Business Administration

Want to Work for Nike? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.

Want to Work for Nike? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.
Nike has openings in media, marketing, graphic design, and other areas at its Beaverton HQ, where the average salary is $79,000 per year. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly February 4, 2020

Nike hires candidates who are curious, flexible, resilient, and bring world-class capabilities in their area of expertise. And while you don’t have to be a sports fanatic to get your foot in the door, you do have to be a team player.

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Few logos are more recognizable than Nike’s—and even less pack in as humble of an origin story. It was designed by Portland State University graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson, in 1971. She sketched out a few ideas, but one of the few she decided to show Nike founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman was the now-iconic “swoosh”. Despite being fated for fame, Knight wasn’t too impressed with it at the time. “Well, I don’t love it,” he said. “But maybe it will grow on me.”

And grow it did, just like the company. Nike was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman, a track-and-field coach at the University of Oregon, and his former student, Phil Knight. They opened their first retail outlet in 1966 and designed the first Nike-branded “waffle trainers” in 1972. This shoe was a major success for Blue Ribbon Sports, motivating its founders to rename their company Nike after “the Winged Goddess of Victory” and go public two years later.

And Carolyn Davidson? While she only received an initial $35 for her design, in 1983, Nike invited Davidson to a luncheon in her honor, where she was given a gold ring embedded with a diamond “swoosh,” along an undisclosed amount of Nike stock.

Unsurprisingly, Nike’s willingness to show appreciation for those who’ve helped the company grow—and continue growing—isn’t hard to come by. The company’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters stands as an oasis of work-life balance, with a campus boasting wooded trails, ponds, grassy knolls, and company-branded bikes to explore them.

Journey inside to find meditation rooms, a hair and nail salon, a deeply discounted employee store and, of course, every kind of athletic training facility imaginable. Nike employees with children can make use of on-site subsidized child care. Every year, the company also provides up to 12 weeks of paid time off to employees who volunteer for or are called to serve in the U.S. uniformed services

Nike’s headquarters are also home to eight employee networks, collectively known as NikeUNITED. From LGBTQ+ to a network for Nike’s employees of color, these employee-formed and managed communities offer resources to a diverse spectrum of individuals across the company. All employees are welcome and encouraged to join.

In 2019, LinkedIn ranked Nike among the top 50 companies people in the U.S. want to work for. In 2018, Nike made Glassdoor’s yearly list of the best places to work and came in second place on CareerBliss’s eighth-annual list of the 50 happiest companies in America.

Given Nike’s foundation in sports and fitness, it’s only fitting that it fosters the same sense of healthy competition, continual growth, and collaboration in its corporate space. If you want to work for Nike, you’ll need to be passionate about the brand and all that the “swoosh” represents. What’s more, these degrees may help too.

How Nike Became an Industry Heavyweight

Since going public in the mid-1970s, Nike has carved a brand reputation as the most innovative manufacturer of athletic footwear, active-wear, and sports equipment. The company is especially esteemed for its branding and marketing efforts, like the “Just Do It” ad campaign introduced in 1998.

While Nike may have struck gold signing athletes like Tiger Woods and Lebron James in the early stages of their career, signing on basketball icon Michael Jordan to endorse the brand before the start of his first professional season in 1984 is likely Nike’s most lucrative move. As Jordan quickly rose to superstardom and his shoe line, Air Jordans, hit the market, the deal pulled in $100 million in revenue for Nike by the end of 1985. In 2019 alone, the Jordan brand generated $3.14 billion in revenue.

Today, Nike operates approximately 1,182 retail stores around the globe, as well as 77 corporate offices across 28 countries. The company employs 73,100 and is valued at $34.8 billion.


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The Rundown on Life at Nike

Employees at Nike’s global headquarters work in teams encompassing a diverse range of functions—such as brand management, product marketing, and consumer segmentation—and fields, including design, manufacturing, and innovation, and merchandising.

According to PayScale, the average salary for Nike employees at the company’s Oregon headquarters is <a href=”
target=”_blank”>$79,000 per year. This pay is slightly higher than the average salaries at the U.S. headquarters of Nike’s competitor companies. Adidas, for example, reports an <a href=”
target=”_blank”>average of $70,000 per year, while Reebok highlights <a href=”
target=”_blank”>$76,000 as its average employee income.

Some of the highest-paid roles at the company include the following, listed by average base pay:

  • Senior Marketing Director: $203,908
  • Director of Strategy: $180,185
  • Finance Director: $177,061
  • Senior Engineering Manager: $175,177
  • Product Director: $162,472
  • Sales Director: $159,719
  • Director of Analytics: $155,532
  • Technology Director: $159,829
  • Design Director: $154,129
  • IT Director: $143,646

Want to Work for Nike? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.

Exploring Nike’s careers site sheds light on hundreds of open positions in areas like advanced innovation, data and analytics, and supply chain, distribution, and logistics.

Advanced innovation jobs at Nike

This department is on the lookout for candidates to fill openings like research lab tech manager, footwear manufacturing innovator, cushioning engineer, director of business operations, senior mechanical engineer, as well as a variety of other positions. Playing a part of Nike’s advanced innovation team means that you’ll imagine, research, analyze and invent the next industry-changing technology to advance athletic performance.

There’s quite a bit of range in this department both in terms of individual job focus and what’s needed to start in each role. Across the board, most associate-level jobs will require a bachelor’s degree in a STEM-related field alongside five or more years of work experience. Senior engineering positions, in particular, highlight a preference for a master’s degree in areas like computer science and mechanical engineering.

Data and analytics jobs at Nike

Listings in Nike’s data and analytics realm include a data analytics and machine learning solutions architect, <a href=”
target=”_blank”>data scientist, lead marketplace analyst, as well as an analytics director of supply planning and optimization. This department is also in need of candidates to fit analytics manager roles in data, implementation, consumer demand, and digital experience.

Many openings within this area ask candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific or technical field alongside five or more years of related experience. Other roles, like consumer demand analytics manager and data analytics manager, highlight that advanced degrees like a master of science (MS) or <a href=”
target=”_blank”>master of business administration (MBA) in finance, economics, and <a href=”
target=”_blank”>operations are a plus.

Supply chain, distribution, and logistics jobs at Nike

This department oversees the movement of Nike’s goods from supplier or manufacturer to point of sale. Every year, their work ensures that almost a billion units of footwear, apparel, and equipment arrive at the right distribution centers and retail stores worldwide at the right time—without a hitch. Their current job openings include a business operations manager, global inventory lead, logistics service provider, planning director, portfolio manager, and an international freight audit and pay analyst.

In general, many associate-level roles in this department highlight that candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in an area like business, supply chain, international trade, or a related discipline with at least five years of experience in their field. Senior positions tend to prefer a <a href=”
target=”_blank”>master’s degree in finance, <a href=”
target=”_blank”>supply chain management, business administration, and <a href=”
target=”_blank”>computer science.

Other Ways to Be Part of the Nike Team

Internship opportunities with the company evolve around a 12-week program that runs from June to August each summer. The paid program offers the ideal setting for current college students to explore the intersection of sustainability, fashion, retail, e-commerce, technology, finance, and legal while learning how Nike dares to design the future of sports. Throughout their program, interns are involved in real projects, exposed to multiple teams, and gain meaningful career experience.

Internshipsare also available for students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Many current openings highlight opportunities for students who are currently pursuing a master’s degree in areas like business analytics, engineering, <a href=”
target=”_blank”>finance, computer science, and sustainability management. Across the board, these programs provide students with the chance to lead projects that will require them to dive into Nike’s business, exercise and showcase strategic thinking and problem solving, and deliver insights that will drive results.

Step up Your Career Game at Nike

In a 2015 interview with Monique Matheson, the Nike VP of HR North America says, “People who thrive here are curious, flexible, resilient, self-starters with high personal standards, optimistic, and great team players. They also bring world-class capabilities in their area of expertise.”

When interviewing at the company, it’s important for candidates to not only show the skills they bring to the role but also to demonstrate the value they’ll bring to the organization. They should show how they’re innovative and creative, and explain what they’ll do to bring Nike to the next level.

“We expect candidates to know the job they are interviewing for, talk about their background in the context of the opportunity, and be able to articulate their story as it relates to their career aspirations,” says Matheson. And, a bonus tip: Candidates who can show where they’re looking to grow and develop will also gain a leg up in the interview process.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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