Serving as athletic director at a college or university requires more than a knowledge of sports. Today's athletic director at large universities must hire coaches, run multimillion-dollar budgets and ensure his department meets compliance rules, as well as serve as part-time fundraiser, part-time public relations specialist and full-time troubleshooter. At smaller colleges, the job entails all of that, plus making travel plans, purchasing equipment and managing facilities. If you aspire to run your own athletic department one day, immerse yourself in as many facets of athletics management as you can at an early stage in your career.
Earn a college degree in disciplines such as marketing, sports marketing, administration, facility management, education or public relations. Enhance your marketability by getting a master's degree in any of these areas. Some athletic directors possess their doctorate degrees, as well.
Volunteer in the athletic department while in college or just after graduation; work in any area assigned to you. Learn from the public relations officer, the trainer, the chief fundraiser, the compliance officer or any other official who needs your help. The broader the experience, the better.
Search the NCAA job board for full-time positions. Even if you still have skills to learn before applying, review the ads to see the requirements. A 2011 ad for a senior associate athletics director at the University of Oregon, for example, required candidates to have: five to seven years of management experience, including budget and supervisory experience; conference/national committee experience; knowledge of Title IX / gender equity issues and NCAA compliance rules and regulations.
Join national or state sports organizations. Attend meetings and conferences to network with professionals who might have contacts with universities and colleges. Tell your contacts the type of job you seek and ask them to inform you of openings they hear about.
Enroll in leadership training courses offered through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Athletic directors take these classes as part of their professional development.
Apply for jobs in college athletic departments that could lead to promotions. Athletic directors at large universities work their way into those positions; get as much experiences at lower levels as possible. Be willing to relocate.
- “Career Opportunities in the Sports Industry”; Shelly Field; 2009
- “Sports Industry”; John Greenwald; 2010
- “Principles and Practice of Sports Management”; Carol Barr & Mary Hums; 2011
- “Introduction to Careers in Health, Physical Education, and Sport”; Patricia Floyd & Beverly Allen; 2008
- University of Oregon: Senior Associate Athletic Director Athletics Advertisement, 2011
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