The term "sports analyst" can mean different things depending on who you ask. A sports analyst could be a journalist and commentator like Stephen A. Smith, the basketball expert, or a sports analyst could be a person who works with sports data, making projections based on statistics and mathematical formulas. In either case, a sports analyst must be intimately familiar with the world of sports and have the right background and experience.
Most sports analysts enter one of two main types of careers that have completely different job descriptions. The first type of sports analyst is a sports journalist. One example of this is the commentator who analyzes the game during halftime. This person must understand a large volume of sports information and be a top communicator. A sports journalist is a quick thinker who can speak to a wide range of topics. You must also have strong observational skills and be able to interview athletes to do this job.
The second type of sports analyst is one who works with data and statistics. If you want to work with sports statistics, be prepared to learn a lot about data, statistics and mathematics. If you go this route, expect to watch a lot of sports footage on repeat and be ready to do statistical modeling with your findings. Many teams use analytics to look at player and team data to give them an edge over the competition. A football analyst might watch the tape of a game over and over again, marking down every pass, fumble, interception, tackle and penalty. The analyst then uses those numbers to assess the performance of the team and reports the findings to the head coach. Professional and collegiate teams alike are increasingly using sports analytics to improve performance.
Most sports analyst jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. Typically, people who go into this field study communications, sports journalism or data analytics. To become an on-camera sports analyst, you should have media experience. Often, these jobs go to former athletes who understand the ins and outs of the sport from a unique point of view.
For data and analytics jobs, an educational background in data, statistics or some other related subject matter is necessary. You also need to know a lot about sports, but it’s essential that you understand how to work with data.
Sports analyst jobs are often with teams or media companies. For example, if you become a sports journalist with ESPN, you are required to work in a studio. If you take a statistical analysis job with the New York Giants, you probably work in the team offices. If you work at a media company such as Deadspin analyzing sports, you might be in an office setting. You will probably spend a lot of time at a computer during the course of your work, especially if you are on the data side of things. Note also that you may have to work long or irregular hours as a sports analyst because major sporting events tend to happen at night and on the weekends. Further, expect the in-season period to be more intense for work, with less work being assigned in the offseason.
Years of Experience and Salary
For commentators, sports analyst salaries range from $36,000 to more than $104,000. The average salary for commentators is $88,250. For sports data analysts, salaries range from $45,000 for entry-level analysts to $90,000 for senior positions.
Job Growth Trend
While broadcasting jobs may be declining, sports analysis jobs that work with statistics and modeling are growing. The need for sports statisticians is skyrocketing, and there is not a large pool of applicants to draw from. If you enter this field, you will have your pick of jobs. Data analysis is one of the fastest growing industries in general, with a high need for employees. The need for data analysis will only continue to grow as technology booms. This is a good field to enter if you are looking for a cutting-edge career and future job security.