Athletic Director Degree Programs with Career Information

Athletic director degree programs, often referred to as sports management, sports administration or athletic administration programs, are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels. Read about these degree programs and potential career opportunities.

Essential Information

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sports and athletic management offer training in exercise science, nutrition, commercial athletics and sport industry legalities. Online studies could be offered at the graduate level. Some bachelor's programs may offer students real-world work experience as part of the curriculum.

Depending on the degree program level and the individual's experience, graduates of an athletic director degree program may find careers in health clubs, high schools, colleges or professional athletic organizations.

Associate Degree in Athletic Directing

At the 2-year degree level, students interested in becoming athletic directors can enroll in an Associate of Arts in Pre-Sports Administration or Sports Management program. These programs are primarily transfer courses for students wishing to pursue 4-year degrees in athletic directing. Students do not delve into the knowledge and skill requirements of an athletic director but instead focus more on gaining a strong business foundation. At the associate degree level, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. A college placement test is usually required of applicants interested in pursuing undergraduate athletic director degree programs. Standardized test scores are also sometimes required.

At the 2-year degree level, students concentrate on general education classes. Topics of study related to the athletic director associate degree may include:

  • Computers
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Communications
  • CPR and first aid

Bachelor's Degree in Athletic Directing

At the 4-year undergraduate degree level, students interested in becoming athletic directors can pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Administration or a related degree. Athletic director programs integrate so many business principles that some 4-year degree programs enable students to earn business minors. Furthermore, participants gain social, public speaking and problem-solving skills. At the bachelor's degree level, applicants to athletic director programs must submit SAT or ACT scores. Official educational transcripts are also required. Students must sometimes write personal essays. Athletic directing undergraduates participate in seminars and practica. Clinical experiences may sometimes be required. Classes cover:

  • History of athletics
  • Structural organization strategies
  • Event management
  • Fundraising
  • Exercise and sport science

Master's Degree in Athletic Directing

Individuals interested in pursuing an athletic director education at the graduate level can earn a Master of Arts degree in Education with a Sports Administration concentration or a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology with a Sports Management concentration. Many athletic director master's programs are available online. Programs often require 33-36 credits for completion. Applicants to a master's degree program must have a bachelor's degree, often with minimum GPAs of 2.5. Work experience in sports, coaching or athletic directing is typically preferred. Students must supply recommendation letters and GRE scores.

At the master's degree level, students learn about the interrelationship of business and sports, take a capstone examination and submit an original thesis. Students must typically maintain a B average for successful completion. Topics cover:

  • Nutrition fundamentals
  • Data analysis
  • Trends in commercial athletics
  • University athletics
  • Public relations strategies

Doctoral Degree in Athletic Directing

At the doctoral level, students can pursue Ph.D.s in Kinesiology with a Sports Management concentration. Athletic directing doctoral programs typically require 95 credits beyond a bachelor's degree and often take between three and four years to complete. Athletic directing Ph.D. programs are research-intensive, which means students develop writing skills and critical-thinking abilities. Depending on the individual's educational background, additional courses beyond a master's degree may be required before beginning a Ph.D. program. GRE scores are also usually a requisite of entering into these programs.

Students take part in seminars and teaching assistantships. Additionally, in order to graduate, they must prepare and defend a unique dissertation. Topics of study include:

  • Statistics
  • Minorities in sports
  • Effect of change on organizations
  • Buyer behavior in athletics
  • Legalities affecting the sports industry

Popular Career Options

Graduates of associate degree programs for future athletic directors generally go on to pursue related bachelor's degrees. Graduates may also find work as:

  • Athletic coaches or trainer
  • Gym managers
  • Sports arena shift supervisors
  • Retail athletic store managers
  • Salespersons

Athletic directors can work in the public and private sectors, usually for professional or educational organizations. Specific job titles may include:

  • College women's athletic director
  • Assistant athletic director
  • Campus recreation director
  • Academic compliance athletic director
  • Educator

Graduates of a doctoral athletic directing degree program usually work in scholarly positions. Careers may include:

  • College teaching
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Athletic policy development
  • Athletic program consulting

Salary Information

Most athletic director jobs require bachelor's degrees in sports management or a related field. According to, entry-level athletic directors earned a median of $49,297 per year as of 2016.

Certification Information

Many employers prefer athletic directors with professional certification. Interested athletic directors with a minimum of a bachelor's degree can look to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association for certification options. Depending on experience and education, athletic directors may qualify for Registered Athletic Administrator, Certified Master Athletic Administrator or Certified Athletic Administrator credential.

An athletic directing degree can be earned at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Bachelor's programs often include hands-on experiences, while master's and doctoral programs may focus more on independent research. Depending on degree level and prior experience, graduates may find a career as a coach, gym manager, college professor or an athletic program consultant, among other options.

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