How to Become an

Athletic Director

The complete career guide to be an Athletic Director: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $92,940
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Deal Making
    Career Attribute

Athletic directors oversee the administration of athletic programs. They may work in elementary, middle, or high schools, colleges, and for professional sports teams. They hire coaches, manage the department budget, ensure all regulations are followed, and schedule games, among other tasks.

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What is an Athletic Director?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in athletic director roles:

  • Recruit, hire, and orient coaches and other staff members
  • Manage the athletic department’s budget and allocate funds to staff, players, facility upkeep, and equipment purchases
  • Ensure players, coaches, and programs adhere to all local, national, and program regulations
  • Evaluate player paperwork to ensure needed medical information is collected and players meet academic requirements to be eligible for play for teams
  • Resolve disputes between players and coaches

A Day in the Life

The role of an athletic director is often one of major responsibility and little recognition. Athletic directors are responsible for overseeing all administrative tasks of an athletic department. This includes a variety of responsibilities: they hire coaches, ensure players are eligible to compete in sports programs, create game schedules in collaboration with other athletic directors, ensure facilities are available, manage owned facilities, and ensure equipment is order and taken care of.

Though athletic directors bear much of the responsibility of an athletic program, they often get little recognition for their efforts. Many times, they’ll have little contact at all with players, and most of the media praise for the success of a team goes to players and coaches. However, the athletic director may be harshly scrutinized by the media, parents, and community members when teams are underperforming. Conversely, they may be praised when making sound hiring decisions for coaches.

Athletic directors are hired to oversee athletic programs for a variety of facilities and programs. They may work for elementary, middle, or high schools, or they may work for colleges or professional sports programs. Responsibilities vary depending on which institution an athletic director work for. For example, in elementary, middle, and high schools, athletic directors must ensure that students have permissions slips for participating. In colleges, athletic directors oversee recruitment to ensure program standards are being followed.

Typical Work Schedule

Most athletic directors work full-time hours 12 months out of the year. They may have to work overtime during busy seasons and may need to be available on nights and weekends when games are scheduled.

Athletic Director Specializations

  • Elementary, middle, and high school athletic directors oversee school athletic programs, ensure students have permissions slips and required medical documentation, schedule games, find facilities, and manage uniform and equipment orders.
  • College athletic directors oversee college athletic programs, recruit and hire coaches for teams, ensure athlete recruitment processes adhere to established guidelines, and validate that athletes meet academic standards for participation in athletic programs.
  • Professional sports athletic directors hire coaches and players. They manage the team budget, determine player and coach salaries, and allocate funds to facility maintenance and upkeep. They also respond to media requests and present reports on program health.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Teacher, Assistant Coach
  • Mid-Career: Assistant Athletic Director, Head Coach
  • Late Career: Athletic Director

Typical Employers

Athletic directors are employed by both public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Additionally, they may work for colleges and universities, for sports programs that are unaffiliated with an educational institution, or for professional sports organizations.

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How To Become an Athletic Director

The path to becoming an athletic director is not straightforward. In fact, there are a number of ways that aspiring athletic directors can go about obtaining the experience and credentials needed to work as effective athletic directors.

The traditional path to becoming an athletic director is working as a teacher or coach. Many athletic directors begin their careers by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education or physical education. With a bachelor’s degree and teaching license, you can qualify to teach physical education at an elementary, middle, or high school, or you can become a coach. However, some students who were successful athletes may be able to qualify for coaching positions with degrees in fields other than education.

Whether you started as a teacher or coach, you’ll likely also need a master’s degree in sports administration to qualify for administrative positions in athletic departments. Many aspiring athletic directors move from teaching or coaching positions into lower-level administration positions first—such as assistant athletic director roles—to gain experience in administration before applying for athletic director positions later in their careers.

Conversely, an undergraduate degree in business, an MBA, and experience in a senior-level business management position may also serve as qualification for athletic director positions. While knowing the sport and working as a coach is useful, managing an athletic department is in many ways less about the sports and more about managing a business, so some athletic directors choose to focus on earning experience managing a business before pursuing a career as an athletic director.

Athletic Director Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Athletic Director salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Athletic Director's can make an average annual salary of $92,940, or --- per hour. On the lower end, they can make $72,380 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #88 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Athletic Director. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Athletic Directors

  • 13.2%   Doctorate
  • 44.8%   Masters
  • 23.5%   Bachelors
  • 5%   Associates
  • 8%   College
  • 4.6%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Athletic Director job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 14,000 jobs for a total of 254,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #390 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Athletic Directors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 187,400 11,000 11%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 37,500 2,300 2%
Self-employed workers 5,100 200 0%

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