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Play Ball as a Sports Accountant

Play Ball as a Sports Accountant

You could say that Bowie Baysox Controller Christy Hoos was born into her job. She grew up in a sports-obsessed family, and her father was a professional baseball player. A friend of a friend helped her find her first sports accounting job, working for the Baltimore Orioles, and her love of sports has kept her in the game. "It's more interesting to look at a budget with bats and balls and uniforms than a budget with widgets," Hoos says of her current job with the Orioles' Double-A affiliate Baysox.

In addition to perks like getting the great seats left unsold at game time, Hoos likes the casual Baysox work environment where employees show up in golf shirts and khakis. If your dad wasn't a ballplayer, she recommends three tactics to landing an accounting job with a sports team: top-notch accounting skills, internships and a willingness to take on unglamorous tasks. "I tell young people if they want to get in, do anything," she says. "Take an internship even if it's unpaid." For experienced hires, she says accounting ability is paramount because of the increasingly important role finance plays in professional sports.

Squeeze Play

While it never hurts job seekers to have a special in, companies in the sports industry are recruiting from the same limited supply of accountants as other firms, says Betsy Merlonghi, an executive recruiter specializing in sports and entertainment placements for Lorelei Personnel. "It's hard filling these types of positions, because these are very narrow, detailed searches that require Big Four experience or sports experience," she says.

For instance, if you want to be the finance director at Fox Sports in St. Louis, in addition to the typical requirements of an accounting degree and working knowledge of PeopleSoft, you'll need five years of broadcast experience.

While the glamour factor does mean that accountants in sports and media typically earn less starting out than those working for large public accounting firms, the benefits -- including stock options, child-care subsidies and bonuses of 25 percent to 35 percent -- can make up the difference, Merlonghi says.

Tough Market Even for Top Dogs

Accounting students seeking sports careers can make connections by attending postgraduate programs in sports management. The University of Tennessee, for instance, offers a combined MBA/MS program.

In response to MBAs' growing interest in the sports industry, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School created the Wharton Sports Business Initiative to link students with the industry. For its part, the Wharton student government association approved the Wharton Sports Business Club in 2005 to help students understand opportunities to work in sports.

Despite those boosts, fewer than 1 percent of Wharton MBA students who accepted offers in 2005 went to work in the sports industry. Even Wharton graduates have a hard time finding work in sports, although most are looking for positions in other industries. Several factors are at work. First, the industry fills vacancies when they arise, which don't always coincide with May graduations. Second, because sports companies have very lean business units, few positions exist overall. Finally, the sports industry still struggles with the value of the MBA. "You can see this reflected in hiring practices and compensation," says Cara Costello, senior associate director of Wharton's career management office. The industry has few formal MBA hiring programs, and base salaries "tend to have a wide range, and as a general rule, less sign-on bonuses are given compared to more traditional MBA industries," she says.

Go Deep with Your Search

The number of accounting jobs with professional sports organizations may be limited, but the universe of sports-related jobs is huge. If you don't land a job working for the Lakers, you could instead consider working for Nike. To see what's out there, search Monster using your favorite sport or just the word "sports" as your keyword search term.

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