Across the United States, there are over 1,200 colleges with athletic departments that belong to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Additionally, there are over 19,000 high school athletic departments that belong to the National Federation of State High School Associations. In Connecticut alone, more than 1,100 schools belong to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. What do these schools all have in common? They require the work of an athletic director.
What is an Athletic Director?
An athletic director oversees athletic programs at the university or college level. Some athletic directors oversee the athletic programs of high schools or middle schools, instead. While an athletic director does not work directly with students, they supervise the programming of a school’s athletic activities and the day-to-day running of a school’s athletic department.
What Does an Athletic Director Do?
Athletic directors manage the administrative and financial responsibilities associated with a school’s athletics department. This can entail hiring and firing coaches and teachers, supervising coaches, fund-raising, ordering athletic equipment, and setting departmental budgets. Athletic directors schedule team games as well as practice sessions. They’re also in charge of handling any public relations associated with the school’s athletic program. Additionally, athletic directors are accountable for making sure all teams and team members are compliant with legal and ethical standards set forth by governing bodies, such as the NCAA.
What Does it Take to Become an Athletic Director?
If becoming an athletic director is of interest, it’s important to know exactly how to become an athletic director. There are a number of educational requirements and certifications to keep in mind before planning your career path.
Athletic Director Degree Requirements
Athletic directors are required to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field related to sports management, exercise sciences, or physical education. A bachelor’s degree in Sports Management provides students with an understanding of sports finance, marketing, accounting, business communication, operations management, and workforce dynamics. These courses provide students with the skills they’ll need to manage an entire athletics department. While many jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, some students may decide to pursue a master’s degree in Educational Leadership or general management, in order to advance in their careers. Additionally, athletic directors may be required to acquire special certification. This depends on the state in which they want to work.
Athletic Director Certification Requirements
In the state of Connecticut, athletic directors are required to hold a certificate issued by either the State Board of Education or by a national athletics administrators association (such as the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association). All athletic directors must also have a coaching permit. In order to earn a certification from this type of association, prospective athletic directors will need to complete four additional leadership training courses and take a written exam.
Athletic Director Skills Requirements
No matter where your career path as an athletic director takes you, there are certain skills that are needed universally to do this job well.
- Effective Communication: One of an athletic director’s primary responsibilities is to communicate their athletic program’s vision. A skilled athletic director will need to effectively communicate with school administrators, faculty, and students in both verbal and written forms. Athletic directors may also need to interface with members of the press as the school’s representative.
- Leadership and Management: Athletic directors act as the head of an entire department. As such, they must have leadership and management skills. They’ll need to be excellent judges of character, capable of interviewing and hiring new coaches and trainers. They’ll also need to know how to manage a budget, as they’ll be in charge of all departmental spending.
- Problem Solving: As the director of all sports and athletic activities, athletic directors need to know how to problem solve. They are directly in charge of scheduling practice sessions and sporting events. Anyone who’s managed a busy calendar can tell you, this is a skill in and of itself. Additionally, athletic directors are in charge of fundraising for their departments. If there’s a shortfall in their budget, it’s up to the athletic director to figure out how best to raise needed funds, to keep the department running smoothly.
Job Outlook for Athletic Directors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of postsecondary education administrators, including athletic directors in colleges, is expected to grow about four percent between 2019 and 2029. Over 7,000 jobs in colleges and universities will open nationwide, as student enrollment continues to grow and people continue to use postsecondary education as an avenue for future success. However, the athletic director career is not limited to colleges and universities. Athletic directors will continue to be needed in public school systems and private schools, as well.
Athletic Director Salary Expectations
Athletic directors make an average of $86,490 per year, however, many athletic directors can expect a starting salary of around $52,000 per year at the very start of their career.
Becoming an Athletic Director
Athletic directors are integral to the functioning of school athletic departments. Without their important work, these departments would lack the organizational support they so need to run smoothly. If school athletics is your passion, this may be the career for you!
Interested in learning how University of Bridgeport can help you become an athletic director? Learn more about our Sports Management program!