Requirements to Become a College Athletic Director

Dec 16, 2019

Students wondering how to become an athletic director need to pursue formal education and optional certification in the field. Here we discuss athletic director requirements, college athletic director salaries, and more.

College Athletic Director Requirements

In general, athletic directors need to have at least a bachelor's degree, though most have a master's degree. It is also preferred for them to have at least some administrative experience. Athletic directors may also wish to pursue professional certifications, such as the Certified Athletic Administrator or Registered Athletic Administrator credential offered by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). However, it is important to note that athletic directors can work at various levels of sports and may have specific requirements at each level. Read on to learn more details about the requirements for a college athletic director.

College Athletic Director Education

College athletic directors are considered a type of postsecondary education administrator. To become an education administrator at this level, most athletic directors need a master's degree. Aspiring college athletic directors can pursue master's degree programs in areas like sports management, athletic administration, or sports administration. Sports management colleges are common and may offer online degree programs.

Athletic Director Experience

It is also important at the collegiate level to have prior work experience in the field. This experience may come through internship opportunities that may be offered through degree programs and/or by working as an athletic director at a lower level. Some college athletic directors at larger institutions may first find employment as assistant athletic directors and work their way up.

Postsecondary Athletic Director Certification

College athletic directors can still pursue national certification through the NIAAA, but may also consider becoming a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). This organization provides collegiate athletic directors with various networking and educational opportunities, as well as other resources, such as a job search page.

College Athletic Director Job Description

A college athletic director generally works full-time and oversees their school's sports programs, departments, and events, including managing coaches and other athletic staff. The job typically encompasses administrative and public relations skills, as athletic directors also work to help promote their teams. Job duties may vary by college and university, but in general, a college athletic director may perform duties such as:

  • Raising funds for the athletic department
  • Overseeing financial budgets
  • Handling media relations
  • Scheduling sporting events
  • Hiring and training staff
  • Buying athletic resources
  • Maintaining athletic facilities
  • Helping foster a positive, healthy environment for student-athletes

College Athletic Director Salaries

According to, the median annual salary for an athletic director at a college or university level was $78,121 as of September 2019. The website did note that the salary for these athletic directors increased with years of work experience; college athletic directors with 20 years or more experience made an average salary of $96,074. Salary may also vary by school size and athletic prestige, as USA Today reported that in 2013 several athletic directors for larger football schools were making 6-figure salaries.

Athletic Director Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report a job outlook specifically for athletic directors, they do for postsecondary education administrators. The job growth for these professionals from 2018 to 2028 is 7%. This job outlook is faster than average and may be due in part to the increase in student enrollment at colleges and universities.

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