Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024

Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024. Sports science is an exciting and growing field that applies scientific principles to improve sports performance, prevent injury, and enhance overall athlete health and well-being. There are various career options within sports science, spanning research, coaching, therapy, data analytics, and more.

Read on for an overview of the most common sports science jobs, essential duties, required education and certifications, salary ranges, and job outlook.

What is Sports Science?

Sports science encompasses a range of disciplines aimed at understanding the scientific foundations of sports and physical activity. Key areas of study include exercise physiology, biomechanics, sports psychology, motor learning and control, sports nutrition, and sports therapy. How to Choose a Sports Massage Therapist 2024

Professionals in sports science apply evidence-based knowledge to help athletes optimize performance, prevent injury, and support overall wellness. Depending on their field, they may conduct scientific research, analyze data, develop training programs, offer therapy or nutritional advice, manufacture equipment, and more,

Highest Paying Sports Science Careers 

The highest-paying sports science career paths generally require advanced graduate degrees and training. However, there are lucrative options at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels as well.

The most lucrative sports science occupations include:

  • Sports Medicine Physician – Diagnoses and treats sports injuries and illnesses. Conduct pre-participation exams. $208,000 average salary*
  • Physical Therapist – Help patients recover from injury and manage pain through exercise, manual therapy, modalities, and more. $91,010 average salary
  • Orthopedic Surgeon – Perform surgery to fix bone, joint, and muscle issues. $497,000 average salary
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach – Design training programs. Provide instruction on technique, nutrition, and injury prevention. $60,970 average salary

Other high-paying roles include athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports psychologists, chiropractors, registered dieticians and nutritionists, and professorial academics conducting sports science research and teaching at the university level.

Now, let’s explore some of the most common career pathways in sports science and critical details related to each role.

Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024

Sports Medicine and Therapy Careers

Sports Medicine and Therapy Careers

Sports medicine and therapy professionals work directly with athletes to keep them healthy, prevent injury, assess and treat medical issues, and support recovery. This field typically requires significant post-graduate education and clinical rotations.

Sports Medicine Physician

Sports medicine physicians focus on treating injuries related to exercise, sports, and physical activity. Key duties include:

  • Conducting pre-participation physical exams
  • Diagnosing and treating acute sports injuries
  • Performing surgery to fix chronic injuries or issues
  • Prescribing medication, therapy, braces, and other treatments
  • Clearance for return-to-play decisions

To become a sports medicine physician requires:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Medical degree (4 years)
  • Residency training (3-5 years)
  • Optional sports medicine fellowship (1-2 years)

The average salary for sports medicine doctors is $208,000 per year. Those working with professional athletes or teams may earn significantly more. The job outlook is excellent as sports participation continues rising across all age groups.

Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers work to prevent injuries by advising on technique, taping, bracing, equipment fitting, and more. They are also the first line of defense when injuries occur, performing emergency response, assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Typical athletic trainer duties include:

  • Taping and bracing athletes before practices and games
  • Conducting initial injury assessments
  • Coordinating referrals and continued care
  • Developing treatment and rehab protocols
  • Monitoring recovery and clearances

Becoming an athletic trainer requires the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in athletic training
  • State licensure and national certification

The average salary for athletic trainers is $48,440. Many work in schools, sports medicine clinics, gyms, or with professional and college sports teams. Excellent job growth is expected due to expanding sports participation across all age groups.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists (PTs) help patients decrease pain, improve mobility, and prevent re-injury after accidents, surgeries, or due to chronic conditions. Those working in sports medicine focus on athletes and sports injuries. The Complete Guide to Sports Massage 2024

Everyday physical therapist duties include:

  • Evaluating injury, diagnosing dysfunction, and developing treatment plans
  • Leading patients through strength, flexibility, balance, and cardio exercises
  • Performing hands-on joint and soft tissue mobilization manual therapy
  • Prescribing assistive devices like crutches, braces, or taping
  • Monitoring patient progress and amending plans as needed

Becoming a physical therapist requires:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree
  • State licensure

The average salary for physical therapists is $91,010 per year. PTs working with elite athletes and pro sports teams generally earn six-figure salaries. Job demand is expected to grow by 18% over the next decade.

Performance Optimization Careers

Performance-focused sports scientists apply coaching, physiology, biomechanics, psychology, and nutrition principles to enhance athletic ability. Researchers in this field also work to uncover new methods for improving sports performance.

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning coaches develop tailored workout programs catered to the sports and needs of specific athletes. They instruct on proper lifting techniques, nutrition recommendations, and lifestyle factors for optimal performance.

Joint strength and conditioning coach duties include:

  • Designing periodized strength training, plyometric, speed, agility, and cardio programs
  • Teaching safe and effective training techniques
  • Tracking and analyzing fitness assessments
  • Adjusting plans to prevent overtraining
  • Advising on nutrition, hydration, and recovery techniques

Becoming a strength and conditioning coach requires the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in exercise science or related field
  • Certification from NSCA, ACSM, USAW, or other organization

The average salary for strength and conditioning coaches is $60,970 per year. Those working with college, Olympic, or professional athletes may earn over $70,000. Job opportunities are projected to grow by 11% over the next decade.

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists study how the body adapts and responds to physical activity. This includes designing safe testing protocols, monitoring key metrics, analyzing data, and applying findings to improve health, fitness, and athletic performance.

Everyday exercise physiologist duties include:

  • PerformingVO2 max and lactate threshold tests
  • Measuring body composition, heart rate variability, and other metrics
  • Prescribing customized training zones based on fitness assessments
  • Researching the latest protocols for improving endurance, strength, speed
  • Publishing findings in scientific journals

Becoming an exercise physiologist requires:

  • Bachelor’s degree in exercise science
  • Master’s degree for advanced clinical roles
  • Certification from ACSM, NSCA, or other organizations

The average salary for exercise physiologists is $54,280 per year. Senior researchers may earn up to $90,000, while clinicians working with elite athletes are compensated even higher. Positive job growth is expected.

Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024

Sports Analytics Careers
Additional Sports, Education Requirements, Job Outlook and Salary Overview

Sports Analytics Careers

As player-tracking technology and advanced data collection systems evolve, there is a growing need for sports analysts who can translate numbers into meaningful insights.

Sports Statistician

Analyze volumes of data to uncover trends impacting sports performance, outcomes, draft prospects, and more.

Typical duties include:

  • Tracking key performance indicators and advanced metrics
  • Building models to predict outcomes or forecast trends
  • Identifying patterns related to injuries, referees, game locations, and other factors
  • Compiling reports, visualizations, and presentations

Becoming a sports statistician requires the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in statistics, mathematics, or computer science
  • Background in statistical analysis software like SAS, R, Python, or SQL

The average salary for sports statisticians is $63,020 per year. Compensation is significantly higher for analysts working in pro sports. Positive job growth is expected as an emphasis on analytics expands.

Additional Sports Science Careers

Beyond the roles already covered, there are many other intriguing sports science career paths to consider:

  • Biomechanist – Research mechanics of body movement to enhance performance, equipment design, and injury prevention and treatment plans.
  • Sports Nutritionist – Develop fueling and hydration protocols for optimal training, competition, and recovery: guide supplement use, weight management, and performance nutrition.
  • Sports Psychologist – Assess mental skills and address performance blocks, motivation issues, anxiety, concentration, confidence, team cohesion, and more.
  • Sports Product Designer – Design innovative sports gear and equipment tailored to biomechanics, comfort, protection, and other athlete needs. Conducted research, drafted prototypes, tested products, and brought them to market.
  • Coaching Scientists – Apply the latest sports science research to develop cutting-edge training programs, periodization models, practice structures, and game strategies. May work with individual teams or governing bodies like Olympic committees to advance coaching methods.

Education Requirements Overview

In review, here is a comparison of the education needed for the core sports science career pathways:

  • Sports Medicine Physician – Medical degree, 3-5 year residency, optional 1-2 year sports medicine fellowship
  • Athletic Trainer – Bachelor’s degree in athletic training, state licensure, BOC certification
  • Physical Therapist – Bachelor’s degree, 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, state licensure
  • Strength Coach – Bachelor’s degree in exercise science or related field, certification from NSCA, ACSM, or other organization
  • Exercise Physiologist – Bachelor’s degree in exercise science, master’s degree for advanced roles, certification from ACSM, NSCA.
  • Sports Statistician – Bachelor’s degree in statistics, mathematics, or computer science

No matter which sports science career you choose, proper education, hands-on training, certification, and continuing education will be vital for opening doors and advancing over time. Reaching out to leaders in your desired field for mentorship and informational interviews can provide great perspective as you chart your educational path.

Job Outlook and Salary Overview

Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024

The sports science job market is expanding rapidly and is expected to continue impressive growth over the next decade. Why? Several key factors are fueling demand:

  • Skyrocketing consumer spend in health, fitness, athleisure, and sports entertainment
  • Pressures to use science and technology to gain performance advantages
  • Desire to leverage analytics and metrics for more intelligent decision-making
  • Focus on injury prevention and protecting long-term athlete health
  • Innovations in wearables, tracking tech, testing equipment, and training modalities

Whatever sports science specialty you pursue, the future job outlook is extremely bright. Salaries vary substantially based on your precise role, level of education, years of experience, work setting, and more. Sports scientists working with elite athletes and pro teams earn the highest wages.

For detailed salary data and job growth projections for specific sports science careers, explore reports published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( and comparable agencies in your country.

Now that you have a solid overview of the most common sports science career paths, salaries, education requirements, and job outlook – which role most excites you? The opportunities are endless for helping athletes maximize their potential through evidence-based training, technology, analytics, medicine, therapy, and equipment innovations. Let the cutting-edge frontier of sports science lead you towards a rewarding career improving athletic performance, safety, and overall enjoyment for sports participants at all levels of competition and recreational play. 10 Best Sports Psychology Books for Athletes 2024

Sports Science Careers and Salaries 2024


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much money do sports scientists make?

Salaries for sports scientists vary widely based on specific job titles, required education, years of experience, certification level, work setting, and other factors. Working with elite, Olympic, and professional athletes or teams typically earn the highest wages. Median pay also increases based on advanced degrees and certifications.

For example, a strength and conditioning coach may start at $35,000 per year, but those working in Division I college, Olympics, or pro sports can make $70-100,000+. Sports physicians earn $200,000+ on average. Post-doctoral sports science researchers bring in $60-90,000+ depending on grants and publications. Salaries continue rising throughout one’s career as well.

What is the best degree for a career in sports science?

The best sports science degree depends significantly on your specific career goals. Those interested in hands-on clinical roles (e.g., athletic trainer, physical therapist) should target an undergraduate degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or related discipline. Advanced clinical degrees (e.g., DPT or MD) open even more doors.

A PhD is generally required for research-based roles like biomechanists, exercise physiologists, and sports psychologists. Master’s programs in these specialties allow for assistant and coordinating roles.

Data analysts and statisticians thrive with a bachelor’s in math, statistics, or computer science, along with specialized coursework in analytics.COMBINING a scientific undergraduate background with an MBA or sports management Master’s can also be powerful for maximizing career options.

What courses should I take for sports science?

Standard undergraduate courses across most sports science programs include:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Motor learning/development
  • Strength training and conditioning
  • Sports Nutrition
  • Exercise testing and prescription
  • Sports psychology
  • Statistics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Injury prevention
  • Research methods

Additional specialized coursework related to coaching, administration, marketing, accounting, analytics, therapy, medicine, equipment design, and the like can further strengthen your skillset. Completing internships for hands-on training is also extremely valuable when getting started in sports science.

How hard is it to get a job in sports science?

The sports world is highly competitive, and jobs are scarce. Expect that most opportunities, especially at the entry-level, will be lower paying or part-time as you build experience. Be open to relocating anywhere openings exist.

Develop a professional network through informational interviews and industry groups like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Consider volunteering or working at events to make connections.

Persistence is vital when breaking into the sports science job market, but it’s worth it to transform your passion for sports into an exciting lifelong career.

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