Becoming a Sports Commentator: Steps & Training

Discover what it takes to become a sports commentator. Here you'll see education requirements, steps to take toward a career and any training you might need to succeed. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Sports commentators do play-by-play commentary on live sports games and provide analysis or debate topics related to the sports stories of the day. To get into the business, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in a field that's related, such as journalism, communications or broadcasting. Our chart below provides a quick overview of the profession of sports commentating.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Broadcasting, communications, journalism
Training Required On-the-job training
Job Growth (2016-2026) -9% (for all reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts)*
Median Salary (2019) $50,000 (sports broadcasters)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Payscale.com

What Do Sports Commentators Do?

Sports commentators provide a running commentary on a sporting event for radio and television broadcasts. They're charged with explaining the action in layman's terms and breaking down what viewers are seeing in terms of strategy. Commentators who work in radio have to paint a picture for the listener so that he or she can visualize the action. Television sports commentators, on the other hand, know the audience can see what's happening, so they may focus more on analysis.

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Sports Commentator?

Most entry-level positions in sports commentating require a bachelor's degree in a field like communications, journalism or broadcasting, though some outlets might hire someone with a degree (in, say, English) who has some experience commentating. In college, aspiring broadcasters learn proper diction, how to operate common broadcast equipment and how to research the topic on which they'll be speaking.

Even with a degree, many sports announcers need some experience to get their feet in the door. If you're thinking about a career as a sports broadcaster, it might be wise to start with an internship, a college radio job or a non-speaking entry-level position at a TV or radio station.

What Skills Do You Need?

First of all, you need to have the gift of gab. Broadcasters who can't think of something to say -- or ones who use 'uh' and 'um' -- won't last long. You'll need to be able to write. Even though your job is to speak, you may be asked to write your own material (things like introductions, interview questions and pre-recorded segments). Finally, you'll need intimate knowledge of the sport you cover. You'll have to learn names, understand playing styles and have an in-depth knowledge of strategy so that you can convey these things to your audience.

How Much Can You Make as a Sports Commentator?

According to the website Payscale.com, sports broadcasters make an average salary of $50,000 per year in 2019. However, salaries can differ significantly based on experience and popularity. Top-name sports commentators like Bob Costas, Jim Nantz and Al Michaels are all reported in 2017 to make upwards of several million dollars a year.

Is Sports Commentating a Growing Field?

The data for growth in the sports commentating profession is sparse, to say the least (it's a narrow field), but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers some guidance for related fields. Due to reduced revenues, the BLS estimates that employment for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts will decline by 9% between 2016 and 2026. For radio and television announcers, that number stands at -12% during the same period.

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