Athletic Director Job Profile

What Does an Athletic Director Do?

Hofstra Athletic Director - Jeff Hathaway
Hofstra AD Jeff Hathaway at press conference. Hofstra University/Flickr

With the great variety of sports offered at high schools and colleges, it is important to have an effective athletic director providing leadership.

This profile will look at the athletic director position at the high school and college level. No matter which level, athletic directors oversee all aspects of an athletic program, including hiring coaches, scheduling, budget preparation, promotion, compliance and facility management.

If you are an organized person who thrives in a position of leadership and enjoys sports, a career as athletic director could prove a good fit.


Athletic directors provide guidance and direction for a school’s sports program.

They prepare a budget and allocate spending on items like coach’s salaries, team travel, equipment purchases, and facility upkeep. At the high school level, the athletic director typically is a school administrator who provides hands-on leadership in these areas. At the major college level, some of these responsibilities may be delegated, but the athletic director will still oversee these areas.

Athletic directors work with coaches to determine scheduling of games and practices. Athletic directors also work with conferences and leagues on scheduling and other issues, like post-season play. Within a program, decisions may have to be made on how to allocate time for a field, court, or weight room.

The athletic director often provides guidance for coaches. At the major college level, the hiring of coaches is a key responsibility for athletic directors that can be subject to public scrutiny.

Athletic directors work with coaches and perhaps a travel coordinator to plan trips. They also coordinate officials and umpires at games and budget for their pay.

Typically athletic directors file reports on the status of each team and its successes and shortcomings. They may mediate any disputes between athletes and coaches or between coaches.

Athletic directors at the high school level work with other school administrators to assure student athletes are academically eligible for a given sport. Athletic directors carry out this responsibility at the college level as well. At the college level, they also typically work with a compliance officer to make sure a program is acting within conference and NCAA, or other association, rules.


At the high school and middle school level, athletic directors typically begin their careers as coaches and teachers. They may retain a coaching or teaching position but the athletic director position at the high school level typically is a full-time job.

Athletic directors typically complete a bachelor’s degree in education, physical education, or related field before typically completing a master’s degree in education administration or perhaps sports management.

While sports management graduates often pursue jobs at the college and professional level, a study by Old Dominion University determined high school athletic director jobs are a good fit for sports management program graduates.

In that study, respondents listed the development of the following skills as important: planning and organizing skills, knowledge of legal liability, public relations, oral and written communication skills, and skills in staffing and hiring.

There are numerous sports management schools that prepare students for administration positions, like athletic director, at the college level.

Benefits, Challenges

Athletic directors typically enjoy working with coaches and athletes to help teams reach their potential. Whereas coaches carry out the day-to-day preparation of teams, athletic directors take pride in the behind-the-scenes work, which puts teams in position to succeed.

Athletic directors enjoy being in a leadership position. They may receive some level of public recognition, but typically not as much as a successful coach.

Many athletic directors in both colleges and high school over see the strategic plan for the athletic department.  So an ability to form a long term vision and communicate it with other administrators, donors, students and the public is a key responsibility.

Athletic directors at the college level sometimes move into positions with a conference or league office.

Some of the challenges that athletic directors face include staying on top changing rules; political skills with coaches in the program, school leaders, and the public; and pressures from changing budgets. At the high school level, athletic directors may have to work through concerns of athletes, coaches, and parents. At the college level, athletic directors can become the focus of media scrutiny.



Updated by Rich Campbell

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