Few people ever become professional athletes, but plenty get behind-the-scenes jobs in the sports industry. Here are just a couple of high-paying jobs for people who love sports.

Let’s face a cold hard, fact about sports: precious few people will ever make it into the level of professional athlete.

Not only are professional sports reserved for the best of the best, but there are some sports that don’t even have a professional level – at least not one that pays serious money.

So if you’re not a top athlete, but you love sports, how can you find high-paying sports jobs?

Fortunately, the number of sports-related jobs is much higher than the number of athletic positions in professional sports. As is the case with any of the glamour fields, there’s always a large number of people behind the scenes making it all work for the professional athletes on the field, the court, or the ice.

Below are 12 examples. We haven’t ranked them, because the salary levels can vary dramatically within the same field. But if you rise to the top of said field, you can earn many millions of dollars. That’s true of a lot of these jobs!

Sports Manager

sports manager

A sports manager is someone who’s concerned primarily with the business side of sports.

In professional sports, the sports manager can be one of the most important people in the organization, all while being completely unknown to the team’s fan base. But you’ll be the person responsible for handling everything from team travel to charitable events to victory parades.

How much can you make?

The average salary for a sports manager is between $35,000 and $42,000, but it can vary widely based on geography and the type of sport.

For instance, a sports information director can earn $60,000, while an athletic director can earn $80,000, and professional sports managers can make anywhere from $200,000 and up, and even into the seven-figure range.

Education requirements?

You’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to become a sports manager, and both your salary and your position can move up more quickly with a Masters’ degree.

Physical Therapist

physical therapist

Physical therapists typically work with people who have injuries or are recovering from surgery. They usually serve the general public, but it’s possible to develop a specialization for sports.

How much can you make?

Your efforts at developing your career will pay off. The median annual salary for physical therapists is $89,349 per year.

With a specialization in treating athletes, you can exceed this salary level with more experience and a growing reputation.

Education requirements?

To become a physical therapist, you’ll typically need to obtain a doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT) or other professional degree.

You’ll also need to become licensed in the state where you’re practicing. You can start out working for a physical therapy practice, preferably one that specializes in sports medicine. But eventually, you can open your own practice, working primarily with athletes.

Sports Medicine Doctor

Sports Medicine Doctor

Sports medicine doctor is a bit of a generalization, since there are doctors who work specifically in sports medicine, and others who work in sports related surgery.

How much can you make?

The average income is $239,595, though it can vary from one region of the country, as well as by specialization.

For example, if you’re the team doctor for a college or professional sports team, you’ll learn a lot more than one who works with high school or weekend athletes.

Education requirements?

Naturally, you’ll need medical school, as well as any state licensing requirements. And since sports medicine is highly specialized, it may be several years before you have sufficient experience to command higher compensation.

Golf or Tennis Pro

Golf Pro

In most cases, a golf or tennis pro will be associated with a country club. They’ll be there to provide assistance to members of the club, as well as private instruction for both individuals and groups.

How much can you make?

For tennis pros, pay averages $51,041 per year, while golf pros average $43,998 per year.

Either position depends heavily on both your experience level and the club you’ll be working at.

Education requirements?

There’s typically no formal education associated with either capacity. But proficiency and experience, as well as an ability to coach and handle people well, are definite prerequisites. Some kind of professional recognition, particularly as a player, is also a major advantage.

Sports Photographer

Sports Photographer

Being a sports photographer definitely isn’t one of the higher-paying sports-related jobs. But if you love photography, and you love sports, this can be a perfect way to monetize a passion.

How much can you make?

The average salary in the field is a relatively modest $49,445 per year. But just as is the case with most other jobs on this list, you can earn a lot more depending on where and how you work.

For example, $35,000 is probably the going rate for sports photographers working for newspapers and magazines. But it’s much higher if you’re working for a dedicated sports publication, like Sports Illustrated.

As well, if you have a real talent for capturing the best plays in sports, you may be able to name your price as a freelance sports photographer.

Education requirements?

One of the major advantages (apart from being able to earn money from a hobby) is that it’s a relatively easy entry field. You typically need no more than a high school diploma, but plenty of on-the-job training is naturally a big help.

You may need to work with an experienced sports photographer, and supplement that work with do-it-yourself training in both the mechanics of photography and understanding what sports fans most want to see.

A major perk of the job: you’ll get a sideline spot at sporting events.

Commercial Diver

Commercial Diver

Commercial diver is probably the most unorthodox entry on this list. That’s because you won’t be working in a sports field, but rather applying a sports-related ability, which is underwater diving.

It’s a highly specialized field, involving working underwater doing primarily repair work to seabed structures. Think offshore oil and gas drilling, and related industries. It’s certainly not glamorous, but it will enable you to monetize your diving skills.

How much can you make?

The income is pretty solid, averaging $54,750 per year. But like all other fields, you can earn a lot more based on your experience, skills, and the industry or company you work for.

Education requirements?

Though there are training programs available, there’s no specific education level required. A stint in the Navy or Marines, particularly as a Navy seal, would be ideal. But you can also enter the field if you have significant diving experience, along with a spirit of adventure and a knack for repair work.

Media Sports Program Director

Media Sports Program Director

This is a highly specialized occupation since the number of well-paying jobs is limited to professional sports teams, major college programs, and media outlets.

A media sports program director coordinates broadcast and programming personnel activities, handles program scheduling and event coverage, coordinates with other departments, and works with directors and production personnel in assessing the length and content of media presentations.

How much can you make?

You’re unlikely to find a position at a local high school. But if you do land a position, the average salary is a robust $74,389 per year.

Education requirements?

To enter the field, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in a media-related field. It also helps to have several years’ experience working in a media-related capacity. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to graduate from college and move directly into the field.

Team Trainer

Team Trainer

Team trainers work at preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. You can think of it as something akin to being a first aid practitioner with a team. But it’s more than that, because you’re working with team members on an ongoing basis, and are often aware of injuries and physical limitations they have. Your job will be to keep them healthy, and able to perform with- or minimize-certain injuries.

Jobs are primarily in colleges and universities, but frequently at hospitals and high schools as well. And if you’re one of the lucky few – as in no more than a few hundred – you may be in a high-paying, high visibility position as a team trainer for either a professional sports team or a major university sports program.

How much can you make?

The average salary is $43,736 per year.

Education requirements?

To enter the team trainer field, typically requires a bachelor’s degree related to the field.

Sports Reporter

Sports Reporter

What sports fan doesn’t have deep experience playing “Monday morning quarterback”? But did you know you can actually get paid for it? You can do that by becoming a sports reporter. There are people who chronicle the game, write about the major plays, events, and calls, then usually throw in a (un)healthy dose of personal commentary. But it just might be one of the most enjoyable and influential jobs in the sports universe.

How much can you make?

To show how much fun it can be, a sports reporter typically is paid less than reporters in other categories, like politics or finance. For example, while the average income for reporters, in general, is $49,300 per year, it’s just $38,922 per year for sports reporters. We can suppose employers consider love of the game to be part of the compensation.

Education requirements?

To enter the field, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in either journalism or communications. You’ll also need to have work experience or an internship with a newspaper, radio, or TV station.

And naturally, a keen interest in sports – in combination with an ability to articulate events on the field in a way that resonates with the audience. All will go a long way in determining how much you earn.

Sports Broadcaster

Sports Broadcaster

Have you ever watched a sporting event on TV, become annoyed at the announcers, and thought “I can do a better job”? If you think you can, it may be possible to break into the field of sports broadcaster, but it’s an admittedly tough climb. After all, nearly every sports fan in history has contemplated the possibility. And every year, thousands try.

Unfortunately, the best positions are few in number, and only a tiny handful of people reach the superstar level that puts them on a nearly equal footing with star players and coaches.

How much can you make?

Sports broadcasters earn an average of $41,800 per year. But this is one of those fields where average doesn’t tell the story. The highest-paid announcers among professional sports broadcasters can be as high as $75,754. But there are a handful of superstar broadcasters in major network sports that earn into the millions.

Education requirements?

To become a sports broadcaster you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree in either broadcasting or communications. But experience is the real key. You’ll have to work your way up the ladder, going from local media, like radio and TV broadcasts in your local market, onto the regional or national scene. It’s a tough climb because it’s a very competitive field.

Sports Referee

Sports Referee

If you have a real passion for the technicalities of a certain sport – as in you’ve mastered the rulebook – you can turn it into a career as a sports referee.

How much can you make?

Unfortunately, it’s the lowest paying sports-related occupation on this list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is just $28,940 per year.

But one of the major advantages of this job is that there are more positions available than there are for others in the sports realm.

For example, you can become a paid sports referee for recreational sports leagues for children, high school sporting events, and all the way up to college and professional sports. The more local positions will pay no more than $10-$20 per hour. But at the college and professional level, rates could be much higher, especially with certain sports.

Education requirements?

Typically, you need only a high school diploma. And of course, it’s better if you spent a significant amount of time playing in the sport you plan to referee in. But attention to detail, and the rulebook – mixed with a healthy sense of fairness – is really the best resume.

Head Coach

Head Coach

While most folks won’t become the head coach of professional sports teams, you can still coach at the high school or college level.

How much can you make?

There’s good news and bad news on the salary front. The median income for coaches is just $36,330. But that’s just the median. It takes in coaches of all types, but is certainly dominated by high school sports coaches and assistant coaches, with a smaller number of college coaches, and an even smaller count on professional coaches.

But if you want to dream big, head coaches in college and pro football commonly make seven-figure incomes. At the professional level, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick earns an estimated $12.5 million.

Education requirements?

To become a head coach, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree, along with consistent participation in the sport you hope to coach in.

Naturally, to get to the upper echelons of the pay scale, you’ll need to go through long stints as either a player or an assistant coach. The more successful that program is, the more success you’re likely to have in landing a top head coaching position.

Summary

You don’t have to become a professional athlete to make money in sports. As you can see from this list, there are plenty of high-paying jobs for people who love sports. Once you accept the fact that you’ll never make the pros as a player, it’s just a matter of narrowing down your specialization.

Much like a TV show or movie, they are usually dozens or even hundreds of people working behind the scenes to make sporting events happen. You can build a career around becoming one of them.

Are you game?

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About the author

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Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed “slash worker” – accountant/blogger/freelance web content writer – on Out of Your Rut.com. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides “Alt-retirement strategies” for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires. He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering work-arounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the “savings barrier” and transitioning from debtor to saver. He’s a regular contributor/staff writer for as many as a dozen financial blogs and websites, including Money Under 30, Investor Junkie and The Dough Roller.