If you love sports but don’t see yourself moving into a career playing professionally, there are still careers that allow you to work within the sports industry. As I tell my students, you don’t have to pick a major at the expense of your passion. Certain options allow you to forge a career and remain true to your passion. And if your passion lies in sports, the good news is that the US Department of Labor (DOL) projects jobs in the sports field will grow in the next decade.
Check out 10 of those below and find out what it takes to enter these sports-related fields.
1. Physical Therapist
When there are athletes, there will be injuries, at least occasionally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that awareness of such injuries has increased in recent years and therefore, the field is expected to grow 28 percent by 2026. Physical therapists focus on helping athletes alleviate pain, increase or restore mobility and prevent further damage.
Sports is one of the available certifications established by the American Board of Physical Therapists Specialties. To become a physical therapist, you’ll want to pursue a graduate degree and a license to practice. Strong interpersonal skills, compassion, physical stamina and resourcefulness are required for success in the role.
Suggested undergrad majors: Common majors include biology, exercise science, psychology and kinesiology.
Helpful resource: American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
As a sports enthusiast, you probably know that for optimal performance, athletes commit to strict physical training and a focused diet. Dietitians serve as consultants and ensure that athletes remain in peak condition, maintain required weight and maximize their performance.
A bachelor’s degree in a related field as well as a supervised training and a certification are required for you to become a registered dietitian. Dietitians have a thorough understanding of different foods and possess problem-solving skills, creativity, ability to adapt, a scientific mindset and listening skills.
Suggested undergrad majors: Food science, dietetics, dietary science, nutrition, anatomy and biochemistry.
Helpful resource: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
3. Sports Psychologist
Along with physical conditioning, mental strength is an essential aspect of playing sports, especially at the professional level. The pressure to perform better can often negatively impact a player, and sports psychologists use strategies such as guided imagery, relaxation techniques and goal-setting to help prepare athletes for competitions.
Sports psychologists focus on 1) applying psychological principles to help athletes enhance their performance and 2) understanding how sports and physical activity impact a person’s psychological well-being. A doctoral degree is required to practice as a licensed sports psychologist, and core competencies include focus, attitude and coaching ability.
Suggested undergrad majors: Psychology, exercise science.
4. Sports Agent/Business Manager
As a sports agent or manager, you will represent athletes, negotiate contracts on their behalf, advise them on advertising deals and public appearances and recommend financial investments. Your main task is to seek business partnerships for your client.
For success in the role, you need strong communication skills, business acumen and an ability to 1) persuade your clients that you have their best interests in mind and 2) convince sponsors that your client is worth their investment. To secure a job as an agent, consider pursuing a business or a law degree and identify opportunities to get some training. Reach out to other agents to conduct informational interviews and learn more about their jobs or ask to join them as an assistant.
Suggested undergrad majors: Business, sports management.
Helpful resource: North American Society for Sport Management, which supports individuals in the industry.
If you like numbers and found the movie Moneyball fascinating, then this is the career choice for you. In the world of sports, it’s no longer just about the coaches and a good game; it’s about crunching numbers and predictions. Many major professional teams now either have a statistics department or employ a statistician on staff.
This career option may be a good fit for you if you like math, business analysis and statistics and have strong problem-solving skills.
Suggested undergrad majors: Statistics, analytics, math.
Helpful resource: Interview with Keith Goldner, a sports statistical analyst, shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
6. Public Relations Representative
As a public relations representative, your main focus is the image of the athlete or the team that employs you. You’ll manage news releases and may also be involved in promotions and advertisements. You will have to identify your client’s target audience and present your client in a way that appeals to that audience. Your clients rely on you to raise their ratings and increase their potential for more earnings.
For success in the role, you want to have an understanding of what a Q-rating is (a person’s measure of visibility and likeability) and bring strong writing, interpersonal, social media and public speaking skills.
Suggested undergrad majors: Public relations, communications, marketing, journalism.
Helpful resource: The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
7. Event Planners
The responsibilities of event planners are vast and include securing locations, making travel arrangements, drafting programs, hiring support staff and managing logistics during events. Working with a specific athletic club, you may find yourself planning games, relevant sports events or off-site team engagements.
Strong organizational and problem-solving skills, ability to negotiate, attention to detail and communication skills are essential for success in this role. While a bachelor’s degree is not required, it is highly recommended.
Suggested undergrad majors: Marketing, hospitality management, communications or public relations.
Helpful resource: International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).
8. Sports Broadcaster | Sports Announcer/Commentator
As a sports broadcaster, your main responsibility involves reporting news in sports, but you may also serve as a commentator during games. This role is perfect for you if journalism is a passion.
For success, public speaking and interpersonal skills, as well as an outgoing personality, are essential. To prepare for the role, you may consider delivering play-by-play commentaries while watching your favorite sport with your family and friends, followed by similar roles at your high school or college news station.
Suggested undergrad majors: Broadcast journalism, communications.
As a photojournalist, your primary focus is telling stories through images. You may want to cover big-scale events such as the Super Bowl, the Olympics or the World Cup, but most sports photographers specialize in one or two sports.
In addition to photography, those who succeed in this role should understand the sport itself and its audience, as well as posessing strong editing and writing skills. Your social media presence is also vital and you may want to consider managing your social media platforms so they reveal your photography skill and your interest in covering sporting events. Lastly, you want to work on creating a portfolio that highlights your biggest accomplishments and identifies your brand (i.e., sports).
Suggested undergrad majors: Photojournalism, communications, photography, cinematography.
Sports scouts travel around the country -- and the world -- to observe athletes and identify talent for a specific team. They often attend several games and take meticulous notes about a player’s performance. Another task is observing and studying the opposing team.
Successful scouts often have experience as athletes or coaches and understand what it takes to excel in a particular sport. While a degree in may be helpful, experience is more valuable than education in this field. Consider volunteering for a local community league to gain additional experience. Although not statisticians, scouts need to be comfortable with and understand numbers.
Suggested undergrad majors: Sports management, marketing or sales.
Helpful resources: Next College Student Athlete (NCSA); Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.
If making a career choice seems overwhelming, note that you don’t have to go through the decision process alone. Reach out to your career counselor for further assistance as you explore the options you have as a sports enthusiast.