Athletic Director: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an athletic director. Learn about job outlook, salary and degree requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Education - Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Athletic Director?

Athletic directors oversee the sports programs at high schools and colleges. At colleges and universities, they oversee the entire athletic department, which usually means coordinating the activities of many coaches and student athletes. They may also be expected to develop a particular vision for the future of the athletic department, in coordination with the overall goals of the universities, and implement a strategy for departmental improvement. High school athletic directors usually work on a smaller scale, with responsibilities such as hiring coaches, arranging transportation to events at other schools, monitoring student eligibility and supervising home games.

Since specific career information isn't available for athletic directors, some of the information below is based on the closely related field of postsecondary education administrators. Find out about the job skills, necessary education and salary potential for athletic directors and other administrators.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Sports management, sports medicine, athletic training
Key Skills Leadership, communication skills, motivation skills, problem-solving
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all postsecondary education administrators)*
Median Salary (2015) $58,159**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Does an Athletic Director Do?

An athletic director is an administrative position in higher education typically found at secondary schools, universities or colleges. As an athletic director, you could be responsible for the marketing and promotion of the school's athletic teams and assessing the financial needs of sports teams within the athletic department. You might need to fill coaching and staff vacancies in athletic programs, oversee the maintenance of athletic facilities and coordinate local, state and national sports competitions.

As an athletic director, you'll need to abide by university ethics and applicable regulations. You'll generally oversee the implementation of and adherence to budgeting requirements, including being involved in fundraising programs. You'll also need to monitor student athletes to ensure satisfactory academic performance.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an athletic director position is equivalent to that of a postsecondary education administrator ( As such, the minimum educational requirement is generally a master's degree. Graduate programs that could provide you with applicable education include master's degree programs in sports management, athletic training or sports medicine, which could take 2-4 years to complete. In addition to coursework, you might have the opportunity to participate in an internship as part of the degree program. Some of the essential topics covered include:

  • Sports ethics and laws
  • Sports marketing
  • Facility and event management
  • Accounting and finance
  • Leadership theories and practices

What Can I Expect To Earn?

In 2011, USA Today, in conjunction with the law offices of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLC, reported contractual salary statistics for college athletic directors based on records provided by the schools. Base pay rates ranged from about $110,000 to over $2.5 million, and several schools award bonuses to their athletic directors. The size of the school, the number of athletic teams you manage and the success of the schools' athletic departments may have a strong influence on your pay rate, bonuses and other compensation. As of 2017, reported that the median salary for all athletic directors was $58,159.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to get a sports-related job, you could consider becoming a college coach. In this job, you would supervise all team activities, develop game strategies and advise athletes on training strategies. College coaches need to have at least a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, you could get a different job in postsecondary school administration. For instance, a job in the office of student affairs could involve setting up recreational activities, advising students about academic issues and solving student housing problems. Although a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for an entry-level job, a master's degree is usually preferred.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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