Job description

Athletes participate and compete in sports events on a professional level. The types of games in which they play include football, basketball, tennis, swimming, skiing, baseball and softball. Athletes compete in games on a regional, national or international level and play to entertain spectators.

These professionals are trained, observed and supervised by a coach or sports instructor, and constantly aim to improve performance and skill throughout their careers.


    • Play and compete in organised sporting events
    • Practise and build on skills, form and technique
    • Follow strategies, rules and regulations of sport
    • Train to improve physical condition and stamina
    • Follow special diets to maintain fitness and health
    • Follow instructions from coaches and sports instructors
    • Evaluate and monitor game performance
    • Study opponents' methods and techniques

Skills and qualities

Physical stamina

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.


New jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.


Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.


Career progression

Aspiring athletes have the opportunity to become professionals in their sport. This usually comes with higher salaries, endorsements from companies and brands, and sometimes fame.

Athletes with exceptional technique and experience might be transferred to other, more prestigious, teams within their niche, which often brings forth impressive pay.

Working conditions

Average hours

40h/ week

Typical schedule


Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally

Athletes that compete in outdoor sports sometimes have to face undesirable weather conditions. This job also requires much travel, especially when games are located in other areas, or even countries.

No matter the sport, these professionals require great physical stamina. Their job involves a lot of running, jumping, climbing and working out, and there is very little downtime throughout their careers.

Athletes are also constantly at risk of injury whilst training or competing in sports. For this reason, they are required to wear protective gear like gloves, helmets, goggles and pads.

Due to the high competition among athletes, there is high pressure to constantly maintain and improve performance, skill and physical condition.


Bottom 10%




Top 10%


Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

High school

No formal educational requirements

Study time


There are no formal entry requirements in order to become an athlete. Individuals interested in this profession must simply have extensive athletic skill and knowledge in their particular sport.

It typically takes many years of practice and experience to become a professional athlete or sports competitor, though most athletes gain experience at lower levels of competition.

Some athletes require licensing in order for them to engage in a sport, such as race car drivers or horse racers.

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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