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How to Break Into Coaching and Sports Administration Careers

The Tulane football team during a game

As one of the fastest-growing job markets in the United States, the sports industry offers a wide range of rewarding career opportunities. Depending on your skills and interests, you can pursue roles as a coach, sports marketing professional, athletic director, and more. Here's a closer look at what it takes to work in sports and succeed in some of the industry's most in-demand career paths.

Degree Programs for Careers in Sports

Like any other industry, you'll need passion, practical skills, and a relevant degree to break into the world of sports. A bachelor's degree in exercise science explores the biomechanical and psychological aspects of exercise and its effects on health and society. This makes it an ideal foundational step toward sports careers in coaching or athletic training.

If you've already completed undergrad, a master's degree in a sports-related field can enhance your resume, helping you stand out when applying for competitive jobs in sports administration, coaching, and event or stadium security. Let's take a deeper dive into the responsibilities and expected salaries of a few popular positions in the sports industry.


Median salary: Varies but can range from $45,000 (average for high school coaches) to $6,000,000 (average for NFL head coaches)

At every level of sports, coaches play an essential role in improving the performances of athletes. The scope of a coach's job often depends on the level of their team. High school coaches typically focus on their team's fitness, unity, and execution on the field. For coaches of collegiate and professional teams, several aspects of their work go beyond game day, including recruiting players, attending press conferences, and finalizing a budget with administrative staff.

At every level, head coaches are expected to have a bachelor's degree or coaching license. If you're currently working as a coach, earning a master's degree or professional certificate in coaching will be a valuable asset if you want to move up to a larger program.

Sports Marketing Manager

Median salary: $135,000 (BLS)

The sports industry relies on dedicated, energetic fans to stay visible. Of course, a team's success on the field will impact its earnings, but sports marketing managers work to keep fans engaged even during losing seasons. These advertising professionals are tasked with promoting sports organizations through social media, television, radio, and other platforms. Sports marketers also coordinate with the stadium staff to design unique game day experiences for fans and recruit local businesses to act as team sponsors. Because sports marketing management isn't an entry-level position, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in public relations or marketing or a graduate certificate in sports administration, along with relevant experience in the industry.

Athletic Trainer

Median salary: $55,000 (NATA)

In many sports, athletic trainers are responsible for athlete injury prevention and recovery. They frequently collaborate with team doctors to provide emergency and follow-up medical treatment. Keeping players safe requires round-the-clock attention, so trainers usually travel with their teams to games and attend each practice.

Athletic trainers are expected to have a bachelor's degree in exercise science or kinesiology and be certified by the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA). To pursue more lucrative positions at universities or professional sports teams, you should consider bolstering your resume with a master's degree.

Athletic Director

Median salary: $95,000 (BLS)

Athletic directors serve as the face of the sports programs at universities, high schools, and even some middle schools. The responsibilities of an athletic director (AD) may vary based on the size of the school or university they work for. However, this role typically involves raising funds for sports programs, creating schedules by working with the ADs at other schools, making hiring decisions for the coaching staff, and serving as their program's spokesperson.

As an administrator with a range of responsibilities, athletic directors must be confident communicators who possess excellent organizational skills. The vast majority of athletic directors at NCAA schools hold a master's degree, so you should consider earning a master's if you plan on applying to an AD position at a university.

The sports industry has a variety of opportunities for ambitious professionals. Set yourself apart with an undergraduate or graduate degree from the Tulane School of Professional Advancement. Because many of the courses in our sports studies program are offered online, you can earn a degree or graduate certificate on your own time to prepare for a career that you're passionate about. If you're interested in becoming a student at Tulane SoPA, request more information today.

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