What is Sports Management?

Football players at a Practice

Some love sports. Some love taking chances and challenges. These traits, together, make a winning combination for a career in sports management.

Sport management has to do with any and every business aspect of sports and recreation. The field is vast. Sport managers can be found working for professional teams, their parent programs (such as the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL), colleges and universities, recreational departments and sports marketing firms. They can be event managers, facility managers, sports economists, financial, promotion or information experts.

They can run the front office, work behind the scenes or act as the interface between players, coaches and the media. In all of these sports management roles, energy, motivation, good sportsmanship and teamwork are considered strong assets.

Get in the Game

There's more to a job in the sports management than first meets the eye. Getting these coveted jobs takes hustle, of course, but also demands excellent analytical thinking, communication skills and stand-out business savvy.

The most serious players in the field start with a degree in sports management at an established, accredited university. There are several tracks to take. Start your career off with a bachelor's degree or choose a master's degree, a concentration in athletic administration or international sports management or an MBA. To help decide which is right for you, here's a closer look at what sports management is all about and how to choose the program to best matches your goals.

Start Smart with a BS in Sports Management

What is sports management at the undergraduate level? A bachelor's program is a solid first step into the world of sports management. Maybe you're an athlete yourself or just a zealous fan. Earning your BS in Sport Management degree online can turn your passion into a profession.

The sports industry is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts expansion due to multi-billion dollar profits. Expansion can mean opportunities for well-trained, business-minded professionals at all levels. Those with a bachelor's degree in sports management have the industry knowledge and practical experience to get ahead. The program combines sports management, business and liberal arts courses plus valuable sports-related field experiences to help you enter and succeed in this competitive job arena.

  • Learn to apply conventional analytical tools to sport business situations.
  • Become well-versed in ethical conduct principles and values, and learn to express yourself with professionalism in any business setting.
  • Explore a global view of sport business by developing a deep understanding of the relationships between institutions, culture and humanity and their impact on sport businesses.
  • Recognize and understand the broad spectrum of relationships among external forces affecting a sport business and how to respond by aligning company strategies and resources.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of public relations specialists, an important role within the sport management world, will increase 15% by 2020.* In addition to public relations, other directions available to you with this degree include:

  • Marketing assistant
  • Sales manager
  • Media relations assistant
  • Special events coordinator
  • Promotions manager
  • Guest relations specialist
  • Tournament director
  • Sports information director
  • Athletic director
  • Facilities manager

Southern New Hampshire University student Vinicius Dos Santos has practical experience but wanted to up his game with academic training. Dos Santos, who is originally from Sao Paolo, Brazil and a U.S. resident living in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a former soccer player with a degree in physical education and sport from the University of Sao Paolo. He has worked with youth and community college soccer and currently acts as the director of coaching for a youth soccer club in Phoenix. He said he wanted a sports management degree to deepen his understanding of areas he was already interested in, including "long-term athlete development, team culture and the organization and impact of mega-sport events like the Soccer World Cup 2014 and Summer Olympics 2016, both in Brazil," he said. Dos Santos added that, in his opinion, "we do better at what we love."

BS in Business Studies with a concentration in Sports Management online programs combine sports management courses with a broad business education in such areas as accounting, human resources, marketing and more. This degree program is ideal for those already working in the field who want to further focus their knowledge in sports management, as well as those who wish to complete their degree.

The Master's That Packs a Punch

If you've decided to turn your love of sports into a fulfilling career, an online master's in sports management program may be for you. What is sports management at the master's degree level? The program provides the training needed to break into the competitive sports management industry by blending experiential learning with a strong foundation in business administration.

Key components of MS programs include honing strong written and communication skills, the ability to think critically and creatively, and developing a keen business sense. As a student in this program, you'll gain hands-on experience while studying textbook subject matter.

Success Ahead: Jobs in Sports Management

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master's in sports management can help you reach higher-level positions in the sports industry - an industry with a strong, steady job outlook. Careers in athletic management, marketing, sales, public relations and more are expected to see growth of up to 13% over the next eight years.*

You can choose marketing, facilities management, event planning or any number of sports management careers. An MS in sport management helps get you where you want to go. It also connects you with a strong network of alumni who work for sports organizations around the country from pro franchises and sports apparel giants to amateur athletic organizations.

What It Takes

The MS in Sport Management online is ideal for students seeking flexibility. It's this flexibility that sold Joshua Burgess '14 on the SNHU program. Burgess always dreamed of completing his master's degree. His dream became reality when he discovered SNHU's sport management program after his brother started an undergraduate degree there. Like many, Burgess said he was attracted to the benefits of the online option. "The online program allow(ed) me to continue working full-time and to coach high school soccer every spring - one of my passions." Burgess said in addition to earning an MS Sport Management, he feels the degree equipped him with valuable tools for the future.

Specialize in Athletic Administration

If you see yourself as part of a professional sports administration or running the athletics program at a school or community organization, you'll want to look into the online MS in Sport Management with an Athletic Administration Graduate Certificate. You'll learn organizational design, public policy, labor relations, collective bargaining, marketing and media relations - all the skills you'll need to enter the workforce with confidence.

Employability remains high in this realm of sports management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of education administrators, which includes athletic administration, is expected to grow faster than the national average - about 9% - between 2014 and 2024. * That said, the flexibility of this master's degree also lets you go in number of directions, including marketing, sales and public relations.

The MS in Sport Management with the athletic administration graduate certificate can be earned with just 36 credits - putting you on the ground, running in relatively quickly.

This was just what Elise Johnson '14 was looking for. Johnson's love of sports began when she was a young Junior Olympics gymnast rising through the ranks of club gymnastics with great promise. But as her accomplishments grew, her passion dwindled. She turned to competitive cheerleading in high school. Then, as a student at community college, Johnson started coaching gymnastics and rekindled her love for the sport. "I got back in the gym ... and for the most part got back all of my skills. I was definitely rough around the edges, but started talking to the college gymnastics coaches," Johnson said.

A coach from southern Utah took a look at her skills, saw her potential and offered her a full-ride scholarship. "That was my goal - to go to college," said Johnson. By junior year, she became the gymnastics program's first All-American, earning first-team honors on bars and beam and second-team honors on floor as well as NCAA North Central Region and Western Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year. By senior year, she continued to take home medals and was named her school's Female Athlete of the Year, amongst other accolades. "Ultimately, I want to be able to tell my story and offer that same experience to other aspiring student-athletes," Johnson said. So she enrolled in the online sport management and athletic administration graduate certificate program at SNHU, primarily for its flexibility.

"My husband serves in the United States Marine Corps, which brought us to Japan in March of 2012. SNHU's online program is exactly what I needed," Johnson said. Currently, Johnson is the assistant athletic director at Marine Corps Community Services in Iwakuni, Japan, and looks forward to transitioning into athletic administration at the collegiate level when returning to the States.

Destination: International Sports Management

Online Master of Science in Sport Management with an integrated graduate certificate in international sport management explores the question, "What is sports management internationally?" Areas of study include how licensing, technology, ethics, economic risks, cultural differences, governance and various other external influences challenge and create opportunities for sports management professionals.

Sports franchises, international governing bodies, and management and marketing firms are increasingly exploring ways to grow beyond national borders. Professionals with an international sports management education are well positioned to capitalize on all this growth.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that careers in athletic management, marketing, sales, public relations and other sport management-related positions will grow 6% between 2014 and 2024.* Strong demand from the public and increasing participation of sports will contribute to job growth for sports occupations.

Edge Out the Competition with an MBA

If you want to truly master the business side of sports, an MBA equips you with everything thing you need to make your mark. A Master of Business Administration in Sport Management teaches the core principles of business development, brand building and event planning. It also gives you a solid foundation in business and management using real-world examples from the multi-billion-dollar sports business.

What is sports management for the MBA graduate? Master's degree holders can expect to earn 20% more on average than those with only a bachelor's degree and almost 80% more than those without a degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. * They are also significantly less likely to be unemployed.

An MBA in sports management positions you for a high-level career in any of the specialized fields within this industry, including: professional sports teams, event and facility management, parks and recreation, intercollegiate and scholastic sports, equipment manufacturing and sports agencies.

Missy Page is a higher education marketing professional and instructor. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

*Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.

Susan Bogle is a marketing and student recruitment specialist in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @Suze1776 or connect on LinkedIn.


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