How Much Do Olympians Make? (Plus Requirements To Be One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 7, 2022

Published July 23, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Olympians are high-level athletes who compete in the Olympic Games and are able to achieve excellent results in their chosen sport. These athletes may earn an income that varies depending on their sport and whether they earn a medal. If your goal is to compete in the Olympics, learning more about how you can earn an income as an athlete can help you plan your career path.

In this article, we discuss what an Olympian is, explain how much they make, describe their primary sources of income and list the requirements for competing in the Olympic Games. 


What is an Olympian? 

An Olympic athlete, or “Olympian,” is an athlete who competes in the Olympic Games, which are major international sporting events where some of the most talented athletes get to represent their nation and showcase their abilities. Olympic athletes often devote a large portion of their lives to training for the international sporting games held every four years, which alternate between winter and summer sports. They may specialize in a variety of different sports, ranging from swimming to track and field. Depending on the sport, they may participate as an individual or on a team with other professional athletes. 

Related: 35 Sports Interview Questions for Athletes


How much do Olympic athletes make?

Professional sports competitors, including Olympic athletes, earn an average salary of $77,300 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Olympic athletes don't usually receive a traditional salary for competing in the Olympics, unlike in other sporting events. They do receive bonuses if they earn a gold, silver or bronze medal. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) rewards athletes for winning these medals. After they compete at the Olympics, they may also receive corporate sponsorships, endorsement deals, appearance stipends and other sources of revenue. Some athletes may make millions of dollars after winning a medal.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: 25 Jobs in Professional Sports


How do Olympic athletes earn their incomes?

After being selected to compete in the Olympics, an athlete may receive corporate sponsorships or grants to support their preparation. This is often a beneficial source of income for these athletes, as their extensive training and preparation requirements often prevent them from having full-time jobs. The grants or sponsorships they receive often help them pay for their training, travel and a variety of other expenses. Here are some of the primary ways athletes earn an income from the Olympics:


Corporate sponsorships

Corporations may pay to have their brand associated with an athlete or team preparing for the Olympics. Their logos appear on the athlete's clothing or gear, in addition to in any advertising that the athlete may participate in prior to the Olympics. Depending on the sponsorship, the company may provide funds for the athlete to train and compete in their sport. 

Related: What Is Corporate Sponsorship?


Endorsement deals

Companies may establish an endorsement deal, or a direct relationship, with an Olympic athlete. Athletes who have already won a medal can be especially attractive to companies who want to endorse an Olympic athlete. In an endorsement deal, the athlete agrees to promote the company's products or services in exchange for compensation. For example, an athlete may choose to wear a certain brand of sneakers or allow their image to appear on cereal boxes from a popular food company. 

Related: 8 Types of Endorsements in Advertising


Medal bonuses

Though the International Olympic Committee doesn't award Olympic medalists with prize money for competing, athletes are able to win bonuses from the USOPC for each medal that they earn. The higher they place, the more money they can make. If they compete in a team sport, they divide the money among their teammates. In the U.S., the USOPC rewards $37,500 for a gold medal, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. In addition to the bonus, medalists also get to keep their medals. A medal may have high monetary value, depending on the metal used to make it.

Related: 11 High Paying Potential Careers for Former Athletes


Additional funding sources

Olympic athletes may gain funding from their friends or family before they compete. Some may be able to access a sponsorship from a local business, obtain a grant or find a part-time job through a special job opportunities program. To gain acceptance to the employment program available through the USOPC, it's necessary for a prospective Olympic athlete to achieve a certain ranking in their sport. 

In addition to these funding sources, many teams that have private and corporate donors are able to pay for an Olympian's travel expenses. This allows athletes to save or spend their money on other expenses. After competing in the Olympics, many athletes choose to pursue careers in coaching, public speaking or writing. 

Related: 15 Highest Paying Jobs in Sports


Requirements for an athlete to compete in the Olympics

Becoming an Olympic athlete typically requires years of training and preparation. To compete in the Olympics, it's necessary for an athlete to possess superior athleticism and remain focused and dedicated to competing on the international level. Here are the training, skills and competition requirements to compete in the Olympics: 


Training

Prospective Olympians often dedicate thousands of hours to training in their chosen sport before earning a bid to compete in the Summer or Winter Olympic Games. As they become more skilled in their sport, they may train with a professional coach and spend most of their time preparing for the level of competition expected in the Olympics. Their training often involves adhering to a rigorous daily schedule and planning out their meals to ensure that they're getting enough calories. 

Related: Athletic Training Skills: Definition and Examples


Skills

It's important for prospective Olympians to possess superior athletic abilities and physical strength. To become selected to compete, it's also beneficial to develop skills in stress management, as the Olympics often require athletes to perform under mental stress. A willingness to accept critique from coaches and teammates is also beneficial for an athlete to improve and progress in their training. Other skills and personal qualities that might be useful to develop include confidence, perseverance, motivation, knowledge of their sport, communication, team-building and collaboration. 

Related: 7 Examples of Important Teamwork Skills


Competition

Most athletes who compete in the Olympics have several years of experience competing in sporting events at the local, regional and national levels. In many sports, enrolling and taking part in competitions can help prospective Olympians gain the recognition necessary for them to obtain the financing needed for the Games. It's useful to set goals to achieve before a national championship event, especially for Olympians who plan to compete in a sport with a lot of competition. Before participating in the Olympic qualifying trials, ensure your confidence in your ability to compete at all levels.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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