Job Guide for Women in Sports
Sports serve as a powerful force in our modern world. From a young age, many of us participate in school or community sports leagues, and through that participation we learn countless life skills that we can take into any career we choose. In fact, you can even carry over your skills and knowledge from high school athletics into a rewarding career in the sports industry — you just need to know what options are available and what challenges you may face along the way.
In this guide you will find…
Why Choose a Career in Sports?
If you’re a sports enthusiast or a full-blown athlete, then chances are you’ve considered a career in sports. After all, why not pursue a career that you’re passionate about? Although passion alone doesn’t make a career, it absolutely makes your work feel more exciting and personally meaningful.
Of course, there’s a fair share of excitement with a career in sports too! The industry generates nearly $90 billion per year worldwide, and the industry continues to boom. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of sports has found creative ways to still entertain the masses, and the ever-growing world of eSports has only continued to thrive during turbulent times.
Furthermore, financial and career website The Balance notes that a career in sports can not only provide excellent job security, but it can also make you very marketable in other industries as well because of your dedication and ability to thrive in high-pressure situations.
Influential Women in the World of Sports
When you think about powerful female sports figures, who comes to mind? Most of us think about highly successful women athletes like Serena Williams or Megan Rapinoe. However, women hold positions of power within other places in the world of sports too.
For example, Kim Ng recently made history when the Miami Marlins hired her as the team’s general manager. In fact, Ng is the first female general manager within any of the major male sports leagues within the United States. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, though, because Ng has shattered glass ceilings since she took her first position within the MLB in 1991.
Off the field, Kelli Masters is one of the few female sports agents in the field today, but she’s absolutely crushing it. She currently represents over 30 major athletes, including several NFL players.
Of course, we can’t forget ESPN’s Linda Cohn as well — she’s a trailblazer for women in sports media.
Choosing the Right Career in Sports
Like most other career fields, the sports industry provides a wide array of job opportunities. Because of this, you need to narrow down your options so that you can pick the path that best fits your interests, skills, and long-term career goals.
So what are some career options in the sports industry? Let’s take a closer look.
As previously mentioned, women like Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and Danica Patrick show us that girls can absolutely make it as pro athletes if they work for it. However, the Los Angeles Times recently highlighted the barriers that women athletes still face. With less opportunities and less media coverage, the women’s pro sports arena still has a long way to go before it will match men’s sports.
Most individuals will never make it to the professional ranks, but that should never discourage you from setting lofty goals. Just be sure to stay realistic and be prepared to evolve to your best version 2.0 when the time is right.
Coaching & team management
For women looking to take on a leadership role who would like to stay closely connected with athletes and sports, coaching may be a great option. There are coaching opportunities at any level, ranging from more informal roles with youth all the way to professional teams. Many choose to coach as a way to give back to the next generation, while others decide to make it into a career.
Individuals who follow their calling into education can easily find themselves enjoying a career as an educator while coaching school teams after school.
Those who are serious about a career in coaching should plan to obtain a college degree and have extensive experience playing and observing the sport you love at a variety of levels. Since many entry-level coaching positions are not full time, it is recommended to consider pursuing a teaching certificate as well to make yourself more marketable.
If you’d like to take on more of an administrative role, then a position like general manager would be a suitable place to start. Team managers handle everything from budgeting to media presentations (and more).
Those who excel at this type of position with extensive experience could be good candidates for athletic director positions once they have extensive experience. Individuals in higher level positions of this nature almost always hold a master’s degree in business administration, sports administration, or sports management. They almost always have at least some experience in a variety of related postions, so don’t expect to walk right into this type of role straight out of college.
Many medical professionals play a role in keeping athletes in shape and injury free. At the top of the field, there are sports medicine doctors who specialize in treating athletes. This career requires medical school and residency just like any other doctor, plus a fellowship in sports medicine and board certification. Be sure to check out our Sports Medicine Career Guide for more information.
If you want to treat athletes’ mental health, though, you could consider a career as a sports psychologist. These professionals obtain the same schooling and training as any other licensed psychologist, but they focus their education into learning about the unique stressors that athletes face and figuring out how to help athletes cope. Like a medical doctor, psychologists must obtain a doctoral level degree, clinicals, and board certification.
For someone who wants to help athletes stay healthy and fit all year long, a job as an athletic trainer is probably the best fit. Athletic trainers specialize in evaluation, prevention, and rehabilitation for athletes, but they can also provide first aid and emergency care if needed. Most states only require a bachelor’s degree and a certification exam for athletic trainers, although many go on to receive advanced degrees.
When athletes sustain injuries, they will typically receive help from a physical therapist. Like an athletic trainer, these professionals work with athletes during rehabilitation after a sports injury. However, a physical therapist’s training typically requires an advanced degree and a set number of clinical hours before you can obtain your license.
And, of course, there are sports nutritionists and dieticians who provide services to athletes that help them maintain proper nutrition and enhance their performance through their diet.
Other “Behind The Scenes” Jobs In Sports
Thanks to the role sports play in entertainment and society these days, there are literally thousands of behind the scenes jobs out there for sports enthusiasts.
Although we can’t possibly list them all, here are several exciting behind the scenes roles in the sports industry that may interest you:
- Sports journalist
- Public relations assistant
- Sports marketing account coordinator
- Announcer or sports commentator
- Television producer
- Advertising/sports marketing
For more information on careers in the sports industry, check out our career page.
The Challenges Faced by Women Who Work In Sports
Although we’ve come a long way, women still face numerous challenges and inequalities when it comes to the sports industry. In fact, The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that 1.13 million men receive more sport opportunities than women each year.
While access is a major challenge, it’s not the only barrier that women face. In fact, the same study by the Women’s Sports Foundation discovered that over 60 percent of female leaders in the sports industry experienced sex discrimination both within the workplace and with their salaries. This means that women not only have to fight harder to obtain jobs in the sports industry, but they also have to fight for pay equality.
Additionally, other studies have found that nearly 1 in 3 women face sexual harassment or other inappropriate interactions with their male colleagues. This issue obviously reaches further than the world of sports, but given the relatively small number of women working in sports already, this can be a serious issue.
Finally, coverage for women athletes is far less prominent than it is for men. In fact, women’s sports only appear in about 3 percent of the media’s news and sports coverage. This leaves women without the proper role models to really fuel change within the industry.
Advice from industry-leading women about navigating the sports industry
SportsDegreesOnline.org has spent months interviewing leading women in academia, gathering advice directly from individuals who have made it to the top of their respective fields. Dr. Maylon Hanold is a former U.S. Olympic athlete who is now the Director of Sport Management programs at Seattle University. As an athlete who has competed at the world class level, Professor Hanold is a firm believer that greatness is a result of attention to details and the refinement of process. This is very important for those who find themselves at entry level positions, working on sometimes monotonous projects. Professor Hanold explained in an interview with SportsDegreesOnline.org:
“Every single task you do in whatever job you have will help you meet your goals. It’s about establishing a process for excellence and getting better and learning. How are you soliciting ideas? Especially if you are moving into a leadership role, how are you creating networks, collaborating, understanding complexity and nuances? Every job has those things. So do that job where you are right now and understand that everything is going to contribute to the future you. The future is about focusing on the right here, right now – doing the job you have/get as best you can and never closing off doors.”
When asked how she has overcome challenges related to gender dynamics to achieve such a high level of success, Professor Hanold spoke about the importance of focusing on the factors that are within your control rather than that which is outside of your control…
” Since my research has always been at the intersection of gender and leadership and women in sports, I think what has been helpful has been my ability to contextualize. If I run into challenges… I know and can recognize all those behaviors as being part of some larger system of gender ideology rather than a personal thing about me. That doesn’t make it easy, but it does help me frame and understand what is happening rather than think it’s me. I am able to see those things as outside of my control. But there are also lots of things that are in my control, so my focus is on pursuing those things.
For those who are already in the sports industry and are trying to work their way up the latter, it is important to work together with fellow female staff rather than viewing them as competition. Doctor Rebecca Achen, who is a Professor of Sport Management at Illinois State University and an expert on marketing in sports, recently spoke with SportsDegreesOnline.org. Rebecca had some insights to share from her own experience working in the sports industry. She noticed that while some women may tend to compete with each other, there is much more to be achieved by collaborating:
“I think too often women in the industry, we tend to see that there are too few roles for us, so we tend to get competitive rather than holding each other up. One thing that was beneficial for me was connecting with her and trying to be successful together in that environment versus being competitive. Also, finding other women who were successful in sport and reaching out to them and asking them how they were successful was helpful.”
Professor Achen also explained how effective it has been for her to seek out people who are keen to be mentors, and leverage their influence on your behalf.
“I also recommend that you connect yourself with people who will support you. There are plenty of industry men and women who want to help women and minorities be successful. So whenever I found someone I thought was supportive and going out of their way to help those groups, I connected with them and let them push me forward and support me.
It’s also critical to not be too prideful and to allow people to help you. We talk about the ‘good ol’ boys’ group and that exists in sports. So instead of trying to prove you don’t need the ‘good ol’ boys’ to be successful, create your own network and embrace somebody willing to help you up and push you through.”
Are You Ready To Get Started?
As you can tell, there are countless opportunities for women looking for a career in sports. You just need a firm foundation in sports and the desire to pursue your dreams. However, the right degree programs and internships can obviously help set you up for success.
How SportsDegreesOnline.org can help
With thousands of colleges to choose from and countless avenues to pursue, you may feel a bit overwhelmed if you’re a woman who is just starting to research a career in the sports industry. Luckily for you, though, this is exactly why SportsDegreesOnline.Org exists!
If you are a high school student and curious about what undergraduate program might be a best fit for your career aspirations, then head to our Complete Guide for Choosing the Right Sports Degree Program. There you’ll find information about different degree programs, tips on choosing the right school for you, and more. We also have a great list of scholarship opportunities.
For those who have already obtained a bachelor’s degree but want to move forward with the next steps towards a career in sports, we also have informational resources about internships and advanced degree programs.
We know that women have a place in the world of sports — you just have to decide where you want to land.