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A Master’s in Education for Athletic Directors

Athletic directors, or ADs as they are commonly called, are the educational leaders in charge of high school and college athletic programs. Because the scope of their role touches just about every part of the program, selecting the right AD can make all the difference in producing winning seasons and enriching experiences for players and their families.

Are you destined for a career in athletic leadership? What can you expect if hired? Learn how athletic directors affect the overall culture of any school or district and what you can do to pursue an AD role.

What Is an Athletic Director?

Players and fans do not see much of what the AD does; it’s a very behind-the-scenes position. Although each school requires something a little different of their AD, here are the most common expectations:

  • Budget and secure sponsorships or special funding
  • Hire and regularly evaluate coaches and support staff
  • Schedule games, coordinate with competing schools, and secure facilities
  • Market athletic events and tryout opportunities
  • Maintain legal compliance and adherence to sports authorities’ rules and regulations

ADs must also ensure that the players have what they need to perform, including uniforms, equipment and a place to practice and play, often coordinating with other departments, such as janitorial or maintenance. Because sports can sometimes compete for scheduling with other activities as well as class time, the AD must form collegial relationships with teachers and faculty so that every student has the support needed to be a good student and a good player.

What Skills Should an Athletic Director Have?

As an AD, you should be flexible, versatile and quick to adapt. High school and college sports exist in fast-changing and high-energy environments, and managing schedules, staff and students will take patience. Other important qualities include:

  • Ability to communicate effectively both verbally and through written methods
  • Strong organizing skills
  • Willingness to serve and inspire others through your example
  • Familiarity with basic technology and an openness to new sports management tools
  • A love of sports and an appreciation for good sportsmanship
  • Enthusiasm about the sports program and a high level of comfort in the role of publicist

What Does an Athletic Director Earn?

The annual average salary for an athletic director is $60,000, (PayScale; December 2020) but post-secondary administrative positions, which require a master’s degree, can average $95,000 or more. The job outlook for these positions is better than average, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10-year growth rate of 7% for post-secondary administrative positions.

How to Become an Athletic Director

Many high school athletic directors are former coaches or teachers who have been promoted and have additional certification or administrative coursework. However, the higher-paying post-secondary athletic director positions are almost always experienced educators with a master’s degree and some coaching and administrative experience. AD jobs are not limited to just those who have been teachers, however. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in sports management or organizational administration may be a good fit for this position, too.

If you don’t already have a master’s degree, your first step would be to look into programs that prepare you for the demands of an AD job by giving you the latest methodology and best practices of teaching and leadership. St. Thomas University’s Master of Science in Educational Leadership online is a practical option. The entire program can be completed in as little as 12 months, while you continue working in your present position.

Learn more about STU’s Master of Science in Educational Leadership online program.


PayScale: Average Athletic Director Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Education Administrators

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