How to Become a Sports Writer (Duties, Salary and Steps)

Want to combine your love of sports and writing? This could be the perfect career move for you!

Illustration of a man working on a laptop and thinking about a basketball game

If you’re passionate about sports and are also something of a wordsmith, then pursuing a career as a sports writer could be the perfect fit for you.

This is an occupation that encompasses a lot of exciting opportunities to witness and write about major sporting events, industry developments and historic wins. Essentially, being a sports writer will give you front row seats, both literally and metaphorically, to the world of sport.

Does this sound like it could be your dream job?

Below, we share some insightful information about this career, and helpful tips that will allow you to get started.

What sports writers do

The day-to-day life of a sports writer can be quite diverse and exciting.

Their main duties revolve around attending and following various sporting events to produce engaging content about them. Here’s a list of the typical duties and responsibilities you would have as a sports writer:

  • Follow sports media outlets and collect information about sporting events
  • Travel to and attend athletic events
  • Write articles, reports and recap stories covering events and games
  • Conduct interviews with event organisers, athletes, and coaches
  • Create content for blogs, radios, television shows, podcasts, magazines and newspapers
  • Cover sports-related news, such as player transactions, team bans, coach terminations and athlete injuries
  • Work with editorial teams and follow style guidelines for their work
  • Attend media and press conferences

What the job is like

Working as a sports writer can be a rewarding career path, especially if you’re compatible with what the job entails.

Work environment

Sports writers often work in an office or from home. If they are employed at a publication, they may have the option to telecommute or they might work on a freelance basis.

It is quite a flexible career, which could allow you to work while on the road or from any location, as long as you have a trusty laptop with you.

Of course, you will also spend a considerable amount of time in athletic centres, stadiums and arenas in order to cover sporting events. Therefore, being surrounded by big — and sometimes rowdy — crowds will also be a common part of your routine.

An important consideration here is that things could get out of hand on some occasions; a football match could get violent, leading to hooliganism and belligerent behaviour by spectators. So, while this is a generally safe job, you may find yourself in these situations when attending different events.

Work hours

As with any job that requires live coverage, being a sports writer could mean working unpredictable and long hours, even during holidays and weekends.

As most tournaments and games are held during the evening, you will probably need to work during later hours of the day, especially if you have tight deadlines to meet. You will also need to stay up to date with sports-related news and be ready to write and publish content at a moment’s notice, even if you’re technically off the clock.

Furthermore, the job involves a lot of travelling, especially if the event you are covering is not local, which could add to your overall work hours. Some assignments could stretch to days and weeks, especially for international events, such as the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup, which could mean you’ll be on the road for quite some time.

Job satisfaction

If you enjoy writing and love sports, then this could be a dream career for you. That said, your job satisfaction will revolve around a few other factors, including salary prospects, work environment, job growth and personality fit.

Sports writers have the opportunity to write about a subject they are passionate about, but dealing with long hours and frequent travelling can be stressful, especially if you are someone who enjoys having a steady routine.

Moreover, salary prospects and job growth may be limited for a sports writer due to the low demand for this role, although there are definitely opportunities to improve your craft and diversify your skills.

Job market

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 9% growth is expected across all writing jobs between 2020–2030. Meanwhile, job growth for news analysts, journalists and reports is projected at 6% in the next decade.

That said, as newspapers and magazines undergo the waves of digitalisation, job stability and career opportunities could become scarcer, as many publications are opting to employ freelancers rather than bring on full-time staff. Moreover, due to the high competition, demand for sports writers is not extremely high.

That said, as bigger news outlets make the move online, there could still be opportunities with smaller, local papers and broadcast stations as well as online sites.

Salary

So, we’ve looked at the common responsibilities, work environment, expected hours and job outlook, but what compensation can you expect?

Take a look at the salary data below to form a better understanding of your income prospects as a sports writer:

Mean wage

If you’re based in the US, then the below figures reflect the mean annual and hourly wages earned by sports writers across the country:

Mean annual wage

Mean hourly wage

$66,000

$31.73

Median wage by experience

As your experience grows, so will your salary prospects. In the US, these are the median annual wages for sports writers, based on their level of experience:

Experience

Median annual wage

Entry-level

$22,510

Junior level

$32,160

Mid-level

$49,300

Senior level

$80,950

Top-level

$127,370

Mean wage by state

Where you are based will also play an important role in your earning potential. The table below shows the top five states in the US with the highest mean wages for sports writers, with the Columbia district taking the lead and boasting an impressive $115,980 average yearly wage.

State

Mean annual wage

Virginia

$67,140

California

$73,990

Georgia

$74,270

New York

$90,450

District of Columbia

$115,980

Median wage around the world

Globally, these are the top five countries with the highest median annual wage for sports writers.

Country

Median annual wage

UK

£24,790 ($33,660)

Australia

AU$50,360 ($36,080)

Canada

C$50,050 ($39,570)

Ireland

€40,000 ($45,300)

New Zealand

NZ$50,290 ($33,930)

Steps to become a sports writer

Whether you are already convinced that sports writing is the right career for you, or are still weighing your options, there are a few steps you need to take before you can begin your journey.

Here’s how you can hit the ground running as a sports writer:

1. Determine if it’s the right job for you

First things first, is sports writing your true calling?

While you may enjoy writing, and are also an avid sports fan, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will love writing about sports. Combining two of your passions will not necessarily be a recipe for success, especially if other factors entailed by this job are not compatible with your personality and interests.

To reiterate a previous point, the job comes with unpredictable hours, involves lots of travelling and long days. Therefore, you must consider whether you would be able to keep up with this pace. If the stability of a 9-to-5 job sounds more appealing, then you may have to seek different career options.

Work environment also plays a key role. If you are an introverted person, you may not enjoy the aspects of the job that require you to be surrounded by large crowds. On the other hand, if you are an extroverted and active person who enjoys being on the field (quite literally), then you will probably enjoy this aspect of the job.

Beyond your personality and interests, you must also possess or work towards developing the following skills as an aspiring sports writer:

If you are still unsure of whether you are cut out for this role, then you can also put your skills and personality to the test through an aptitude and career assessment.

Our own career test, CareerHunter, can evaluate your character traits, interests, motivations and skills level to match you with over 250+ careers and offer insight into your work personality.

2. Focus on the right subjects at school

If you are still in school, be it high school or college, then it’s crucial to set some foundations that will allow you to build on your career by selecting the right subjects.

This could encompass a combination of English, media studies, physical education, IT, foreign languages and creative writing.

As a result, you will be able to develop a well-rounded collection of skills that will not only give you the knowledge, but also the confidence to get started as a sports writer.

3. Build your writing skills

Your writing skills are perhaps the most important ability that needs to be mastered.

The more you practise, the more skilled you will become, and more experience means a higher chance of being employable.

So, if you want to give yourself an advantage, consider undertaking some activities like starting your own sports blog and social media accounts, where you can document, offer commentary and publish pieces on athletic events and developments in the sports world. This is a great opportunity to build a portfolio of work, but also to take your first steps as a sports writer.

If you manage to garner a large number of readers and followers, this may also help you get ahead, as you can capitalise on your blog and accounts, and it will especially help when applying for job opportunities.

Speaking of which, trying your hand in freelancing and submitting written work online is another great way to develop your writing skills, whilst also attaining more experience as a writer. Whether it’s a local publication or an online website, you can enquire about available writing opportunities and freelance assignments.

Another great way to refine your skills is to use writing prompts, which are meant to help you practise and get your creative juices flowing. For instance:

  • Which athlete would you like to interview and what would you ask them?
  • What are your three favourite sports and why?
  • What do you consider the most important sporting event and why?

Finally, working for the school paper and contributing to the sports section is an important extracurricular that will provide you with some real-world experience as a student writer.

4. Acquire sports knowledge

This might be a no-brainer for you but having a diverse and deep knowledge of a variety of sports could ultimately put you ahead of others.

Begin by focusing on the sports that pique your interest before moving towards more niche areas. When learning about a sport, make sure to focus on:

  • Basic rules
  • Key teams and players
  • History and major events
  • Current and ongoing developments

Another great way to enrich your knowledge is to play some of these sports. Of course, you don’t need to become the captain of the national lacrosse team, or even join a minor league team, but by submerging yourself in your subject of interest you will be able to have more insight and understanding of the politics and mechanics of each sport you’ll cover as a sports writer.

6. Complete a degree in journalism

The majority of sports writers have a degree in journalism, although a high school degree could be the minimum requirement to get your foot through the door as an entry-level writer.

Having an associate or bachelor’s degree will certainly open up more opportunities and also set you apart from other candidates, as you will be more seasoned and experienced in the journalistic field.

Other degrees you could consider pursuing include English and communications, both of which will allow you to sharpen your research, writing and critical thinking abilities.

Alternatively, pursuing more specific degrees in sports marketing, sports event management, sport or exercise science could give you a different outlook in the sporting industry, but also give you more options when it comes to your career trajectory.

7. Complete an internship

The last step to help you become a sports writer is acquiring real-world experience at an established publication.

An internship will not only help you take your first steps in this field but will also allow you to form professional connections as well as a stronger skillset.

While the competition may be fierce, there are numerous opportunities out there, both locally and online. Before you apply, make sure that your CV is in top shape and that you have put together a portfolio of work that demonstrates your writing abilities.

The role itself does not necessarily need to be focused on sports, either. As long as you get to experience what working in a newspaper, magazine or broadcasting station is like, you will be able to acclimatise faster when you land your first job and kickstart your career successfully.

Final thoughts

Sports writers are, undoubtedly, professionals who are passionate about what they do.

While there are considerable advantages and disadvantages tied to this career, you must weigh them carefully to determine if sports writing is the right path for you.

This is an occupation that offers exciting opportunities, travelling and suspense, but that will also keep you always on-call. The narrow earning potential and the competition for job opportunities may also be a deal-breaker for many.

That said, if you are confident in your skills and motivated by your love for sports, these considerations should not stop you!

Join the discussion! Do you want to become a sports writer? What aspect of this career interests you the most? Let us know in the comments section below!