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Professional Athlete

What is this job like?

Very athletic people might want to consider getting a job as a "pro" athlete. But they should know that very few athletes ever make it that far. It's a good idea, then, to have another job in mind as well. Professional athletes include baseball, football, basketball, and tennis players; golfers, ice skaters, skiers, stock car drivers, and rodeo riders: anyone playing a sport for money.

Professional athletes play in front of an audience and get paid for it. Fans enjoy seeing these athletes play so much that they are willing to pay to watch. In this way, professional athletes are like performers or entertainers. They must perform well in each game or risk losing. If they don't play well, they won't last long.

The work of professional athletes is very demanding. This includes both physical and mental stress. They must be in the best possible shape. Most modern athletes work out all year, during both the season and off-season. They must be able to perform their jobs at the highest level at all times. Professional athletes also face the constant threat of injuries that could end their careers. For these and other reasons, this kind of job can be quite stressful.

During the regular season, professional athletes often practice more than 40 hours a week. They may have other duties related to the team as well—for instance, going to meetings or watching films about the opposition. Athletes often move to the place where their team is located. If management decides to trade them, they may have to move again. At least in team sports, professional athletes often have curfews and other restrictions on what they can and can't do. They can't just leave the job at the office like workers in other jobs can.


How do you get ready?

Most professional athletes spend a good part of their lives practicing. Basketball players, for example, spend hours and hours working on their dribble or jump shot. Ice skaters may practice several hours a day. Playing organized sports at an early level can only help. Most pro athletes played their sport in both high school and college. Schools usually require that students have good grades to play their sport. So, those wanting this kind of career must keep up with their studies.

How many jobs are there?

In 2008, about 16,500 held jobs as professional athletes and sports competitors.What about the future?

Jobs for professional athletes are expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2018.

Competition is intense for the relatively few professional athlete jobs. This is because many young men and women dream of entering this occupation. Some sports, like baseball, basketball, hockey, and even football have "minor" leagues. Jobs in the minors are a little easier to get, but you still must compete with many other people for these jobs. Also, this profession doesn't offer much job security; an athlete can lose his or her job because of an injury, or can be replaced by a "better" player at any time.


How much does this job pay?

In May 2008, average yearly wages for professional athletes were $79,460.

Salaries for professional athletes vary with the sport. Jockeys, for example, may get a part of the purse or a set fee. Stock car drivers may earn several hundred thousand dollars for a race. Boxers can earn millions of dollars for a fight, and baseball, football, and basketball players may earn millions a year if they are superstars. Tennis players and golfers usually get paid according to how well they play compared to other players. Only the most talented professional athletes earn the highest salaries. Professional athletes in the "minors" sometimes earn very little.

Are there other jobs like this?

Recreation and fitness workers

Recreational therapists

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