Sports management master's programs prepare graduates for jobs in the business of sports and recreation. Graduates can pursue careers with professional sports organizations, arenas and event venues, and local recreational services.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% job growth in entertainment and sports occupations between 2018 and 2028. Median annual salaries in sports management range from $28,550 for sports officials and referees to $90,870 for sports agents and business managers. Earning an on-campus or online master's degree in sports management prepares graduates for senior positions and leadership roles in the field.

Read on to learn about popular careers in sports management, common courses, and the best schools that can help you reach your academic and career goals.

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What Is Sports Management?

Sports management refers to the business of sports and recreation. Sports management master's programs blend foundational business courses in accounting, finance, and marketing with courses in behavioral science, motivational theories, and law.

Schools may offer sports management master's degrees as a specialization within an MBA program or as a stand-alone pathway. MBA programs emphasize business skills, while stand-alone master's programs in sports management often incorporate more interdisciplinary topics.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Sports Management Programs of 2020?

Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Georgetown University Washington, DC
3 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
4 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
5 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
6 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
7 Clemson University Clemson, SC
8 Concordia University - Irvine Irvine, CA
9 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
10 American University Washington, DC

Should I Get a Master's in Sports Management?

Sports management graduates can pursue careers as skilled negotiators, financial advisors, and marketing managers. In addition to careers with professional sports teams, graduates can find opportunities with ticket brokers, broadcasting companies, and postsecondary institutions.

Earning a master's degree offers the chance to specialize in a particular subfield of sports management, such as coaching or marketing. Prospective students looking for increased flexibility may opt to earn an online degree in sports management. Distance learners can more easily meet professional and family responsibilities while pursuing their degree.

A master's can also help professionals seeking a career change prepare for a new field. However, students with a nonbusiness background may need to take foundational business courses before enrolling in master's-level classes.

What Will I Learn in a Sports Management Graduate Program?

The section below describes several core courses you may take as part of a sports management master's program. You can also explore concentration options that are commonly available within sports management programs. These tracks usually feature 3-4 concentration courses and allow you to tailor your degree to your specific area of interest.

Most programs also require capstone experiences, and some offer internships or practica opportunities with sports and recreation organizations. While master's programs sometimes require students to write a thesis, some schools require a professional project instead.

Courses

Sports Sociology

This course studies the reasons people pursue sport and leisure, both as participants and spectators. It also covers historical and economic impacts on sports, which have influenced these activities around the world.

Sports Marketing

Sports marketing brings together public relations, advertising, and brand management to promote a massive industry. This course considers best practices and theories of sports communication.

Sports Law

This course examines legal issues related to sports and athletes, including contract negotiations, the role and responsibility of sports agents, and collective bargaining agreements. Additional topics include the right of athletes to use their name and likeness for endorsements and other for-profit purposes.

Fundamentals of Coaching

In this course, students examine a coach's ethical responsibilities to their teams and players. Participants also develop expertise in the rules of various sports and officiating techniques. Coursework offers an introduction to nutrition, health, and fitness, as well.

Sports Mass Media

This class benefits aspiring sports journalists and sports information professionals. It covers communication strategies used by media professionals, such as social media, press conferences, and interviews.

Concentrations

Athlete Development

Primarily serving students interested in working with athletes as a trainer, agent, or manager, this concentration includes courses in character development, media literacy, and professionalism.

Coaching

This concentration combines general courses in kinesiology and psychology with more focused courses like athlete psychology, nutrition, and athlete maturation.

Sports Law

This concentration covers topics like contract negotiation and regulatory compliance. Students gain a greater understanding of legal concerns. This concentration is a good fit for aspiring lawyers who want to work in the field.

Sports Event Management

Event managers must coordinate publicity, ticket sales, vendor contracts, and schedules. This concentration includes courses in marketing, project planning, and organizational management.

Sports Project Management

This concentration includes courses in leadership, organizational planning, and communication. Graduates can work as tour managers, facility managers, and team managers.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Sports Management?

Below are a few common career opportunities available to graduates of sports management master's programs. You can also learn more by visiting this career page.

Careers

Sports Agent

These professionals work with individual athletes to negotiate contracts with teams and endorsers. Agents need a strong understanding of sports law, contracts, and public relations. According to the BLS, they earn an average annual salary of $90,870.

Sports Broadcaster

These broadcasters work with local or national networks, providing news, interviews, and analysis for sporting events. Some broadcasters work for individual teams as play-by-play announcers or color commentators. Sports broadcasters are often former coaches and players.

Event Coordinator

These professionals often work with specific venues to book performances or games. They coordinate schedules, manage contracts, and promote events or the venue to the general public.

Athletic Director

These directors work with high schools and colleges to ensure athletic programs comply with athletic association rules and standards. They may oversee budgets and hire coaching staff.

Public Relations Manager

Marketing managers typically work with a team of advertising, public relations, and creative specialists. They develop promotional campaigns across a variety of media and track the return on those campaigns in terms of sales and fan engagement.

How to Choose a Sports Management Master's Program

Online degrees in sports management increase accessibility to high-quality master's programs across the country. For more information, consult our ranking of the best online master's degrees in sports management. These rankings factor in variables like program cost, graduation rates, and online instruction quality.

While this list offers a starting point, prospective learners should carefully evaluate schools to find the best program for their interests and career goals. Consider factors like elective and concentration options, travel requirements, and internship opportunities.

How to Get Into a Sports Management Master's Program

You must earn an undergraduate degree before applying to a graduate program. Most schools welcome students from diverse academic backgrounds. However, some schools may require that incoming students with a nonbusiness degree complete prerequisite courses.

Admission requirements often include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA and GMAT or GRE scores. Students with significant work experience in sports management or business and/or a strong undergraduate GPA may qualify for test waivers.

Most schools also require a statement of purpose outlining your career goals and why the program can help you reach those goals. Many programs also require letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors, professional mentors, and/or workplace supervisors.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Sports Management?

Most master's degrees in sports management require 30-36 credits and take 18-24 months to complete. Students who are also balancing a career or other family commitments with school may enroll as part-time learners; these students often take 1-2 courses per semester and graduate in about three years.

Some schools offer accelerated one-year programs. In these programs, courses often last 6-8 weeks. Accelerated programs allow students to earn more credits on a shorter time scale and offer multiple start dates throughout the year.

Few careers within sports management require certification and licensure. However, professional credentials can enhance your resume. Examples include the project management professional, certified meeting professional, and certified business analysis professional credentials. These certifications require membership in a professional organization, relevant professional experience, and a passing score on an exam.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Master's in Sports Management?

In addition to time, graduate school also requires a significant investment of money. U.S. students paid an average of approximately $18,950 per year for graduate school tuition during the 2017-2018 school year.

Costs vary by institution type, however. Public colleges and universities charged an average tuition of approximately $11,930 per year, while private schools charged about $25,440 per year.

In addition to tuition costs, students should budget for technology and books. Online students avoid paying for travel and on-campus room and board. Also, some schools waive out-of-state tuition surcharges for distance learners.

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