Requirements to Become a College Athletic Director

College athletic directors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Athletic directors at colleges oversee sporting events, teams, and the employment of coaches and other athletic staff. They also handle financial budgets and media relations. College athletic directors need at least a master's degree in sports administration or a related field, with coaching or management experience.

Essential Information

A graduate degree in sports administration or a related field, coupled with experience as a coach or lower-level sports administrator, is often required to land a position as a college athletic director. Because athletic directors are in charge of their department, candidates for this position should also be well versed in business and finance in addition to a have a working knowledge of multiple sports.

Required Education Master's degree in sports administration is common
Other Requirements Coaching experience and business knowledge
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for all postsecondary education administrators
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $107,578

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Job Requirements for College Athletic Directors

An athletic director, or AD, is the face of his or her school's athletic department. ADs must be involved in the hiring and overseeing of coaches and the management of the department's financial and physical resources. The athletic director also is required to work with other college and university officials to ensure that an institution's academic standards are maintained. Additionally, an athletic director must be a clear and effective communicator to manage employees within his or her department and to articulate the goals of the athletic department to potential donors.

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College Athletic Director Education Requirements

For a prospective college athletic director, a bachelor's degree in physical education, marketing or business can set a basic foundation. However, most employers seek job applicants with at least a master's degree in sports administration or a similar field. In addition to their coursework, sports administration students can gain experience as interns in the front offices of collegiate or professional sports leagues or teams.

A Master of Science in Sports Administration combines many of an athletic director's duties into one program. Students who complete their degree requirements will have taken classes in:

  • Sports marketing
  • Sports media relations
  • Sports ethics
  • Organizational behavior
  • Accounting
  • Facilities management

Some schools offer their graduate-level sports administration programs in conjunction with Master of Business Administration programs. Others combine a master's in sports administration with a graduate law degree.

Experience Requirements for College Athletic Directors

Because a college athletic director supervises coaches, many schools look for applicants with collegiate coaching or playing experience and a working knowledge of multiple sports. In some instances, the athletic director will simultaneously coach one of the school's teams. Increasingly, however, fewer athletic directors in larger departments have coaching experience. Instead, they have worked in sports administration for either a college or professional team, usually in a management position.

Because balancing and managing multimillion-dollar budgets is a large part of the job, experience with finance and economics is necessary to run a large athletic department. Also, as the department's representative to the community-at-large, a college athletic director should have some experience with media relations or public speaking. As of August 2016, reports that athletics directors earned a median annual income of $107,578, with the bottom 10% of directors bringing in between $61,727, and the top 90% making $179,856.

To become a college athletic director, a graduate level education and experience in sports or management are often necessary. These administrators manage and maintain all sports personnel and athletic functions, from finance to marketing. The median income of all postsecondary education administrators, including college athletic directors, is around $100,000.

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