Last Updated on September 26, 2021
Careers in Sports Guide
For many, landing a job in the sports industry is a dream come true. This is a fast-paced and growing industry loaded with opportunity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of entertainment and sports occupations is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.” Also, the average wage across the industry is more than 13% higher than the average.
In this guide you’ll find:
- Sports and Covid-19
- Opportunities in Sports
- The Value of a Degree
- Free and Low-Cost Online Resources
- Finding an Entry level Job in the Sports Industry
- Developing Your Personal Pitch
- List of the Top Paying Jobs in Sports
- List of Sports Management Salaries
- Cities with the Highest Number of Jobs in Sports
- Additional Resources and Job Boards
The Sports Industry Emerging from the Global Pandemic
One lesson learned as we begin to looking back at the global COVID-19 pandemic is how sports are so ingrained in the fabric of our society. In many ways, the world shut down and lockdowns threatened businesses around the country, yet most of the major sports associations worked to bring back live sports before many other businesses operated as normal. And while some positions in the sports industry were eliminated, the job market has already bounced back faster than anyone could have imagined even a year ago. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, the number of opportunities emerging in late 2021 has already reached pre-covid levels.
Jobs in Sports
The sports industry has entry-level positions, top-tier executive and management positions, and everything in between. Many find their first role in an organization by way of internship. Many times, interns are hired for full-time careers in sports, but also any professional or collegiate level athletics organization will have its fair share of entry-level positions which are open to outside candidates.
Those interested in business principles would be a good fit in the front office of a professional sports team or in the athletics department of a college or university. Like any business, there is a need for professionals with a background in finance, accounting, marketing, and human resources. All of these departments have entry-level roles and depending on the size of the organization, several or many rungs up the ladder until an employee reaches the top position such as chief marketing officer, vice president of accounting, or chief financial officer.
If you are more interested in community or personal health and wellness (including exercise science or athletic training), there are a lot of options available to fulfill that ambition. Hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities employ athletic trainers, physical therapists, and exercise physiologists either to work directly with individual patients or to run group classes or therapy sessions. If this type of work piques your interest but you would prefer to work in a dynamic, non-standard setting, there are plenty of opportunities to find meaningful work while calling a fitness center, athletic fields, or fun corporate outings as your office. Whether you dream of working for a university, consulting, or starting your own business, the possibilities really are endless.
A Degree is Your Foundation for Success
As Ben Franklin once said, “…an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” This holds true across all fields and industries. According to a study by the Social Security Administration…
“Men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more. Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.” [source]
The bottom line is that a student needs to pay for their education, but in return, their education will pay dividends.
A good first step for anyone looking to enter the industry is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the field relevant to their career goals. That being said, the industry is constantly changing and there are resources available on the internet that you can use to stay up to date on industry knowledge while also beefing up your own resume.
Free and Low-Cost Online Resources
There is a seemingly unlimited amount of educational content on the internet, and it varies in its value and credibility. Below are some excellent resources for people on a budget looking to learn more about the sports industry, or almost any other field of study. Be sure to look at reviews before purchasing a course so you know what to expect.
Jobs in the Sports Industry – Finding Entry Level Positions
While some positions in the sports industry require either a master’s degree or several years of experience, there are plenty of positions available to job-seekers who are just entering the workforce. One option is working your way into the organization through an internship. At many colleges and universities, this is a required part of the curriculum for degrees in sport management or related programs. However, there are many cases where interns are hired outside of sports management programs.
Check out our internship guide to find out more about how to obtain one of these coveted and competitive positions. Your willingness to help out where help is most needed might increase your chances of getting your foot in the door and could lead to amazing opportunities further down the line. The work might not be glamorous at first, but if you view every experience as a learning opportunity and a chance to build your skills while making connections and proving yourself, you will always be on the right track.
It’s also important to keep in mind that volunteering can also be a great way to get your foot in the door, even if there are no paid positions available at the time you are applying. In speaking with SportsDegreesOnline.org recently, Dr. Kevin McGinniss – who is the Director of Sport Management at Southern Connecticut State University – strongly urges young people to be open to volunteering, something that fewer candidates seem to be open to these days,
“To get your foot in the door and get an entry level opportunity, many times you have to volunteer.”[source]
Candidates who take advantage of the opportunity to prove themselves gain valuable skills while putting themselves in a prime position for when an opportunity does arise.
Professor Charles Campisi, Chair of the Sport Management program at Baldwin Wallace University, recently spoke with SportsDegreesOnline.org about the importance of making sure to seek out opportunities that are closely related to positions where you hope to pursue a career,
“From a collegiate athletic standpoint, [imagine that your goal is to] move into a development role, and there are no positions open – but there is a sales role position open. Those areas have similar responsibilities and relationships. So I think as long as it’s closely tied to a direction you want to be in – and it’s a job you’re willing to put time and effort and energy into, and you’re not going to hate life for the 60 hours a week minimum that you’re putting into this role – I think that’s okay. I wouldn’t advise it if it’s like, ‘Hey I want to be player personnel director, and I’m going to take a job as a customer service representative.’ You’re not going to get there.”[Source]
At the bottom of this page, we have included links to various job boards and other resources that you may find useful in looking for open positions. Be sure to check back often as our team continues to build these resources to help you along the way.
Articulating Your Passion
Once you have created your resume and you are ready to start applying for jobs, take some time to ground yourself and remind yourself why you are there. Employers are always looking for hard workers who are passionate about their work, so if you can check those boxes you will be well on your way to success in the professional world. If you are passionate about sports, be sure to feature your passion as part of your story. Include it as part of your objective on your resume, and be sure to mention it as you are telling your story to your potential employer. Remember that just like anything else, this takes practice – be sure to practice this conversation over and over again so you can clearly explain who you are, why you are excited about the opportunity, and what sets you apart as a candidate.
This may be a story of challenge and perseverance that conveys your values, important lessons learned from family members or role models, or values learned as an athlete. The better you can tell your story and why you are excited for the opportunity at hand, the more likely you will be to land your dream job.
Top Paying Jobs in Sports
According to Indeed.com, here are 15 of the top-paying jobs (aside from being a professional athlete).
- Sports editor
- Baseball coach
- Basketball coach
- Personal trainer
- Sports reporter
- Football coach
- General manager
- Athletic director
- Athletic scout
- Sports marketer
- Physical therapist
- Sports psychologist
- Sports physician
Sports Management Salaries
There is a wide range of salaries within the world of sports, and it depends on the location of the organization, the experience of the employee, the market value of the team, and many other factors.
According to payscale.com, the average wage for individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree in the field of Sports Management is $55,000/yr.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks data for many jobs related to sports. The BLS has the following average salary based on position:
Average Annual Salary
Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers, and other public figures
Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events
Coaches and Scouts
Indeed.com has also tracked the average salary for popular job titles:
Average Annual Salary
Sports Center Manager
Director of Marketing
Ticket Sales Representative
While title and salary are certainly important to keep in mind, it is important to not let these factors be the only things you consider when choosing a job. According to Dr. McGinniss, in a recent interview with SportsDegreesOnline.org, noted that many young people entering the job market today care a bit too much about titles and salary even at the entry-level,
“”[Your title] is not nearly as important what you are doing […], where you’re doing it and who you’re doing it with. And what you need to do is get into the network”, because once you have proven yourself, better opportunities will present themselves.”[source]
Throughout the professional world – but particularly in the sports industry – networking is to be incredibly important. In a recent interview with SportsDegreesOnline.org, Professor Steve McKelvey, head of the Sport Management program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says that his professional network has given him every opportunity since the first job he applied for out of college at a newspaper.
“[My career] just kind of happened that way. One thing led to the other and it was a very networked career because other than that first job that I applied for […] straight out of college, I never actually applied for any other job after that.”
Considering that McKelvey’s career has taken him from working with an AAA baseball team and Major League Baseball to a partner at a sports agency and Director of Sport Management at one of the leading sport management programs in the country, that fact is a true testament to the importance of networking in the sports industry and beyond.
Dr. McGinniss also urges young people not to be too concerned about salary if they are doing something they love.
“Even when you get the job, you might find that it doesn’t pay much, but there is an old saying, “don’t chase money – chase your passion and the money will come. If you are willing to do that, [things] will take care of [themselves].”[source]
Where are the Jobs in Sports?
ZipRecruiter studied the 50 most populated cities in the United States and ranked cities on an “opportunity index” by factoring in the cost of living of the city along with the number of jobs in the sports industry, availability of public transportation, walkability, and public health.
Here is the list of the top 10:
- Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
- Boston, MA
- San Francisco/Oakland, CA
- St. Louis, MO
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Washington D.C.
- San Jose, CA
- Denver, CO
- New York, NY
- Portland, OR