Why Get a Sports Management Degree?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - April 20, 2017
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Sports is something that has been part of human societies since the beginning of time, and everybody is involved in it in some way. Some like taking part, some like watching, some like managing, some like betting, and so on. Those who love all of this, however, are those who may be suitable for a career in sports management.

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What is Sports Management?

Those involved in sports management handle all forms of recreation and sports, which is one of the biggest industries in the world. As a sports manager, you can work for national parent programs like the NHL, MLB, NBA, or NFL, for professional teams, for universities and colleges, for government recreational departments, for merchandise development companies, for sports marketing firms, and so on. They can be information experts, promotion experts, financial experts, sports economists, facility managers, event managers, coaches, and so on.

If you choose to be a sports manager, you can find employment in the media, as a coach, be an advocate for players, work behind the scenes, manage a front office, and so on. No matter what you do, however, you will focus on teamwork, good sportsmanship, motivation, energy, and more. Unsurprisingly, the actual work that you do will be highly complex as well.

What is even less surprising is that competition is incredibly strong. There is a certain prestige to working in the sports industry, and particularly for the large parent programs. To stand out from the crowd, you must be truly business savvy, have excellent communication skills, and be a strong analytical thinker. Obtaining a degree in sports management, therefore, should be your first port of call, as this will demonstrate to prospective employers that your ambition for sports goes above and beyond wanting to take part in sports.

Sports Management Degree Opportunity

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies sports managers as advertising, promotions, and marketing managers. They state that their average annual salary was $124,850 per year as of May 2015, at the bachelor’s degree level. They have also projected a 9% growth in demand for these managers for the period 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average and will translate in around 19,700 new jobs.

Sports Management Degree Career Paths

Payscale.com has reported on people who hold a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a sports management concentration. According to them, popular career options and associated salaries include:

  • Marketing Directors, earning an average annual salary of $70,000
  • Marketing Associates, earning an average annual salary of $40,695
  • Staff Accountants, earning an average annual salary of $51,500
  • Project Managers, earning an average annual salary of $77,000
  • Account Managers, earning an average annual salary of $40,000
  • Marketing Coordinators, earning an average annual salary of $27,500

Indeed.com has created a similar report for various positions within the field of sports management, stating that:

  • Athletic Directors earn an average salary of $56,433 per year.
  • Fitness Trainers earn an average salary of $44,558 per year.
  • Sports Managers earn an average salary of $45,398 per year.
  • Account Executives earn an average salary of $62,934 per year.
  • Directors earn an average salary of $94,574 per year.
  • General Managers earn an average salary of $54,872 per year.
  • Recreation Coordinators earn an average salary of $40,677 per year.
  • Supervisors earn an average salary of $47,934 per year.
  • Assistant Managers earn an average salary of $32,570 per year.
  • Sales Representatives earn an average salary of $57,975 per year.
  • Athletics Managers earn an average salary of $42,838 per year.
  • Directors of Marketing earn an average salary of $91,950 per year.
  • Brand Ambassadors earn an average salary of $41,362 per year.
  • Operations Interns earn an average salary of $32,657 per year.
  • Operations Associates earn an average salary of $55,336 per year.
  • Ticket Sales people earn an average salary of $37,695 per year.
  • Operations Managers earn an average salary of $64,801 per year.
  • Event Coordinators earn an average salary of $38,131 per year.

What this shows is not just how much salaries can vary, but also just how many different positions exist within the field of sport management as a whole.

Sports Management Degree Salaries

Of tremendous influence on how much managers can earn in the field of sports management, is geographical location. According to Payscale.com, the following cities have the following average salaries:

  • San Francisco, California, with average annual earnings of $84,250
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with average annual earnings of $80,000
  • Miami, Florida, with average annual earnings of $51,500
  • Lexington, Kentucky, with average annual earnings of $40,000
  • Chicago, Illinois, with average annual earnings of $34,500
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, with average annual earnings of $80,000
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado, with average annual earnings of $34,971

It is important to remember, however, that locations with higher salaries tend to also have a higher cost of living.

Sports Management Degree Employers

Indeed.com is currently holding listings for available job openings in the field of sports management. As such, it is known that some of the most common employers include the:

  • Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club, who are looking for an Event Operations Coordinator.
  • University of Colorado, who are looking for an Events Coordinator.
  • University of Arizona, who are looking for an Assistant Director for Sports.
  • NBA, who are looking for a Project Employee, Events.
  • Dallas Mavericks, who are looking for a College Ambassador.
  • Adidas, who are looking for a Coordinator Sports Marketing, Operations

Sports Management Bachelor’s Degree

A lucrative career in the field of sports management starts with a bachelor’s degree. For the convenience of students many schools now offer their degree programs online, on campus studies continue to be popular. One example of a bachelor’s degree in sports management is offered the University of Kansas.

The KU School of Education has been ranked 8th best by the U.S. News & World Report for public education schools. This demonstrates the quality of the program. Additionally, the faculty is nationally renowned, being made up of expert practitioners and prominent scholars.

The curriculum of the degree includes:

  • Composition
  • College Algebra
  • General Psychology
  • Speaker-Audience Communication
  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Principles of Biology Lecture & Lab
  • Education & Society
  • Introduction to Economics
  • Personal & Community Health
  • Critical Reading & Writing
  • Intro to PE & Sport Studies
  • Introduction to Sport Management
  • Natural Science Lecture & Lab Requirement
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Sport Ethics
  • Sport Facilities & Event Management
  • Critical Thinking Requirement
  • Global Awareness Requirement
  • Sociology of Sport
  • Sport Law
  • Applied Sport & Performance Psych
  • Sport Marketing
  • Pre-Internship Seminar
  • Communication in Sport
  • Sport Finance & Economics
  • Personnel Management in Sport
  • Internship in Sport Management

Sports Management Master’s Degree

Meanwhile, having a master’s degree in sports management will give you the opportunity to gain advanced skills and knowledge in your field, and set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. As with bachelor’s degrees, many master’s programs are now also offered online, which makes it easier than ever to complete a degree without having to completely stop working. It is also becoming increasingly common for the master’s in sports management to be added as a concentration to the master of business administration.

Columbia University School of Professional Studies offers the Master of Science in Sports Management. This program has been ranked global second by SportBusiness International in terms of sports course rankings. The degree is designed to train people in any sector of the overall industry of sport and recreation, providing them with management skills that focus on the digital, analytic, and global scale. The program is particularly suitable for younger individuals who want to work in the field of sports, but equally so for those who are already professionally involved in this field and want to advance their career. Similarly, those who want to transition from an existing career to one that relates to sports are encouraged to apply. Students will have to choose between concentrations in global sports, sports analytics, or digital sports media and marketing.

Sports Management Degree Admission Requirements

Admission requirement are usually quite similar due to the fact that these requirements are designed to find out whether or not the applicant has the academic capacity to complete a program at the graduate degree level. The master’s degree admissions requirements for Columbia University are:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Transcripts
  • A resume
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A statement of academic purpose
  • A supplemental essay
  • GRE/GMAT scores
  • An interview
  • Proof of English proficiency for non-native English speakers

Sports Management Degree Curriculum

Schools will have different curricula, which is why it is important to study with an accredited university as this guarantees prospective employers that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession. Columbia University’s program has a varying curriculum, depending on the concentration that a student has chosen. As such:

  • Global Sports looks at the legal issues involved in organizing large scale sports events. Students may also choose to analyze cricket and soccer data, as those are huge international sports.
  • Sports Analytics looks at providing students with advanced skills in critical thinking, ensuring they can improve sports businesses. These include decision making skills, making subjective judgments, and performing objective analysis.
  • Digital Sports Media and Marketing looks at strategies and practices in the field of communication, marketing best practices, fundamentals of sponsorship packages, and the role of digital technology.

Sports Management Degree Financial Assistance

Higher education is very expensive. Aside from the substantial amount of time that you will need to set aside, there is the high cost of tuition and other expenses. The university of your choosing will be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider, such as the:

  • Glenn M. Wong Sport Law Scholarship, for those who are interested in sports law in particular
  • Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship for Career in Athletics, for those who also take part in athletics at college level
  • Dorothy Harris Endowed Scholarship, to the value of $1,500
  • C. Peter Yost Memorial Scholarship, for those who are involved in community service
  • Dana Brooks Doctoral Scholarship, for those who want to take part in doctoral studies in the field of sports
  • Dr. Patricia K. Fehl Graduate Student Scholarship
  • Ferris & Deanna Antoon Textbook Scholarship, which must be used to purchase textbooks
  • Fred M. Coombs Scholarship
  • Jack “Swede” Frauson, for those focusing on sports management
  • Richard and Helen Lyon Memorial Scholarship, for those who wish to teach, including sports
  • Stephen Mosher Sports Studies Endowment, for those taking part in any kind of sports study

Generally speaking, applying for a scholarship means that you have to meet certain requirements, such as studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, holding a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, or being of a certain gender.

Sports Management Degree Certifications

Certification is not necessary in the field of sports management, but it is recommended. This is because it shows your commitment to your own professional development, and to the advancement of the field. Remember, however, that this requires a further investment of time and money, and you often have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. Nevertheless, it is considered to be a worthy investment as it can advance your career. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of sports management include:

  • Certified Sports Administrator (CSA)
  • Sports Agent
  • Aquatics Director
  • Certified Sports Field Manager
  • Sports Medicine Certification

Sports Management Degree Associations

It would be prudent to be a member of relevant professional organizations as soon as you decide to study towards a sports management degree, even at bachelor’s level. These organizations often offer scholarships and grants that you could use. It also means that you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring your skills and knowledge are always up to date. Additionally, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. You can also build a professional network that will be helpful in advancing your career.

Some of the sports management associations you may want to consider include the:

  • American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
  • European Association for Sports Management
  • International Sports Management, Inc.
  • National Sporting Goods Association
  • North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM)


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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