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A Career as an Athletic Director: Description, Duties and Degree

December 13, 2022

Athletic directors and administrators play essential roles in schools and institutions of all sizes. With millions of students participating in school sports each year, athletic directors ensure student-athletes, coaches and staff have the support and resources they need to achieve at a high level and learn through athletics. 

Taking part in school sports has been linked to a variety of positive emotional, social and physical outcomes. Project Play, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program, states that physically active children get up to 40% higher test scores, are 15% more likely to go to college and have lower levels of depression. 

Because of these positive benefits, athletic directors at the K–12 level have the potential to have a lasting impact on young people through the work that they do, creating a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.

What Does an Athletic Director Do?

The daily life of an athletic director varies depending on the size and grade level of the institution in which they work. Still, some athletic director duties remain consistent. A successful athletic director must have a firm understanding of everything from legal issues to event planning. While athletics is the core of the profession, a plethora of knowledge in other areas is required. 

Athletic directors oversee all aspects of athletic programs associated with the school. This can include hiring coaches, ordering equipment, marketing events, budgeting and more. Many athletic directors also participate in fundraising and work directly with students. At the K–12 level, athletic directors may also coach or teach physical education courses at some point in their careers.

Some athletic director duties can include:

  • Addressing legal issues: As with any role in education and administration, legal issues may arise. Athletic directors must have a firm understanding of the laws and regulations they must follow.
  • Managing risk: There are inherent risks in playing sports and running large events. Developing plans to mitigate these risks is part of an athletic director's duties.
  • Marketing programs and events: Interscholastic athletic programs can't make much difference if no one joins or supports the teams. Publicizing programs and creating community outreach campaigns can be an important athletic director role.
  • Budgeting: No matter where you choose to work, budgeting may be challenging. Not only must athletic programs operate within an institution's budget, but sometimes revenue goals are tied to athletics.
  • Hiring: Athletic directors are responsible for hiring and developing a diverse and capable coaching staff and dealing with personnel issues as they arise. 
  • Scheduling: Planning practices, coordinating with other schools, assigning referees and ensuring transportation can all fall on an athletic director to oversee.

Given the diversity of duties athletic directors have, it comes as no surprise that dynamic individuals with a wide range of skills and attributes do well in the field. Athletic directors must be able to make decisions, organize vast programs, be consistent and put in the hard work to make programs successful. Some vital skills that athletic directors must possess include:

  • Leadership 
  • Communication 
  • Strategic planning 
  • Financial administration 
  • Event management 
  • Marketing 
  • Policy development

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Athletic Director Career Outlook

Studying athletic administration can lead you many places, allowing you to tailor your career to your interests and goals. Athletic directors can work in multiple areas of education, from elementary school to the university level. They are needed in public and private schools, as well as in organizations that support child development such as nonprofits and religious organizations. 

The role of athletic director gives you a chance to make an incredible difference in the lives of students, but it also provides stable employment and a good salary. Employment in entertainment and sports occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031. This demand should result in 95,500 new jobs over the decade in various settings. Those who pursue master's degrees and certification as athletic administrators may find it easier to compete for jobs and top salaries. 

Earn an Athletic Administration Degree

Enrolling in a master's-level athletic administration degree is a great first step to transitioning from your current role to this in-demand career. All degrees are not created equal, and many don't provide the blend of expertise and flexibility that educators need to pursue higher education and continue to work.

Ohio University's online athletic administration degree is a great option for those with the desire to stand out among the competition. With five decades of experience in sports education, OHIO delivers the field-specific coursework, application-based learning and valuable industry connections students need for success. 

Faculty in the online master's in athletic administration program have extensive experience in the sports industry. Most have worked as athletic directors, and several adjunct faculty members were directly involved in the creation of the NIAAA Leadership Training Institute. Many continue to teach leadership training courses at national and state conferences. Their valuable industry insights inform coursework and class assignments to ensure you develop the most applicable skill sets for your K–12 athletic administration career.

When you finish this accredited 20-month program, you'll have earned credit towards certification through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Leadership Training Institute to pursue credentials such as:

  • Registered Athletic Administrator
  • Certified Athletic Administrator
  • Certified Master Athletic Administrator

Enhancing your MAA degree with these industry-recognized credentials will help you stand out in the job market as a professional ready to lead any athletics department to success. Find out more about OHIO's online athletic administration master's degree today.

The MAA degree isn't your only option when growing your athletic director career. Those interested in sports administration at the collegiate or professional level should explore OHIO's Online Master of Sports Administration program, which can be completed in a hybrid format. 

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