How Many College Athletes Make It to the Pros?

Only a small number of college athletes go on to compete professionally upon graduation: across the sports board, less than 2 percent of men and women athletes embark on professional sports careers. Over 450,000 athletes compete in Division I, Division II and Division III sports at the collegiate level. Athletes participate in a number of organized sports, and the number of professionals recruited from college teams varies among types of sports.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) includes six sports in its analysis of the number of students who play at the college level and professionally. Sports recognized in NCAA statistics include men's basketball, women's basketball, football, baseball, men's hockey and men's soccer. The NCAA tracks the number of participants in these sports through high school, into college, and for the very few, into the professional world beyond. Among student college athletes, baseball players have the greatest chance of playing professionally. Approximately 9.4 percent of college baseball players embark on professional sports careers. In contrast, less than 1 percent of college-level men's ice hockey players and women's basketball players qualify to play professionally. Men's basketball players average a 1.2 percent chance of playing professionally; that statistic increases just slightly for football and men's soccer (1.6 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively). In lieu of professional sports careers, student-athletes find employment in diverse fields, such as medicine, finance, law and communications.