How to Become an Athletic Director: Requirements, Degrees & Salary

Dec 18, 2020

High school athletic director requirements usually include both education and experience. Explore how to become an athletic director, and learn what these professionals do and how much money they make each year.

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Athletic Director Job Description

Athletic directors are responsible for organizing sporting events, overseeing the athletic teams and coaches, and ensuring that student-athletes maintain balance between their educational and athletic duties. This may require athletic directors to perform such job duties as:

  • Creating athletic schedules
  • Reserving fields
  • Managing budgets
  • Ordering necessary equipment
  • Hiring coaches and staff
  • Marketing the athletic department
  • Ensuring all regulations are met by athletic teams
  • Making athletic policy changes as needed

Athletic directors often work at educational institutions, such as high schools or universities. They play an administrative role, working closely with coaches and athletes to organize sporting events and practices, and to provide necessary resources for the sports teams. They may have previously coached sports or been involved in athletics in other ways.

Are you wondering how to become an athletic director? Once you complete the athletic director requirements, you can work closely with sports teams like this one.

How to Become an Athletic Director

Do you want to know how to become an athletic director? Athletic directors are commonly needed at the secondary and postsecondary levels. The process to enter this career includes both formal education and some work experience. Explore how to become an athletic director in more detail here.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Athletic directors need to have at least a bachelor's degree. While some students may pursue a degree in athletic coaching or sports medicine, most aspiring athletic directors will complete a sports administration or sports management degree program to obtain their athletic director degree.

Bachelor's degree programs in sports management are commonly available in online formats. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in the field. Some of these programs may include an internship and/or other hands-on experiences for career training. Other coursework for bachelor's degree programs in sports management may include topics in:

  • Business finance
  • Sports event planning
  • Managing sports facilities
  • Sports management
  • Sport marketing

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Many athletic directors may need to work up to overseeing a school's entire athletic department. An athletic director may first work as a sports coach and/or a teacher for the school. It is helpful if aspiring athletic directors can gain experience in areas like hiring, budgeting, and leadership.

Step 3: Pursue Additional Education for an Athletic Director

At the high school level, athletic directors are considered education administrators, and these professionals typically need a master's degree in order to meet their athletic director qualifications. An aspiring athletic director may consider pursuing a master's degree in sports management or sport administration. These master's degree programs are available as Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) degrees and are also commonly available online.

Another option for those who already have a master's degree, such as a master's in education, is to earn a graduate certificate in athletic administration. These certificate programs are available online and may require as little as 12 to 15 credits.

Step 4: Meet Other Athletic Director Requirements

This final step is not typically required, but it can be useful in how to become an athletic director. Although it is not usually required, athletic directors may wish to consider earning professional certification in the field. The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) is one organization that offers certification for athletic administrators based on their level of education. For example, those with a bachelor's degree can pursue certification as a registered athletic administrator or certified athletic administrator.

Other skill requirements for athletic directors may include communication and critical-thinking skills. These directors must be able to communicate well with various staff members and coaches in the athletic department, as well as make decisions that are in the best favor for student-athletes and the school. Athletic directors may also need skill sets in areas like:

  • Management
  • Organization
  • Budgeting
  • Leadership
  • Multi-tasking

Athletic Director Salary

According to, athletic directors made a median annual salary of $59,904 in December of 2019. Although the website did not report the specific salary for those directors at the high school level, it did note that salary may vary with location and years of work experience. For example, athletic directors with 10 to 19 years of work experience made an average salary of $71,822, while those with 20 years or more of experience made an average salary of $80,494. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for postsecondary education administrators, including athletic directors, are growing at a rate of 4%, which is as fast as average for jobs in the United States.

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