To some, the sports industry probably looks like it offers career paths only to the athletically gifted. In reality, sports-related businesses employ dedicated teams of professionals who work hard to make their games a success. Sports management career opportunities are available in accounting, finance, sales, marketing, human resources, law and other disciplines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sports industry requires excellent all-around skills at every level. Sports management, the bureau indicates, is as much about strategy and execution in the front office as it is on the field.
The Managerial Track:
Sports are estimated to be a $200-billion-a-year industry in the United States alone. That kind of success doesn't happen without good management. Public and private entities offer senior positions that range from owner, CEO, president and chief operating officer to general counsel, vice president, executive director and more. These positions call for extensive all-around experience in all forms of management, but especially in finance, fundraising and human resource management. It typically takes years of hard work to reach the higher levels of the administrative track.
In addition to traditional front-office roles, the sports industry also offers managerial opportunities for professionals with specialized skills. Lawyers, for instance, frequently become sports agents and represent athletes in contract negotiations or advise sports labor unions. Advertising and public relations agencies develop sports-related practices to promote teams and events, such as golf tournaments or auto races. Even health care plays a role in sports, through positions such as athletic trainer. Head trainers set standards of care and oversee assistants who make sure athletes are healthy and fit and receive prompt treatment for injuries or illness. The median salary of an athletic trainer was about $42,000 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Public Sector and Education:
The public sector and academia are also sources of opportunity in sports management. Cities and towns often employ recreation coordinators to plan and develop programs involving sports for their local communities. These might be as simple as organizing classes for hiking or tennis lessons up to managing the operation of pools or municipal fitness centers. Recreation workers earn a median salary of $22,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At universities, athletic departments are big businesses unto themselves, with athletic directors overseeing large multidisciplinary staffs and generating salaries of $80,000 and up.
Communications and Sports:
Training in sports management doesn't necessarily require working for purely sports-related businesses. Newspapers, television stations, radio stations and websites provide ways for communication professionals to express their love of sport. Reporters and writers, broadcasters, producers, designers and others manage the flow of information to provide news about the world of sport. Media outlets also offer positions for sports editors to make sure these reports are seen by the largest audience possible.
As with every profession, salaries vary by experience, geography and position. A good rule of thumb is to expect to start a sports-management career in the $35,000 to $42,000 range, according to the website Sports Management Colleges. Middle-level positions, such as athletic trainer, can bring in higher amounts, around $50,000, while senior positions, such as athletic director or marketing coordinator, will earn salaries of $100,000 or more.