Although some NFL team owners call all the shots, most teams have a general manager to oversee operations, handle crises, and make hiring, firing and recruiting decisions. Whether they're helping players with personal problems or combating media backlash after a bad game, GMs must be ready to handle just about anything. According to the "Princeton Review," there are no prerequisites for sports management positions, but most general managers in the NFL have similar backgrounds as former scouts, accountants or athletes.
Start in School
GMs in the NFL must have a passion for the game. They typically have experience either playing or coaching football. Some played football in high school and college, while others assisted football coaches or managers. Although there are no education requirements for GMs, those in the NFL usually have a business degree, and be knowledgeable about economics, accounting and contract laws. They may have taken courses in sports media and broadcast relations, non-traditional revenue strategies, and principles of sports finance and accounting.
Complete an Internship
Because most GMs get promoted from within, an internship can help you get a foot in the door. An internship allows you to meet people within the organization and gain industry experience. According to NFL.com, the league offers internships in most departments, including finance and accounting, operations and media. These provide a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL through mentoring relationships, networking opportunities and speaker presentations. Many individual teams offer internship positions as well.
Work in the Industry
The Princeton Review reports that GMs are often promoted from head coaching or scouting positions. Before you can be a GM, you must know how to negotiate and deal with a variety of personalities. Working as a coach gives you experience keeping a team motivated and leading players to victory. As a scout, you evaluate college players' potential, rate players' talent according to NFL standards, manage rosters and complete scout reports. Experience as a scout prepares you to analyze athletes' mental and physical abilities, body composition and talent.
Put in the Time
General managers in the NFL are chosen because of their passion, loyalty and demonstrated ability to start from the bottom, even when that means working several jobs before becoming a GM. For example, a candidate may begin as a scout, get promoted to area scout, advance to assistant director of college scouting and then to director of college scouting before being offered a GM position. Others may start as equipment assistants, move to equipment managers, switch to quality control assistants, earn promotions to football administration directors and player personnel vice presidents before advancing to GM.