Sports Management Degree Programs
In order to succeed in sports management, candidates need not only a detailed knowledge of their sport but a thorough education in business administration and management from an accredited institution. Campus-based and online sports management degrees can give you the business edge you need to turn your love of sports into a career.
If you don't have any prior education or professional experience in the sporting world, never fear. Most degrees in this subject adhere to the same sort of basic admissions criteria as other credentials at the same academic level.
If you choose to pursue an associate degree first, understand that only the most entry-level jobs in the sporting industry are likely to admit candidates whose education stops with a two-year degree. Associate degree programs in business or communications with a healthy dose of general education core classes, however, can be a good stepping stone to a bachelor's degree in sports management.
The bachelor's degree level is where specialization begins in earnest. Here are a few of the courses that you might take on the path to a sports or recreation management bachelor's degree:
- Business law
- Management of organizations
- Sociology of sport
- Media relations
- Case studies in sports and recreation management
- Business communications
- Sports administration
Candidates for graduate degrees in sports management don't always need a bachelor's degree in the subject — communications, general management or business administration degrees are usually acceptable as a prerequisite. Sports management master's degree programs typically cover research methods in sports management, international issues in sports business and sports marketing, and media management.
Online sports management degrees at the graduate level are typically offered as MBAs with a sports focus. Most programs include an internship period designed to give students real-world experience in a professional context.
Campus-based vs. online sports management degrees
The question remains, though: What about students whose work and family responsibilities prevent them from enrolling in a full-time sports management degree program? Are they doomed forever to wonder what might've been?
Fortunately, no. The viability of online education as an alternative to full-time, campus-based instruction continues to become clearer, as more and more universities with sturdy reputations for academic quality have begun offering a catalog of online degrees. Approximately 3.2 million students completing their coursework online in 2013, and the National Center for Education Statistics expects enrollment growth to continue for the next several years.
An online degree in sports management covers the same range of courses that campus-based programs offer, with an important upside: The scheduling flexibility may make it possible for students to sign up for more classes that address their real interests in the field, rather than just taking those that they can fit in between work and personal commitments.
Students interested in exploring the options available for online sports management degrees can check with advisors at the following schools, among others:
- Texas A&M University
- Old Dominion University
- The United States Sports Academy
Careers for sports management graduates
Online degrees in sports management can prepare you for a wide range of careers, across several different sporting disciplines. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement among candidates for most positions. Top level agents, managers and public relations specialists often hold a master's in sports management, sometimes in combination with a law or communications degree.
Here are a few of the career categories that sports management degrees can lead to, along with some vital information about them, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Coaches and scouts typically combine a bachelor's degree in exercise science or sports management with extensive knowledge of their sport. Most coaches or scouts have experience with their chosen sport as a player at some point in their career.
- Advertising, promotions and marketing managers are vital components of every enterprise in spectator sports. Several years of experience in advertising, promotions, marketing or sales is usually required, in combination with a bachelor's or master's degree for senior or supervisory positions.
- Postsecondary education administrators oversee the various operational departments of colleges and universities, including the athletics department. The BLS lists the minimum level of education required for these positions as a master's degree.
- Athletic trainers work with people who need assistance with injuries and illnesses commonly related to athletic activity. They can work with people of all levels of skill and in all age groups, trainers with master's degrees or elevated levels of experience tend to be considered for higher-paying, higher-profile jobs.
A career in sports management is a great way to make turn your love of sports and business into a profession, but the sports management industry is an intensely competitive one and applicants tend to far outnumber open positions. If you are serious about a sports management career, completing and excelling in a sports management degree program can help give you an edge on the competition.
Bachelor of Arts in Sports and Recreation Management, Forbes School of Business, Ashford University,
"Sports Industry 101: Breaking Into the Business of Sports," Jason Belzer, Forbes.com, Feb. 5, 2014,
"Sports Management: The 20 Best Online Master's Degree Programs," TheBestSchools.org, http://www.thebestschools.org/rankings/sports-management-online-masters-degree-programs/#SportManagementPrograms
"New Data, Same Story: College Enrollment Numbers Released for 2014," Brian Fleming, Eduventures, May 15, 2014,
Admission Requirements for Sport Management Graduate Degree Program, Lasell College,
MS in Sports Management - Curriculum, Southern New Hampshire University, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/graduate-degrees/sport-management-MS-online/curriculum.asp
Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Coaches and Scouts, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Postsecondary Education Administrators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,