Skip to main content
10 Oct

Why Become an Athletic Director?


An athletic director may not always be the most visible member of an athletic program, but that doesn’t mean that their roles aren’t vital to the teams and programs they oversee. For those whose goal is to work in a college or university setting, a career as an athletic director may be a good fit. Athletic directors are in administrative roles and don’t work directly with student-athletes but oversee the entire athletic department to ensure everything is running efficiently.

As with any job, there are benefits and stressors when it comes to being an athletic director, but for those who love sports and want to have an impact on the education of athletes, this role could be the fulfilling occupational challenge they’re looking for.

They Value Education

Colleges and universities are in the business of higher education, so it makes sense that many of these institutions put a greater value on higher education when hiring for athletic directors. In 2015, every single National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletic director holds a bachelor’s degree and 80% had earned a master’s degree.1 Between 2009 and 2015, 90 percent of the athletic directors hired held an advanced degree, with the most common being in sports administration and education.1

This barrier to entry may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually a positive thing. Not only will a master’s in sport management give you an edge over the competition, but the implied master’s requirement makes the talent pool much smaller, which makes it that much easier to set yourself apart. Taking the time to invest in your education and earn a master’s in sport management means you’ll be fully prepared to handle the many tasks and responsibilities found at the intersection of collegiate athletics and education.

Job Satisfaction

Most individuals in this position have a deep love of sports and are excellent at handling several things at once. It would be hard to get bored in this position given that athletic directors are responsible for daily operations and tasks including but not limited to budgeting, making travel arrangements, daily operations, scheduling games, overseeing the ordering of equipment, promoting and fundraising for athletic departments, interviewing and hiring and firing coaches and ensuring that university’s teams meet the national or conference ethical and legal standards.2

The ability to hire and fire coaching staff means that athletic directors can help a major university maintain or build a legacy of excellence, which is a rewarding experience if your dream is to help shape a program with a history as illustrious as Alabama football or KU basketball.

Growth and Pay

In terms of pay, athletic directors tend to make more than other occupations in sport management. According to payscale, the current median salary for a college or university athletic director is $76,404.3 However, USAToday and Athletic Director U completed a study on all current forms of compensation for athletic directors at NCAA member institutions of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). 17 of these athletic directors earn at least $1 million annually, which almost doubles the nine millionaires from just five years ago.4

As for growth in this position, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the postsecondary education administration field is expected to see faster than average growth between 2018-2028.5 Given the high level of job security and satisfaction, earning a job at a top tier collegiate athletic program can be difficult, but there are still ways to join the program of your dream. There are 350 NCAA Division 1 athletic departments, and the majority have associate or assistant athletic director jobs that allow sport management graduates to learn the ropes and move up the ranks in due time.

You could also start at a smaller program as head athletic director and make a name for yourself by running a clean and compliant program, boosting graduation rates and showing on-field results by making the right hires. Shaping a successful athletic department doesn’t always mean winning the conference. Creating a healthy and robust organization, or running/creating men’s and women’s programs are just as important. If you can manage to do these things, you may find yourself at the helm of larger programs in the years that follow.

If you have dreams of overseeing the athletic department of a major university, a master’s is almost certainly going to be required to earn the position. Consider how earning an online master’s in sport management* degree from the University of Kansas can set you on the path for success. Find out how earning a master’s title from a university with a legacy of athletic success can help accelerate your career in the sports management field. Request a brochure 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.

1 Retrieved on September 13, 2019, from
2 Retrieved on September 13, 2019, from
3 Retrieved on September 12, 2019, from
4 Retrieved on September 12, 2019, from
5 Retrieved on September 13, 2019, from

Important Dates

Application Deadline

August 6
Fall 2021 Term

Next Start

August 23
Fall 2021 Term


Coming Soon