Sports Careers: Athletic Directors

What They Do

An athletic director usually works for colleges and universities, secondary schools or recreation departments. They organize and manage sports programs, which involve coordinating athletic events and finances. Athletic directors work with coaches, general managers, executives, team owners, and conference and division administrators.

In addition to coordinating teams, coaches and sports-related staff, an athletic director must be mindful of the places where sports events take place. The maintenance of fields, stadiums, courts and more are part of an athletic director’s responsibilities. Other duties may include supervising, hiring and managing maintenance and janitorial staff.

The typical background of an athletic director is teaching, athletics or coaching. Athletic directors may, in some cases, have the responsibility of hiring and firing the head coaches of teams, as well as general managers. In a school setting, an athletic director may work closely with athletes to make sure their needs are met. This may include coordinating housing, scheduling and academic-related services.

Career Growth

The position of athletic director is considered to be an administrative role. Many athletic directors acquire experience as general managers, coaches or lower-level managers at education institution or sports organizations.

Some smaller colleges and universities have an entire athletic department, which coordinates all of the sports teams, venues, stadiums and events. At a large college or university, athletic directors receive higher salaries and more benefits, but they have greater responsibilities.

Salary Potential

There is no specific data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on athletic directors. However, the BLS considers an athletic director as part of the postsecondary education administrators’ occupational grouping. The average annual salary of a postsecondary education administrator is $86,490.

Most athletic directors work full time, year round. Others have their hours reduced during the summer or off-season. In addition to a salary, an athletic director may receive benefits like free or reduced costs for taking courses at the education institution where they work. Other incentives may depend on business deals, team success and booster donations.

Many colleges and universities, as well as recreation departments, cut their budgets depending on the effects of state and local funding. Though athletic directors are important positions, this sometimes means that administrators are laid off or have their benefits cut.

Education Required

Generally, an athletic director must have at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s degree in sport management. Sport management programs cover not only the basics of management but also the skills and knowledge relating to finances, conflict resolution and marketing.