If you’re passionate about sports and you want to turn this passion into a lucrative career, there are several career paths you can choose.
On this page, we will compile information about salary, job prospects, and educational requirements for some of the most in-demand sports careers.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 249,900 coaches and scouts in the United States in 2020, most of them working for colleges, universities, schools, or in the field of arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Scouts who work in colleges are usually employed by scouting organizations or are self-employed
Scouts at the professional level are typically employed by the team directly.
Athletic trainers held approximately 30,000 jobs, most working in the field of educational services or hospitals.
In 2020 there were approximately 16,700 athletes and sports competitors in the United States, according to the BLS.
A significant part of them (more than 40%) were self-employed.
Approximately 36 percent of all athletes were employed in the spectator sports field.
A career in sports may involve spending a lot of time outdoors on sports fields, sometimes in cold weather.
Most athletes, coaches, and scouts have to travel often, especially if they work in professional sports.
Athletes and sports competitors have a high injury rate, and they are required to wear protective equipment to avoid injuries.
Job descriptions for sports-related professions vary widely depending on the positions and the employer.
Coaches are usually responsible for:
- Planning, organizing, and conducting practice sessions
- Analyzing team members and the opposing teams to spot weaknesses and strengths
- Planning the strategy and choosing the team members for each game
- Deciding on a strategy and player substitution during the game
- Communicating and motivating the team members
- Identifying and recruiting new team members
- Keeping records about the team’s performance
Scouts are the ones who:
- Find athletes that are worth considering for a specific team
- Attend games, watch videotapes, and study statistics that are relevant for each prospective player
- Talk to athletes and their coaches
- Report to the team for which they are scouting
- Offer incentives to prospective players
Athletes, sports competitors, and their coaches typically work irregular hours, and during the sports season, they may work more than 40 hours per week for practice, training, and competition.
Some sports professions have no education requirements, but others require a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
There are no formal education requirements for those who want to become athletes or sports competitors.
Athletes need talent and extensive knowledge in their sport, skills developed through years of training and experience.
Athletes may need a license to be allowed to practice specific sports or in specific localities.
For example, race car drivers need to be licensed before competing in races.
Athletes may have their license suspended if they misbehave.
The biggest dream for most athletes is turning professional.
In baseball, for example, athletes begin their professional careers in a minor league before advancing to major leagues.
Athletic trainers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly all states require that they hold a license or certification.
Master’s degree programs are also common among athletic trainers.
Degree programs for athletic trainers usually combine classroom and clinical training and cover science and health-related topics as well as biology, anatomy, and nutrition.
A standard certification examination is offered by the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BOC) and this is what most states use as a standard test.
Certification requirements for athletic trainers include:
- Graduating from a CAATE-accredited program
- Passing the BOC exam
To maintain their license, athletic trainers need to adhere to professional standards and take continuing education classes.
Those who want to become athletic trainers can start preparing in high school by taking classes in anatomy, physiology, and physics.
Coaches and scouts usually need a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience and knowledge in the sport in which they specialize.
Some coaches study kinesiology, sports medicine, or physical education, while scouts sometimes major in marketing or sports management.
Coaches who want to work for a state high school need to be certified, or they are required to complete mandatory education courses.
Scouts need to have a passion for sports and the ability to spot young talents, but not all employers require scouts to have experience playing sports.
Certification requirements for high school coaches usually include:
- Being at least 18 years of age
- Having CPR and first aid training
- Some states also require that coaches complete classes in sports safety and coaching fundamentals.
Certification may not be required for coaching positions in private schools.
Besides formal education, several personal skills will make you a better sports professional.
Athleticism is required, especially for those who begin their careers as athletes or sports competitors.
Concentration is needed for coaches, scouts, athletes, and all other sports careers that involve analyzing or participating in a game.
Decision-making skills are important for athletes and coaches because they need to make quick decisions before and during the game.
Athletes and sports competitors also need stamina because they have to participate in competitions that sometimes last several hours.
All athletes need teamwork skills, especially those who practice team sports.
Communication skills are required for all coaches as they have to keep the team motivated and make sure that each member of the team is in the right mindset.
They also have to communicate the strategy to team members so that every athlete understands their role.
Business skills are also required for sports professionals who are self-employed.
Salaries in the sports field are usually higher than the median national wage across all industries, but earnings vary widely depending on the place of employment, reputation, region, and many other factors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for athletes and sports competitors was $50,850.
Athletes who turn professional can advance in their careers by becoming better players, and their earnings can increase gradually.
Some may receive endorsements from companies and brands, which can raise their earnings significantly.
The lowest 10 percent of all athletes and sports reportedly made less than $20,270, while the top 10 percent made more than $208,000.
Athletic trainers were remunerated with $49,860 per year, on average, but wages ranged from less than $32,980 to more than $75,810.
The median annual wage for scouts and coaches was lower than the median reported for athletes or trainers.
It was calculated at $36,330, with salaries ranging between less than $19,340 and more than $81,940 per year.
Salaries for scouts and coaches are influenced by the industry of employment and, usually, those who work for colleges or universities earn more than those who work in other fields.
The median annual wage reported by scouts and coaches who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools was $47,020, while those who worked for elementary and secondary schools made $31,450.
This category also includes sports agents, a profession grouped by BLS with agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes.
The median annual wage for workers in these professions was $75,420- higher than the median reported for other sports professions.
Sports agents can make less than $40,000 at the beginning of their career, but those who have experience can make more than $190,000.
For each of the above careers, salaries also vary depending on the industry of employment and the region.
For example, the median annual wage for athletic trainers who worked in educational services was $54,140, while those who worked in physical therapist offices made $46,410, on average.
One of the highest-paying states for agents and business managers in 2020 was North Carolina, with a median annual wage of $117,880.
On the other hand, agents who worked in Louisiana earned less than $50,000 per year, on average.
Most sports jobs will grow in the next decade, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession come to an end.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for athletes and sports competitors in the United States will reportedly grow 38 percent from 2020 to 2030; much of this growth stems from population growth, increased interest in sports, and the recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
New job openings will also occur for scouts and coaches- a profession that will grow 26 percent over the decade.
Participation in college sports will increase over the decade, and colleges need to attract the best athletes to remain competitive.
Having a successful sports team helps colleges enhance their reputation, which, in turn, helps them recruit new students and raise funds.
Employment for athletic trainers will grow 23 percent, with approximately 3,100 new job openings estimated for each year over the decade.
Insurance companies in some states may consider athletic trainers healthcare providers and reimburse the cost of their services.
In these states, there may be additional employment opportunities for licensed athletic trainers.
Some states require public secondary schools to employ athletic trainers as part of their sports program because they can respond first when injuries occur; this requirement will lead to additional job opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average salary in the sports field?
Salaries vary widely depending on the experience level, employer, skills, and region, among other factors.
Athletes and sports competitors earn approximately $50,000 on average but beginners can start with less than $20,000 per year while those with a lot of experience who play for big teams can easily make more than $200,000.
Do I need a degree for a career in sports?
You don’t need a degree if you want to start as an athlete, but some professions require a bachelor’s degree.
If you want to become a professional athlete, you will have to start at a young age and you’ll need to practice a lot, especially if you want to move towards a professional level.
Keep in mind that you will need many years of training before becoming a professional athlete or sports competitor.
Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes they also need a license.
What prospects do sports occupations have?
Most sports occupations will grow in the future, although your prospects depend on the career you want to choose and the sport you want to practice.
Growth rates estimated for the 2020-2030 decade typically vary between 23 and 38 percent.
Who are the biggest employers for sports professionals?
The answer to the above questions varies depending on the exact occupation.
Most coaches and scouts work for colleges, universities, schools, or in the entertainment field.
Athletic trainers usually work in the field of educational services or the healthcare field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 42 percent of all athletes were self-employed in 2020.