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How to Become a High School Athletic Director

Learn how to become a high school athletic director. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements to find out how to start a career in high school sports. View article »

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  • 0:02 High School Athletic Directors
  • 0:31 Career Requirements
  • 1:10 Steps to be an…

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High School Athletic Directors

High school athletic directors are administrators that oversee a school's sports programs. They serve as supervisors for coaches, manage budgets, and publicize the school's athletic events, both intramural and interscholastic. Future high school athletic directors should enjoy sports and working with young people. They also may need to work both during and after regular school hours. Many high school athletic directors get two months off each summer when school is not in session.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is required; some athletic directors have a master's degree
Degree Field Sport management or physical education
Licensure and/or Certification Teacher licensure may be required; optional certifications are available
Experience Fieldwork (can be acquired through internships)
Key Skills Math, business, background in sports or athletics
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $90,410 yearly (for all education administrators - elementary and secondary schools)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association for Sport and Physical Education, O*Net OnLine, National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association

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Steps to be an Athletic Director

Step 1: Get to Know the Field

Preparation for a career as a high school athletic director can begin while one is a high school student. If possible, individuals should get involved in sports by joining a team at their school or becoming involved in some other way, such as in a team support role. Additionally, an individual thinking about majoring in sport management should complete math classes, such as pre-calculus and calculus, so he or she is ready for the business courses, including accounting, required for this major.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students can look for options in a related field, such as physical education, athletic training or exercise science. There are also bachelor's degrees related directly to sports administration. In some programs, this degree automatically gives the student a business minor. Degrees in sport management are typically obtained by those who want to work in college or professional sports settings, but they are also preparation for similar work at the high school level. Coaching, fitness, and first aid are part of the coursework of these programs. These programs also teach various aspects of the sports business, including marketing, finance, and legal issues.

Many athletic directors begin as teachers, coaches, or athletic trainers. Teachers and athletic trainers require successful completion of relevant degree programs and certification. Coaches often need certification as well, such as the Accredited Interscholastic Coach credential, which is offered by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Success Tip:

One tip for success in this field is to volunteer or work in a capacity that involves interacting with young people, such as coaching. Some volunteering possibilities for individuals who plan on being athletic directors include coaching or umpiring a youth athletic team. Organizations such as the YMCA may have a need for sports-related volunteers.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

According to O*Net Online, many educational administrators have advanced degrees. There are many master's degree programs in athletic administration. Coursework generally includes sports marketing, risk management, sport finance, legal issues, administration, and research methods. Most programs require an internship, and prospective high school athletic directors should specify that they want to intern in youth sports.

Step 4: Get Certification

The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association offers certification programs as a Registered Athletic Administrator, Certified Athletic Administrator, or Certified Master Athletic Administrator. Registration involves having a bachelor's degree, getting sponsorship, and agreeing to a code of ethics. Certification requires candidates to meet the registration requirements and successfully complete five courses after serving for two years as an athletic administrator. Certified Master Athletic Administrator recognition requires the previously-mentioned certification requirements plus six additional courses and a practical written exercise. These certifications are nationally recognized, increase one's reputation, and may open new doors of employment.


Individuals interested in working as high school athletic directors, should have a bachelor's degree in a related field such as sport adminstration, exercise science, physical education, and might consider pursuing a relevant master's degree. Many athletic directors have experience as coaches or teachers, and industry certifications could be helpful.

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