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Top Sports Related Careers

When we think of sports, athletes are usually the first people who come to mind. While athletes are undoubtedly the “stars of the show,” there’s a host of other folks who work hard to make sports possible. From athletic trainers to marketing managers, there are many options for careers in sports. So if you fell short of the big leagues but you still want a sports-related profession, read on to learn about your options.  

Also see: What are the fastest growing careers?

1. Athletic trainer

These are the professionals who athletes rely on for injury prevention and treatment. Most sports teams consult athletic trainers to ensure that athletes reduce their risk of injury while training and performing. They commonly provide athletes with injury-preventive devices such as wraps and braces. And when injuries do occur, trainers are often the first ones to perform an evaluation. They may also work with physical therapists to help athletes navigate the recovery process. Athletic trainers need at least a bachelor’s degree, and must be certified to practice in most states. 

2020 Median Pay: $49,860 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 23% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Physical therapist

While athletic trainers mainly focus on injury prevention, physical therapists are involved in the injury treatment process. Broken bones and sprained ankles are an inevitable part of sports, which is why every team needs a physical therapist to work with their athletes. These professionals create rehabilitation plans and help athletes work their way back to full health. Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and must be licensed to practice in all states. 

2020 Median Pay: $91,010 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 21% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Statistical analyst

No matter the sport, athletes and their coaches are always looking for an edge over their opponents. One way to do that is by analyzing statistics. Sports statistical analysts use mathematical models to predict team performances and help coaches make decisions about in-game scenarios. For instance, some NFL coaches rely on analytics to decide whether or not they should punt on 4th down. Teams may also hire analysts to help scout players, prevent injuries, or maximize their rosters while staying within salary caps.  Most professionals in this field need at least a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics. 

2020 Median Pay: $93,290 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 33% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Sports agent

Most professional athletes don’t have the time or expertise to worry about the financial aspects of their careers. That’s where sports agents come into play. These professionals help athletes manage their careers by negotiating contracts and landing endorsement deals. They may also advise athletes on legal and tax-related matters. Sports agents must have excellent communication and problem-solving skills in order to effectively advocate for their clients. Law, business, sports management, and finance are popular college majors for students pursuing careers as sports agents. 

2020 Median Pay: $75,420

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. Event coordinator

From concessions and ticketing to halftime performances and security, there’s a lot that goes into planning sports events. Event coordinators are the behind-the-scenes folks who make sure everything runs smoothly and safely. These individuals must have strong organization and problem-solving skills in order to be successful. They should understand sports-going audiences, and be able to build relationships with sporting facilities, organizations, and charities. Event coordinators typically have bachelor’s degrees in meeting and event management, communications, business management, marketing, or business administration.

2020 Median Pay: $51,560 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 18% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

6. Marketing manager 

Although it may not seem like it, professional sports teams operate as businesses. And as businesses, they need professionals who can market their services. Marketing managers increase revenue streams by attracting interest from fans, coordinating publicity events, and building the overall image of teams. They may also secure sponsorships or sell advertising space within venues. These professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree in advertising, promotions, marketing, or sales.  

2020 Median Pay: $141,490 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 10% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Also see: Marketing major overview and How to get marketing scholarships

7. Coach 

Athletes have a way of hogging the spotlight. Come gametime, we’re awestruck by incredible touchdown passes, slam dunks, and home run hits. But what we don’t see are the long hours that coaches spend helping their athletes perform to the best of their ability. Coaches typically break into the profession at the middle or high school level, and some go on to land jobs with college and pro teams. Sports teams usually fill various coaching positions including head coaches, assistant coaches, and strength and conditioning coaches. Coaches typically have at least a bachelor’s degree and many have played the sport at some level. 

2020 Median Pay: $36,330 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 26% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

8. Referee

Sports have rules, and somebody has to enforce those rules. Referees and umpires regulate games by keeping track of scores and watching for penalties. They play a crucial role in ensuring that competitions are fair. Reffing is often a part-time gig, and most officiating positions don’t require a college degree. Like coaches, most referees start in the little leagues and work their way up to the college and professional levels. This is probably the closest you can get to being a player or coach in a career in sports!

2020 Median Pay: $28,940 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 29% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

9. Sports announcer 

Talking about sports can be just as (if not more) enjoyable as actually playing them. Sports announcers work in various capacities. Some provide play-by-play announcements for fans at the venue, while others work in broadcast booths and offer commentary for home audiences. Announcers may also conduct interviews with coaches and players, and provide pre- and post-game analysis for viewers. Although many announcers are former athletes or coaches, others work their way into the profession by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in journalism, broadcasting, or communications. 

2020 Median Pay: $41,950 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 15% (Faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

10. Reporters and analysts

Members of the media serve as the connection between fans and athletes. For those looking to break into the wide world of sports media, there’s a variety of paths to pursue. Writers, photographers, videographers, and television analysts are all considered media professionals. Job duties range from interviewing athletes to recording game footage to writing news stories. Athletes attract a lot of attention, and it’s the media’s job to keep the public up to date with the sports world. A bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications is typically needed to break into this field. 

2020 Median Pay: $49,300 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 6% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Also see: Communications major overview

Final thoughts

As you can see, you don’t have to be a star athlete to have a career in sports. If watching from the sidelines is more your thing, then there’s a variety of sports-related careers you can pursue. With the right education and training, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dream sports job. 

Also see: Top 20 highest paying careers to consider