There are currently an estimated 11,800 athletes in the United States. The athlete job market is expected to grow by 7.6% between 2016 and 2026.

How employable are athletes?

CareerExplorer rates athletes with a D employability rating, meaning this career should provide weak employment opportunities for the foreseeable future. Over the next 10 years, it is expected the US will need 8,400 athletes. That number is based on 900 additional athletes, and the retirement of 7,500 existing athletes.

Are athletes in demand?

While regional population growth and public interest in professional sports influence the popularity of teams, the principal driver of employment of athletes is expansion of professional leagues. However, expansion is rare, which accounts for the weak demand and job outlook in this occupation. When leagues do expand, they typically add only one or two teams at a time, due to the costs and risks involved and the support required from fans and governments. Instead of expanding, leagues sometimes choose instead to relocate a team to a city with a larger fan base and greater revenue-producing potential. This option, of course, does not create jobs; it simply moves them from one location to another. While not common, some teams may completely disband because of lack of fan support, resulting in job losses. When compared to the size of more traditional careers, positions across all professional leagues are extremely limited. Not surprisingly, therefore, competition for professional athlete jobs will continue to be especially intense. Statistics show, for example, that only about one in three thousand high school athletes make it to the professional level. The generally short careers of pro athletes and the need to replace those whose careers end prematurely due to injury will sustain turnover of jobs, but will not significantly increase employment. Despite their talent, most of the men and women who dream of sports stardom will not become professional athletes. The occupation is simply too small and the odds are too low. Athletes who become professionals are expected to work extremely hard in order to gain every possible competitive advantage. Frequent strength training, regular practices and game reviews, extended periods away from home, and very little downtime from the sport are typical at the professional level. Pros unwilling to completely dedicate themselves to their careers quickly become amateurs again. Those who retire from a professional sport often find second careers as coaches, scouts, or managers in the same sport in which they played.

What’s the supply of athletes?

The athlete industry is concentrated in Florida, California, Pennsylvania

Athlete job market by state

State Name Employed Athletes
Florida 1,310
California 1,050
Pennsylvania 750
Missouri 680
Connecticut 540
Tennessee 530
Indiana 510
Massachusetts 480
Colorado 440
Arizona 420
North Carolina 410
New York 330
Illinois 330
Oklahoma 260
Maryland 220
Nevada 200
Wisconsin 190
South Carolina 180
Utah 180
Texas 170
Minnesota 150
Iowa 130
Michigan 120
Washington 110
Kentucky 90
New Jersey 90
Ohio 70
Oregon 60
Kansas 40