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Sports man­age­ment is not a sin­gle thing. In fact, any­thing that deals with any busi­ness aspect of any sport can fall with­in the purview of sports man­age­ment. Sports man­agers are out front, behind the scenes, and on the side­lines. A sports man­age­ment degree offers a lot more than many peo­ple think.

From the start, poten­tial appli­cants will want to know the pros and cons of sports man­age­ment. When con­sid­er­ing a sports man­age­ment career, appli­cants should know the field is a large one and very reward­ing. Nev­er­the­less, sports man­age­ment, like any oth­er field, does come with its share of challenges.

The pros and cons of sports man­age­ment weigh heav­i­ly in favor of the pros. For exam­ple, a sports man­age­ment career is not tied to a sin­gle sport or league, like being a pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete — and you nev­er age out or get dropped for an injury. The sports indus­try is incred­i­bly large and glob­al. In that sense, appli­cants will always find oppor­tu­ni­ties. Still, the field, much like what it rep­re­sents, can become incred­i­bly competitive.

While some may see com­pe­ti­tion as a con, it is impor­tant to under­stand com­pe­ti­tion only exists for some very spe­cif­ic types of sports man­age­ment careers. With a field as wide and open as sports man­age­ment, there is room for any­one who wants to pur­sue a sports man­age­ment or sports admin­is­tra­tion career.


Education for a Sports Management Career

Obtain­ing a sports man­age­ment degree starts with a school or pro­gram ded­i­cat­ed to that spe­cif­ic field of study — one that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly very spe­cif­ic, and very broad. Many schools offer sports man­age­ment class­es of one type or anoth­er. For appli­cants try­ing to decide between all the options, there are a few fac­tors that can help make the deci­sion easier.

Sports Management Accreditation

As with any school or pro­gram of high­er learn­ing, accred­i­ta­tion is extreme­ly impor­tant. A school with­out prop­er accred­i­ta­tion is a risky propo­si­tion best avoid­ed by any­one seri­ous about the sports man­age­ment indus­try. Many jobs will not even con­sid­er some­one if they grad­u­ate from a pro­gram with­out prop­er sports man­age­ment accreditation.

Any school or pro­gram should have region­al accred­i­ta­tion. Region­al accred­i­ta­tion means the school or pro­gram meets or exceeds the edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards set by the US Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion. A col­lege or uni­ver­si­ty should have accred­i­ta­tion from one of the six rec­og­nized accred­it­ing bod­ies (which are deter­mined by region, includ­ing New Eng­land, the South, the Mid­west, and so on).

But specif­i­cal­ly for sports man­age­ment, accred­i­ta­tion most­ly falls under the purview of the Com­mis­sion on Sports Man­age­ment Accred­i­ta­tion. COSMA is the de fac­to accred­it­ing body for sports man­age­ment. COSMA accred­i­ta­tion rep­re­sents a joint ini­tia­tive between NASPE and NASSM sport man­age­ment programs.

The NASPE, or Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Sport and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion, is the largest of the SHAPE Amer­i­ca pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions. The orga­ni­za­tion includes thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als in the phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion field. The group pub­lish­es stan­dards for sports and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion rang­ing from the grade school lev­el to the pro­fes­sion­al level.

Find­ing a school with NASPE stan­dards or one con­tain­ing NASPE mem­bers on the fac­ul­ty is a boon to any appli­cant pur­su­ing sports man­age­ment. Since the NASPE and NASSM cre­at­ed COSMA accred­i­ta­tion, an appli­cant can have peace and assur­ance a col­lege or pro­gram bear­ing the marks of these orga­ni­za­tions is one they can trust their edu­ca­tion to.

Rep­u­ta­tion: No two pro­grams are alike. Some pro­grams, even with good accred­it­ed stan­dards, are not always rec­og­nized as the best. Appli­cants do not have to seek out the best of the best when it comes to a sports man­age­ment pro­gram. Still, appli­cants should def­i­nite­ly pay atten­tion to the rep­u­ta­tion of the pro­gram they are considering.

Range of Avail­able Class­es: Not all sports man­age­ment degrees are the same. Since an appli­cant can choose a degree spe­cial­ty, it is impor­tant to look for schools or pro­grams that offer a range of class­es to facil­i­tate cus­tomiza­tion of the degree.

As sports man­age­ment itself isn’t just one thing, an appli­cant will want the class­es that give them a core cur­ricu­lum but also class­es that allow them to learn what they need for spe­cif­ic nich­es, indus­tries, and fields.

Addi­tion­al­ly, a school that offers relat­ed degrees can also become ben­e­fi­cial to an appli­cant. For exam­ple, pur­su­ing a sports man­age­ment degree may also come with an inter­est in sports jour­nal­ism or sports medicine.

Con­ve­nience: Beyond some of the larg­er con­sid­er­a­tions, appli­cants need to look at what the pro­gram offers by way of sched­ul­ing, loca­tion, and online cours­es. Some­one seek­ing a degree in sports man­age­ment will need some con­ve­nience to help him or her along the way. To that end, they should look for a pro­gram with a cur­ricu­lum and sched­ule they can stick to and get the most out of.

Types of Sports Management Degrees

A sports man­age­ment degree can come in a few vari­eties. Gen­er­al­ly, a con­ven­tion­al 4‑year sports man­age­ment major will cul­mi­nate in a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence in Sports Man­age­ment. How­ev­er, it is also pos­si­ble to obtain a Bach­e­lor of Arts in Sports and Recre­ation Management.

When an appli­cant looks for sports man­age­ment degree pro­grams, they are most often con­sid­er­ing the BS degree rather than the BA, because cours­es in the BS will be more ori­ent­ed toward the tech­ni­cal aspects of busi­ness, like math­e­mat­ics and sta­tis­tics. How­ev­er, the BA can help some­one who does not have a spe­cif­ic career or goal in mind by pro­vid­ing a more adapt­able gen­er­al edu­ca­tion foundation.

The most impor­tant part of a sports man­age­ment degree is spe­cial­iza­tion. Sports man­age­ment, as a cat­e­go­ry, includ­ed every­thing from man­ag­ing ath­letes to scout­ing to sell­ing mer­chan­dise and main­tain­ing facil­i­ties, so spe­cial­iza­tion helps nar­row down the career path. So even when pur­su­ing a BS, an appli­cant should fine-tune their edu­ca­tion to line up with one of the spe­cial­ized sports man­age­ment major disciplines.

The best col­leges for sports man­age­ment will have pro­grams and class­es that allow appli­cants to choose the path they want, rather than a strict, unerr­ing cur­ricu­lum. A bach­e­lor’s in sports man­age­ment can veer towards these and more specialties:

  • Gen­er­al sports management
  • Sports account­ing and finance
  • Sports agent
  • Sports ana­lyt­ics
  • Sports busi­ness administration
  • Sports fit­ness and wellness
  • Sports mar­ket­ing
  • Sport psy­chol­o­gy
  • Sports retail management
  • Sports risk management

Oth­er spe­cial­ties exist, and choos­ing one from the sports degrees list will rep­re­sent an impor­tant deci­sion for appli­cants. The best sports man­age­ment col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties will have pro­grams to assist appli­cants in choos­ing what they would like to do, beyond sports management.

In some pro­grams, the degree name will change depend­ing on the spe­cial­ty. For exam­ple, a sports admin­is­tra­tion degree is still a sports man­age­ment degree, but it will have a nar­row­er focus. A sports admin­is­tra­tion major may grad­u­ate with a BS in Sports Admin­is­tra­tion, but that degree holds as much weight as a sports man­age­ment degree.

In this par­tic­u­lar exam­ple, the terms man­age­ment and admin­is­tra­tion are some­times used inter­change­ably. In some cir­cles, admin­is­tra­tion implies work­ing with sports orga­ni­za­tions at the busi­ness lev­el, while man­age­ment refers to work­ing with the tal­ent as indi­vid­u­als or groups.

Appli­cants seek­ing a sports man­age­ment degree of any type would do well to sim­ply search for things like the top 10 sports man­age­ment pro­grams or the top 10 sports man­age­ment col­leges. Also search out schol­ar­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties; many pro­grams pro­vide gen­er­ous sup­port for promis­ing students.

Online sports man­age­ment degree schools are also viable. When look­ing at online sports man­age­ment degree class­es, appli­cants should fol­low the same basic rules of look­ing for accred­i­ta­tion and rep­u­ta­tion to start with. This also applies to spe­cial­ized pro­grams, such as an accel­er­at­ed sports man­age­ment program.

If the appli­cant has con­cerns over the type of bachelor’s degree offered, they should go over the sports man­age­ment degree require­ments and make sure they know pre­cise­ly what it is they want from the pro­gram. Sports man­age­ment degree col­leges usu­al­ly offer more than one degree path, or give stu­dents flex­i­bil­i­ty in the cours­es they can take so they can tai­lor their degree to their interests.

Online Sports Management Degree Programs

Yes, it is absolute­ly pos­si­ble to earn a sports man­age­ment degree online. Appli­cants need not wor­ry, as online degrees in sports man­age­ment are just as rep­utable as a degree from any brick and mor­tar col­lege or uni­ver­si­ty. Online sports man­age­ment degrees from accred­it­ed pro­grams are def­i­nite­ly tak­en seriously.

As with any kind of school or pro­gram, appli­cants must pay atten­tion when select­ing online sports man­age­ment pro­grams. Sports man­age­ment degree pro­grams aren’t all the same and find­ing one that fits an applicant’s needs will require research and atten­tion to the fin­er details offered by the online sports man­age­ment pro­gram. Some are focused on speed; some are focused on con­ve­nience; some are focused on experience.

Online sports man­age­ment cours­es can be tak­en com­plete­ly vir­tu­al­ly, but some pro­grams may require an appli­cant to vis­it cam­pus at some point, either for an ori­en­ta­tion or for a sum­mer inten­sive. This will depend on the pro­gram cho­sen and the loca­tion of the appli­cant. Nev­er­the­less, it is often pos­si­ble to com­plete a sports man­age­ment degree ful­ly online.

Appli­cants can still choose spe­cial­ties as well with a sports man­age­ment degree online. A sports ana­lyt­ics degree online or an online recre­ation man­age­ment degree are just two of the most com­mon online spe­cial­iza­tions avail­able. Some appli­cants may choose to pro­cure an associate’s degree in sports man­age­ment online and then try a dif­fer­ent venue to go for­ward with their bachelor’s. Get­ting a job with an asso­ci­ate’s degree can get your foot in the door while earn­ing high­er degrees.

Oth­er cours­es, such as sports man­age­ment cours­es online free of charge do exist. An appli­cant can find free cours­es, such as those offered through Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es (MOOCs) and var­i­ous oth­er places. These types of free online sports man­age­ment cours­es can vary a great deal.

Some free online cours­es can offer a rec­og­nized cred­it, but that is not a giv­en. Some can give a cred­it only if the per­son tak­ing the free course is already enrolled in a par­tic­i­pat­ing school.

In some cas­es, a free online sports man­age­ment course can only offer edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to brush up or get a feel for the sub­ject. Using free online sports man­age­ment course to earn cer­tifi­cates is a good way to boost an applicant’s portfolio.

An online sports man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate can help fill out a port­fo­lio or show that an appli­cant gained fur­ther edu­ca­tion or spe­cial­iza­tion beyond their degree. In all these ways, online degrees in sports man­age­ment offer many options for those who want to take a non-tra­di­tion­al route towards their sports man­age­ment degree.

Certifications/Licenses for Sports Management

Sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion varies wide­ly. Appli­cants should under­stand that a sports man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate is not strict­ly nec­es­sary to enter into a sports man­age­ment career. How­ev­er, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can often help an appli­cant in sev­er­al ways.

Receiv­ing a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion while pur­su­ing a sports man­age­ment degree can help an appli­cant find entry-lev­el work while they are in school. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion after obtain­ing a degree can help an appli­cant prove their com­pe­ten­cy in a spe­cif­ic specialty.

Some leagues, agen­cies, or oth­er sports-relat­ed groups may require some­one to obtain a cer­tain type of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion before they can become part of the man­age­ment team in a par­tic­u­lar capac­i­ty. Some states require spe­cif­ic types of cer­ti­fi­ca­tions depend­ing on the field the appli­cant choos­es to enter into.

Licens­ing works in much the same way as sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The need for a sports man­age­ment license will depend on the loca­tion of the appli­cant and the type of career the appli­cant is pur­su­ing. Since no cut-and-dry answer exists, appli­cants must make sure they research the need for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or licens­ing when fol­low­ing par­tic­u­lar career trajectories.

Sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is not the same as hold­ing a sports man­age­ment degree. This is impor­tant, as many pro­grams will adver­tise a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram as the means to achiev­ing a sports man­age­ment job.

In truth, a cer­tifi­cate with no degree can help some­one gain an intern­ship or entry-lev­el job. But, sports man­agers typ­i­cal­ly require at least a bachelor’s before any orga­ni­za­tion will take them seriously.

When seek­ing a sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, appli­cants must show care in how they go about the process. No one should choose just any sports man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate pro­gram. Appli­cants should choose pro­grams that align with their goals.

For exam­ple, a sports mar­ket­ing cer­tifi­cate can help sup­ple­ment the sports man­age­ment degree for those appli­cants seek­ing to specif­i­cal­ly enter the sports man­age­ment field through mar­ket­ing or sales careers. Sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for facil­i­ties and event man­age­ment will help com­ple­ment a degree hold­er and shine a light on their abil­i­ty to man­age venues should they seek to go that route.

Careers in Sports Management and Administration

Sports admin­is­tra­tion jobs and sports man­age­ment degree jobs encom­pass an excep­tion­al­ly large num­ber of career pos­si­bil­i­ties. At a very basic lev­el, if the career involves sports of any type or at any lev­el, then they are sports man­age­ment degree jobs or sports admin­is­tra­tion jobs.

The sports man­age­ment and sports admin­is­tra­tion def­i­n­i­tion is an open one. Every pos­si­ble busi­ness aspect of a sport or recre­ation­al activ­i­ty can rep­re­sent sports man­age­ment degree careers.

Sports man­age­ment jobs tend to deal more with play­ers and teams. These jobs tend to favor coach­es, agents, train­ers, and peo­ple who want to work direct­ly with peo­ple. Know­ing the busi­ness is still impor­tant, but these jobs require a more per­son­al touch as well.

Sports admin­is­tra­tion degree jobs tend to deal more with the busi­ness aspect of sports and recre­ation­al activ­i­ty. These jobs will have a heav­ier focus on things like mar­ket­ing, adver­tis­ing, build­ing busi­ness rela­tion­ships, and deal­ing with finan­cials. These jobs tend to fall more behind the scenes.

A sports man­age­ment job descrip­tion may over­lap with many of the same require­ments of a sports admin­is­tra­tion job descrip­tion. Appli­cants should pay close atten­tion to these job descrip­tions, so they can have a good idea of what the employ­er real­ly requires of them.

Sports admin­is­tra­tion intern­ships can also help appli­cants learn the ropes when it comes to sports man­age­ment and admin­is­tra­tion. Sports admin­is­tra­tion intern­ships show up often in search­es for sports admin­is­tra­tion jobs and sports man­age­ment degree jobs.

What are some careers in sports man­age­ment? The most pop­u­lar careers in sports man­age­ment can change each year. Some of the more cur­rent pop­u­lar career paths in sports man­age­ment include:

  • Event coor­di­na­tors
  • Facil­i­ties manager
  • Pub­lic rela­tions managers
  • Sales
  • Sports accoun­tant
  • Sports agents
  • Sports psy­chol­o­gist
  • Sports sta­tis­ti­cian

Tons of career options exist. Grad­u­ates with a sports man­age­ment degree can also forge their own path in this field as con­sul­tants, inde­pen­dent entre­pre­neurs, or inde­pen­dent agents, but to real­ly make your way on your own will usu­al­ly require the kind of con­nec­tions you make after a sol­id career in the field. In oth­er words, you don’t go it alone straight out of school — you have to pay your dues some­time. But every team own­er start­ed somewhere.

Sports Administration Salary Expectations and Potential

Since sports admin­is­tra­tion and man­age­ment can encom­pass so many career paths, the salaries can vary a great deal. The aver­age sports man­age­ment degree salary, accord­ing to one source, sits at around $74.8k annu­al­ly. That aver­age includes lows of $54k and highs of $98k.

A posi­tion akin to a cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ag­er can earn some­one over $100k annu­al­ly. As sports admin­is­tra­tion salary and sports man­age­ment degree salary all have vari­ables, it is pos­si­ble to find sources stat­ing any­thing from $38k to $88k depend­ing on the sports man­age­ment-relat­ed posi­tion. The BLS states sports agents and busi­ness man­agers are mak­ing an aver­age sports admin­is­tra­tion salary of near­ly $91k.

When salary is a pri­ma­ry con­cern, appli­cants should take some time to study the poten­tial growth for any par­tic­u­lar career path. Judg­ing a career by the aver­age start­ing salary of a sin­gle job on that career path is a mistake.

For those want­i­ng to jump straight into the high­er pay brack­ets, there are some very high-pay­ing jobs in sports man­age­ment. Per­son­al ath­let­ic train­ers and just about any posi­tion with a sports man­age­ment slant can start with a high-pay­ing salary. This is espe­cial­ly true if the appli­cant has access to peo­ple or groups will­ing to pay well for expert services.

The more phys­i­cal aspects of sports are not always in line with the busi­ness aspects of a sports man­age­ment degree. Oth­er busi­ness-relat­ed sports man­age­ment jobs that come with high salaries include mar­keters and busi­ness administrators.

One of the most poten­tial­ly lucra­tive sports man­age­ment degree careers comes with entre­pre­neur­ship. If some­one can devel­op a sports-relat­ed ser­vice of their own that appeals to an indi­vid­ual or group, then they can even­tu­al­ly earn very high sports man­age­ment salaries.

An appli­cant can take advan­tage of an under­served niche and build a busi­ness around it. Adver­tis­ing busi­ness ser­vices for sports groups or devel­op­ing mar­ket­ing strate­gies for local teams can rep­re­sent a viable busi­ness vehi­cle. Think­ing out­side the box with a sports man­age­ment degree can lead to some­one earn­ing more mon­ey and grow­ing a busi­ness of his or her own.

Expe­ri­ence and longevi­ty will increase someone’s earn­ing poten­tial each year that goes by. The more expe­ri­ence and longevi­ty accrued, the more some­one can demand posi­tions at high­er lev­els and even high­er salaries. Con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion can help as well.

No mat­ter what, sports man­age­ment degree salary seek­ers must always remem­ber loca­tion, expe­ri­ence, and edu­ca­tion play the largest role when it comes to salary. A good edu­ca­tion from a good sports man­age­ment pro­gram will help a great deal.

Gain­ing expe­ri­ence while earn­ing the degree or intern­ing will also put appli­cants in a bet­ter posi­tion to ask for a high­er salary from the start. Add a rel­e­vant sports man­age­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to the cre­den­tials, and an appli­cant can def­i­nite­ly ask for more than a start­ing salary out of the gate.

Professional Organizations and Associations in Sports Management

Many sports man­age­ment asso­ci­a­tions exist. The most rec­og­nized pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions include the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Sport and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion (NASPE) and the North Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Sport Man­age­ment (NASSM). These two groups are at the fore­front of sports man­age­ment. They are the two major groups that cre­at­ed the main accred­it­ing body for sports man­age­ment programs.

These groups also cre­ate stan­dards. That means join­ing of fol­low­ing along with these sports man­age­ment asso­ci­a­tions will place an appli­cant at the fore­front of exper­tise, infor­ma­tion, bleed­ing-edge sports man­age­ment tech­nol­o­gy, and news. These are not the only two sports man­age­ment associations.

A num­ber of asso­ci­a­tions exist and many of them cater to spe­cial­iza­tions. Search­ing for niche orga­ni­za­tions can help appli­cants net­work with pro­fes­sion­als and like­mind­ed indi­vid­u­als in a par­tic­u­lar sub­cat­e­go­ry of sports man­age­ment. Some oth­er pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions include:

  • Amer­i­can Alliance for Health, Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion, Recre­ation and Dance
  • Col­lege Sports Infor­ma­tion Direc­tors of Amer­i­ca (CoSI­DA)
  • Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­le­giate Direc­tors of Ath­let­ics (NACDA)
  • Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­le­giate Women Ath­let­ics Admin­is­tra­tors (NACWAA)
  • Sport Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (SMA)
  • Sport­ing Goods Man­u­fac­tur­ers Association

Every sport will have asso­ci­a­tions as well. For appli­cants seek­ing to work with a spe­cif­ic sport, these asso­ci­a­tions can help.

The Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Sport and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion and oth­er sports man­age­ment asso­ci­a­tions offer many ben­e­fits that appli­cants can take full advan­tage of. Some of them can help appli­cants find jobs or give them infor­ma­tion on oppor­tu­ni­ties they can­not find any­where else.

Pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions can also help with con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion, train­ing, and var­i­ous oth­er things. Appli­cants do not need to join every sports man­age­ment or relat­ed asso­ci­a­tion. Choos­ing the right asso­ci­a­tions to fur­ther their career goals is the most impor­tant thing. Any appli­cant who choos­es sports man­age­ment should also look into join­ing one or more pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions as soon as they can.