What kind of kid wouldn't want to grow up to play his or her favorite sport for a living? Especially after seeing the fame and lavish lifestyles so many professional athletes go on to have.
But how much you earn and how you train depends on your sport. Reach the pros, and you'll earn an average of $5.15 million in the National Basketball Association, $3.2 million in Major League Baseball, $2.4 million in the National Hockey League or $1.9 million in the National Football League. Athletes in less popular sports earn substantially less.
It's a long fiscal road to reach the pros, and debatably even more arduous once you're there. Players in minor league baseball, for example, have maximum starting salaries of $1,100 per month with a daily $25 meal allowance when on the road. Some minor league umpires earn more than triple that amount.
Professional athletes don't need higher education to do their jobs, but many attract the attention of professional scouts by playing on the collegiate circuit. Having a degree to fall back on may not be a bad insurance policy. According to Sports Illustrated, research shows that 3 out of every 5 NBA players go broke within five years of retirement and nearly 4 out of every 5 NFL players "have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce."
*As of 2010, the latest numbers available.