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Sports Careers Overview

Center for Career Education and Columbia Resources

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Sports Careers Overview

Although we may think of sports as fun and pure pleasure, sports is a big business. Teams and associations generate billions of dollars from fans and corporate sponsorships, enough to reward their players with handsome multi-million dollar contracts. Corporations plan advertising and promotional campaigns built on the endorsements of sports celebrities, from Gabby Douglas to Kobe Bryant to Serena Williams. Players nurture their careers to eke out the maximum amount of profit from endorsements, motivational speaking tours and personal appearances. Businesses hope to win over potential investors by hosting sports events. In short, there are a lot more players in sports than just those on the field. Students who are considering a career in sports have a wealth of opportunities, from marketing and media to nutritional management, available to pursue.


Coaches, nutritionists and fitness trainers all help athletes refine their performance and amplify their skill set. Coaches develop in-game strategies and work with players to set and reach goals, while managing team dynamics to ensure in-game success. Coaches often have prior experience as an athlete involved in their particular sport, and often apply this knowledge to develop their coaching strategies. Because of varying competitive seasons, schedules for coaches are often irregular and involve travel.

Nutritionists and trainers ensure that athlete’s bodies are in peak physical condition in order to optimize performance. Nutritionists develop meal plans for their clients, tweaking their diets to ensure that the athletes receive their best balance of nutrients and can sustain their high-impact training schedule. Athletic trainers create exercise plans to increase and maintain their clients’ levels of fitness, and provide rehabilitation services in the event of injury. Due to the individualistic, client-centered nature of these careers, both nutritionists and athletic trainers must complete professional certification.

While internships are not strictly necessary for attaining full-time employment, they help build connections in the field that could be valuable in future job searches. Coaching internships through organizations such as the American Coaching Academy provide hands-on experience, while nutrition-focused, accredited internships can be found through search engines such as this one at

Sports Agents

Sports agents represent professional athletes, negotiate contracts and endorsements, and otherwise manage an athlete’s career. They consult with clients regarding their professional image, and work to transmit that image to the public while dealing with related legal and financial issues. As such, sports agents’ schedules are often irregular, and travel is usually an important component of day-to-day work. Successful sports agents, however, tend to thrive in this high-energy environment.

While one of an agent’s primary responsibilities is to network on behalf of their clients, agents themselves must network to advance their careers. Groups such as Sports Agent 411 on LinkedIn enable those seeking employment to contact agents already involved in the industry.

Because of the competitive nature of the field, internships are also an often crucial stepping stone to full-time employment. Listings of agencies such as this one on Sports Agent Blog provide contact information for firms seeking interns.

Sports Marketing and Sales/Event Management

Sports marketers handle the business side of sports. Some work for a league or sports association, like Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association. Others work for teams, like the LA Lakers, the New York Yankees, or the Washington Redskins. They can also work on behalf of major companies, like Coca Cola or Budweiser, managing promotional campaigns and sponsorships of domestic and international sporting events.  Still others organize sports-related events on behalf of sports organizations, associations, teams, or companies. Many tourism offices and convention and visitors bureaus hire sports marketers to help a city lure important sports events and teams to town. Market researchers in this field conduct surveys for sporting goods manufacturers, athletes, local governments, public relations agencies, tourist groups and sports retailers.

Duties in this field include market research and analysis, planning events for clients in order to generate sponsorships, developing merchandise for employers and generating ticket sales for events. Bachelor’s degrees constitute entry-level education.

Due to the limited availability of sports marketing programs at universities, many in the industry gained internship experience in the field prior to full-time employment. The field has no “prerequisites,” in the sense that sports marketers need not have focused on their field while in school, but the difficulty of entering the industry makes such internships and connections crucial. Employers such as Nike offer structured internship programs which enable students to begin work in the field; however, recruiting timelines vary according to team and organization.

Sports Media

Sports media provides coverage of sports events and athletes worldwide. Companies such as ESPN, CBS Sports, and the Sports Business Journal hire sports-oriented journalists of various capacities, including sports editors and writers, photographers, web developers and advertisers.

As with careers in other divisions of media, it’s important to start searching for opportunities within the industry as soon as possible. Connections and internships are often crucial to securing full-time employment. Networks such as ESPN offer structured summer internships that could help aspiring sports journalists start their careers.

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    Last updated June 2015