What Is an Athletic Director?

Explore the career requirements for athletic directors. Get the facts about the education requirements, needed experience and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Education - Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Athletic Director?

An athletic director is sometimes called an AD. ADs are administrators who supervise and oversee athletic programs at a college, high school or private institution. They are responsible for budgeting, promotion, and scheduling for sports teams. An AD may coordinate with student academic departments, though they rarely work directly with athletes. Instead, they act as athletic managers, organizing transportation, supervising coaches, and guiding sports teams to success indirectly. They are charged with the task of hiring and firing coaches, as well as other athletic staffers in their organization. The following chart gives more information about this career choice.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; graduate degree may be preferred
Education Field of Study Sports management, sports psychology, marketing, educational leadership
Key Responsibilities Supervision, hiring and firing of sports staff and faculty; legal and ethics compliance; fundraising
Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% for all postsecondary education administrators*
Median Salary (Nov. 2019) $115,811 for athletic directors**

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

What Are the Job Duties of an Athletic Director?

Your primary duty as an athletic director (AD) is the supervision of coaches, sports teams and athletic departments. Some of your tasks may include initiating fundraising events, allocating money and contacting alumni for donations. You're also responsible for dissolving sports teams, hiring coaches and firing employees. You may also supervise the ordering of equipment and scheduling of events, games and matches. You probably won't work directly with athletes. However, you may act as a representative between athletes and faculty or instructors.

A large part of this position is to comply with all applicable legal regulations and ethics standards. For example, if you're an AD at a college, you're responsible for ensuring that the athletic programs comply with NCAA conference regulations. If you discover anything is amiss with a coach or athlete, you must report him or her to the appropriate state or conference officials. You may also be required to lead an investigation or appoint investigators to review incidents of rules violations.

What Must I Study?

According to Salary.com, assistant athletic directors are required to have at least a bachelor's degree. Many senior athletic directors have a master's degree. You might consider a bachelor's degree in sports management. This program trains you in sports organizations, accounting, governance and media relations. You'll also study promotions, sports psychology and business. And, your classes may cover facility management, the science of coaching and the role of sports in society. Other degree options that may be helpful include psychology, counseling, sports psychology or marketing.

A master's degree program in educational leadership prepares you for work as an administrator in a school or college. Since athletic directors are considered department heads, you'll need to learn the roles of administration. Courses teach you finance, technology, curriculum building and program development. Most also include instruction in supervisory roles, cultural harmony, school laws and leadership theories.

Do I Need Experience?

Experience as an athletic director can be beneficial to finding a job. Completing an internship or acting as a voluntary assistant to an athletic director helps you learn the job before seeking employment. You'll gain valuable hands-on experience and build contacts in the field. You'll also improve your communication, analytical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills.

You'll likely start out as an assistant athletic director. Depending on the school size and reputation, you may work with one or more assistant and athletic directors. Also, your salary will reflect your experience and reputation as a school director. In other words, if you're the director for a national championship high school or NCAA champion college, your marketability will improve greatly.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Administrative service managers need the same skills of an athletic director. An administrative service manager oversees, plans, and coordinates support services of a department, company or organization. They need to have good managerial skills to supervise various tasks that may include record keeping and office management.

Another career, closely aligned to athletic directors, is that of a top executive. Top executives create solutions to help a company meet its goals and fulfill its vision. A large part of the job entails leading, directing, and coordinating the successful operation of a company.

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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