Sports Management Careers
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- The sports industry offers many business management career opportunities.
- Coaches, PR specialists, agents, and athletic directors all play a role in sports.
- A sports management degree can help you launch a career in this field.
The sports industry is incredibly popular. It’s also very profitable. Globally, the sports market topped half a trillion dollars in 2023, according to Research and Markets, and the industry continues to grow each year.
And there’s good news for sports fans — you don’t need athletic skills to work in the fast-paced sports business. The sports industry also employs athletic coaches, scouts, player agents, event coordinators, public relations specialists, marketing managers, and athletic directors.
Many jobs in sports management require a college degree. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to become a coach or scout. Most management careers require a bachelor’s degree or higher as well. A sports management program builds the analytical skills and business knowledge to work in diverse careers. And you’ll explore real-world sports case studies to strengthen career-ready skills.
Want to know more about jobs in sports management? Our guide to sports management careers walks you through career paths, educational requirements, and job outlooks for this field.
Featured Online Sports Management Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Sports Management Career Outlook
Careers in sports management tend to be highly competitive — especially in the glamorous and high-profile world of major professional team sports. Even so, the industry always has a place for capable, hard-working, results-oriented professionals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts increasing opportunities in this field, projecting that the demand for coaches and scouts will increase by 9% between 2022 and 2032. Career paths in advertising and marketing — jobs often related to sports management — are also projected to experience above-average levels of growth over the next several years.
In terms of earnings, the following salary table summarizes average salaries for a few popular careers that students can pursue with a sports management degree.
|Entry-Level (0-12 months)
|Early Career (1-4 Years)
|Midcareer (5-9 Years)
|Experienced (10-19 Years)
Skills Gained With a Sports Management Degree
During a sports management degree, you’ll strengthen business and communication skills with a focus on the sports industry. As Robin Monsky, a sports PR and communications executive, explains, “Success takes more than simply acquiring academic knowledge.” You’ll also need the research, communication, and decision-making skills to get ahead in this competitive field.
Sports management programs strengthen these key abilities through projects, presentations, and real-world case studies. Monsky points to communication, presentation, and confidence as “skills that can be learned and strengthened through the right academic approach.”
Here are some of the skills you’ll build in a sports management program:
Careers in sports management depend on effective, well-developed communication skills. At the professional level, sports organizations break down into many different departments, and cross-department communication often needs to be brief, efficient, and precise. People throughout the organization have major demands on their time and must balance many priorities, and strong communicators make everyone's jobs easier.
At the coaching, organizational, and executive levels, sports management professionals must constantly make difficult decisions. A strong ability to analyze statistical data while still accounting for the human elements that drive athletic performance and the business side of the industry can take you a long way in the sports world.
Digital technologies have brought about changes in the ways professional organizations track and evaluate their player personnel, prospects, and business strategies. Data analytics now represent a major piece of the sports management landscape, and a high level of data literacy can significantly boost your career prospects.
Many sports management careers require professionals to make nuanced ethical and moral decisions. Having a strong and principled ethical framework in place can help you cultivate a favorable reputation, especially if you aspire to become a sports agent or work in organizational management.
No matter what branch of sports management you work in, you will function as part of a larger system. Sports organizations consist of many interconnected and constantly moving parts, and you will need to be highly organized and agile as you respond to changing needs.
Sports Management and Travel
Travel is a big part of working in sports management. Many jobs in sports management — from coaching to public relations — involve travel. Some sports managers travel with professional teams during the season, while others attend international sporting events. Agents may also travel to meet with clients.
Robin Monsky points to travel as one of the most rewarding aspects of her career. “It allowed me to visit parts of this country and the world I might not have otherwise gotten to see. And if there's a big sporting event going on, it typically means a city is going to show off its best side while you are there, so that's a bonus!” Monsky tells Best Colleges.
Athletes, trainers, agents, and sports managers also get to see the impact of sports when they travel, as Monsky highlights. “Participating in sports events around the country and around the world also serves as a reminder of the power of sports to make people happy, to create passion, and to cross barriers.”
Sports Management Career Paths
The field of sports management includes many different career paths. Some jobs can be pursued with degrees in more generalized areas, like business administration and marketing, while others require an academic background, specifically in sports management. The following list summarizes five popular career paths related to this field.
Player agents are high-profile professionals who negotiate contracts and sponsorship deals for their clients. Many successful agents have backgrounds in contract law or entered the profession after careers as athletes or sports executives. Sports management programs increasingly shape their curricula to reflect the specialized knowledge and negotiating expertise agents need to find success.
Public Relations Manager
Public relations is a critically important aspect of professional sports — especially in the social media age. Sports PR professionals leverage their deep knowledge of marketing and promotional platforms to help organizations and athletes build and maintain positive public images, which can greatly enhance their profitability and profile.
Sporting event coordinators work behind the scenes to identify and secure venues and facilities and create schedules and budgets. In some cases, they also help manage crowds and arrange security and transportation for athletes and their entourages.
The digital age has expanded upon traditional approaches to statistical tracking, giving rise to entire departments built around the advanced analysis of statistical data. If you love sports stats and have a knack for numbers, combining sports management training with a statistics-oriented mathematics degree can qualify you for this field.
Facilities managers represent a mainstay of the pro sports landscape. These professionals play a critical role in preparing stadiums and arenas to host games and events, ensuring that facilities meet league standards and remain safe and secure for spectators.
How to Start Your Career in Sports Management
Identifying a clear objective is an important first step in building a career in sports management. The field encompasses many different jobs, many of which draw on dramatically different skill sets. Thus, you must focus your schooling and career preparation on building the proficiencies and aptitudes you will need in your chosen path.
In some cases, an associate degree in sports management is enough to complement more intensive and job-specific training. For example, if you want to be a sports statistician, completing a bachelor's in mathematics with an associate degree in sports management can boost your resume. Other paths, including roles in facility management and player development, are more accessible to candidates with a bachelor's or graduate degree in sports management.
Associate Degree in Sports Management
An associate degree in sports management provides a general introduction to topics like sports marketing and finance, organizational administration, promotions and public relations, legal issues, and risk management. Some programs take an alternate focus by combining sports science with business training.
These two-year degrees can open doors to some entry-level positions, but they also offer complementary value. If you hold credentials in an area such as marketing or business administration, an associate degree in sports management can teach you how to apply your existing knowledge to the unique and fast-paced world of sports.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Sports Management?
Customer Service Representative
Often referred to as guest relations associates in the sports industry, these professionals serve as front-line workers. They work to ensure attendees have a safe and enjoyable experience. They also play an important role in advancing the public relations agendas of amateur and professional sporting organizations.
Game day and event coordinators fill vital administrative, logistical, and operational support roles. They assist with a wide variety of duties related to scheduling, facility preparation and security, vendor and concession management, and overseeing media and personnel access to event venues.
Account representatives hold sales positions. In the sports industry, they work to promote games and events. They also sell tickets to individual, group, and corporate buyers. As they advance in their careers, account representatives may become involved in monetizing other aspects of the guest experience.
Bachelor's Degree in Sports Management
At the bachelor's level, sports management programs move beyond generalities and offer learners the opportunity to specialize their studies in specific areas of interest. For example, bachelor's programs in sports management may offer specializations in coaching, exercise science, or player representation. These concentrations build off core requirements that cover the essentials of sports marketing, sports administration, ethics in sports, and key principles of human resource management in sports organizations.
Generally, a specialized bachelor's degree functions as the minimum credential needed to gain entry into sports management careers with growth potential. A bachelor's also provides an excellent academic foundation for sports-focused MBA programs and other graduate-level degrees.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Sports Management?
Sports promotions managers play leading roles in the marketing and public relations departments of sports organizations. They help franchises and athletes build branded public images and champion initiatives that strengthen links between teams and the communities they represent.
Athletic trainers apply their comprehensive knowledge of exercise science to prevent and treat injuries to players during games and events. They also play active roles in designing and implementing conditioning programs and protocols. Some organizations may require their trainers to obtain certification from an organization like the National Athletic Trainers' Association.
Coaches and player development specialists perform hands-on work with an organization's athletes and prospects. They offer instructional insights and monitor player progress toward specific developmental goals, which typically focus on physical skills, as well as psychological and mental aspects of performance optimization.
Public Relations Manager
The primary responsibilities of a public relations manager include building, promoting, and maintaining a positive and branded image that athletes and teams can draw on to market themselves. They also liaise with other business-oriented operational departments to ensure the consistency and effectiveness of their PR campaigns.
Contract administrators are responsible for reviewing the details of service contracts and ensuring that all signatory parties meet their responsibilities and obligations. Player contracts represent only a fraction of the total number of contracts an athletic organization manages. Others include deals with vendors, concession operators, corporate partners, and advertisers.
Featured Online Bachelor's in Sports Management Programs
Master's Degree in Sports Management
A master’s degree in sports management develops advanced business and negotiating skills. With a master’s degree, you’ll qualify for roles such as contract negotiations manager or business development director. Graduate programs can also help you move into specialized areas like marketing or public relations.
When it comes to master’s programs, you can choose between an MS in sports management or an MBA in sports management. What’s the difference? An MBA will include more core business courses, while an MS will focus more exclusively on sports management.
Many universities offer master’s programs in sports management. Robin Monsky recommends looking at class size, career development opportunities, and job placements.
“Students who are considering a master's degree in sports management should make sure to do their due diligence on the schools offering the degree,” Monsky says. “Make sure you are learning from the experts.”
What Can You Do With a Master's in Sports Management?
Sports marketing directors lead the marketing departments of sports leagues, teams, and athletic clubs. They build brands for their athletes and teams, negotiate and manage sponsorship deals, liaise with advertisers, and work to maximize revenue from marketing and promotional channels.
Business Development Director
Leagues, clubs, and teams sometimes maintain internal business development departments. However, these specialist professionals more often work for companies that own, operate, or manage event venues. They work to monetize facilities through rentals, sponsorships, special events, and participatory programs to create diversified revenue streams.
Contract Negotiation Manager
Contract negotiation specialists typically interact with the various advertisers, vendors, and sponsors who forge deals and partnerships with sports leagues, teams, and event venues. They negotiate contract terms and ensure that signatory parties adhere to their obligations.
At the high school and college levels, sports programs are typically administered by a dedicated internal department headed by an athletics director. These professionals shape the policies that guide athlete participation in organized events and manage the practical and financial aspects of participation in sanctioned events.
Player agents represent professional athletes during contract negotiations with teams and corporate sponsors. In some cases, they also play active roles in the labor unions that represent players during collective bargaining negotiations. Some function as independent, self-employed professionals, while others work with agencies or management groups.
Featured Online Master's in Sports Management Programs
Doctorate Degree in Sports Management
Doctoral programs in sports management typically allow learners to focus intensive, research-oriented studies on a specific topic or area of interest. While these programs can prepare students for careers in the professional world, most are oriented toward applying quantitative and qualitative analysis methods to study questions with significant economic, cultural, and sociological implications.
Most sports management doctoral programs require applicants to hold a master's degree in a related area. A growing number of schools offer mostly or fully online doctorates in sports management.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Sports Management?
Postsecondary educators teach undergraduate and graduate college courses, participate in program and curriculum design, evaluate applications, and assist with departmental administrative duties. Most colleges only hire candidates with doctoral degrees.
Sports researchers design and perform studies related to various aspects of the sports industry, including athlete performance, statistical analysis, and sports psychology. They work in various settings -- including colleges and private companies -- that use study data to help clients identify and optimize market inefficiencies, revenue streams, and monetization opportunities.
Executive directors fill leadership roles in amateur and professional sports leagues, athletics organizations, unions, and management companies. Professionals combine advanced education with extensive professional experience to work their way into these roles.
Featured Online Doctorate in Sports Management Programs
Certifications and/or Licensure
Some careers in sports management demand optional or mandatory licenses or professional certifications. For example, many major pro leagues require player agents to obtain credentials in order to represent athletes.
Credentialing processes vary among organizations, but they typically include rigid qualification and testing standards. Some U.S. jurisdictions also mandate that sports agents obtain and maintain separate licenses to represent players who live or work in the state.
Similarly, combat sports, such as boxing and mixed martial arts, also frequently require officials, trainers, coaches, and athletes to obtain state-based licenses to participate in official events.
Athletic training is another example of a regulated sports management profession; trainers who work for amateur organizations, such as high school or collegiate athletics leagues, must hold profession-specific certifications in addition to state-issued teaching licenses.
Continuing education can be used to supplement a degree in sports management. Continuing education can take the form of informal sessions — such as seminars or open courses — or formal continuing education programs.
Formal programs often lead to certificates of completion and may explore subjects like advanced statistical analytics, e-sports management, facilities management, international sports management, and sports marketing. Alternatively, you have the option to head back to college and upgrade to a higher sports management degree.
Many major sports leagues, teams, and player agencies offer internship opportunities; however, given the high levels of demand for a limited number of available openings, these may be difficult to land and usually entail a highly competitive application process. Thus, no matter what branch of sports management you plan to work in, networking will likely be a critical factor in your career success.
Joining a professional organization can open a lot of doors for students looking to expand their networks. Prominent examples include the Sport Marketing Association and the North American Society for Sport Management.
How to Switch Your Career to Sports Management
The actions you need to take to switch to a sports management career depend on your current educational and employment background.
While a growing number of colleges offer specialized sports management degrees, many professionals who work in the field hold generalist credentials in fields related to their positions. For instance, a PR specialist for a sports team or league may have a regular marketing or public relations degree.
If your current credentials qualify you for your target sports-related job, networking and a willingness to start from the bottom may be all you need for a successful transition. Otherwise, you should consider earning a sports-focused certificate or degree to qualify for entry-level professional opportunities.
Featured Online Sports Management Programs
Resources for Sports Management Majors
Sports management requires a combination of coaching and business savvy to effectively manage — or play a part in managing — a sports organization. A familiarity with athletics, marketing, event planning, accounting, and behavioral psychology can all help sports management professionals enjoy a successful career. Read on to investigate some of the resources a sports management executive can turn to for career development.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Management
Can you work in the NFL with a sports management degree?
Yes, you can work in the NFL with a sports management degree. Professional sports organizations hire athletic directors, facilities managers, PR specialists, and other sports management professionals to operate their organizations.
How do I prepare for sports management?
Earning a degree in sports management can help you prepare for careers in this field. During a sports management program, you'll explore business development, contract negotiations, and sports financing to launch your career in sports management.
Is it smart to major in sports management?
Majoring in sports management can be a good way to prepare for jobs in the sports industry. This major will cover core business concepts in marketing, finance, and management, with an emphasis on sports. You'll qualify for entry-level roles in sports management with this degree.
Is sports management a competitive field?
Yes, sports management is a competitive field, in part because sports are incredibly popular. Particularly at the professional level, landing jobs in sports management can be difficult. However, earning a sports management degree can build the knowledge and skills you'll need to break into the field.
What is the highest-paying job in sports management?
The highest-paying jobs in sports management include director-level positions like marketing director and business development director. These careers often require a graduate degree and several years of experience.