Payment for athletics interns can vary widely. Some are unpaid and issue college credit. Others pay either an hourly wage or a monthly stipend. Sometimes there are bonuses associated with strong performance, especially in sales positions. The following is a general discussion on salaries, broken down by area of the industry:
Professional League Offices – Currently, the league offices for The Big Four (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB), NASCAR, and Major League Soccer are all in New York City. Because of their high profile, these internships are highly competitive. Many interns, therefore, come from outside the region and must be able to support themselves in a city where the cost of living is over double the national average. Positions with league offices are more likely to be paid, typically around $10-12 per hour with a 40 hour maximum per week. Some league jobs, however, are offered as unpaid, college credit positions.
Major Sports Teams – Payment for team internships varies greatly, depending on level of education/experience and the level of responsibility given. Front office interns, for example, assisting in marketing execution or financial analysis, can usually warrant a higher pay than the game day promotions interns, although the average hovers around $10 per hour. In minor league baseball, where staffs are much smaller, interns have a much more substantial role to the every day operation of the franchise. As such, they can expect to earn between $400 and $1,200 a month. Many team internships are also school credit only.
Marketing Agencies – These companies are notorious for not paying their interns. Because employment is so competitive, they have been able to get away with this practice for years. The upside is that internships with major industry names like IMG and Octagon are big resume boosters, as well as valuable sources of practical experience in sponsorship consulting/activation and athlete marketing. While these internships may not be lucrative in dollars, the value in experience is well worth the sacrifice.
Sports Media – As in other areas, there is a great deal of variance in this field. ESPN, on one end, offers hourly wages and subsidized housing. On the other end, Time Warner, the parent company of Sports Illustrated, requires written guarantee of college credit and does not pay its interns.
Collegiate Athletics Jobs – Many colleges and universities, particularly on the Division I level, offer graduate assistantships (GA) in the Athletic Department for students pursuing an advanced degree. A GA can work in the department office or for a specific team as a manager or assistant coach. These jobs are essentially the same as internships because they offer the same experiential and networking advantages. Because they are well funded by most universities, these positions will pay part if not all of a GA’s tuition. Stipends to cover living expenses are also offered. One caveat: GA positions are only offered to graduate students and are often given to former athletes.
The bottom line on salaries is that there is no standard to measure against or expect. The negative reality is that if your financial situation dictates that you cannot afford to go unpaid, you will limit the number of opportunities available to you.