An Athletic Director’s Responsibilities and Career Outlook

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Youth football coach helping young player with helmet

The athletic director acts as the cornerstone of an athletic department. They usually oversee the department’s overall approach towards budgeting, marketing, accomplishing specific growth goals, and implementing organizational and infrastructural improvements. Most importantly, athletic directors are the liaison between their school’s athletics and academics. They work closely with the school or university to align goals and ideals, and above all, athletic directors also act as an embodiment of the school’s overarching beliefs.

A successful athletic director maintains positive relationships, treating all athletes, staff, and teams fairly. They make difficult choices and promote a competitive, educational athletic environment. It’s a job reserved for experienced professionals who are passionate about athletics and possess a talent for management and communication.

Duties and Responsibilities

Athletic directors have multiple unique responsibilities, which they must balance carefully. For example, in a single day, an athletic director may attend financial meetings, arrange field reservations, purchase specific athletic resources, and implement specific improvements or policy changes.

One of the most important skills an athletic director can possess is effective decision-making. This can be especially crucial when defining the goals and the future of the department. Athletic directors are the face of their departments, demonstrating the ability to steer their programs in a direction they see fit.

Athletic directors have a number of substantial duties and responsibilities, including helping students to maintain an educational and athletic balance, setting the creative vision for their department, and working with top administrators to manage their department’s resources and ongoing organizational efforts. These organizational responsibilities include hiring coaching staff, promoting the athletic programs, maintaining facilities, and coordinating with administrative staff. Athletic departments can have a substantial impact on the revenue and enrollment of a learning institution, so its image needs to positively reflect the school or university.

Career Outlook

Athletic directors are sought after by middle and high schools as well as by universities. Additionally, some exceptional elementary schools with competitive athletic programs also employ athletic directors, though this is not commonplace. It is a competitive yet rewarding occupation. It’s important for candidates to gain enough experience, connections, and education to qualify for the role. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who become interscholastic athletic directors can earn approximately $90,410 annually.

The BLS also provides projections regarding possible job growth. Between 2014 and 2024, the Bureau estimates that jobs for athletic directors will grow by 6%-9%. That is near the average growth rate for most careers, so opportunities should exist for those who are willing to work hard and stand out. Those interested in leading a successful athletic department will discover the position offers great potential, fulfillment, and room to grow.

Education and Experience

Earning a bachelor’s degree is the important first step toward becoming an athletic director. It is strongly recommended that education does not stop there and that aspiring directors work to attain a master’s degree as well. The degrees should be related to athletics in some way, such as a degree in sports management, athletic administration, or sports medicine.

Since the role of an athletic director is highly visible and focuses on overseeing an entire department, experience and knowledge are important as well. A good place to start is to work for a school’s athletic department as a coach or in a similar role. The key is to also be knowledgeable about areas outside of athletics such as budgeting, organizational leadership, hiring, and beyond.

Become an Athletic Director, Shape the Future

An athletic director has control over the athletic future of an entire school or university. Having vision and passion are necessary for the role. Without these attributes, athletic programs may underperform, cease to grow, become underfunded, or never reach their full potential. Athletic directors must also ensure that academics and athletics are carefully balanced, so student-athletes can gain the most benefits from both. Those who wish to work in athletics, and see themselves in an influential role, may want to pursue a career as an athletic director.

Learn More

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

Recommended Readings:

Ohio University Blog, “7 Essential Traits of a Successful Athletic Director”
Ohio University Blog, “A Guide to Networking for Athletic Directors”
Ohio University Blog, “Cost of School Athletics are Increasing”

Sources:, “Athletic Director: Job Description and Career Information”, “Athletic Director Career”
CBS Sports, “The most influential coaches and athletic directors in college sports”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Postsecondary Education Administrators”