If you want to develop a career through sports analytics jobs, it can be an extraordinarily challenging path. However, the demand for talent in this area is on the rise. After all, the industry is booming: from 2019 to 2025, the $775 million worldwide sports analytics industry (2018 data) was projected by Grand View Research to grow at a 31.2 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). That is extraordinarily fast.
Knowing the market is strong is helpful. However, to prepare for data analytics sports jobs, you also need to understand how to break into the industry. The individual anecdotes of those who have succeeded in the field can help, as can answers to top frequently asked questions. Below, a couple of people who are successful in sports analytics share their own stories and thoughts on how to get a job in sports analytics. Then we review the nuts-and-bolts information, such as the education you will need and other basic forms of preparation that will better set you up for these sports jobs.
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Sports Analytics Success Story #1: Jordan Sperber
Recently called “[one] of the top analytical minds in the college basketball game,” Sperber is the creator of a blog called The Hoop Vision – now an email newsletter called Hoop Vision. This newsletter provides updates on NCAA basketball through the perspective of the college basketball coaching staff. The emphasis is heavy on analytics and video.
Suffice it to say that Jordan started early. After reading the classic analytics book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (the basis for the 2011 Brad Pitt movie), Sperber developed inspiration that fueled his drive toward data analytics sports jobs. After taking a statistics class in high school, he immediately started using what he learned to interact with sports data. Jordan launched The Hoop Vision when he was only a junior in high school!
The newsletter explores broader trends within college basketball, as well as assessing specific teams and players, through description but with heavy utilization of video and data analysis. Sperber transitioned the blog into a newsletter to spark more conversation and networking.
Two different Division I basketball coaches contacted Sperber while he was still early in college! While Jordan was still a college student, he was even able to get some consulting work out of these relationships.
Sperber’s first employment in the industry, once he got out of school, was with those two coaches. While it may sound like Sperber had already proven his value by the time he was through college, he still needed additional experience and was not yet ready to go full-time as an entrepreneur with Hoop Vision. He started out at the University of Nevada as a graduate assistant and then was the New Mexico State basketball team’s video coordinator. Eventually, Jordan was able to start dedicating himself full-time to Hoop Vision (as the owner of Hoop Vision LLC) in July 2018.
While most people will need to get sports analytics jobs rather than starting their own companies, Sperber’s story is compelling – in part because even he had to get a couple of full-time jobs prior to striking out on his own.
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Sports Analytics Success Story #2: Sam Gregory
Sam Gregory has held sought-after jobs in sports analytics, working for pro teams and media clients as a football analyst with powerhouses Opta and Perform Group (the latter of which acquired the former).
Gregory believes parts of his success came from his personal work in analytics and interactions with others in the analytics community. However, he believes he was lucky in how he ended up with a football analytics gig: a freelance writing opportunity kind of landed in his lap. From that, he started to get little contract-based sports analytics jobs by reaching out to teams’ performance analysts.
Gregory’s #1 piece of advice, though, is to do work right now and publish it. He noted that it is important to get an audience even though you will make mistakes along the way and may not immediately have a robust toolset – such as understanding of various coding languages. Sam improved his methodology with strong feedback. He has also been a lifelong learner.
Sports Analytics Job Market FAQ
Here are a few of the most common questions about the sports analytics jobs market, so you know what you can expect and how best to be prepared for an extraordinarily competitive industry.
Who offers sports analytics entry-level jobs?
If you have a sports analytics degree, there are plenty of ways to join the field. One is in leadership: sports management responsibilities are becoming increasingly data-related, so analytics skills could lead you to a decision-making role. You may also aim for more high-profile positions, such as those who create web and on-air material to be used in reporting by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and other major media outlets. Another exciting employer for those with these degrees are sports teams and leagues. There are also private companies that sell sports analytics as a service to teams and other clients.
What education does a sports analyst need?
There are three basic ways you can go in terms of preparing for a sports analytics career with your education:
- Often within a sports management department at a college or university, there is the option to get a sports analytics bachelor’s degree. These programs cover statistics, math, computer programming, sports management, and general business classes. Typically the coursework includes a capstone class the senior year that focuses on succeeding professionally.
- Another possible educational path for jobs in sports analytics is a sports analytics concentration within a sports management bachelor’s degree. Coursework focuses on the sports field and goes beyond that to incorporate general classes on business, statistics, and programming.
- Also, look for the possibility of a sports analytics minor. Typically that will involve various classes within your school’s statistics department, as well as with science, engineering, and/or business — beyond sports management requirements.
- You could also get a master’s degree in sports analytics if you want to be well-positioned for a career. That path demonstrates specialized knowledge of the field, helpful for data analysts in other industries who want to switch to sports and for anyone interested in management positions.
How can I get my initial experience?
The internship is often a critical piece of breaking into this industry since it allows you to get experience without the employer having to invest in you. You will often be able to get an internship through the help of your college’s career services office, enabling you to build credibility and bolster your resume for sports analytics entry-level jobs.
Getting Your Start In Sports Analytics
There are certainly ways you can stand out from other applicants when you want sports analytics jobs, as seen in the stories of Jordan Sperber and Sam Gregory. However, you also want to get started with the basic staples: understanding the job market, the education you will need, and how to get your first position. Are you interested in a job in sports analytics? Those who apply through JobsinSports.com are “pre-qualified,” according to the vast majority (93 percent) of sports employers polled in an industry survey. Join our network today!