Do NFL Players Need a College Degree?

28 January 2023

The National Football League (NFL) is an immensely successful and renowned professional sports league, but does one need a college degree in order to be eligible for play? The answer is no. However, the advantages of obtaining higher education are plentiful for NFL players both during their tenure at the organization and afterward.

Why a college degree is not a requirement for NFL players

The NFL does not mandate a specific educational background for its players. Their sole prerequisite is that the individuals be at least three years removed from graduating high school before they’re considered eligible to enter the draft. This means prospective athletes can join the league straight out of their secondary education, or after participating in collegiate divisions and/or lower-level professional circuits prior to becoming professionals.

Why a college degree is still valuable for NFL players

Obtaining a college degree is not mandatory for NFL players, yet there are still many advantages to obtaining one.

Career Longevity: Although the average NFL career is brief, lasting only 3-5 years, earning a college degree can help players stretch out their professional life. By gaining the necessary skills and knowledge from obtaining a degree, athletes will be better equipped to shift into another field of work once they retire from playing professionally.

Financial Stability: An additional advantage of acquiring a college degree is that it can assist professional athletes in attaining financial stability. Despite earning an average salary of approximately $1.9 million annually, this window for collecting income is minuscule when compared to their future lives after sports have ended. Thus, having a college degree unlocks different higher-paying occupations post-retirement that offer long-term monetary protection and peace of mind.

Personal Growth: Pursuing a college degree isn’t just beneficial for one’s chances of entering the NFL, but also for their personal growth and development. College allows players to acquire new skills, build relationships with others, and gain invaluable knowledge that can help shape them as individuals. It nurtures discipline and inspires a sense of hard work which is essential in helping players reach their goal of playing professional football.

Support from the NFL: The NFL provides a multitude of initiatives to assist players in their college endeavors. Their “Player Development” program, for instance, gives athletes the resources and backing they need to pursue higher education.


To summarize, while the NFL does not make a degree mandatory for its players, obtaining one can be profoundly beneficial in multiple ways. With a college education, athletes can prolong their careers and gain financial security to rely on after retirement. Plus, the organization provides numerous resources that aid players in getting their degrees. All this considered – though it isn’t required by any means – having an academic certification is still thought of as an advantage among many professional footballers.