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Best Jobs in Sports 2013

By Kyle Kensing

Remember watching football player Joe Montana throw a touchdown pass or gymnast Mary-Lou Retton score a perfect 10, and then dreaming of growing up to be like them? Don’t feel too bad about not making it – a fraction of a percent of the populace will ever play sports at a world-class level. But even if your dreams of becoming the next LeBron James or Kerri Walsh never panned out, a career in sports is still attainable.

Money invested in all levels of sport totaled in the billions last year, and shows no signs of slowing down.

A wide range of career opportunities exist in the sporting world, covering a diverse spectrum of disciplines. Some are front-and-center in the public eye, such as broadcasters. Statisticians have long been a part of the athletic world, but in recent years have gained public prominence. Credit books like The Bill James Historical Abstract and Moneyball, the latter of which was adapted into a popular film.

There also are many less recognized professionals working out of the spotlight who find very rewarding and challenging opportunities in sports professions, such photojournalists, public relations experts and advertising account executives. In fact, advertising and sports have long been locked in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Billions in advertising dollars have helped make sporting events the most lucrative content on television and online. AdWeek reports NBC made $268.8 million in advertising revenue from its broadcast of last year's Super Bowl, and experts estimate that CBS will eclipse that this year.

Helping to manage such a monumental event as a Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four and other, smaller sports gatherings, requires especially skilled individuals, and that’s where event coordinators enter in. Their jobs often are unrecognized, but they're crucial to the successful production of sports events.

Sport psychology is another field that is often overlooked when considering a career in the industry. An athlete breaks into a sport with years of practice. Likewise, sports psychologists require the right amount training to succeed. Dr. Roland Carlstedt is a licensed clinical and applied psychologist in New York, and chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP).

His organization works to ensure the services offered to athletes seeking help with stress, focus or whatever mental health issues they face, to help them with professional insight. That may seem like a given, but it’s a field that Carlstedt says has problems with self-appointed “gurus” lacking proper psychology backgrounds.

“It’s not like you can just jump into the field at the Bachelor’s level or with no degree, which goes on,” he says. “There’s a misconception that if you’re a former athlete, you know what it feels like to be under pressure and can relate to what athletes go through, and therefore you’re capable of practicing sport psychology. But that’s only true on a superficial level."

The ABSP has worked to address scope-of-practice law violations in the sport psychology field -- which Carlstedt said can reach Class 3 misdemeanor status -- and in preparing students aiming to enter sport psychology with best practices.

The board offers an outreach fellowship program, now in its eighth year, designed to help aspiring sport psychologists “gain full exposure to the protocol validated for evaluating and assessing athletes, and eventually looking into the efficacy of mental training.”

Such programs set a foundation to excel in the field, and also dispel myths about what the career entails.

“There’s a pervasive belief that… going to see a sport psychologist means that everything is going to be remedied,” Carlstedt says. “It’s much more complex than it’s made out to be.”

For someone interested in becoming a sport psychologist, the best route is a Master’s degree or a doctorate, Carlstedt says. “At the Masters level, make sure it’s licensable at some level. The ultimate credential is to be a licensed psychologist who gets board certified.” Using the Rated methodology, here are 10 career options in sports:

  • Coach/Manager

    Median Salary: $28,340

    Even the most talented athletes need a capable leader, which is the role of the coach. Athletes in team and individual sports have coaches, and those at the highest level are sometimes as recognizable as their pupils.

    The profession ranges from those at the pinnacle, paid in the millions, to part-timers. Many high school coaches, for example, are also teachers. Others still are volunteers at the youth sports level.


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  • Event Coordinator

    Median Salary: $45,260

    A sporting event is just one facet of the moment. Someone is responsible for overseeing the various other details to ensure that the game, match or race goes off without a hitch.

    An event coordinator behind the scenes operates like a coach on the field, directing the implementation of strategies related to seating, security and media accommodation.

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  • Physical Therapist

    Median Salary: $76,310

    To address the aches and pains of rigorous physical exertion, teams employ physical therapists specialized in athletic training.

    Sports physical therapy is one of the areas of specialization in which the American Board of Physical Therapy offers certification.

    University programs designed specifically for sports psychical therapists appear on campuses around the nation, including Ohio State, which hosts one of the more prominent residency programs in the field.


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  • Public Relations Manager

    Median Salary: $57,550

    The high profile world of professional sports can open its figures to public scrutiny. A good publicist manages crises quickly and effectively to protect the image – and sometimes privacy – of a client.



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  • Photojournalist

    Median Salary: $29,130

    There are images from the sports world that are iconic entries into the tapestry of Americana; take Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston. The outlets at which a sports photojournalist can work vary. The struggles of the newspaper and magazine industries limit options, but many sports organizations themselves hire photographers professionally. Online outlets generally use wire services like the Associated Press and Getty Images, both of which hire full-time and freelance photojournalists.

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  • Statistician

    Median Salary: $72,830

    Statistics play a vital role in sports, but in the last decade have had an unprecedented high profile thanks to the book and movie Moneyball.

    Advanced statistical metrics are gaining popularity in sports beyond baseball, creating an entirely new niche for the mathematically inclined. Statisticians’ increased prominence is seen in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which was founded in 2006 and has attracted such noteworthy speakers as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.


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  • Broadcaster

    Median Salary: $36,000

    Events are disseminated to the homes of millions through TV, radio and online outlets. The elite in the field are household names. The most high profile of sports broadcasters can earn paychecks comparable to the athletes they cover. Conversely, there are those dedicated to the craft, working their way up on local radio broadcasts earning a paltry per-game stipend, but with the dream of reaching the big time.

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  • Advertising Account Executive

    Median Salary: $ 45,350

    Advertising dollars keep sporting events beaming into our homes, and the advertising account executives working behind the scenes are handling some hefty ledgers. Demand for their skills is high, and compensation can easily exceed six figures annually.

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  • Sport Psychologist

    Median Salary: $68,640* (BLS average for general psychology)

    Sport psychologists assist athletes with a variety of issues directly related to performance, including kinesiology and mental preparation.


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  • Agent

    Median Salary: $64,790

    Sports agents negotiate parameters of their clients’ contracts and endorsement deals. But agent Leigh Steinberg added another responsibility to the agent’s workload in a Forbes column last year:

    “Agents also have a responsibility to help build the sports of the players they represent. Professional sports [are] not a vital life necessity like food or transportation. Sports depend on the support of fans who choose to spend revenue on products and attend and watch games.”

    State bar certification and a law degree are helpful, though requirements vary depending on organization. The National Football League Players Association, for example, will grant waivers for agents looking to break in but lacking a postgraduate degree. Seven years of negotiating experience is required, however.

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Great Job Vs Very Challenging Job

I was looking at Jobs in Sports and related education for my son, when starts thinking seriously about college next year. I can't imagine being Tiger's PR Firm and the associate that is responsible for brining him back to some form of integrity, if that can even be done now. Yet, while it would be a major challenge for sure, it would be as exciting, as well as, how very seriously tough the PR business gets.

I've been a coach for about

I've been a coach for about 10 years, and it's the most rewarding job I've ever had. The pay isn't great, but working with kids to improve their skills, and then seeing them perform better on the field, it's the best job satisfaction you can have. I recommend coaching to anyone who has the skill and the ability to work for less money than many other jobs.

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