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Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, and Related Workers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
For most athletes, turning professional is the biggest advancement. 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 winning and achieving accolades and earning a higher salary.

Many coaches begin their careers as assistant coaches to gain the knowledge and experience needed to become a head coach. Head coaches at large schools and colleges that strive to compete at the highest levels of a sport require substantial experience as a head coach at another school or as an assistant coach. To reach the ranks of professional coaching, a person usually needs years of coaching experience and a winning record in the lower ranks or experience as an athlete in that sport.

Standards for umpires and other officials become more stringent as the level of competition advances. A local or State academy may be required to referee a school baseball game. Those seeking to officiate at minor or major league games must attend a professional umpire training school. To advance to umpiring in Major League Baseball, umpires usually need 7 to 10 years of experience in various minor leagues before being considered for major league jobs.

Finding talented players is essential for scouts to advance. Hard work and a record of success often lead to full-time jobs and responsibility for scouting in more areas. Some scouts advance to scouting director jobs or various administrative positions in sports.

Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers held about 258,100 jobs in 2008. Coaches and scouts held 225,700 jobs; athletes and sports competitors, 16,500; and umpires, referees, and other sports officials, 15,900. About half of all athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers worked part time or maintained variable schedules. Many sports officials and coaches receive such small and irregular payments for their services—occasional officiating at club games, for example—that they may not consider themselves employed in these occupations, even part time.

Among those employed in wage and salary jobs, 52 percent held jobs in public and private educational services. About 13 percent worked in amusement, gambling, and recreation industries, including golf and tennis clubs, gymnasiums, health clubs, judo and karate schools, riding stables, swim clubs, and other sports and recreation facilities. Another 6 percent worked in the spectator sports industry.

About 16 percent of workers in this occupation were self-employed, earning prize money or fees for lessons, scouting, or officiating assignments. Many other coaches and sports officials, although technically not self-employed, have such irregular or tenuous working arrangements that their working conditions resemble those of self-employment.

Job Outlook
Employment of athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Very keen competition is expected for jobs at the highest levels of sports with progressively more favorable opportunities in lower levels of competition.

Job Growth
Employment of athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers is expected to increase by 23 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. A larger population overall that will continue to participate in organized sports for entertainment, recreation, and physical conditioning will boost demand for these workers, particularly for coaches, umpires, sports instructors, and other related workers. Job growth also will be driven by the increasing number of retirees who are expected to participate more in leisure activities such as golf and tennis, which require instruction. Additionally, the demand for private sports instruction is expected to grow among young athletes as parents try to help their children reach their full potential. Future expansion of new professional teams and leagues may create additional openings for all of these workers.

Additional coaches and instructors are expected to be needed as school and college athletic programs expand. Population growth is expected to cause the construction of additional schools, but funding for athletic programs often is cut first when budgets become tight. Still, the popularity of team sports often enables shortfalls to be offset with the assistance from fundraisers, booster clubs, and parents. In colleges, most of the expansion is expected to be in women’s sports.

Persons who are State-certified to teach academic subjects are likely to have the best prospects for obtaining coaching and instructor jobs in schools. The need to replace the many high school coaches will provide most coaching opportunities.

Competition for professional athlete jobs will continue to be extremely keen. In major sports, such as basketball and football, only about 1 in 5,000 high school athletes becomes professional in these sports. The expansion of nontraditional sports may create some additional opportunities. Because most professional athletes' careers last only a few years due to debilitating injuries and age, annual replacement needs for these jobs is high, creating some job opportunities. However, the talented young men and women who dream of becoming sports superstars greatly outnumber the number of openings.

Opportunities should be best for persons seeking part-time umpire, referee, and other sports official jobs at the high school level. Coaches in girls’ and women’s sports may have better opportunities and face less competition for positions. Competition is expected for higher paying jobs at the college level and will be even greater for jobs in professional sports. Competition should be keen for paying jobs as scouts, particularly for professional teams, because the number of available positions is limited.

Median annual wages of athletes and sports competitors were $40,480 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,760 and $93,710. The highest paid professional athletes earn much more.

Median annual wages of umpires and related workers were $23,730 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $17,410 and $33,150. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $15,450, and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $48,310.

In May 2008, median annual wages of coaches and scouts were $28,340. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,220 and $43,440. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $15,530, and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $62,660. However, the highest paid professional coaches earn much more.

Wages vary by level of education, certification, and geographic region. Some instructors and coaches are paid a salary, while others may be paid by the hour, per session, or based on the number of participants.

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