If you are interested in the business aspects of sports, a master's in sports management degree is an ideal academic pathway. Earning a degree in sports management can start or advance your career as a sports manager.
The demand for sports industry professionals is high, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects many jobs will grow over the next few years. Coach and scout positions are projects to increase by 13% by 2026, and salaries in the profession average $50,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Should I Get a Master's in Sports Management?
Earning a master's in sports management prepares you for a career as a sports business professional. In a sports management master's program, you take courses in digital sports media, sports analytics, intercollegiate athletics, facility and event management, and sports law and ethics. You study the issues and practices of the sports industry while strengthening your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. You may even gain practical experience through an internship or practicum.
Earning a master's degree in sports management opens the door to a career as an athletic director, facilities coordinator, or sports agency representative. As a graduate student, you will have access to resources that will prepare you for the workforce, including resume writing workshops, mock interviews, job-placement assistance programs, and even professional networking events.
Students who want more flexibility while they pursue their degree often enroll in online colleges. Distance-learning programs are ideal for working professional and those who need more time for personal commitments. Students who prefer to work independently and study at their own pace also opt for web-based master's program, as online programs typically offer asynchronous elements, where class materials are available for students at their convenience. Students who just graduated from their undergraduate programs often prefer to pursue their degrees on campus.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Sports Management?
Graduating from a sports management master's program opens the door to many job opportunities, including sports promoting and business management.
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists maintain public images for sports teams and athletes. They write press releases, respond to information requests, evaluate public opinion, and arrange interviews.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Collegiate Athletic Director
Collegiate athletic directors supervise the operations of athletic programs at postsecondary institutions. They may work within the office of student life or the school's athletics department to develop programming, organize event schedules, and oversee staff. Athletic directors at colleges and universities typically hold a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $92,360
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Coaches and Scouts
Coaches work with athletes at amateur and professional levels, conducting practice sessions, planning game strategies, and identifying players' strengths and weaknesses. Scouts recruit athletes for amateur and professionals sports teams by attending games and consulting coaches and team managers.
Median Annual Salary: $32,270
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
How to Choose a Master's in Sports Management Program
You should research master's degree programs in sports management to find those which best suit your career path. Pay attention to each program's specific coursework to ensure it aligns with your interests. Some programs offer concentrations in fields like athlete development, high-performance coaching, and sports law. Note which programs require a thesis, capstone, or internship, which can provide valuable research or professional experience.
Determine how much flexibility you want your program to offer. Some programs use a cohort structure, which moves students through the curriculum as a unit and requires full-time, in-person enrollment. Distance learning opportunities are usually more flexible, allowing part-time enrollment. Before choosing an online degree, investigate whether the school requires any in-person components, and ask if classes are offered synchronously or asynchronously.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Sports Management Programs
Research the accreditation status of each master's program in sports management that you are considering. Accreditation demonstrates that a school has been thoroughly evaluated by an accrediting agency, like the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The status serves as verification that a school's offerings meet standards of excellence in higher education.
Programmatic accreditation, which examines specific degrees, is also conducted by independent agencies. Programmatic accreditation, aside from verifying academic excellence, ensures that a school's curriculum prepares students for careers in the field. For master's in sports management degrees, the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation maintains a list of schools they have accredited programmatically.
Master's in Sports Management Program Admissions
Admissions to master's in sports management programs is competitive, and students who apply to more than one school increase their chances of acceptance. Begin your search well in advance of application deadlines and select seven or eight schools to apply to. Admissions for on-campus programs and online admissions are similar, though the process may be more involved for online programs. Some schools require professional experience in the sports industry, while other schools expect students to meet a minimum undergraduate GPA or standardized test score. Speak to an enrollment or admissions adviser at each institution to ensure you meet the admissions requirements.
- Bachelor's Degree: All master's programs in sports management require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. The degree does not necessarily need to be in sports management, though some institutions will require prior coursework in the field.
- Professional Experience: Some schools expect applicants to have prior professional experience in the sports industry.
- Minimum GPA: Most graduate schools require applicants to have a minimum cumulative 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
- Application: To apply for a sports management degree, you must submit information about your educational and professional background through a college application. Applications may require a personal statement.
- Transcripts: You must submit official transcripts from previous educational institutions. These must be requested from each school's registrar office and usually require a fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Schools may require up to three letters of recommendation. You should request a letter of recommendation from former professors or work managers. Ask several weeks in advance of the deadline to ensure your recommenders have sufficient time to write your letters.
- Test Scores: Many master's degree programs in sports management require standardized test scores like the GRE or GMAT. Scores are only valid for five years from the test date.
- Application Fee: Application fees usually range from $35 to $100. Some schools waive application fees for alumni, employees, and military service members.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Sports Management Program?
Graduating from a master's in sports management program prepares you for a variety of sports-related positions. Many master's degrees allow students to complete a concentration. These specializations allow students to align their studies with a specific career path.
|Sport Law||A concentration in sport law will give you specialized knowledge in the laws that govern the sport industry. Topics include legal principles, judicial decision-making, insurance, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, consumer protection, contractual relationships, and agency representation.||Collegiate compliance officer, athletic director, sports agent, general sports manager|
|Coaching||A coaching concentration prepares you for a career helping athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels enhance their performance through specialized coaching techniques. Students study psychological and physiological elements of performance training, effective performance evaluation, and physical and mental ability assessment.||Athletic director, head coach, sports coordinator, sport administrator|
|Sports Analytics||The sports analytics track trains students in data collection and interpretation. They learn to analyze athlete and team performance, and topics include predictive analytics, data science, modeling, probability theory, statistics, and programming.||Sport administrator, athletic director, collegiate compliance officer, sports agent, general sports manager, director of player engagement|
|Sports Administration||A specialization in sports administration focuses on the business side of sports and athletics. Topics include risk mitigation, data analytics, sports research, legal and ethical issues, sports marketing, public relations, and the technology of sport.||Athletic director, college athletics administrator, front office manager, sports marketer|
Courses in a Master's in Sports Management Program
Earning your sports management master's degree will help you develop advanced sports industry skills. The specifics of your master's degree will vary depending on the school you attend. Your program may offer specific concentrations, coursework, or internships. A few sample courses are listed below.
- Sports Marketing
Sports marketing courses teach students marketing strategies, including branding, sponsorship, and promotions. Topics include market segmentation, data-based marketing, and the legal aspects of marketing contracts. Students learn to develop and apply marketing principles to comprehensive sports marketing plans.
- Sports Performance Analytics
Courses in sports performance analytics teach students to use statistical and mathematical models to evaluate athletes and teams. Students study performance measurement, simulation methods in player selection, injury forecasting, and how to rate team competitive strength and predict the probability of a team winning.
- Sport Psychology
In sport psychology courses, students explore behavioral, cognitive, and social factors of athletic performance. Topics cover neurophysiology, team dynamics, and youth sports, applying contemporary theory to the practice of sport psychology.
- Sports Ethics
Sports ethics courses explore the moral and ethical dilemmas of sport, including sportsmanship and performance-enhancing drugs. Topics include diversity, race, gender, fan behavior, youth sports, and the media. Students learn to apply ethical decision-making to various aspects of the sports industry.
- Business of Sports
In business of sports courses, students study the financial management aspects of the sports industry. Topics include managerial economics, accounting, budget planning, stadium financing options, strategic planning, salary cap logistics, valuation methodologies, sports marketing, and labor relations. You will become familiar with key sports business vocabulary and terminology.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Sports Management?
Most master's in sports management degrees require students to earn about 36 credits. Some programs are offered in accelerated six- or eight-week sessions. If you study on a full-time basis, you may be able to complete your degree in one to two years. If you enroll in a cohort-based program, you may have less flexibility in scheduling, as students are typically required to take courses in a pre-arranged calendar. Many online programs allow students to take coursework on a part-time basis, and with asynchronous elements, you can complete the work at your convenience.
How Much Is a Master's in Sports Management?
Cost is an important factor to consider when pursuing your master's in sports management. Most colleges and universities charge tuition on a per-credit basis, though some schools charge per course. Graduate school may cost between $350 to $1,400 per credit or $1,000 to $4,500 per course. Total tuition for a master's degree may be between $20,000 and $80,000. Private schools tend to charge higher tuition than public schools. Additionally, out-of-state tuition is generally higher than in-state tuition. Some schools allow online learners to pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live, though distance learners may accrue extra technology fees.
Also consider fees beyond tuition, including books, fees, housing, and commuting costs. Investigate whether financial aid is available, but keep in mind that federal financial aid is only available for regionally accredited programs.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Sports Management Prepares For
- NBPA Certified Agent
The National Basketball Players Association is a union that advocates on behalf of professional basketball players. To become an NBPA certified agent, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree and pass a written exam. This credential demonstrates your understanding of the NBPA regulations governing player agents.
- Registered Athletic Administrator
The registered athletic administrator credential demonstrates your expertise in athletic administration. To become a registered athletic administrator, you must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and valid sponsorship from an athletic administrator, principal, superintendent, graduate school professor, or activities association staff member. To achieve certification, you must complete two leadership training courses in philosophy; leadership organizations; and professional programs and principles, strategies, and methods.
- Certified Athletic Administrator
The certified athletic administrator credential is similar to its registered counterpart. To qualify, you must have at least two years of professional experience as an interscholastic athletic administrator and be currently employed by or retired from a school, school district, state athletic administrator association, or state high school athletic association. To become a certified athletic administrator, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and complete four leadership training courses. You must also successfully complete an examination.
Resources for Sports Management Graduate Students
The U.S. Department of Education offers many helpful resources for individuals seeking a master's degree in sports management. The website lists accredited schools as well as information about student loans, scholarships, and grants.
The Sport Marketing Association focuses on sports marketing and consists of management university professors. With leading research and educational opportunities, as well as an annual conference and career fair, this organization is a great resource for undergraduate and graduate students.
The American College of Sports Medicine is a community of 50,000 sports professionals. Members benefit from mentoring, certifications, continuing education opportunities, and networking events. Membership options include student, alliance, and professional.
Professional Organizations in Sports Management
Becoming a member of a professional association allows you to collaborate with like-minded individuals and gives you the opportunity to participate in continuing education programs, professional development opportunities, and annual conferences. Professional associations typically offer members access to employment resources like career services, job boards, mentorship opportunities, and networking events.
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics is the largest membership association of collegiate athletics administrators. The organization provides continuing education opportunities, networking events, an annual convention, awards, and internship programs.
The Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists is a nonprofit that offers athlete development programs. The organization offers many resources to members, including an online community, career advancement tools, professional development opportunities, and access to white papers.
The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association is a national professional organization dedicated to high school-, middle school-, and junior high-level interscholastic athletic administration. Members benefit from professional development events, educational programming, online courses, and webinars.
The North American Society for Sport Management is an organization that supports sport, leisure, and recreation programming. NASSM offers annual conferences, events, awards, and grants. The organization has an official research journal, the Journal of Sport Management.
A partner of the Athletics and Fitness Association of America, the National Academy of Sports Medicine offers many resources to sports industry professionals, including world-renowned professional development courses.