Exploring Careers in Athletic Communications

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An athletic director reviews documents with a staff member.
More than fun and games, the sports industry represents a diverse array of thriving businesses. In North America, the sports market will be worth $83.1 billion by 2023, up from $71.1 billion in 2018, according to PwC. This growth creates opportunities for capable athletic communications professionals.

For those considering a career in athletic communications, a master’s degree can serve as a launching pad for advancement. A big picture vision, extensive knowledge of sports, the ability to motivate people, and strong communication, verbal and interpersonal skills are core competencies of a successful athletic communications leader. An advanced degree, such as an online Master of Arts in Athletic Leadership, can help students refine these essential skills. Through coursework in coaching, training, sports psychology and athletic administration, students can prepare for leadership positions in athletic communications.

What Is Athletic Communications?

An essential component of the sports industry, athletic communications elevates the visibility, credibility and reputation of sports brands. Athletic communications professionals serve in administrative, marketing or journalism roles such as sports marketing manager, sports information director, athletic director, sports journalist and broadcaster. These professionals shape the public image of sports-related entities and athletes and enable fans to enjoy and learn more about the sports they watch.

A Look at Careers in Athletic Communications

People with the right background can choose from among multiple career paths in athletic communications. Five professional roles that involve athletic communications are described below.

Sports Marketing Manager

Sports marketing managers create and implement marketing programs, including public relations, advertising, merchandising and social media campaigns. They collaborate with creative, research, sales and product management professionals, and their efforts have a direct impact on revenues. Sports marketing manager jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree in marketing. People with management experience and graduate degrees may take on leadership roles. Sports marketing managers are creative, and they have strong analytical, relationship building, communication and coordination skills. Many have strong writing skills and experience working with content management tools. The median annual salary for marketing managers, including sports marketing managers, is around $64,900, according to PayScale data from February 2020.

Sports Information Director

Sports information directors serve as the first point of contact with the media, providing information about their team, sharing statistics and answering media inquiries. They write press releases, media guides and features, often using graphics and videos, to share on team websites and social media channels. Sports information directors typically hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications or public relations. For high-level roles, some organizations prefer to hire candidates with many years of media experience and a master’s degree. Strong communication skills are essential for the role. Many sports information directors work with design software and content management tools. They also need a calm demeanor to work under pressure. The median annual salary for sports information directors is around $37,500, according to PayScale data from January 2020.

Athletic Director

Athletic directors oversee athletic activities and sports programs in high schools, universities or school-related sports organizations. They set policies, hire and supervise coaching staffs, create budgets and schedule games. Athletic directors help schools ensure compliance with the regulations established by groups such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Athletic director jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree in sports management, psychology or physical education. Larger institutions may prefer to hire a candidate with a master’s degree. Athletic directors have organizational skills to coordinate activities for multiple teams, and they must be able to communicate effectively with numerous constituencies, including school administrators, coaches, athletes, fans and media representatives. They must also be decisive and work well under pressure. The median annual salary for athletic directors is around $60,300, according to February 2020 data from PayScale.

Sports Journalist

With social media platforms allowing anyone — from sports fans to celebrity athletes — to share sports-related news, sports journalists strive to deliver objective, in-depth content. When high-profile athletes stand up for a cause or there’s a major announcement in the sports world, sports journalists are there to gather the facts. These professionals interview players, investigate stories and write content for sports magazines, newspaper sports sections, news broadcasts, blogs and social media. Sports journalist jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications or English. Relevant work experience and a master’s degree may help candidates take on leadership roles. Sports journalists use their writing and communication skills, research and analytical competencies and persistence to ensure stories are factual. The median annual salary for sports journalists is around $48,900, according to PayScale data from February 2020.


Sports broadcasters provide fans with a play-by-play account of a game and inform listeners and viewers through commentary. They travel frequently and regularly work long hours in different time zones. They know how to improvise and use emotion to describe what’s happening in a game and to create entertaining broadcasts. They also have deep knowledge of the teams and sports they cover. Employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting, communications, journalism or a related field. The median annual salary for broadcasters is around $52,400, according to December 2019 data from PayScale.

How to Develop Athletic Leadership Skills

As the sports industry continues to grow, employers will compete to hire people with writing, communication, critical thinking and organizational competencies. Through a combination of coursework and real-world experience, Rider’s online Master of Arts in Athletic Leadership program can help position students for success.

The program offers four tracks — Coaching, Athletic Administration, Sports Psychology and Career Exploration — to enable students to specialize in the career path they want to follow. The curriculum includes coursework in sport psychology, evidence-based research and athletic leadership, as well as internships in coaching and administration. The courses are taught by sports professionals who know what it takes to achieve success.

Build a Career in Athletic Communications

Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Athletic Leadership program can help students launch careers as leaders in athletic communications. The program prepares students with the skills considered essential for most athletic communications roles by building competencies in areas such as coaching, training, sports psychology and athletic administration.

Explore how Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Athletic Leadership degree can help students prepare for successful careers in athletic communications.

Recommended Readings

Online Master’s in Athletic Leadership Information Session

What Does a Sports Marketing Director Do? 

Careers in Sports Psychology: Helping Athletes Excel


At Large, “3 Marketing Tips for Sports and Athletics Companies”

Forbes, “Public Relations and the World’s Leading Athletes”

Houston Chronicle, “An Athletic Director’s Duties”

Houston Chronicle, “The Importance of Communication in Sports Marketing”

Houston Chronicle, “Sports Announcer Career Descriptions”

Houston Chronicle, “Sports Information Director Job Description”

National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, Developing & Implementing an Interscholastic Athletic Strategic Plan

PayScale, Average Athletic Director Salary

PayScale, Average Marketing Manager Salary

PayScale, Average Sports Broadcaster Salary

PayScale, Average Sports Information Director Salary

PayScale, Average Sports Journalist Salary

PwC, Outlook for the Sports Market in North America