Outsiders — and maybe especially avid sports fans — may see the job of a sports writer as exciting and glamorous. Sports journalism offers plenty of opportunity to meet athletes and to watch important games unfold live, after all. A career in sports journalism is unquestionably rewarding for those aspiring writers who are passionate about sports, but many would be surprised to learn that sports writers earn less than writers in many other fields.
Average Salary for Sports Writers
The pay writers receive on an annual basis can vary drastically depending on their area of expertise. The latest statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show, for instance, a median annual salary of $67,120 for all writers and authors. This category also includes higher-paying fields such as medical writing and script writing in the TV industry. The median annual pay is significantly lower for reporters and journalists, at $49,300.
How does a career as a sports writer measure up? For answers, we can turn to data from platforms that collect annual salary information:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most reliable source of data, reports that writers in the field of spectator sports have a median annual salary of $82,350. This data would also encompass, however, careers such as copywriting and writing biographies of athletes, and does not only refer to sports journalists.
- According to Indeed, the average sports writer in the United States makes a base salary of about $30,794 per year.
- PayScale estimates an average annual salary of $33,385 for sports writers. The platform additionally notes that salaries can range from $24,000 to $78,000 per year in this field.
- Salary.com indicates an average yearly wage of $36,603.
While the precise salary estimates for sports writers vary slightly across each source, this is due to the fact that the privately-owned platforms that collect salary data rely on the voluntary participation of professionals who are already working as sports writers. All their estimates are similar enough to reliably conclude that most sports writers can expect to earn between $30,000 and $35,000 per year.
Factors such as experience, education, location, reputation, and the level at which a writer is covering athletic events all play a role in determining any individual sports writer’s earning potential, however, and while some will have lower annual salaries, others can earn significantly more.
What Do Sports Writers Make Per Hour?
Indeed estimates that sports writers make $17.71 per hour on average. When you look at the data PayScale provides, that figure drops to just $14.64 per hour. Freelance sports writers may earn anywhere from 2 cents per word to over $2 per word, depending on the nature of the work they are doing.
Based on Experience
In almost all career fields, professionals can expect their annual salary to increase as they gain experience. How true is this for sports writers?
- PayScale shows that early-career sports writers, those who have been in the field for no more than a few years, make an average of $30,000. These writers may cover local sports teams for local publications.
- Once a sports writer has been on the job for five to seven years, their average income increases to $31,500.
- Seasoned industry veterans who have been working as sports writers for more than 10, and perhaps even over 20, years have the highest earning potential — making an average of $80,000 annually. This is in part due to the likelihood that they will be covering top-level athletic events.
Based on Education
To what extent can sports writers expect their level of education to impact the annual salary they are able to earn? This question may impact aspiring sports writers’ decisions as they question whether they need to pursue advanced degrees.
Regardless of their experience, sports writers who have earned a Bachelor’s degree (typically in journalism) make an annual average of $35,948, Salary.com says. Sports writers with a Master’s degree make an average of $36,603 per year. Those with a PhD do not earn more than that. This indicates that a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient to get you started as a sports writer, and to help you progress in your career later on.
Top Paying States for Sports Writers
Indeed reports that the states in which the best-paying sports writer jobs can be found include Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and New York. Having said that, top-level sports writers are likely to travel extensively as they report on sporting events across the country and even internationally. Additionally, this data does not mean that high-paying opportunities are not available in other states.
Job Outlook for Sports Writers
Sports journalism is not among the highest-paying careers in writing, or even journalism in general — and those writers who commit to this field do so due to a genuine passion for sports combined with a love of the dynamic nature of this career.
It is not clear how fast job vacancies for sports writers will grow in the coming years. The BLS expects to see a nine percent growth — in line with the national average for all professions — for writing jobs in the next decade. They only project a six percent growth rate for journalists and reporters, on the other hand.
As increasing numbers of jobs in journalism are either disappearing or moving online, sports writers may be able to ride the current wave of digitization to find opportunities with new and exciting news outlets. Due to the rapid pace of change in the news industry in general, however, the level of job stability among sports writers is rather unclear.
What Exactly Does a Sports Writer Do?
A sports writer or sports journalists keeps the general public informed of news about various sporting events. They may work as staff writers or freelancers for diverse publications, which can range from traditional newspapers to sports magazines, web publications, or even, in some cases, for radio or TV stations.
The typical duties of a sports writer include:
- Attending and covering live sports matches and other relevant events.
- Gathering background information and fact-checking data they are intending to use in their stories.
- Interviewing athletes and other relevant figures within the sporting world, such as coaches, fans, or doctors of sports medicine.
- Writing compelling stories, including crafting headlines.
- Working with other members of the editorial team to plan and revise articles.
The role of sports writer is extremely dynamic, and these reporters can expect to spend long periods of time in the field. Sports journalism is a thrilling career choice for writers who are already passionate and knowledgeable about sports, but this is also a rather competitive field.
How to Become a Sports Writer?
High school students can work toward a future career in sports journalism by learning as much as possible about sports, likely focusing on one particular area, as well as about writing and reporting. They may want to become involved in their school newspaper, where there is one.
Following high school, aspiring sports writers would usually be advised to pursue a degree in journalism. Some colleges will allow aspiring sports writers to declare sports journalism as their specialty or minor. Participating in college newspapers and seeking out internships is desirable at this stage. Some journalism students may be able to find freelance opportunities with local or web-based sports publications, which will help them gain experience.
Qualifications to Be a Sports Writer
Sports writers, or sports journalists, who work in more traditional publications will typically have a Bachelor’s degree in journalism. Some will hold a Master’s degree. Those who have been hoping to pursue a career specifically in sports writing may declare sports journalism as their specialty in college. To land a role as a staff writer, sports journalists will want to pursue internships first, starting while they are still students.
Skills to Be a Sports Writer
Sports writes will thrive in their careers if they have:
- Strong writing skills, which goes without saying, and a unique voice that allows them to connect to readers who are as passionate about sports as they are.
- A true passion for sports.
- Outstanding research skills, which will be required when writing feature-length articles or interviewing relevant people.
- Natural interpersonal communication skills are a must for sports writers as well.
- A tendency to get bored quickly, and a strong desire to “always be on call” to pursue the next big story. In short, sports writers have to love their jobs.
- Excellent background knowledge of various sports is another job requirement.
Can You Be a Sports Writer Without a Degree?
In the 21st century, it is unusual for new reports who do not hold at least a Bachelor’s degree to find many opportunities. Aspiring sports writers are strongly advised to go to college, where opting for a journalism major is the best bet.