Jobs in Professional Sports: Pro Sports Jobs Overview
A professional sport is exactly that, a profession.
Sports is a multibillion-dollar industry, “the business of entertainment” as a former NBA team executive called it. Running a team is just like running any other big business. Except that it’s more fun!
On game day, the Player Personnel, Business Operations professionals and Stadium Operations people there to support the team and 65,000 or so fans will number around 3,000 to 4,000 workers. Most of the jobs with a pro team are available right around the end of the season – not right before the season starts.
Here are the main career positions that professional sports teams need to fill.
List of Common Positions
If you have advanced education in sports management, experience from working your way up with a team or even volunteer experience in sports, add that “business experience” to your interest and enthusiasm and go for it.
The Team President is the Chief Executive Officer of a sports franchise. The job is to make money for the company. The main way you can do this is to fill those seats for every game. As long as there’s an empty seat in the house, your goal is to increase attendance. Along with selling tickets, you make sure every other money-making opportunity is exploited: concessions; box seats; season tickets; corporate accounts; souvenirs; broadcast rights and licensing fees. Working your way up to the top means knowing the sport inside and out, but even more than that it means being the best business person available. Administration, Marketing and Public Relations sectors of the franchise (team) are the best routes to the top, probably by way of a General Manager or Vice President position.
As for pay, let’s just say that you’re in the same league with any Fortune 500 CEO and can expect at least a comparable salary and benefits.
General Manager is a career position that every pro team has. You need to know sports and sports business to get here, and you can work your way up as a Business Manager or Marketing Director, whether with a sports team or in another business. To beat out the competition, your best bet is a Master’s degree in Sports Management such as a Master of Science in Sports Administration. The most important person in the “front office,” the General Manager is responsible for developing a winning team and overseeing every part of the team’s operations. In the Minor Leagues, the salaries range from around $30,000 to $50,000 or more; for Major League teams, they can top $1.5 million.
Business Manager is the person who handles all the financial and business administration, working directly with the General Manager. An advanced college degree in Sports Administration, Business or related majors is pretty much expected, and you can work into this with business office experience. Pay varies widely depending on the team and league. You might make close to $100,000 in the NFL but only $30,000 (or less!) in the Arena Football League
The Director of Minor League Operations manages a major league team’s minor league affiliate teams operations, and coordinates between them. Athletes, coaches and minor league team Managers are candidates, but again, a college degree helps. The pay range here, too, varies a lot, from about $35,000 to over $250,000 a year.
Marketing Director is a sales job: selling the team, its name and its players to the public, corporations, the media and the fans. You work with the people in Promotion, Advertising and Public Relations in the front office, and you need to understand all those fields. A college degree is a start, then you need experience. You absolutely have to be a good writer! You’ll make something between $35,000 and $175,000 or more, depending on your success and your team’s popularity.
People in Promotion Director jobs work specifically on team promotions and special events to make the team more popular. Contests, free merchandise for the fans at a game, players public appearances, and lots of new and improved ideas are part of the mix. Creativity is required! You may be working for anything from the low twenties with little experience, to over $125,000 a year plus various bonuses in this position.
Director of Community Relations is a position that’s all about involving the team in public service. It’s a great way to enjoy the sport and your community, and to gain the wonderful benefit of knowing that you are doing something good for others. An especially rewarding aspect is helping kids get into sports, and helping them to do some community service, as well.
Coordinators and Assistants in this department make around $20K to $30K per year, and the Director or Manager gets about $30K to $40K and has a great time doing it.
The Ticket Operations Manager has that all-important job of selling tickets.
Season passes, sky boxes, game day sales, and managing a staff that includes 10-day-per-season workers and a lot of interns are all major parts of this never-ending work. While you may be in charge of the seating chart, you’ll spend more of your time on things like trading tickets for a year’s worth of free car rentals for the front office staff. You can start in an entry-level job here in the $20K range, work up to Assistant Ticket Manager for $30K and, as Manager, make about $55,000 a year.
“Traveling Secretary” is not just a secretary who travels. This is the job title of a Very Important Person to a professional sports team. Road Manager is another name that you may have heard, and it’s more apt perhaps for a minor league team that travels by bus all season. From a small local club to the NBA’s Knicks (who have to share Madison Square Garden with ice skaters and the circus); from the NFL to the baseball teams that are constantly on the move; from low-budget to luxury suites, the job is different for each sport and team, and the salary and benefits reflect that as much as your experience. You can earn $60,000 a year, up to $125,000 or more with a winning major league team, years of experience and a reputation for making everything run smoothly. If you enjoy travel, you’ll get plenty of it. You’ll also be on call 24 hours a day when you’re on the road, and if you let a suitcase or a player get lost, good luck. Consider it a challenge and have fun!
As you can see, this is just a fraction of the work to be done in managing the business of sports. There are lots of opportunities to get in and get started up the sports career ladder to these positions, fortune, fame and everyday involvement in both business and sports.
Check our links to professional sports teams for potential leads.