Track and field athlete
Athletes compete in track and field events for their clubs, and some go on to represent their country at international level.
Salary range: Variable
How to become an athlete
You can get into this career through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- a sports development programme
You can apply to do a course at university in the usual way through UCAS and join your university’s athletics development programme, if one is available.
You may be able to apply to a university for a sports scholarship, if you’ve competed at club, regional or national level and have shown the potential to go further.
You can get advice about combining university study with your athletics career from England Athletics.
You’ll usually need:
- 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You could do an advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence (AASE) if you’re aged between 16 and 18. This is administered by British Athletics and you’ll need the support of your school or college to do this.
You’ll combine study with competitive training, tailored coaching and a development programme designed to help you reach your potential to compete at a high level.
Apprenticeship training providers set their own entry requirements.
You may be able to study for a qualification at college or university as part of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.
You must be 16 or over, be performing at a high level, and be nominated by your sport’s national governing body, UK Athletics.
You can apply to join the Paralympic Development Academy, if you have the potential to perform at national and international paralympic level.
If you’re already competing at a high level, you may be offered an opportunity to join the British Athletics Futures Academy Programme. This aims to help exceptionally talented athletes compete at World Championships, and Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Contact your nearest athletics club for information about how to get involved and for details of their athlete development programmes.
Many athletes combine their career in track and field with study or a second job.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- ambition and a desire to succeed
- persistence and determination
- physical fitness and endurance
- physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
- the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties will depend on your event but may include:
- indoor and outdoor training sessions and exercise routines
- practising running, throwing or jumping drills
- working with fitness coaches in the gym to build up strength and conditioning
- having treatment with physiotherapists for any injuries
- identifying areas for improvement with your coach
- taking part in trials and competitive races
- travelling to athletics events, including overseas for international championships
- taking part in promotional and media activities for your club
- mentoring younger athletes
You could work on a sports field or at a sports arena.
Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers, physically and emotionally demanding and you may spend nights away from home.
You may need to wear a sports kit.
Career path and progression
You could move into coaching with clubs, colleges and universities. Your experience would also be useful for jobs in community sports development or sports management.
You might also take further training to become a sports physiotherapist, nutritionist or sports scientist.