Becoming a High School Athletic Director: Requirements & Career Information

Get to know the high school athletic director's role in a school system. Explore the necessary skills and the education requirements to pursue this career, as well as the median income and projected job growth in the field. Schools offering Athletic Coaching degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

High school athletic directors are responsible for overseeing the functions of a school's athletic program in its entirety. Organizing team schedules and transport, budgeting, and connecting the school's academics and athletics are all responsibilities of a high school athletic director. In the table below you'll find pertinent details about this career.

Education Required Master's degree
Field of Study Athletic administration, sports management
Certification Optional National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA)
Required Skills Organizational, leadership, interpersonal, financial, computer
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 5-9% (for all education administrators, elementary and secondary school)*
Median Income (2017) $94,390 (for all education administrators, elementary and secondary school)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a High School Athletic Director Do?

High school athletic directors act as a liaison between the school's upper-level administration and the teachers and coaches. They organize all sports teams' schedules, coordinating between academic staff, other schools, and the school transportation systems. Athletic directors continuously work to develop an overarching mission for the success of their athletic department; they strive to engage with the student body to motivate students to join sports teams and get students more actively involved in school-wide events. Because high school athletics plays a substantial role in student enrollment and overall revenue of a school district, it is the athletic director's job to ensure that the sports teams positively represent the institution as a whole. They are also responsible for budgeting the finances so that each team has access to coaching, equipment, and other resources.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements for Becoming a High School Athletic Director?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the work of a high school athletic director falls under the overarching category of elementary and secondary education administrators. This type of work generally calls for earning a master's degree in athletic administration or sports management, as it requires working in collaboration with a school's administration system and maintaining departmental budgeting. In some small school districts, athletic directors may be teachers who have coaching experience and hold a bachelor's degree in secondary education.

The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) offers a variety of certifications requiring that candidates pass NIAAA-certified exams. Certification is not mandatory for high school athletic directors, but exemplifies an individual's commitment to the career and their desire to pursue professional development through continuing education courses offered through the NIAAA.

What Skills are Essential for Success in this Profession?

Because high school athletic directors are responsible for setting up the game and field schedules for all school sports teams, an individual in this profession must be highly organized. Interpersonal skills are also essential in order for a high school athletic director to communicate their needs between departments. They act as the liaison between the academic and athletic departments in a school and must collaborate with teachers, administrators, and coaches. These directors use their leadership skills to interact directly with student-athletes, parents, and the community to help portray a successful image of the school to the public. High school athletic directors must also be equipped with financial skills in order to effectively maintain the department's budget.

How Much Do High School Athletic Directors Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary and secondary education administrators collectively earned a median annual income of $94,390 as of May 2017. Employment for elementary and secondary education administrators is projected to grow from 5-9% between 2016 and 2026. High school athletic directors work full time; they may work fewer hours in the summer months when school is not in session, but often end up working long hours during sports seasons, from the beginning of a school day to the end of the evening's games.

What Careers are Similar to High School Athletic Directors?

Working as a principal or a superintendent also requires an individual to develop engagement between the student body and the community. They are also responsible for creating budget plans for various departments and work directly with teachers, parents, and students to provide them with the resources necessary for academic and professional success.

Becoming a physical education teacher also allows an individual to interact with the student body and aid the overall success of the school in an athletic setting. Many teachers also take on roles as coaches, allowing them to engage further with the athletic department. Becoming an athletic trainer also offers the opportunity to work with student-athletes at both the secondary and college or university level. This career draws upon knowledge of both sports and medicine and requires more training in the physical sciences than school administration.

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