Becoming a High School Athletic Director: Job Description & Salary Info

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High school athletic directors hold a leadership role that combines business and sports knowledge, but is it worth juggling many people's agendas and trying to work within a school's strict budget? Read on for more information about following this career path.
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The Pros and Cons of an Athletic Director Career

A career as an athletic director can include a mix of sports-related and administrative duties, which may suit a business-minded former athlete. Read on for the pros and cons of this career to see if it's the right fit for you.

Pros of Becoming an Athletic Director
Leadership position*
Health benefits are usually provided*
Chance to combine business and athletic knowledge**
Industry not centered in a given city*

Cons of Becoming an Athletic Director
Wide range of possible salaries (in some cases, as low as $30,000)*
No set path toward this job**
Stress of juggling many operations simultaneously**
Unusual work hours may be required to accommodate sports events**

Sources: *, **Online job postings from June 2012.

Essential Career Info

Working as a high school athletic director often requires aspects of school administration, coaching and teaching. Based on online job listings for high school athletic directors from June 2012, some schools look for candidates with teacher certification, while others seek those with administrative as well as athletic-based skills. At some schools, athletic directors work as principals or assistant principals, while at others, they double as instructors.

Job Duties

As a high school athletic director, you would set and administer a budget for the school's athletic teams. You also would determine how much to charge for admission to athletic events and how to best promote the school's athletic teams. Additional duties might include arranging travel to away games, purchasing uniforms and equipment, holding fundraisers and hiring coaches. You also might be expected to attend as many sporting events as possible to demonstrate your support for the teams.


Athletic directors in the 10th-90th percentile had a salary range from $30,932-$97,533 in July 2015, according to Those looking to earn a salary on the higher end of this spectrum might consider earning a master's degree.

Career Paths and Training Requirements

No specific education is required beyond a bachelor's degree, but many schools look for applicants with a teaching or sports administration credential as well as experience working with and managing sports teams. You might meet your goal of becoming a high school athletic director by earning an undergraduate degree in sports management or education and then pursing certification from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

What Employers Look For

Most schools look for someone with a broad base of knowledge in a range of sports as well as experience managing administrative tasks related to athletic programs. Here are some sample job listings for athletic directors from June 2012:

  • A high school in Hilton Head, South Carolina, was looking for candidates with state teaching or administration certification; preference would be given to those with national sports administration certification. Job duties included engaging all enrolled students in a sport and helping to build a sense of athletic community within the school.
  • A school in Berkley, California, was seeking job candidates with experience as an athletic director of a large high school. A California state teacher's credential was required.
  • A school in San Juan Bautista, California, was searching for an athletic director to manage coaches, coordinate sporting events, organize transportation and volunteers, and handle safety and training aspects of various athletic activities. The school particularly sought someone with experience and knowledge of coaching skills.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out in The Field

The NIAAA offers three levels of certification for athletic administrators. You can become a registered, certified or master athletic administrator by meeting education and experience requirements, along with other qualifications specific to the level of certification.

Alternative Careers

If you want to be involved with athletics, but aren't crazy about the administrative aspects of an athletic director role, you might consider becoming a high school teacher, which could allow you to coach a sport or two on the side. According to the BLS, as of 2011, secondary school teachers earned a median income of $54,000 per year. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is needed to work as a high school teacher, and if you want to work in a public school, you'll also need to gain state certification or licensure.

If you want to work in a more sports-focused environment, you might consider becoming an athletic trainer. Trainers can work for high school-, college- or professional-level teams, assisting players who have sustained injuries and helping them get back in the physical condition necessary to resume playing. A bachelor's degree typically is the minimum education requirement for athletic trainers, although some employers - particularly on the college level - seek candidates with a graduate degree. Also, most states require athletic trainers to be licensed. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for this occupation was $42,000 as of 2011. The BLS also reported that jobs for athletic trainers could increase by 30% between 2010 and 2020, which was much higher than the average for all occupations.

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