Were you a natural leader on and off the field? Could you effectively rally your teammates and assist your coach? Does your attention to detail and deep knowledge of sports rules help you accommodate and improvise team plays? Consider using this guide on how to become an athletic director to profit from your skills.
This page will cover essential job responsibilities, how to bolster your training and talent, and salary insights. Consider pairing this advice with our sample athletic director resumes or boost your application with our intuitive Resume Builder.
Need cover letter guidance? Add a cover letter to your resume using our cover letter formats how-to guide and add value to your resume.
Impress your future boss! According to a 2020 survey, most hiring managers read cover letters for candidates they’re considering interviewing before making their final decision. Make a cover letter that seals the deal with our professionally designed cover letter templates.
What Does an Athletic Director Do?
An athletic director manages the sports programs and departments at a college, university or high school. They are the top administrative official that provides guidance, oversight and direction for a school’s sports program, from small high schools to large NCAA universities.
Your athletic director duties will vary depending on the level and size of the institution and sports programs you manage. Some typical athletic director duties and responsibilities include:
Oversee all aspects of the athletic program, including hiring coaches and staff.
Schedule practices and games.
Prepare and maintain the athletic department budget, allocating spending on salaries, equipment, travel and facility upkeep.
Manage the budget throughout the year to ensure all needs are covered.
Oversee the general upkeep and maintenance of sports facilities and equipment.
Work closely with coaches, conferences and leagues to schedule games and practices throughout the year, ensuring all teams' fair use of available facilities.
Oversee and guide coaches in their specific sports division.
Work closely with a compliance officer to ensure the program adheres to all conference and association rules, particularly at the college level.
How Do You Become an Athletic Director?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes athletic directors under the category “Postsecondary Education Administrators” and forecasts 7% growth for these roles through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. More people are pursuing a secondary education, which increases the need for administrators like athletic directors.
Earn a bachelor’s degree in a sports-related degree.
Most employers want a job candidate with a strong understanding of multiple sports and basic administrative and managerial skills. A bachelor’s degree in sports management, physical education, financial administration or sports medicine could give you a competitive edge over other candidates.
Work or volunteer for a school athletic department.
It’s one thing to know the theoretical principles of managing multiple sports teams and facilities — it’s another to work and maintain these programs functionally. Develop on-hand knowledge and skills with a work-study job in your college’s athletic department or volunteer for local school districts or community little league teams.
Pursue athletic director-specific certifications.
The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) provides nationally accredited programs and learning resources to support your professional development as an athletic administrator. They offer the following supplemental certifications to improve your organizational knowledge.
- Registered Athletic Administrator (RAA): Must possess a bachelor’s degree and complete three entry-level courses to receive certification.
- Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA): Must process two years of athletic administrator experience, complete five courses, and pass a written exam.
- Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA): Must possess a CAA, complete 12 courses, and submit a written or oral project.
Consider a master’s degree in financial or athletic administration.
Although you can learn these financial management and athletic administration skills throughout a coaching and administrative assistant career, you can speed-track your career with a postgraduate degree in athletic or business administration.
Once you have the necessary job experience, certifications, and post-graduate training to oversee entire athletic departments, you can apply for this senior-level position. Use our professional athletic director resume samples to learn how to highlight the impressive development of your firm knowledge, budgeting and leadership skills. You can also simplify the process using our professional Resume Builder to create a resume aligned with current job descriptions and highly requested athletic director skills.
Athletic Director Skills
Athletic directors are administrators, so you’ll need skills related to management. You’ll need to plan, multitask, work on their programs' varying details, and work well under pressure.
Athletic directors should also have good interpersonal and communication skills to effectively manage the staff and players in your program and advocate for your program's needs. Other key athletic director skills include:
Insights from an Athletic Director
To get a better idea of how to become an Athletic Director, we talked to Jack Guiterrez, the Athletic Director at Central Community College in Nebraska. Here’s what he shared about his career as an Athletic Director.
What is the common career path for an Athletic Director?
The common path is usually having some coaching experience or playing experience in a sport, and being well rounded in many different sports. I played multiple sports in high school and college football. I then coached at the high school level for three years and worked as a graduate assistant in the physical education department and served as an assistant men’s basketball coach. My experiences in these areas allowed me to see the needs and wants of different coaching professionals and athletes.
What should someone consider before becoming an Athletic Director?
The main thing to consider is the necessary time commitment in the evenings supervising and overseeing games at all levels, boys and girls. Another thing to ask is are you really ready to leave coaching behind and totally focus on being an athletics administrator, which means staying focused and unbiased to all sports, big and small.
What type of person excels in this job?
A person that excels as an Athletic Director is a good listener and communicator because you deal with many different personalities in your supervision of coaches, dealing with the media and working with sporting goods salesmen. A successful Athletic Director is one that has the ability to remain calm and stay positive in difficult situations, and has great stamina to work long days and the ability to say no when necessary.
What are some of the most important skills for Athletic Directors to have?
I feel the most important skill, which at times is hard to master, is to juggle your time to fit all of the needs into your schedule. Working with coaches is challenging because you see many personalities, both aggressive and passive, and giving each coach the time they expect, and the interruptions with that go along with it, is demanding. An open-door policy in these situations is a must because they may have a crisis to deal with and need advice, or they may just want to show their excitement for a big win the night before.
Another important skill is fundraising for your programs. It is always difficult to ask businesses for money and to delegate that task to the coaching staff is not always appreciated. Having a sound and committed administrative assistant is also a must and delegating responsibilities is a soft skill that is required of a good Athletic Director.
Perhaps, the most important skill though is to listen and let your team express their feelings, concerns, wants and excitement. Staying positive and calm with your staff will aid in getting things accomplished.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Athletic Director?
I feel that I am most rewarded when I see our student athletes having fun and doing well in the classroom. Wins and losses come into play but it is more important that our coaches are displaying a positive image through themselves and their players in practice and games. It is rewarding when our teams look good and play hard. I also stress to our coaches the importance of their positive behavior with their teams at home contests and especially on the road.
How Much Do Athletic Directors Get Paid?
Athletic Directors are generally paid an annual salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median wage for “Postsecondary Education Administrators,” which includes Athletic Directors, as being $88,580. The lowest-paid Postsecondary Education Administrators make about $50,240 per year, while the highest-paid can earn more than $174,280 annually.
Top 10 States for Athletic Director Salary
Postsecondary Education Administrators, including Athletic Directors, in the following states make the highest median annual wage in the U.S.
Athletic Director Resources
Looking for more info about becoming an Athletic Director? We put together this list of additional resources to help you in your career search
On the Web
A magazine focused on all aspects of athletic management, go here for articles, interviews, and to keep up to date on the latest news in the field of athletic management
Coach and Athletic Director
This is a one-stop-shop for all kinds of helpful resources about athletic administration.
National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA)
NACDA provides educational opportunities and serves as a vehicle for networking and the exchange of information to others in the field of athletic administration.
National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA)
NIAAA offers educational opportunities to develop leaders and foster community amongst Athletic Administrators
Athletic Director Books
Athletic Director's Survival Guide
This guide provides all the information and strategies you’ll need to know how to be a successful junior and senior high school Athletic Director.
Athletic Director’s Desk Reference
For those interested in being an Athletic Director at the collegiate level, this is a great resource.