Was A College Athlete: Now In The Real World

College athletes are often the stars of the show.

But while they entertain everyone on the big screen for a few years, not all of them are going to make it at the next level.

It’s easy to follow the LeBron James and Tom Brady’s of the world, but what happens to those who don’t make it that far?

What happens to those who get their degrees and then don’t participate in future athletics?

Are they still more successful than others?

Does their old fame make it easier to find jobs?

Though an often overlooked benefit, it seems that playing sports in college is, in fact, correlated with better success off the field.

Below, we’ll take a look at the job market for college athletes and just what makes them so attractive in it.

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Easier to Find Jobs

Recent studies have found companies love to hire former college athletes.

This includes those athletes who just didn’t make it at the next level.

This information leaves some scratching their heads. A popular understanding of college athletes likely leaves one with the impression that they simply aren’t that bright—that they got into sports because of academic shortcomings.

It doesn’t help matters that there are stories of tutors and even professors doing and excusing college athletes from course work.

In this regard, it can seem almost baffling that anyone would want to hire a college athlete.

Because there’s seeming no guarantee, they enjoyed the same university experience as their peers, it can appear to be a riskier bet on the surface.

The stats, however, don’t lie.

Studies have made one thing clear: companies want to hire college athletes.


There are several factors that likely influence that decision, but a short answer is that they’re often more qualified.

The skills and the attitudes that these individuals can bring to the workplace are generally above average.

It may also be that their employers have a personal bias toward the university team they played for.

A former Alabama football player, for instance, may have a good rapport with several employers in Tuscaloosa—even if he’s not the most qualified candidate.

While this clout isn’t exactly something that one should brag about, it is a boon for those college athletes who fail to make it at the next level of play.

The issue isn’t quite so simple, however.

When looking at college athletes’ relative ease in finding jobs, several other factors must be taken into consideration. Let’s take a closer look at each of them below.

Are They Better?

While studies have shown that college athletes generally do have an easier time finding jobs, that doesn’t mean they’re finding the right ones.

In fact, research shows that the jobs that former athletes have are no better than that of other college graduates on average.

What this means is that despite their ease in getting jobs, college athletes typically aren’t paid better than other college graduates. And they’re likely not going to be any more financially successful.

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This data is, of course, skewed by those college athletes who go on to land big roles with sports networks such as ESPN.

Though it’s true that these athletes generally make a go at the professional level first, some, like Tim Tebow and Kirk Herbstreit, are best remembered as highly-paid sports announcers.

In this regard, it can be said that overachieving college athletes are likely to land better jobs than the average graduate, but it’s almost like comparing apples to oranges.

These athletes have been exceptional their entire careers, so some might find it a bit strange to compare their success to the average graduate.

And that’s a fair enough statement. But for college athletes who are looking for a career path that doesn’t involve long-term playing in professional sports, this could be a viable option.

The average athlete, however, doesn’t appear to be any more successful at finding high-paying jobs than the average graduate. That being said, they’re still more likely to get a job, which is a bonus in and of itself.

Reasons Why They’re Successful

So what are college athletes seemingly so successful?

It can be hard to tell from the data we have. Several confounding variables exist, and it’s possible that several of them are at play in helping college athletes secure new jobs.

Let’s take a look at a few of them in depth.

Recognized Status

As mentioned, one of the primary factors behind college athletes getting jobs could be their recognized status.

Athletes who have made a name for themselves on the field have created a strong personal brand.

Because their names are already worth something, they are able to leverage this in the market place.

This is particularly true for athletes who have endeared themselves to a certain fanbase.

If they’re looking for a job in an area where their fans live, having their collegiate athletic experience on their resumes is a major plus.

We all accept that attending the right university can help individuals get hired. It’s hard to turn down a degree from Harvard, right?

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The same proves true here. For companies in South Georgia, for instance, there’s an inherent appeal to hiring someone who was a part of the Georgia Bulldog football team.

This implicit bias is embedded in the framework of many businesses.

Now, this doesn’t mean that athletes are going to get jobs that they’re not qualified to do.

However, an engineering graduate who happens to be an athlete may get the nod for a certain position over another qualified candidate because of his history.

It’s important to note that this is context and region-dependent. That being said, however, it’s an undeniable factor in helping college athletes secure positions upon graduating.

Better Equipped

This preferential treatment, however, is only half the story.

It’s also true that the skills and discipline learned by being part of a college athletics team have made athletes more employable.

Though it’s easy to look down on sports as non-academic—and therefore irrelevant in the workplace—this can actually look quite good on a resume.

Employers are looking for disciplined team players—and what better illustrates this than competing with some of the best teams in the nation?

College athletes who are able to craft a good personal image on the field better than chances of getting a job.

And because they’ve been highly-trained by their coaches on how to act and handle high-pressure situations, they do well under normal job pressures.

This is a major plus for employers who are looking for long-term and dedicated employees.

For this reason, getting into college athletics can massively improve one’s chance to be hired.

It’s also likely that they’re going to be more successful in their role, as they don’t mind listening to authority figures and working with others.

Because of this, not only are they more hirable, they may also prove to be more promotable.

Because of this, it’s important that college athletes take their roles seriously and build a strong personal brand while on the field.

Inherent Talent

But let’s not give the coaches too much credit.

After all, they’re not creating these qualities in their players. They’re merely bringing them out.

It could be that college athletes have personalities that lend them to more success off the field.

Many of the same qualities that make them successful as part of a sports team also translate well into the workplace.

Being able to listen to instructions, overcome adversity, and work hard to achieve a goal is something that every employer is looking for in a candidate.

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And college athletes typically have them all.

It’s also the case that they’re likely extremely driven. Because they have their own personal drive, they’re likely to work harder than most to get the job done.

And because they’ve been trained and honed to work with this kind of attitude, they’re likely happier doing it.

Whereas most graduates would eventually get burnt out or disillusioned, college athletes are able to work with a better mindset and with long-term goals in mind.

Additionally, their sense of loyalty built as being part of a team can help them get attached to the company and do more for it overall.

This willingness and drive to succeed make college athletes strong candidates for nearly any position.

It’s perhaps this reason most of all that has led them to have a much easier time finding jobs out of college compared to regular graduates.

More Opportunities

We’ve spoken a bit about college athletes making a personal brand.

This is where it can really come into play.

By having their name put on the big screen, college athletes enjoy a wider market of opportunity than most individuals.

Their names have been seen by millions across the country—for big-name schools—and have been constantly repeated in their local area for smaller schools.

In this way, these athletes enjoy a larger employer pool in which to choose from.


Because they’re already on their radars.

In a sense, they’ve already gotten their feet into the market. By being able to leverage their names and personal brands, these athletes can be better recognized and stand out from other talents.

Note, this is different than getting preferential treatment because they are well-liked by the employers. Instead, this refers to an athlete’s ability to draw on his name to receive greater recognition by employers.

And if he can show employers that this is possible, it’s likely that he’ll get a good job. A salesman or a marketer with a strong personal brand, for instance, would be an asset to any company.

It’s in this way that a college athlete can begin to create more opportunities for himself.

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This often begins before graduation. With an entire body of work on and off the field, college athletes start building uniquely-strong resumes.

Greater Support

Finally, it’s important to consider the fact that college athletes receive great support from coaches and other members of a team’s athletic staff.

This doesn’t just include support for work done on the field.

These staff members serve as counselors and guides for players and can help them get a job they would like.

Note, we’re not suggesting that these college coaches find their players jobs—only that they point them in the right direction and help them in their decision-making process.

Because they enjoy this great support, college athletes are more likely to continue their job searches in a productive way.

And because they’re getting advice from experienced professionals, they’ll likely make smarter decisions.

By being more prepared, they’ll stand out from other college graduates who aren’t sure what to do after leaving school.

Because the average graduate doesn’t have a real plan and ends up stuck between jobs, having this extra guidance can help college athletes in important ways.

The Bottom Line

So do college athletes get better jobs?

The jury is still out on that one.

While it’s true that the ones who go pro often enjoy a more lavish lifestyle than the average graduate, it’s also true that these athletes also rise above their less-successful counterparts.

What happens to the athletes who don’t make it to the big stage?

Do they fall between the cracks?

Are they left high and dry?

In this regard, the data is encouraging. These athletes actually prove more likely to get a job when compared to their non-athlete peers.

And while the data doesn’t show that these are generally more high-paying jobs, the fact that they have a job at all is already an advantage.

Something pays better than nothing.

Even then, there’s no indication that the average college graduate outpaces college athletes in earnings, so college athletes appear to be able to get an upper hand when it comes to financial success.

There are several reasons why college athletes enjoy greater success during the job hunt.

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These reasons range from the painfully-obvious to the deeply nuanced and all come together to make athletes more hirable in today’s market.

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