Many people associate a sports management degree with a career as an agent, brokering deals and negotiating salaries for professional athletes. In truth, a bachelor’s degree in sports management can lead to many career paths, such as coach, athletic trainer, facilities operations manager, sports marketer, and sports official. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects athletic trainer positions to increase by 23% between 2016-2026. The salary range in this field varies. The median pay for sports officials is $26,800, while marketing managers earn a median pay of $129,380. Generating billions in revenue a year, the sports industry provides ample opportunities for a sports management professional to enjoy a rewarding career.
The BLS projects athletic trainer positions to increase by 23% between 2016-2026.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Sports Management?
Most bachelor’s in sports management programs require students to enroll in basic business courses, providing the skills necessary to handle the business side of the industry, including operations administration, contract negotiations, and marketing. Other programs concentrate on the sports side of the degree, offering classes in fitness and nutrition, strength and endurance training, and human physiology.
Over 500 U.S. colleges and universities offer on-campus sports management bachelor’s degrees. Most schools host yearly job fairs where students can network, hand out their resumes, and discover internship opportunities. Students who prefer to earn their degree online have many options too. Some schools offer online sports management programs entirely off campus, with asynchronous classes and internships that are local to students.
Business acumen is essential to the marketing aspect of sports management. If you prefer to work directly with athletes as a trainer or a sports program director, you may find classes in exercise science or sports psychology helpful. A bachelor’s degree in sports management can also help you establish a career as a coach, but you will likely need additional education or teaching courses.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Sports Management?
A sports management degree helps launch many different careers. Officiating and coaching keep you in the game, working directly with athletes in the field or on the court, while a career in sports marketing or facilities management provides opportunities for administrative jobs. Be clear on your goals before deciding on a sports management program. As you can see from the list of jobs below, there are several ways to leverage your love of sports into a rewarding long-term career.
- Sports Official
A basic requirement of a sports official is knowing the rules of a game. However, most sports officials have other responsibilities, including inspecting the playing venue before a game, reviewing officiating material, and inspecting equipment for safety and fairness.
Median Annual Salary: $26,800
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Coaches work directly with athletes and oversee their physical condition and training and monitor their psychological and emotional well-being, among other responsibilities. Coaches have often played the game themselves, which, coupled with a sports management degree, uniquely positions them to mentor athletes and manage a team.
Median Annual Salary: $32,270
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Athletic Trainer
Athletic trainers help prevent and treat injuries during games and in training. They work in many settings, including colleges and universities, professional sports teams, and fitness centers. Most states require athletic trainers to have a license or certification, often in addition to a sports management degree or a bachelor’s in a related field.
Median Annual Salary: $46,630
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Administrative Services Manager
Sports administrative services managers wear many hats. They plan and coordinate supportive services, maintain facilities, and manage accounting and general office records. A sports management program with a strong business component serves students well in this career.
Median Annual Salary: $94,020
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
The responsibilities of a sports promotions manager typically include planning and coordinating advertising and public relations campaigns, managing a team or organization’s public persona both online and in person, and building strong community ties. A bachelor’s degree in sports management supports this career path.
Median Annual Salary: $129,380
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Sports Management Program
Sports management offers so many career paths that choosing the right sports management program can be daunting. Cost is an important consideration when choosing a college or university. Several factors affect a program’s cost, including full-time or part-time enrollment, on-campus or online format, financial aid packages, and residency status. In addition to cost, a program’s curriculum is an important factor to consider. Some sports management degrees offer areas of specialization. If you know the type of sports management career you want to pursue, it is easier to judge the relevance of a school’s curriculum to your educational and professional objectives.
If you’re pursuing an on-campus degree, the school’s location is a major factor in your decision. You must complete an internship or practicum program to earn your sports management degree, and big cities typically offer more opportunities for this than small towns. Before you make your decision, be sure to inquire about the program’s culminating experience. Some sports management programs require students to write a thesis to graduate, while others accept a final project or capstone. A typical college thesis is around 100 pages, although the final count largely depends on the topic and the method of analysis. If writing is not your strong suit, consider a program with a capstone requirement instead.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor’s in Sports Management Programs
Accreditation signifies that a school or program meets the standards of the accrediting body. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes several accrediting organizations, although it does not accredit colleges and universities directly. CHEA acknowledges the Commission on Sports Management Accreditation as the chief accrediting body for the sports management field. Accreditation is important, especially if you plan to apply for financial aid. The Department of Education only distributes financial aid packages through accredited schools and programs. Additionally, it is generally easier to transfer credits between two institutions with equal accreditation status, rather than from one unaccredited school to an accredited school. Furthermore, employers generally prefer to hire graduates of an accredited school or program.
Bachelor's in Sports Management Program Admissions
Most colleges for sports management have similar admissions requirements for on-campus and online programs. It may be tempting to apply to as many schools as possible to increase your chances; however, keep in mind that most applications come with a fee. Consider only applying to schools with sports management programs that are aligned with your education and career goals. It may help to make a list of the attributes you want in a school or program. Include factors such as cost, location, course offerings, internship opportunities, and the reputation of the school or program, then apply to the schools at the top of your list.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools accept an average GPA of 2.5 to 3.0 for their programs. However, honors or technical programs often prefer to accept applicants with higher GPAs.
- Application: Regular decision deadlines typically fall sometime in January, while early decision or early action deadlines are usually in November. CommonApp is an online college application tool that allows students to apply to several schools at once.
- Transcripts: Applicants must submit their high school and other prior learning transcripts to prospective colleges before the admissions deadline. Note that applicants must submit a transcript from every high school attended.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most colleges request at least one letter of recommendation. Be sure to ask someone who knows you well, like a teacher or school counselor. Request the letter of recommendation at least two months before the application deadline.
- Test Scores: The SAT and ACT are the two most requested tests for admission to U.S. colleges. An average SAT score is between 1050 and 1060, while an average score for the ACT is 21.
- Application Fee: Although the average application fee for postsecondary U.S. schools was $43 in 2016, some schools currently charge as much as $75 per application. Schools may waive this fee for students with demonstrable financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Sports Management Program?
Bachelor’s degrees with concentration areas help students focus their studies and allocate their time, effort, and resources wisely. Concentrations are especially helpful in a multifaceted industry like sports management.
|Coaching||Students focus on the growth and development of athletes, human performance training and development, and sports ethics. Students also learn advanced leadership principles and educational theories and practice. This concentration prepares students to sit for coaching certification exams.||Coach; athletic program director|
|Exercise Science||In this concentration, students study how the body responds and adapts to different exercises. Students learn how to develop an exercise regimen for various populations, including athletes, people with physical disabilities or limitations, elderly people, or individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as obesity or pulmonary disease.||Trainer; activity coordinator for institutions such as nursing homes|
|Sports Agent||Students learn basic contract negotiating skills, promotional strategies for individual athletes and teams, and product or services endorsements. This concentration may also cover issues such as social media account monitoring and image/brand management.||Athlete or team representative|
|Sports and Recreation Management||This concentration focuses on topics such as stadium and arena design and management, athletics administration, and recreation services and operations. Students gain insight into the daily demands and long-term challenges of the sports and recreation industry and develop the skills necessary to fulfill these responsibilities.||Facilities manager; recreation activities administrator|
|Sports and Recreation Promotion||Students learn about game operations, media planning as it relates to public relations and promotions, and marketing strategies. This emphasis develops a student’s analytical skills, delves into the role of social media in marketing and promoting sports events, and teaches learners basic skills, such as writing press releases.||Media and communications specialist; promotions and public relations coordinator|
Courses in a Bachelor’s in Sports Management Program
Sports management programs run the gamut of course offerings, catering to a wide variety of career paths, but most have a few core classes in common. Each school offers a combination of classes that provide basic and specialized knowledge about the industry.
- Principles of Sports Marketing
This course explores the role of strategic marketing principles as they relate to the sports industry. Students learn to develop and implement effective sports-centered marketing plans. This course provides basic marketing skills for students pursuing a career in sports sales.
- Emerging Issues in Sports Management
The face of sports is changing, and this course helps students identify and address these changes. Specific topics may include the study of the role of women in sports, international competition, and sports for people with disabilities. This is an excellent starting point for students interested in the public relations aspect of sports management.
- Sports Administration
Students explore topics such as sports event logistics, community sports programs, and facilities management. Students also learn general operational functions, such as budgeting, accounting, and forecasting. This course is ideal for aspiring stadium or arena managers.
- Ethical Issues in Sports
Students study topics that are at the forefront of the sports industry, such as gender equality, drug use, and the college degree requirement for professional sports. This course prepares students for a career in public relations in the sports industry.
- Human Resources in Athletics
This course teaches students to apply business and human resources principles in a sports-centered environment. Students learn about topics such as performance evaluation and the recruiting process. Students considering a career as a coach or a scout benefit from taking this course.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Sports Management?
It typically takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in sports management. Like most bachelor’s degrees, it generally consists of 120 credits and around 40 courses. Most sports management programs require students to complete an internship. Some schools require a practicum as well.
Enrollment status, whether full time or part time, affects the time to degree. Some online programs that offer asynchronous courses allow students to enroll in more credits than on-campus students. If earning your degree in less time is important to you, check with your prospective schools to find out whether this is an option. Keep track of courses that require prerequisite classes. A misstep in this regard can cost you an entire semester.
How Much Is a Bachelor’s in Sports Management?
The cost per credit hour of sports management courses varies between schools. The average cost is around $365 per unit, with some schools charging as low as $192, and some as high as $673. However, there are other factors that affect the bottom line of a bachelor’s degree, such as residency status. Students enrolling in a public university in their home state pay significantly lower tuition than nonresident students. Although, some states have reciprocity agreements with other states, allowing nonresident enrollees to pay in-state tuition even when attending school outside of their home state. The difference in tuition rates can be significant. In some cases, out-of-state students pay as much as 35% more in tuition than in-state students.
As a rule, schools charge their online and on-campus students similar tuition and fees, but some schools charge an additional technology fee for online enrollees. Financial aid, like grants and scholarships, can significantly reduce the cost of your college education.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor’s in Sports Management Prepares For
- National Athletic Trainers Association
Athletic trainers are required to be licensed or certified in 49 states, including the District of Columbia. Applicants are tested on health care administration and professional responsibility; immediate and emergency care; injury and illness prevention; therapeutic intervention; and examination, assessment, and diagnosis.
- National Federation of State High School Associations
This organization boasts more than 19,000 high schools as members and certifies coaches for a variety of sports. Test takers answer questions testing their knowledge on topics such as first aid, health and safety, strength and conditioning, and the fundamentals of coaching.
- National Football League Players Association
Applicants apply to become an NFL agent must attend a two-day seminar in the District of Columbia. The test is administered on the afternoon of the second day of the seminar and is a three-hour, 60-question, multiple-choice exam. It covers topics such as player benefits, substance abuse, and NFLPA regulations.
- National Recreation and Park Association Certification
NRPA maintains four certification programs for professionals in the parks and recreation industry: Certified Park and Recreation Professional, Certified Playground Safety Inspection, Certified Park and Recreation Executive, and Aquatic Facility Operator Certification.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association-Certified Personal Trainer
This three-hour exam contains 140 questions that assess four areas: client consultation and fitness assessment, program planning, exercise technique, and safety and emergency issues. An NSCA-CPT certification supports personal training careers.
Resources for Sports Management Students
The job board on the NCAA website contains job listings from more than 1,200 member schools and associations. It also allows job seekers to post their resumes.
This online magazine delivers news from various areas of the sports industry, such as marketing and sponsorship, labor deliberations, and being an agent. Students receive reduced rates.
A yearly event, this conference presents keynote speeches from industry giants, panel discussions, and onsite interviews for internships and jobs with participating sports organizations.
This is a sports blog that offers current news about the business side of the sports industry, including ticket sales and analytics, sports marketing, and sponsorships.
In addition to sports-related jobs posted by thousands of employers, the website features internship opportunities for sports management students.
Professional Organizations in Sports Management
Networking is an important aspect of sports management. Joining a professional organization that supports your career objectives provides rich networking opportunities and also expands your understanding of the profession. Professional associations can also be excellent sources of job leads, referrals, and industry and merchandise discounts.