlash on social media. While this consensus is often agreed on by many, it should be acknowledged that at present proposed salary standards for the UK S&C industry do not exist. Therefore, it is challenging to provide a true objective standpoint on what is deemed ‘fair and just’ pay. However, a project that aims to offer guidelines on salary expectations in the UK S&C industry has begun.

It is not the UKSCA’s responsibility to censor job adverts and in particular the remuneration of a position. However, we do seek to raise awareness in both the profession and with employers as to the value of S&C coaches and salary ranges expected to be industry standard. This will be further contextualised in the near future when a salary guidelines document has been completed. Finally, it should also be acknowledged that negative publicity is a powerful tool in driving positive change, and this should not be discouraged if obvious discrepancies pertaining to salaries are perceived in paid S&C positions.


As the leading professional body for S&C in the UK, the UKSCA does not advertise or support the provision of illegal internships where coaches undertake the roles and responsibilities of employees for free. The State of the Nation Survey was the first step in highlighting current data pertaining to salaries (figure 2), employer type and years of experience in the UK S&C industry. Lastly, the UKSCA has created an ‘Early Career Development’ panel, which offers grants to organisations to support their staff if they are able to show commitment and a suitable pathway (via a coach mentor system) for their staff’s continued professional development. Moreover, it should again be stipulated that a formal and structured mentoring system should be adopted by all organisations to maximise the benefits attained from placements and internship opportunities.

Figure 2

Annual earnings for S&C coaches in the UK at the start of 2017 (results taken from the UKSCA State of the Nation Survey and expressed as percentage). S&C, strength and conditioning; UKSCA, UK Strength and Conditioning Association.

Table 1

Example opportunities for developing S&C coaches with accompanying definitions



  • Contributors This editorial has undergone numerous drafts, all of which have been agreed upon by all board members of the UKSCA, and all authors have provided the same amount of work to create this editorial.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.