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Professional Athlete

Professional athletes compete in sports either individually or as team members at the paid professional level.

  • Avg. Salary $57,340.00
  • Avg. Wage $26.27
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Athlete, Baseball Player, Football Player, Hockey Player, Soccer Player, Tournament Professional

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Athletes (5251) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Athletes (F151) 
  • 2011 NOC: Athletes (5251) 
  • 2016 NOC: Athletes (5251) 
Interest Codes
The Professional Athlete is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Interest in attending scheduled practices and training sessions to increase effectiveness and to develop stamina


Interest in precision working to train under the direction of a coach or trainer to develop the level of ability necessary for competition; and in diverting audiences while participating in local, regional, provincial, national and international competitions and sporting events


Interest in analyzing performances following competitions to identify weaknesses and strengths and devise new strategies for better performance

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2016

Through training, perseverance and talent, professional athletes have advanced through the amateur ranks of their sport to become paid professionals. Depending on the sport, they may compete against 1 opponent (for example, tennis players) or be members of a team (for example, hockey, football, baseball players).

Training and competition schedules vary from 1 sport to another, but in general, professional athletes must:

  • practise daily
  • be committed to a daily physical and mental training program
  • lead a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition
  • travel frequently
  • act as ambassadors for their sport.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2016

The work is both physically and mentally demanding.

Professional athletes often work evenings, weekends and holidays. Employment generally is seasonal and those who play outdoors must cope with variable weather conditions. Some professional athletes are required to relocate whenever they are traded to teams in other cities.

All sports require physical skill, but some sports involve greater physical contact than others. Injuries may have permanent effects on physical health, and in some sports, the risk of injury is high.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Professional athletes need the following characteristics:

  • exceptional talent in their sport, including extraordinary physical fitness, co-ordination, strength, stamina and speed
  • exceptional dedication and determination
  • honesty
  • the ability to think quickly
  • the ability to endure public criticism and the physical and emotional pressures of constant competition.

They should enjoy training and competing, taking charge of situations and analyzing performances to identify weaknesses and strengths.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Professional athletes usually start playing their chosen sport at a young age to develop the level of skill required to become professionals.

It is becoming increasingly common for prospective professional athletes to attend college or university where they can continue their athletic training, acquire the education necessary for a second occupation and perhaps be scouted by a professional team. However, post-secondary education does not guarantee a job as a professional athlete. Specific paths of entry for the various sports must be followed. This information can be obtained by contacting the appropriate sports league or association.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Grande Prairie Regional College

Grant MacEwan University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2016

There are very few professional athletes employed in Alberta. The number of years professional athletes are physically able to maintain a high level of play also is limited. For example, the careers of football players last approximately 5 years. For this reason, aspiring professional athletes are encouraged to prepare for a second occupation.

Professional athletes often find there are various options open to them when they retire from active play. Their training and experience may enable them to stay involved in their sport by becoming coaches, trainers, managers, officials, scouts, athletic directors or sports commentators. Sales and promotional work also are popular fields of employment for retired athletes.

In Alberta, most people employed as athletes work in the Information, Culture and Recreation (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Information, Culture and Recreation industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Salaries for professional athletes vary considerably from 1 sport to another and can be quite high. However, because the time spent as a professional athlete often is short, individuals may earn a relatively high income for a limited number of years.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Physical Education and Recreation

Updated Mar 27, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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