Best Online Master's in Sports Management Programs

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Sports management is a broad interdisciplinary field that covers the different aspects of athletic organizations, including finances and budgeting, marketing, human resources, and facilities management. A bachelor's degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for most careers in sports management. For this reason, students who earn an online master's in sports management are highly valued as job candidates and stand to advance in their careers more quickly than those with less academic experience.

Students who earn a master's degree in sports management typically enjoy higher salaries and lower unemployment rates than those with just a bachelor's degree.

Students who wish to obtain an advanced degree in sports management usually choose from one of two options: a Master's in Sports Management, or a Master of Business Administration with a sports management concentration. The best online sports management master's programs emphasize the importance of law, ethics, and professional conduct in the athletic industry. Students who enroll in these programs are often able to earn a degree specialization in areas like sports marketing, athletic training, and sports leadership; these concentrations are designed to prepare students for careers in niche areas of sports management. Many sports management programs culminate in a master's thesis or capstone project that allow students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained through their master's-level coursework. Other programs require students to gain supervised hands-on training through an internship and/or practicum course.

Learn more about what you stand to gain from pursuing a sports management master's degree online and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH A SPORTS MANAGEMENT MASTER'S DEGREE?

Graduates with a master's in sports management are prepared for many positions, including athletic director, assistant athletic director, and facilities manager. Read more here..

IS A MASTER'S DEGREE IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT WORTH IT?

Professionals with a master's degree have higher median earnings than those with a bachelor's. And a master's in sports management allows professionals in the field to obtain higher earning potential. Read more here..

HOW DO I GET A MASTER'S DEGREE IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT?

After gaining admittance, students must complete all curriculum requirements, which may include an internship or capstone project. Curriculum requirements vary between programs, so for more accurate informations, students should contact their prospective schools. Read more here..

WHY GET A MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT?

By earning a master's in sports management, graduates are able to obtain higher earning potential. The degree also prepares them for higher-paying, sports-related positions. Read more here..

WHERE CAN YOU WORK WITH A MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT?

Graduates of sports management master's programs are prepared for administrative, education, and coaching and scout positions. Read more here..

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

The best online master's in sports management programs prepare students to enter the workforce after graduation and obtain top-level positions with varied employers. The curriculum will introduce students to the industry's latest tools and technological platforms. Depending on their specialization, students may be required to complete courses or course sequences in areas like marketing, analytics, and/or theories of management. Graduates leave school with a deeper understanding of their role as leaders in the sports management field, with highly developed communication skills, a complete understanding of the inner-workings of athletic organizations, essential administrative skills, and real-world experience.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online sports management master's programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional classroom learning. Students are able to access course lectures and readings, turn in written assignments, take exams and contact their professors any time of day. The latest educational technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other device with Wi-Fi compatibility. For added convenience, students are usually allowed to fulfill their internship or practicum requirements at a site close to their home.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT?

Graduates who earn a sports management master's degree online leave school prepared for most entry-level roles in the industry, as well as some managerial positions normally reserved for candidates who have an advanced degree. They commonly find work in places like college athletic departments, the front offices of athletic organizations, and major sporting goods retailers. Graduates with a specialization in marketing or public relations often go on to work with athletes as agents or business managers.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master's of sports management programs in the United States. If you are considering pursuing an online sports management master's degree, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

A sports management master's degree online program will vary from school to school. As you consider which program to enroll in, think about what concentrations the program offers, the program's curriculum, and the learning format of the program. These details will affect your career prospects and how quickly you'll be able to earn your degree.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT

Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
Sport Marketing Learn about marketing theories and apply them to the world of sports, including how to parse contract proposals, arrange product and sponsorship endorsements, and market sports events. Students gain the skills needed to develop and execute an integrated marketing plan for teams, events, or athletes. Team marketing director, brand account manager, ad agency executive
Sport Law Uncover the ins and outs of contracts and negotiations, labor relations, and even anti-trust law. Learn how to negotiate sponsorships, product deals, and broadcast rights on behalf of athletes, teams, or leagues. You may also explore how to interpret and influence public policy as it relates to sports. Player representative, contract administrator, team lawyer
Sport Media & Communications Develop the skills needed to run a coordinated media campaign for sports figures and teams. Learn about public relations, advertising, and managing crisis communications. Study how teams or leagues can develop healthy relationships with the press. Team media director, sport journalist, PR coordinator

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT

From finance to marketing, the courses you take while pursuing a master's in sports management online will prepare you for many careers. The courses available to you will differ based on what area of sports management you decide to concentrate in. Sample curriculum for popular sports management courses are listed below:

  • Event Management: Learn how to organize major sports events, from the development stage to day-of management. This course covers how to plan sport events, what factors affect an event's budget, and how to evaluate the success of an event. You'll also learn how to manage entertainers for a sports event and how to integrate a marketing plan into your event rollout. This course prepares you for a career as an event manager or planning coordinator for sports teams or facilities.
  • Sport Finance: Study the intricacies of finance as it applies to the world of sports. You'll learn how to manage finances for players, teams, leagues, and sport facilities. You'll also examine the financial models used by sporting good manufacturers, college athletic outfits, and other sports-related businesses. This course is a good stepping stone for students with an accounting background who want to work in the finance department of major sports organizations.
  • Sport Facility Management: How do you take care of huge stadiums, fields, arenas, and other major sport facilities? Learn how in this course. Sport facility management covers the basics of designing a well-thought-out facility, budgeting, and managing a facility's operations. You'll also learn how to market the events that take place at a facility.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT?

Typically, you can earn an online sports management master's degree in two years or less in programs that require you to complete 30 to 40 credit hours. The length of an online sports management master's program will depend on a number of factors, including whether the program requires an internship, whether it allows you to transfer credits from another institution, and whether it offers courses year round.

Another factor that may influence how long it will take you to earn your online master's in sports management is whether or not your program follows a cohort model. In a cohort model, you will start your graduate program at a set time (like the fall semester) and work through the program at a predetermined pace with peers that started at the same time as you. By contrast, some online master's programs in sports management allow you to work through the program at your own pace, so you may be able to earn your credits quicker.

CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT PREPARES FOR

Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE): Sponsored by the National Association of Sports Commissions, a CSEE certification recognizes expertise and professionalism in the sports tourism industry. To earn the certification, professionals must complete curriculum developed by the NASC, which is offered live and online.
Certified NFL Players Agent: To become a sports agent for an athlete in the NFL, you must be certified by the NFL Players Association. Certification requires a $2,500 fee, attendance at a two-day seminar, passing an exam and background check, and holding a graduate degree. A similar certification process is required to represent players in other sports leagues.

As you explore your options for earning a master's in sports management online, be sure to narrow your list down to schools that are accredited. Accreditation indicates that a school has met certain standards and delivers a high quality education. Typically, a school is either nationally accredited or regionally accredited. National accreditation is usually reserved for institutions of higher learning that focus on a specific type of education, like distance learning or vocational training. Regional accreditation is given to an institution that has met the standards of a regionally accredited association. A degree from a regionally accredited institution is valid in any state. Schools offering a master's in sports management online are more likely to be regionally accredited.

You may also want to look for sports management master's programs that have been accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (CSMA). CSMA recognizes programs at the undergraduate and graduate level that provide excellence in sports management education.

Accreditation associations work in tandem with other organizations to establish the standards that institutions of higher learning must meet. For example, the Department of Education (DOE) approves accreditors deemed reliable by the Secretary of Education. The DOE can only provide financial aid to students who attend accredited institutions. Another organization related to accreditation is the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The CHEA advocates for self-regulation among accredited institutions of higher learning to maintain high standards. Over 3,000 colleges and universities are members of the CHEA. To learn whether a school you're interested in is accredited, you can check the list of schools on the websites of the DOE and CHEA.

Sports Management Salaries

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Placement: Master's vs Bachelor of Sports Management

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for jobs related to sports management is roughly on par with the projected 8% growth rate for all industries. Candidates with a master's degree stand to enjoy more favorable employment rates than other applicants who have ended their education with a bachelor's or less. Using BLS data, the following table includes the projected growth rates of four common career pathways for students who earn a master's in sports management.

Professional Title Projected Growth Rate (2014-24) Expected Increase in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Administrative Services Managers 8% 23,500
Postsecondary Education Administrators 9% 15,200
Coaches and Scouts 6% 14,800

Current BLS data indicates that master's degree-holders face an average unemployment rate of 2.4%; by comparison, those with a bachelor's degree face a 2.8% unemployment rate and those with an associate degree face a 3.8% unemployment rate.

Earning a Living

In addition to better job placement rates, students who earn an online master's in sports management also stand to increase their career earnings potential. The BLS notes that the median salary for master's degree-holders is $1,341 per week, compared to bachelor's degree recipients who earn a median weekly salary of $1,137. This amounts to a difference of more than $10,000 in annual salaries between the two groups.

However, it's also important to note that the salary of a sports management professional will increase over the course of his or her career. Master's degree-holders often advance in their careers -- and raise their annual earnings -- at a faster rate than their counterparts with lesser credentials. The following table uses PayScale data to reveal the expected salaries for different sports management personnel at four career benchmarks.

Profession Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Athletic Director (College/ University) $61,000 $70,000 $86,000 $100,000
Assistant Athletic Director $42,000 $53,000 $65,000 $71,000
Facilities Manager $52,030 $60,551 $66,865 $71,715
Athletic Coach $31,000 $38,000 $45,000 $51,000

As the table indicates, employees in all four professions experience a significant salary increase during their careers. Assistant athletic directors saw the most growth -- 69% between the entry-level and late-career marks. The salaries for athletic directors (college/university) and athletic coaches also enjoyed 64% and 65% career earnings growth, respectively.

PayScale also reports a median annual salary of $62,627 for sports agents at all career levels. Additionally, The Houston Chronicle notes that agents typically receive a commission based on the yearly earnings of each client, which include both player salaries and endorsements. The size of commissions will vary by sport; the National Football Association and National Basketball Association impose a 3% commission limit for agents, while major league baseball and hockey do not restrict commissions. The most successful agents earn millions of dollars per year in commission fees alone.

Career Opportunities

Students who earn an online master's degree in sports management will qualify for dozens of positions after graduation, although individual eligibility will depend on their degree specialization and level of professional experience. Some of the most common career pathways for recipients of a master's in sports management are listed below.

Administrative Services Managers: These managers oversee inventories, logistics, recordkeeping, and other supportive services of their organization. In the sports management industry, administrative services personnel typically handle matters like athletic equipment, away-game travel, and facilities management.

Postsecondary Education Administrators: College athletic teams and departments are typically managed by postsecondary education administrators who specialize in student affairs. Their duties include scheduling games and practices, managing equipment, and handling internal team issues.

Coaches and Scouts: Coaches lead athletic teams during practice sessions and games, and work with individual players to improve specific skills. Many teams are managed by a head coach with a supportive coaching staff. Scouts identify promising players who have not yet committed to a particular organization, and work with coaches to help recruit these candidates.

Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes: Agents and business managers represent notable figures (including amateur and professional athletes) and promote them in the media. They also assist their clients with financial matters, such as contract negotiations and endorsement deals.

Profession Median Annual Salary
Administrative Services Managers $86,110
Postsecondary Education Administrators $88,580
Coaches and Scouts $31,000
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers and Athletes $95,810

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to sports management is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for sports management professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • World Association of Sports Management Founded in 2012 at the University of Taiwan, the WASM represents chapters on six continents (Antarctica is excluded). The organization follows a mission to "facilitate sport management research and teaching and learning excellence worldwide."
  • North American Society for Sports Management: The North American offshoot of the WASM, the NASSM is dedicated to supporting, promoting and educating athletic managers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean countries. Members receive complimentary issues of the Journal of Sports Management and a discount on NASSM conference fees.
  • National Alliance for Youth Sports: NAYS represents after-school athletic programs available to more than 30 million boys and girls in the United States. The organization often partners with other community-based youth agencies, including YMCA, YWCA, and Boys and Girls Clubs.

Despite the relative affordability of online sports management master's programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Sports Management Programs of 2017
Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
3 Canisius College Buffalo, NY
4 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
5 United States Sports Academy Daphne, AL
6 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
7 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
8 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
9 Troy University Troy, AL
10 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
11 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
12 Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL
13 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA
14 Adelphi University Garden City, NY
15 Northeastern University Boston, MA
16 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
17 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
18 Concordia University-Irvine Irvine, CA
19 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
20 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA
21 Coker College Hartsville, SC
22 Belhaven University Jackson, MS
23 Ohio University Athens, OH
24 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
25 Missouri Baptist University Saint Louis, MO
Best Online Master's in Sports Management Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
2 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
3 United States Sports Academy Daphne, AL
4 Canisius College Buffalo, NY
5 Concordia University - Chicago River Forest, IL
6 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
7 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
8 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
9 Missouri Baptist University Saint Louis, MO
10 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
11 Troy University Troy, AL
12 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
13 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
14 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
15 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA
16 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
17 Concordia University - Irvine Irvine, CA
18 Coker College Hartsville, SC
19 Belhaven University Jackson, MS
20 Lasell College Newton, MA
21 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
22 University of Central Missouri Warrensburg, MO
23 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN
24 Franklin Pierce University Rindge, NH
25 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA