How to Become an Athletic Director

If you love sports and working with athletes, then there is no better job for you than working as an athletic director. For people who are passionate about sports, the role of an athletic director can be deeply rewarding. What could be better than being a part of the development of young athletes and watching them succeed under your leadership and guidance? The relationships you build with your colleagues and the athletes you teach can be incredibly meaningful and make all the hard work of earning a Master of Science in Sport Administration degree online feel worthwhile. Learn about what it takes to become an athletic director, what skills you’ll need to develop, and what you can expect once you start your career.


Athletic Director ConferenceThe faculty at the University of Cincinnati Online takes great pride in the network of alumni that have gone on to become athletic directors. The success in the field has led to Dr. Kelley, Associate Professor, deeming the program the #CradleOfAthleticDirectors. Our online curriculum is built around providing you with the tools to succeed working in an education setting. Dr. Kelley continues to network and stay engaged at the interscholastic level. He was recently awarded the SWOADA/NFHS Citation Award for his impact on high school activities. There are plenty of pathways to get started as an athletic director and the faculty and staff at UC Online are here to guide you and help you achieve your goals.

What Educational Background is Required to Become an Athletic Director?

An athletic director is typically responsible for all aspects of the athletics department. This may include overseeing the budget, hiring coaches and staff, and ensuring the athletes are following the rules and regulations set forth by the school or governing body. If your goal is to work as the director of an athletic program, you will need the proper educational background to obtain the knowledge needed to succeed in sport administration.  A master’s degree from a sport administration program will provide you with the foundation to succeed throughout your career.

First, let’s talk about your undergraduate degree. There is no “right” undergraduate degree to pursue if you want to become an athletic director, but there are a few majors that can best prepare you for the role:

  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Sports Management

In addition to your undergraduate degree, you should also gain experience in the sports industry. This can be done through internships, volunteer work, or jobs in related fields. By gaining practical experience, you will learn about the day-to-day operations of a sports organization. Try to focus on earning a high GPA and gaining credit hours in relevant subjects that will help build the foundation for your education as a graduate student. This way, you’ll be able to meet the admission requirements of your chosen graduate program.

If you want to have a long career in a management position, a master’s degree provides you with advanced skills that you didn’t learn in your undergraduate program, and it will teach you how to navigate the complex world of professional athletics. Most athletic directors have a master’s degree, so investing in a graduate-level education and expanding your network may be what you need to advance your career.

NIAAABecoming a Registered Athletic Administrator or a Certified Athletic Administrator are both great options for helping to advance your career in athletics. As a student of UC Online, you can take advantage of our partnership with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) to complete your accreditation. Many of our students graduate from the online program having already obtained RAA or CAA certification while in the program. This course sequence can help give you a leg-up over the competition and provide some additional education related to the profession.

athletic director job

What Skills Will You Learn with a Master’s in Sport Administration?

A group of college field hockey players huddles in a circle before a game.A master’s degree in sports administration will teach you the basics of athletic administration, including budgeting, personnel management, and marketing. You’ll also learn about the rules and regulations governing high school and collegiate athletics. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions about the future of your athletic department. Some of the courses you can expect to take include:

  • Sports Management
  • Sports Law
  • Finance
  • Facility Management
  • Event Management
  • Public Relations

These courses will give you a well-rounded education in all aspects of sport administration. After completing your degree, you’ll be well-prepared to pursue your career as an athletic director. There’s a lot that you’ll be expected to learn, but some of the major skills athletic administrators need are financial management, marketing, advertising, event planning, media relations, recruiting, and player development. The curriculum at the University of Cincinnati Online will allow you to develop and hone your skills to grow as a professional in the sports industry.

There are a lot of soft skills you will need to learn, too. Being able to provide leadership and motivation isn’t easy, and you need to know the right motivational techniques for getting the best out of your coaches and student-athletes. The ability to communicate effectively, manage people, and make decisions are also all crucial skills for this role. Athletic administrators need to be able to work with coaches, athletes, and parents to ensure the program is running smoothly.

What Can You Expect Working as a Sport Administrator?

Not only do these athletic directors enjoy excellent salaries and job security, but they also get to work in a rewarding field that they’re passionate about. Sport administrators are responsible for a wide variety of tasks and the role of an athletic director can be quite diverse on a day-to-day basis. One day, you might be balancing a budget, and the next, you may be ensuring your athletes are compliant with NFHS or NCAA rules. You could dabble in marketing, recruiting, and even game-day logistics. Generally, you should be prepared for anything. That’s part of what makes this job so exciting and engaging.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), administrators at the collegiate level earn a median salary of $96,910 annually, which is well above the national average. The growth rate within the industry is also expected to keep pace with the national average over the next decade, so you can be sure that there will be open positions for you to apply for in many parts of the country. Unlike many other professions, the need for athletic directors is unlikely to go away any time soon. As long as people are passionate about sports, there will be a need for athletic directors.

As an athletic director, you can make a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes. You can help them achieve their goals on and off the field, and you can provide them with valuable learning experiences. In addition, being an athletic director can be a long and fulfilling career. You can take pride in your work, and you can feel good about the positive impact you are having on the lives of others. If you weren’t sure where to start your journey, now you know that a Master of Science in Sport Administration can give you the skills and the connections to be an athletic director.

Check out some of our alumni working in the field.

Alumni School Position
Brandon Spaeth Roger Bacon High School Director of Athletic Alumni Engagement
Kyle Sasala St. Vincent-St. Mary High School Director of Athletics
David Olson Roger Bacon High School Assistant AD
Brendan Hall Bishop Fenwick High School Assistant AD
Alex Mallue Wooster High School Director of Athletics
Reid Hollinger West Clermont High School Assistant AD
Shayne Lyons Loveland High School Assistant AD
Nick Carrillon Mt. Notre Dame Latin High School Assistant AD
Jabreel Moton Woodward Career & Technical High School Director of Athletics
Shaunice Steele Walnut Hills High School Director of Athletics
Erin Hoffert St. Joseph’s Academy Assistant AD
Kyle Longworth Springboro High School Assistant AD
Michael Price Oxford Area High School (Pennsylvania) Director of Athletics
Chris Irwin Sylvania Northview High School (Toledo) Director of Athletics
Preston Newell Trotwood Madison High School Assistant AD
Mark Hermann Walnut Hills High School Assistant AD
Clay George Ansonia High School Director of Athletics
Ian Snowdeal Great Salt Bay Community School Director of Athletics
Beau Harmon Benjamin Local Schools Director of Athletics
Nathan Gullette LaSalle High School Assistant AD
Joey Wenning Archbishop Moeller High School Assistant AD
Kevin Kepner Mount Notre Dame High School Assistant AD
Kristie Tokushige Kalaheo High School Assistant AD
Michael Rasey Valley View Schools Director of Athletics
Charles Grace III Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township Director of Athletics
Chloe Mayfield-Brown Western Hills University High School Assistant AD
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