Athletes and Sports Competitors: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Although athletes and sports competitors typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, no formal educational credential is required for them to enter the occupation. They must have extensive knowledge of the way the sport is playedespecially its rules, regulations, and strategies.
Training Required
It typically takes many years of practice and experience to become an athlete or sports competitor.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 7% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Turning professional is often the biggest advancement that aspiring athletes can make in their careers. They often begin to compete immediately, although some may spend more time on the bench (as a reserve) to gain experience. In some sports, such as baseball, athletes may begin their professional career on a minor league team before moving up to the major leagues. Professional athletes generally advance in their sport by displaying superior performance and receiving accolades; in turn, they earn a higher salary. Others may receive endorsements from companies and brands.
Some sports and localities require athletes and sports competitors to be licensed or certified to practice. For example, race car drivers need to be licensed to compete in the various races. The governing body of the sport may revoke licenses and suspend participants who do not meet the required performance or training. In addition, athletes may have their licenses or certification suspended for inappropriate activity.
Median pay: How much do Athletes and Sports Competitors make?
$47,710 Annual Salary

Athletes and sports competitors participate in organized, officiated sporting events to entertain spectators.

What do Athletes and Sports Competitors do?

Athletes and sports competitors typically do the following:

  • Practice to develop and improve their skills
  • Maintain their sports equipment in good condition
  • Train, exercise, and follow special diets to stay in the best physical condition
  • Take instructions regarding strategy and tactics from coaches and other sports staff during games
  • Follow the rules of the sport during competitions and games
  • Assess their individual and team performance after each event and identify their strengths and weaknesses

Many people dream of becoming a paid professional athlete. Few people, however, beat the odds and make a full-time living from professional athleticsand when they do, professional athletes often have short careers with little job security.

When playing a game, athletes and sports competitors must understand the strategies involved while following the rules and regulations of the sport. The events in which athletes compete include team sports, such as baseball, softball, hockey, and soccer, and individual sports, such as golf, tennis, swimming, and skiing. The level of play varies greatly. Some athletes may compete in regional competitions, while other athletes compete in national or international events.

Being an athlete involves more than competing in athletic events. Athletes spend most days practicing their skills and improving teamwork under the guidance of a coach or a sports instructor. They review videotapes to critique and improve their own performance and technique. Athletes also must study their opponents' tendencies and weaknesses so as to gain a competitive advantage.

Some athletes work regularly with fitness trainers and instructors to gain muscle and stamina and to prevent injury. Because of the physical demands required by many sports, career-ending injuries are always a risk. Even minor injuries may put a player at risk of replacement.

Because competition at all levels is extremely intense and job security is always in question, many athletes train throughout the year to maintain or improve their form and technique and remain in peak physical condition. Very little downtime from the sport exists at the professional level.

Careers for Athletes and Sports Competitors

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  • Baseball players
  • Basketball players
  • Bicycle racers
  • Bicyclists
  • Billiard players
  • Bowlers
  • Boxers
  • Bull riders
  • Car racers
  • Cyclists
  • Dirt bike racers
  • Drag car racers
  • Figure skaters
  • Football players
  • Golfers
  • Gymnasts
  • Hockey players
  • Horse racers
  • Ice skaters
  • Jockeys
  • Kick boxers
  • Mixed martial arts competitors
  • Motocross racers
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  • Racecar drivers
  • Roller skaters
  • Skaters
  • Skiers
  • Snowboarders
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  • Surfers
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