Professional Athlete

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

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, and basketball players, tennis players, golfers, ice skaters, skiers, stock car drivers, 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. Professional athletes are performers or entertainers. In this way, they are a lot like actors and musicians. 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, both during the season and in the 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.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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