Sports analytics jobs are challenging and rewarding. They require expertise in a number of advanced areas including computer science, statistics, marketing, and communication.1 They're also on the rise. By 2025, the global sports analytics market size is expected to reach $4.6 billion with an impressive CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 31.2%, up from $880 million in 2020.2 The jobs that can fuel this data-driven revolution will be in demand as the field grows.
For sports organizations looking for a much-needed competitive edge via powerful data insights, employees that can perform stellar analytics are as prized as championship rings. Those with the ability to unlock powerful insights via data and statistics, and apply those gifts to their organizations to give them a boost, will always have a top place on a company employment roster including billion-dollar organizations like the NBA, NFL, and MLB.
So what skills are needed to be a great sports analyst, what types of jobs are available to those who have the right skills and sports knowledge, and how can you gain these skills to open career doors in the field? Read on to learn how having advanced sports analytics skills creates unique employment opportunities for those who know which skill-building paths to follow.
A Recognized Hero in Today’s Sports Organizations
Sports analysts are no longer secret assets hiding out in the backrooms of top sports organizations. They’re also no longer fighting for recognition or a respected place on top teams, as was depicted in the 2011 hit Hollywood movie, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt, (based on the 2003 novel, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” by Michael Lewis).3,4 Sports analysts have earned a rightful place within sporting organizations, big and small, for their remarkable ability to help make informed decisions that weren’t possible just two decades ago.
In the modern world where data meets sports on a variety of platforms and levels, sports analytics experts have a wide variety of roles, including:
- Sports journalist
- Sports commentator
- Sports analyst
Well-known, big dollar professional sports teams are tapping into analytics to boost their:
- Live Productions
- Video and Digital Content5
According to Zippia.com, a website that provides automated career insights and mentorship, there are currently 1445 sports analyst job openings with an average salary just above $79,000— though top salaries can net you over $100,000 per year. Zippia.com also shares that roughly 85% of current job holders have a bachelor’s degree or higher.6
So who has sports analysts on their active rosters? For starters, major league teams including the MLB and NFL.
Long a haven for stats fanatics, modern major league baseball has evolved beyond the pencil and paper tracking of HRs, RBIs, and batting averages. Today’s MLB has teamed up with data behemoth, Google Analytics for its next generation of sports stats. As a new partnership, MLB and Google dissected data from 12,000 games between 2015-2020, using “machine learning, analytics, application management plus data and video storage,” to decode, among other things, pitching styles.7 Based on the positive results, in 2020, MLB and Google launched an updated version of Statcast, a “preeminent statistics service used by players, coaches, umpires, broadcasters and fans alike,” which now features optical tracking sensors from Hawk-Eye Innovations, a leading innovator in sports technology.5
Current job hiring opportunities on teams, and within the MLB office itself, include:
- Analyst, Baseball Research & Development
- Business Strategy & Analytics Analyst
- Vice President, Analytics8
Today’s NFL has fully embraced stats as a way to evolve football for spectators, athletes, and their coaches as it looks to keep its 100-year-old game aligned with the 21st-century advancements. All 32 teams have at least one dedicated analytics staffer and the 400-gram footballs are RFID microchipped to track their speed, spins, and height during games. Player shoulder pads and field pylons are also tagged, for good measure.9 Powered by AWS and Next Gen Stats, the NFL now attains more than 200 new data points, per play. An estimated 250 devices, run by three trained operators, are venues for any given game.10 The National Football League has made big strides into the world of data analytics since it first explored using optical technology at games in 2009.9,10
Current NFL main office and team hiring opportunities include:
- Next Gen Stats Analyst
- Fantasy Football Analyst
- Coordinator, Social Listening and Analytics11
University teams are also joining the data analytics mix, as are broadcast networks, podcasts, betting sites, and other sports enthusiast operations. The possibilities for where to work and in what type of role are endless for keen sports analysts, as long as you have the skills, advanced degree, and educational support hiring managers are looking for.
Gaining the Skills to Land Your First Analytics Job
To build a strong foundation for sports analyst jobs, interested prospects should do the following:
- Read extensively about data analytics
- Engage with professional sports teams
- Work with a university sports team
- Conduct self-started analytics projects
- Share self-generated analytics content in online forums for feedback/engagement
- Learn sports skills and tools with an advanced degree12
Even those with an innate ability for data analytics are finding their path to top data analytics jobs has been bolstered by gaining an advanced degree. Master’s degrees are a common achievement for top sports analysts.6
Once you’ve gained your advanced sport degree skills and have data analytics skills that can be applied to the real world, you’ll be prepared to explore your career resource options and join sports organizations that are using data analytics to take their games to the next level.
Power up Your Sports Management Skills
Study online as you earn your sport management master’s at KU. Maintain your career momentum as you look to build the sports and analytics skills needed to lead sports organizations in the future. With the KU online master’s degree in sport management*, you’ll be ready when the right opportunities arise. Explore the curriculum, including our internship opportunity, and schedule a call with an admissions advisor today.
*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from blog.rstudio.com/2021/07/20/advice-to-aspiring-sports-analytics-professionals/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from forbes.com/sites/toddkarpovich/2020/04/08/sports-analytics-continue-to-evolve-with-ai-enabled-insights-and-data-storytelling/?sh=29182f693157
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from imdb.com/title/tt1210166/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from hawkeyeinnovations.com/about
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from zippia.com/sports-analyst-jobs/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from showcase.withgoogle.com/mlb/#/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from google.com/search?q=mlb+sports+analytics+jobs
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from cbssports.com/nfl/news/the-future-of-nfl-computerized-player-tracking-and-data-collection-its-rapid-evolution-and-what-comes-next/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from operations.nfl.com/gameday/technology/nfl-next-gen-stats/
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from google.com/search?q=nfl+sports+analytics+jobs
- Retrieved on August 18, 2021, from towardsdatascience.com/how-you-can-land-a-sports-analytics-job-4ef13ba97995