Tables of Contents
- Careers in Sports Medicine
- Careers in Sports Psychology
- Careers in Sports Science
- Careers in Sports Media
- Careers in Sports Marketing
- Careers in Sports Law
Americans love sports, but only a select few will play professionally.
Take football, a sport that typically tops the list of all popular television programming in the U.S. Of those who play football in high school, according to Sportskeeda, about 0.00075% advance to the pros.
Fortunately for sports lovers who want to turn their passion into a career, many careers in sports are available, even for those who aren’t professional athletes. The sports industry is experiencing faster career growth than many others, and non-athletes can seek roles ranging from medicine to marketing for their sports careers.
Can Non-Athletes Pursue a Career in Sports?
Professionals who promote teams in the community, help keep players in top shape, and provide legal representation are among those with careers in sports — but they never see a minute of game time. As The Athletic reports, each NHL team alone employs hundreds of people, for example.
The prevalence of non-athletes in sports careers is likely to increase, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that jobs in entertainment and between 2020 and 2030, a much faster rate than the 8% average for all occupations the agency tracks. The BLS attributes its projection to the increasing popularity of sports.
What Are Some Careers in Sports Management?
Some non-athlete careers in sports can provide the opportunity to work at sporting events, while others take place off-site, in offices or healthcare or fitness facilities. These sports management roles draw on more than a love of athletics, with roles that incorporate business, science or communication. What are some careers in sports management, and what responsibilities do they include? These careers focus on areas such as the following:
- Sports medicine
- Sports psychology
- Sports science
- Sports media
- Sports marketing
- Sports law
Careers in Sports Medicine
Sports medicine focuses on preventing and treating sports-related injuries. Across various industries and work environments, careers in sports medicine call on professionals to perform functions such as:
- Assessing and diagnosing injuries or other conditions
- Developing and implementing treatment plans
- Performing surgeries and providing aftercare
The BLS projects 16% growth in all healthcare jobs between 2020 and 2030. Sports medicine careers include the following:
Athletic trainers help individuals or sports teams perform their best. They work in settings such as fitness centers, medical facilities, and colleges and universities. Their work includes responsibilities such as:
- Suggesting exercise and nutrition practices
- Teaching safe and effective exercise techniques
- Applying protective devices, such as tape, bandages, and braces
- Monitoring athletes’ health to help prevent injury
- Providing first aid or other emergency care
- Adjusting exercise to target injury recovery
- Keeping records and compiling reports about injuries and treatments
The job outlook for athletic trainers is strong, with the BLS projecting 23% growth and about 3,100 openings each year from 2020 to 2030. The BLS attributes this demand to recovery from the economic challenges related to COVID-19 as well as the popularity of sports programs.
The median annual salary for athletic trainers was $49,860 in May 2020, above the $41,950 median salary for all jobs. The top 10% of earners had a salary of $75,810 or more.
Exercise physiologists analyze individuals’ medical histories and fitness to tailor health and exercise plans. Some exercise physiologists collaborate with physicians to address health concerns. Their work typically focuses on cardiovascular health, body composition, flexibility, metabolism, and chronic disease recovery. Among the responsibilities of exercise physiologists are:
- Administering stress and fitness tests
- Evaluating vital signs before and during exercise
- Developing safe exercise programs
- Providing health education to improve medical conditions
Thanks to an increasing focus on exercise and preventive care, the BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for exercise physiologists (13%) and about 1,500 openings each year between 2020 and 2030. In May 2020, the median salary for this role was $50,280. Those earning a salary in the top 10% for exercise physiologists received $78,170 or more in annual pay.
Sometimes called personal trainers or kinesiotherapists, kinesiologists have expertise in how the human body moves. This career in sports medicine calls for designing, directing, and monitoring exercise plans for building strength and mobility for people — including those who are recovering from an injury. They can focus on specific injuries in their work or offer general assistance for increasing movement or recovering from health issues. Kinesiologists’ responsibilities include the following:
- Studying exercise’s effect on how the body functions
- Designing rehabilitation programs to increase the range of motion of those with injuries or disorders that affect movement
- Helping athletes improve their fitness and performance
- Recommending exercises, stretches, and therapy for managing pain, preventing injury, and increasing mobility
The BLS projects faster-than-average (13%) job growth for physiologists, including kinesiologists, from 2020 to 2030. PayScale reports that the median salary for this role was approximately $50,000 in February 2022, with the top 10% of earners receiving an annual salary of $80,000 or more.
Physical therapists (PTs) assess how people’s musculoskeletal systems — bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and soft tissue — are functioning. They assist with pain management as well as movement. PTs work in rehabilitation centers, schools, and medical facilities. The following are among their responsibilities:
- Diagnosing issues that can cause pain and problems with movement
- Creating plans for developing strength and range of motion through exercises, stretches, and therapy
- Monitoring an individual’s progress on treatment plans
- Educating individuals and their families about treatment and expected outcomes
The BLS projects job growth for physical therapist jobs will be much faster than average from 2020 to 2030, with 21% growth and about 15,600 openings per year anticipated. An aging population, many of whom are staying active later in life, is a key reason for this projection. PTs’ median annual wage was $91,010 in May 2020, according to the BLS, more than doubling the average for all occupations. The top 10% of annual salaries were $126,780 or more.
Sports Medicine Physician
Physicians who specialize in sports medicine focus on preventing athletes’ injuries, diagnosing medical issues, and directing nonsurgical treatment and rehabilitation. They work in medical settings and in schools. Their responsibilities include the following:
- Providing education about nutrition and sports conditioning
- Ordering tests and reviewing results to identify abnormal findings
- Recommending physical or occupational therapy as needed
- Evaluating when athletes can return to their sport after injury
The BLS projects 3% growth in all physician and surgeon jobs from 2020 to 2030, lower than average. Demand is likely to be strong despite this projection, however, with technology that allows fewer physicians to do more work tempering growth. PayScale reports that sports medicine physicians earned a median salary of about $184,000 in February 2022, with the top 10% of salaries at $244,000 or more.
Careers in Sports Psychology
The term “sports psychology” refers to the study of how psychological factors affect sports, exercise, and the way athletes perform. Careers in sports psychology focus on assessing how athletes can improve their mental well-being, enhance their enjoyment of athletics, and improve their lives.
While the BLS doesn’t track sports psychology roles specifically, it does provide job growth projections for psychologists overall. The agency projects 8% growth among all psychologist roles between 2020 and 2030, about average for all occupations, or about 13,400 openings each year. Increasing reliance on professional help with mental health and acknowledgment of the connection between psychology and performance are driving this demand.
PayScale reports that sports psychologists earned a median annual salary of approximately $74,000 as of January 2022, with the top 10% earning a salary of $101,000 or more.
Among the sports psychology career opportunities are the following:
Applied Sports Psychologist
Applied sports psychologists work with athletes, coaches, and others who are physically active to strengthen their mental health and improve their performance. They work with youth and club sport athletes as well as those in high school, college, semiprofessional and professional leagues, and in the Olympics and Paralympics. Among the responsibilities of an applied sports psychologist are:
- Providing individual and group consulting and counseling
- Providing guidance on goal setting, concentration, motivation, and relaxation
- Teaching the mental skills that lead to consistent performance
In team sports, psychologists help players develop resilience, focusing on mental health and social skills to encourage top performance. They work with teams to conduct the sports psychology tasks of leading goal-setting, concentration, motivation, and relaxation practices. Team psychologists focus the work of the group toward achieving a common goal for the team.
Clinical Sports Psychologist
Clinical psychologists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral, and emotional illnesses. In sports, clinical psychologists help athletes improve their mental health through treatment of these conditions — with an eye toward improving performance through better mental well-being.
For all clinical psychologists, the BLS projects 10% growth in jobs between 2020 and 2030. This growth represents the addition of 12,300 jobs.
Sports Research Specialist
Another sports psychology career, research specialist, provides research and analysis. For sports teams and activities, they gather labor and employee relations information to help in establishing new lines of revenue. Sports research specialists’ responsibilities can include the following:
- Collecting, sorting, and analyzing data
- Developing research projects and documentation for experiments
- Recommending organizational improvements based on research findings
- Sharing research findings through publications and presentations
The median annual salary for all research specialists was about $45,000 in February 2022, according to PayScale, with the top 10% of salaries at $72,000 or more.
Sports Rehabilitation Therapist
Sports rehabilitation therapy includes a broad range of services — including injury prevention, nutrition guidance, and sports psychology — that target an athlete’s return from injury and improvement in athletic performance. Responsibilities focus on assisting athletes as they recover from injury and evaluating their progress. They can work in medical facilities or rehabilitation clinics.
The BLS reports salary and job outlook information for rehabilitation counselors. Professionals in this role earned a median salary of $37,530 in May 2020, with top salaries reaching more than $66,180. The agency projects 10% growth in rehabilitation counselor jobs between 2020 and 2030, with about 11,200 openings each year, thanks in part to an aging population that’s more likely to incur injuries.
Careers in Sports Science
Sports science is the science that drives exercise and performance. In addition to sports management knowledge, careers in sports science call for expertise in anatomy, nutrition, physiology, and psychology. Sports science professionals work to help maximize athletes’ performance and endurance before sporting events. Activities include the following:
- Sport-specific tests of performance
- Evaluation of movement
- Guidance about injury prevention
- Activities to enhance strength and conditioning
Following are some sports science careers:
Nutritionists work with individuals and teams to evaluate individuals’ health and eating habits, tailoring meal plans and dietary instructions to enhance their health and performance. Among the typical responsibilities of nutritionists are:
- Assessing a patient’s health by measuring weight, blood pressure, and body mass index
- Establishing health and performance goals
- Developing customized diet plans
- Educating individuals about healthy eating
- Tracking individuals’ progress in following a healthy diet
- Adjusting diet plans as needed
According to the BLS, the median salary for dieticians and nutritionists was $63,090 in May 2020, with the top 10% of salaries reaching $90,000 or more. The agency projects 11% growth for these roles between 2020 and 2030, a pace that represents 5,900 positions each year, because of the growing interest in how diet affects performance and well-being.
Fitness trainers lead and instruct exercise activities for individuals and groups. Activities can include cardiovascular, strength training, and stretching workouts. Working mainly at fitness and recreational sports centers, fitness trainers’ responsibilities include the following:
- Demonstrating or describing how to perform exercises
- Evaluating individuals’ exercise form
- Helping people adjust workouts according to their fitness and needs
- Providing educational materials about healthy nutrition and lifestyles
The job outlook for fitness trainers far outpaces the average for all occupations, with the BLS projecting 39% growth and about 69,100 position openings each year between 2020 and 2030. The continuing emphasis on exercise to combat obesity and enhance well-being, along with an aging population that’s increasingly active, are driving this growth.
Another career in sports science is health educator, a role that involves assessing a community’s or other group’s health and promoting wellness through tailored strategies. Health educators typically work in healthcare facilities, for nonprofit organizations, or for public health departments, with responsibilities such as:
- Evaluating a group’s wellness
- Establishing programs and materials to promote healthy lifestyles
- Connecting individuals to health services and information
- Advocating for improved health resources
The BLS reports that the median salary for health education specialists was $56,500 in May 2020, with the top 10% of earners receiving an annual salary of $101,890 or more. The BLS projects 17% growth in health education specialist and community health worker positions and 16,100 job openings per year between 2020 and 2030.
Working for a recreation department, park, or private organization, recreation coordinators develop group activities, events, and fitness activities. They work with groups in summer camps and cater to interests such as sports, music, and games. Responsibilities include the following:
- Planning, organizing, and leading group activities
- Enforcing activity rules to prevent injury
- Organizing and setting up equipment for activities
- Modifying activities to meet the physical abilities of participants
The BLS projects job growth of 16% between 2020 and 2030 and about 64,600 job openings each year because of an increasing emphasis on lifelong wellness. Recreation workers earned a median salary of $28,440 in May 2020, with the highest 10% of salaries reaching $46,510 or more.
schedule practices; plan game strategies; and lead athletes and teams at the youth, amateur, or professional level. Among the responsibilities of sports coaches are:
- Planning and leading practices
- Selecting and recruiting team members
- Leading physical conditioning
- Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their athletes and opponents
- Teaching athletes the fundamental skills of a sport
- Directing and encouraging athletes in their performance
The BLS tracks salaries and job growth for coaches and scouts, projecting 26% growth between 2020 and 2030 and about 45,100 job openings per year. The median salary for coaches and scouts was $36,330 in May 2020; those earning in the top 10% of salaries received $81,940 or more each year.
Careers in Sports Media
The popularity of sports coverage in the media helps create various careers in sports media — including many for non-athletes. Whether sharing their knowledge with audiences or reporting on the outcome of athletic events, sports media professionals can pursue roles with positive career growth projections. Sports media careers rely on various communications channels, from radio and television to online news sources and social media. Sports media careers include the following:
Sports editors can work in television, on websites, in newspapers, and on radio or podcases. They assign and edit stories about sports and athletes, sometimes for a specific sport and other times for general sports coverage. Sports editors’ responsibilities include the following:
- Assigning stories for reporters to cover
- Planning coverage of athletic events
- Maintaining contacts to stay abreast of events in the sports industry
The BLS projects that editor roles will grow by 5%, with about 11,200 openings per year, between 2020 and 2030. This growth is about average for all occupations, with additional competition in media and shrinking advertising revenue holding anticipated growth at that level. Editors earned a median income of $63,400 in May 2020, with the top 10% of salaries averaging more than $126,800.
Video Content Coordinator
Video content coordinators work with sports teams to curate video footage of games and training, traveling with teams to record the action. These videos help promote the team and inform strategies for improving performance. Responsibilities of video content coordinators include the following:
- Recording and editing video footage
- Determining key moments to highlight in videos
- Organizing footage with video editing software
- Traveling with the team
- Analyzing opponents to plan what footage to capture
- Assisting with sharing video footage on social media
Job growth for film and video editors and camera operators will be much faster than average between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. The agency projects 29% growth over the decade, with about 8,600 openings each year. The increasing number of online streaming platforms and growing need for video content are factors in this growth.
Film and video editors had a median annual salary of $67,250 in May 2020, the BLS reports, with the highest 10% earning more than $152,720.
Another career in sports is graphic designer. These professionals create visual concepts, either with computer software or by hand, to communicate messages about an athlete or a team. In this role that combines art with technology, graphic designers are responsible for:
- Using digital illustration, photo editing, and layout tools to create designs
- Developing logos, designs, and illustrations
- Designing layouts for online and print pages
- Presenting concepts to art directors
- Incorporating revisions to designs
Graphic designers had a median annual salary of $53,380 in May 2020, according to the BLS, an amount that’s above the national average for all jobs. The top 10% of salaries were more than $93,440. The BLS projects slower-than-average job growth for graphic designers, anticipating 3% growth between 2020 and 2030, but notes that organizations’ growing reliance on digital communication may create additional need for design assistance.
Social Media Coordinator
With most athletes and teams using social media to communicate, social media coordinators play an important role in helping sports organizations develop relationships with their fans. Social media coordinators use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, to help sports organizations maintain audience engagement year-round. In sports, social media coordinators have responsibilities such as:
- Maintaining the sports organization’s social media presence
- Researching marketing trends and developing social media campaigns
- Posting and commenting on social media content
- Scheduling social media posts
The BLS includes social media specialists in its data for public relations specialists. The median annual salary for public relations specialists was $62,810 in May 2020, with the highest 10% of salaries reaching more than $118,210. Job growth will be 11% for public relations specialists between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects, with 29,200 openings each year. The explosion in the use of social media will create opportunities for professionals who can help their teams capitalize on this popular medium.
Sports broadcasters, or sportscasters, select, write, and share footage of sports news. They broadcast during radio or television news or athletic events and shows. Sports broadcasters can provide game coverage, play-by-plays, and interviews with athletes and coaches. Responsibilities include the following:
- Presenting sports news
- Reading prepared scripts on air
- Researching topics for discussion during broadcasts
- Announcing station programming schedules
- Providing commentary during sporting events
- Making promotional appearances during events
The BLS provides information for announcers, indicating that the median salary for these professionals was $41,950 in May 2020. The top 10% of earners had salaries of $114,050 or more. The projected growth for announcer positions is 15% between 2020 and 2030, with about 6,100 jobs each year. This faster-than-average growth will occur primarily in online broadcast platforms.
Careers in Sports Marketing
Work in sports marketing can include advertising and promoting a team or an athlete. Sports marketing careers often are based at advertising or public relations agencies or other marketing organizations. These roles can range from advertising and sales to event management. Following are some careers in sports marketing:
Marketing researchers collect information about sports trends to inform marketing efforts, evaluating who their customers are and what they want. Researchers’ work may include gathering data about ticket sales or customer reactions to marketing campaigns. Among the responsibilities of a marketing researcher are:
- Monitoring and forecasting marketing trends
- Exploring ways to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts
- Evaluating the success of marketing campaigns
- Gathering data about consumers, competitors, and the market
- Reporting on trends and marketing outcomes
The BLS tracks data for market research analysts, projecting 22% growth and about 96,000 positions per year from 2020 to 2030. Increasing reliance on market data and research is helping to fuel this growth. The median salary for this role was $65,810 in May 2020, with the top 10% of salaries reaching more than $127,410.
Public Relations Manager
Public relations managers, sometimes called account managers, are the head of a public relations team. They guide the development of marketing materials and represent athletes or teams to help ensure a positive public image. Responsibilities include the following:
- Identifying a team’s or an athlete’s target audience and how to reach them
- Coaching clients in how to communicate with the media and public
- Developing an organization’s image and identity
- Writing press releases and interacting with the media
- Developing advertising and marketing campaigns
The BLS reports that the median salary for public relations and fundraising managers was $118,430 in May 2020, well above the average for all occupations; the top 10% of salaries reached $208,000 or more. Job growth projections are also strong, with quick news cycles necessitating strong public image management. The BLS projects 13% growth between 2020 and 2030, with about 8,900 openings each year.
As the leaders of advertising teams, guide the creation and distribution of video, voice, and print ads. In sports, they oversee advertisements for teams, athletes, and sports venues. Their responsibilities include the following:
- Generating ideas for advertising campaigns
- Negotiating advertising budgets and contracts
- Planning ad placement for radio, television, print, online, and billboards
- Reviewing draft ad designs and layouts
- Assisting with pricing for products and services
- Initiating market research to evaluate advertising opportunities
The BLS reports that the median salary for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers was $133,460 in May 2020, with the highest 10% of salaries at $208,000 or more. The agency projects 10% growth, with about 31,100 additional roles each year, between 2020 and 2030. The demand for digital advertising will be particularly strong in the coming years.
In sports, brand managers are responsible for creating and maintaining an athlete’s, a team’s, or an organization’s image. They work to establish an image, or a brand, that attracts fans or customers. Their responsibilities include the following:
- Conducting research about the market for the team or organization
- Developing advertising and marketing strategies to promote the brand
- Monitoring consumer trends
- Creating and implementing promotional campaigns
- Assisting with marketing and advertising materials
The BLS categorizes brand managers as advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, projecting 10% growth in these roles between 2020 and 2030. PayScale reports that the median salary for brand managers was about $72,000 in February 2022, with the top salaries reaching $115,000 or more.
Promoters publicize events to encourage ticket sales. Sports promoters’ work can include advertising special activities or specific athletes who’ll be at sporting events to drive interest and sales. Responsibilities include developing promotional campaigns through direct mail, online ads, displays, and events. Promoters also work to attract interest by offering incentives such as discounts, gifts, and coupons.
Promoters are also categorized as advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, whose job growth is projected to be 10% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. The median salary for brand promoters was about $72,000 in February 2022, according to PayScale, with the top 10% of salaries topping $115,000.
Careers in Sports Law
Sports law professionals work with athletes and sports organizations on legal issues such as contracts, labor laws, trademark rules, tax issues, and discrimination cases. Laws can vary according to an athlete’s status or laws related to a specific sport.
Following are some careers in sports law:
represent and promote athletes in their interactions with current or prospective employers. Their work includes contract negotiations and other business-related functions on behalf of clients. Working to protect their clients’ best interests, sports agents’ responsibilities can include the following:
- Evaluating their clients’ value for contract negotiations
- Understanding their clients’ sport and organization
- Negotiating contracts for their clients
- Facilitating endorsement deals
In May 2020, the BLS reports, agents earned a median salary of $75,420. The top 10% of salaries were more than $190,500.
Sports lawyers represent athletes, teams, leagues, boards, and other sports-related organizations. They provide legal guidance and assistance, with responsibilities including the following:
- Providing legal advice
- Helping clients understand their legal rights
- Representing clients in civil or criminal cases
- Negotiating sponsorship deals
- Establishing business entities, including nonprofits
- Speaking with the media on behalf of clients
While the BLS doesn’t specify sports law as a category, for all lawyers it reported the median annual salary was $126,930 in May 2020. The top 10% of lawyers’ salaries were more than $208,000. With demand for legal representation remaining steady, the BLS reports, job growth projections are about on par with all occupations. The agency predicts 9% growth, with 46,000 job openings each year, for all lawyers.
Sports compliance officers work at colleges and universities, ensuring that the school and its athletes are in line with rules and regulations. College athletics must meet requirements that their school and regulatory bodies, such as the , have established. Compliance officers work with schools to identify and manage risk related to regulations and establish disciplinary action in case of violations. Responsibilities for this sports law career can include the following:
- Coordinating efforts among the school, athletes, and regulatory bodies to ensure compliance
- Ensuring student-athletes follow guidelines to maintain their amateur status
- Encouraging athletes to engage in proper behavior
With an array of regulatory requirements to follow, the demand for compliance officers is strong, and their salaries are above the national average. The BLS indicates that compliance officers earned a median salary of $71,100 in May 2020, with the top salaries reaching more than $115,000.
Team General Counsel
A general counsel, sometimes called corporate counsel, advises an organization’s executive team on legal matters. In working with sports teams, these in-house lawyers set the tone for adhering to the law, starting at the top of the organizational chart. Among their responsibilities are:
- Offering legal advice and guidance to team leaders
- Acting as the organization’s legal representative
- Responding to litigation
- Negotiating and coordinating contracts
- Ensuring organizational compliance with laws and regulations
As with compliance officers, the demand for team general counsels is high because of the importance of following ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements. PayScale reported that the median annual salary for the role was about $169,000 in February 2022, with the top 10% of salaries at $255,000 or more.
Sports commissioners oversee leagues at various levels of athletics. They serve as the head of business operations, with responsibilities such as:
- Ensuring team and athlete compliance with league rules
- Overseeing negotiations over coverage such as game broadcasts
- Mediating disputes between teams and players
- Managing team relocations and league expansions
Professional Organizations for Careers in Sports
Non-athletes who are interested in sports careers can find additional information about what it’s like to work in the industry, which trends to watch, and who’s hiring. The following organizations are among the available resources:
- American College of Sports Medicine — The website for ACSM, an organization representing 70 occupations in sports medicine, offers membership and certification information, materials about trends and scientific findings, organization events, and careers.
- American Society of Biomechanics — ASB’s mission is to advance the application of biomechanics. Its website offers resources such as a newsletter and blog, student membership information, and career planning materials.
- Associated Press Sports Editors — The APSE works to improve professional standards for news organizations’ sports departments. Its site provides resources for membership, events, awards, jobs, and internships.
- Association for Applied Sport Psychology — AASP seeks to ensure good mental performance and mental health among athletes. Information about certification, membership, careers, and mental wellness are available on its website.
- International Society of Sport Psychology — ISSP, which promotes research and practice related to sport psychology, offers publications, ethics information, and membership opportunities.
- North American Society for Sports Management — NASSM supports research, writing, and professional development related to sports management. Its resources include membership and conference information, journals, student services, and a blog.
- National Sports Media Association — NMSA, an organization that supports excellence in sports media, offers internships, membership opportunities for students and professionals, awards, and events.
- Sport Marketing Association — The SMA promotes relationships between professionals, scholars, and students to provide sports marketing education. Resources include membership and conference information, a journal, and awards.
- Sports Lawyers Association — SLA advances ethical practices in sports law, providing information about jobs and internships, membership, awards, and events. It also provides details about a student writing competition and access to sports law publications.
Pursue Your Passion for Sports in an In-Demand Field
Sports lovers have an array of career opportunities in a field that allows them to follow their passion — even if they’re not athletes. From roles that involve working with athletes at sporting events to those that focus on the study of topics affecting the sports market, a broad range of professional options in a fast-growing industry await.