In this article, we profile the top 20 online PhD in sports management degree programs.
The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of management occupations to grow eight percent through 2026. Promoters and marketing managers should see a 10 percent growth rate. Both projections are favorable and faster than the average for all other occupations. With growth comes competition. To help job applicants qualify for agent roles and promotion manager positions, accredited colleges and universities offer online PhD in sports management programs.
Top 20 Online PhD Sports Management Programs Methodology
We looked at 48 colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator. We reviewed schools with one PhD in sports management or closely related program that was available as a hybrid, partially online, or fully online degree. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying certain criteria, such as accreditation and school or program rankings with a major publication like U.S. News and World Report. Not all programs received a ranking, though 20 were included in our list. We then ranked the programs according to raw affordability.
Note: This ranking/article was originally published in March 2019 and was last updated in July 2022. The 2020 updates may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
Below is our list of the top 20 online PhD in sports management programs.
#20 – University of Medical Sciences Arizona
Online PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $57,200
An online PhD in sports management, or rehabilitation sciences as offered at the University of Medical Sciences Arizona, requires a master’s from a regionally accredited institution. The program is taught fully online and focuses on the study of the effects of disability, functional limitations, and impairments on human performance. The program consists of 72 credits of courses and research components. Some of the required courses include functional assessments and outcome measurements, health and wellness theory and practice, information systems in healthcare, outcome measurements and analysis, and research methods in rehabilitation. As a new institution, the University of Medical Sciences Arizona is seeking accreditation at this time. However, the school is approved to operate in the state of Arizona by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
#19 – Drexel University
Online PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $36,234
Drexel University offers an alternative to the PhD in sports management online program. Drexel’s PhD in health and rehabilitation sciences is designed specifically for physical therapists and other professionals to be leaders as educators and researchers. Convenient part-time study options and flexible on-site residencies are offered. Courses prepare students with a deeper knowledge of therapy and rehabilitation while providing research opportunities. Both online and onsite courses make this program hybrid in nature. Drexel is an accredited private institution. Also, U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #102 in best national universities. Several of the online graduate programs have received top 50 rankings.
#18 – A. T. Still University of Health Sciences
Online Doctor of Athletic Training
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $41,676
One of the top online PhD in sports management or closely related degree programs on our list is the Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) at A. T. Still University of Health Sciences. This program offers the convenience of online courses with workplace applications. Students take courses from university professors while working toward their athletic training degree. Courses include evidence-based practice, health information technology, patient-oriented outcomes, quality improvement, and patient safety. A. T. Still is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and many of its graduate programs have received accreditation by outside accrediting agencies.
#17 – Northcentral University
Online PhD in Sport and Athletic Management
San Diego, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,207
The PhD in sports management online degree program at Northcentral University combines science-based academics, research methods, and practical application. The program is designed for individuals who want to lead in the sport and athletic management industry. The program consists of 60 credits and 20 courses. The estimated time to complete the degree is 45 months. Courses are delivered online and have weekly start dates. There are no group assignments and no scheduled lecture hours, making the program ideal for working individuals. U.S. News and World Report recognizes Northcentral among the top national universities. Also, several graduate programs have received top 200 rankings.
#16 – United States Sports Academy
Online EdD in Sports Management
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,440
United States Sports Academy offers online sports management doctoral programs. The EdD in sports management offers online courses that can be taken anytime and anywhere. Several areas of emphasis are available, including sports medicine, sports theory, sports health and fitness, and sports Olympism. A doctoral dissertation is completed as part of the degree requirements. Admission to the program requires official transcripts, a qualifying essay in narrative form, and three recommendation forms so that letters may be provided on the applicant’s behalf. The United States Sports Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award doctoral degrees.
#15 – Temple University
Online Doctor of Athletic Training
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,278
For individuals looking at sports performance PhD programs online, Temple University offers a Doctor of Athletic Training degree. The DAT is open to currently certified athletic trainers who already hold a master’s degree. This 36-credit-hour program offers exclusively online courses that utilize both synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods. Courses include evidence-based decision-making in athletic training, ethical and cultural considerations in athletic training, and research appraisal and clinical applications. GRE scores are required for admission. U.S. News and World Report rank Temple #100 in best national universities and #93 in best value schools. Also, several online graduate programs rank among the top 100.
#14 – California University of Pennsylvania
Online Doctorate in Health Science and Exercise Leadership
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,919
California University of Pennsylvania offers a type of PhD in sports management online degree program that focuses on health science and exercise leadership. The program is considered a 100% online post-professional degree that addresses the impact of an aging population and the societal shift to promote health and wellness. The program is designed to complete courses in two years. An optional third year is comprised of the dissertation. Students do not have to complete a dissertation. Also, the only on-campus requirement of the program is to present your portfolio and defend the dissertation research if applicable. U.S. News and World Report ranks California University of Pennsylvania #142-#187 in best regional universities in the North.
#13 – Moravian University
Online Doctor of Athletic Training
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,964
Closely related online sports management doctoral programs such as the online DAT program at Moravian University prepare certified athletic trainers to advance their careers and take on new leadership and entrepreneurial roles within the profession. The DAT or Doctor of Athletic Training program at Moravian offers three admission periods each year. The doctoral program can be completed in six semesters over two years when maintaining full-time enrollment status. Classes include entrepreneurship in sports medicine, healthcare policy, leadership in athletic training, and special populations in athletic training. You do not need a master’s degree for admission, though applicants with a bachelor’s degree must submit official GRE scores. U.S. News and World Report ranks Moravian College #155 in best national liberal arts colleges.
#12 – Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions
Online PhD in Health Sciences
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,416
Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions offers sports performance PhD programs online with specialty tracks in healthcare leadership and administration and other areas. While the program is not fully online, limited-residency options are available. Students enroll on a full-time basis and earn their degree through a combination of online and face-to-face instruction. The program consists of 70 credits with coursework in areas like healthcare delivery science, organizational change, and strategic change management. Admission requires an earned master’s or professional practice degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a GPA of 3.4 or better. A preferred minimum of one year in clinical practice is important for the admission process.
#11 – University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Online EdD in Athletic Training
San Marcos, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $26,247
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences offers various types of online sports management doctoral programs. The EdD can be earned with a specialization in athletic training. This program is designed for athletic trainers who are currently working in higher education. The specialization includes contemporary practices and relevant topics in cultural competency and evidence-based injury treatment. Some of the required courses include foundational theory in education, introduction to interprofessional scholarly studies, motivation theory in education, and research methods. A dissertation is also required. Admission requires official transcripts, two recommendations from professional colleagues, writing assessment, and, if applicable, a copy of a professional license.
#10 – Grand Canyon University
Online PhD in Psychology of Human Performance
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,538
One of the top sports performance PhD programs online is Grand Canyon University’s human performance doctoral degree. Students earn a PhD in general psychology with an emphasis in human performance. Foundations of the program include performance enhancement, performance psychology, and psychomotor performance. The program consists of 60 credits and includes courses such as applied psychology of leadership, behaviorism, ethical issues in psychology, performance enhancement, psychomotor performance, and theories of inquiry. Each class runs eight weeks in length. Up to nine doctoral credits may be transferred. U.S. News and World Report ranks Grand Canyon #230-#301 in best national universities. Also, several graduate programs have earned top rankings.
#9 – East Tennessee State University
Online EdD in Global Sport Leadership
Johnson City, Tennessee
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,736
East Tennessee State University’s online sports management doctoral programs include the online EdD in global sport leadership. The program is designed to prepare students for academic and professional career paths. Admission to the doctoral program requires official transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions, a personal essay, and at least three letters of recommendation. Applicants must hold a master’s degree in sport or related discipline with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The program offers courses like interpreting and applying analytics in sport, leading internal and external sport, and strategic planning and thinking for global sport leaders. There is no traditional dissertation requirement. U.S. News and World Report ranks East Tennessee State #230-#301 in best national universities.
#8 – Middle Tennessee State University
Online PhD in Human Performance
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,818
Middle Tennessee State University offers sports performance PhD programs online, including the PhD in human performance. The program is designed to train doctoral-level students to become effective leaders in education, public service, and areas of research. While the program is traditional, some classes may be delivered online. Specializations offered include exercise science, health, leisure studies, and physical education. Admission requirements include an earned bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited university with an acceptable GPA of 3.00 or better. Also, completion of the GRE and demonstrated research skills are also required. U.S. News and World Report ranks Middle Tennessee State #230-#301 in best national universities.
#7 – Ball State University
Online PhD in Human Bioenergetics
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,144
Ball State University’s PhD in sports management online programs include the PhD in human bioenergetics. Offered through the School of Kinesiology, this 90-credit PhD program is research intensive and should only be pursued by students with a drive and commitment toward the science of exercise physiology. Courses include applied physiology, exercise physiology, molecular biology with laboratory, principles of biochemistry, and seminar in exercise science. While working toward the PhD, students earn an MS in human performance, which consists of 30 credits. U.S. News and World Report ranks Ball State #171 in best national universities and #91 in top public schools.
#6 – University of Houston
Online PhD in Kinesiology – Sport and Fitness Administration
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,727
University of Houston’s online PhD in sports management focuses on kinesiology and sport and fitness administration. Students earn a PhD in kinesiology and take additional classes in an emphasis area like sport and fitness administration. The program is designed for future faculty researchers, future industry leaders, and educators at all levels. Admission to the program requires an earned bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 and satisfactory GRE scores; also needed are a letter of research interests, writing sample, and personal interview with a potential faculty advisor. U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Houston #171 in best national universities and #91 in top public schools. Also, several of the school’s online graduate programs have earned top 100 rankings.
#5 – Concordia University
Online PhD in Leadership – Health and Human Performance
River Forest, Illinois
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,378
One of the top sports performance PhD programs online is offered by Concordia University. The interdisciplinary degree leads to a PhD in leadership and emphasis in health and human performance. Classes are taken entirely online and run eight weeks in length. All classes have a cap of 15 students to ensure a close peer and professor interaction. Courses include advanced exercise and sports nutrition, health promotion and disease prevention, and program design in physical activity and health. To be considered for admission, applicants must hold a master’s in health science, exercise science, or closely related discipline. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required. Also, GRE scores and two letters of recommendation must be submitted. Concordia ranks #72 in best regional universities in the Midwest and #44 in best value schools.
#4 – Troy University
Online PhD in Sport Management
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,550
Troy University’s online PhD in sports management is one of the first sport management doctoral programs available online. Flexible courses can be taken online or in class. Students may choose a combination of both options to create the academic experience that fits their needs. Courses include application of sport management principles, evaluation of research studies in sport management, and survival in the contemporary sport industry. Admission requirements include satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores, three letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a statement of intent. Several application deadlines are offered throughout the year. Troy University is ranked by major publications. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks Troy #107-#141 in best regional universities in the South.
#3 – University of North Carolina
Online EdD in Kinesiology
Greensboro, North Carolina
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,265
Some of the top sports performance PhD programs online are found at University of North Carolina Greensboro. The school offers an interdisciplinary EdD in kinesiology specifically designed for practicing professionals with a minimum of three years’ work experience. The program may be completed in four years by taking online courses and attending three campus visits. Courses include analysis of teaching and learning, curriculum development in kinesiology, program design in kinesiology and related professions, and research topics in kinesiology. Official transcripts and GRE scores are required for admission. U.S. News and World Report ranks UNC Greensboro #201 in best national universities and #109 in top public schools.
#2 – Indiana State University
Online Doctorate in Athletic Training
Terre Haute, Indiana
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,056
Indiana State University’s online sports management doctoral programs include the first and only CAATE-accredited DAT program in the nation. This 57-credit program offers a combination of online learning and intensive hands-on application. Courses include administration of health care, evidence based integrative care, outcome assessment in health care, research design and data analysis in health and human performance, and research methods in applied medicine and rehabilitation. Admission requires at least a baccalaureate degree from a four-year accredited university, cumulative GPA of 3.0, and a combined GRE score of 295 or greater. U.S. News and World Report ranks Indiana State #230-#301 in best national universities.
#1 – The University of Texas
Online PhD in Kinesiology
El Paso, Texas
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,166
The University of Texas offers kinesiology programs that are ideal for individuals interested in online PhD in sports management degrees. The program offers the completion of a master’s in kinesiology while pursuing a doctoral degree. A combination of classroom and online courses provides flexibility and convenience. Students may select among three concentrations, including clinical exercise physiology, human fitness and performance, and physical education. Admission requires an earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. UT is ranked by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, U.S. News ranks the school #230-#301 in the best national universities. Also, several of the school’s online graduate programs have received top 150 rankings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an online PhD in sports management?
By earning an online PhD in sports management, you may be qualified for top-level leadership roles in the sporting industry. With a PhD in sports management, students find work in colleges and universities, professional and amateur sports teams, and offices of sports agencies or athletic organizations.
Examples of careers for individuals with an online PhD in sports management:
Athletic directors: Athletic directors work in schools, colleges, universities, or after-school programs and coordinate athletic activities. They typically oversee staff, create and report budget allocations, and uphold standards of the organization. They may participate in recruitment of athletes or ensure compliance with institution and government regulations.
Sports agents: Key responsibilities of sports agents include serving the athlete or organization they represent. They act as advisors, mentors, and even confidantes for the clients they support. They often negotiate contracts, help promote their athlete or organization, and work out the terms of their client’s career.
Sports management professors: Most postsecondary instructors and professors work in public and private colleges and universities. Time is spent on the job teaching classes, conducting research, and performing administrative duties. To become a professor at the four-year college level, a PhD is required.
How much money will I make with an online PhD in sports management?
PayScale, a global compensation research organization that collects and analyzes salary data, reports the average salary for an individual with a PhD in sports management is $60,000. However, there are many factors that impact this figure.
Job title is a factor that impacts earnings. Agents, marketers, and sports promoters can make six-figure and seven-figure wages, but competition for these jobs is high. Professors and postsecondary teachers of sports management and athletic administration earn approximately $76,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Athletic directors earn an average of $59,778 per year, as reported by PayScale.
Annual earnings also vary with geographic location. Large cities pay more than smaller, rural towns. However, cost of living also affects earnings. It is more expensive to live in urban locations, and to offset the cost of living, employers pay more. However, this is not always the case.
Another factor that impacts earnings is experience. The more experience an individual has, the more money they will make in the sports management industry. For example, PayScale reports an athletic director with entry-level experience of less than five years earns approximately $50,000, while an athletic director with 10 to 20 years of experience earns $67,000.
What is the career outlook for an individual with an online PhD in sports management?
The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of entertainment and sports occupations is projected to grow ten percent through 2026. Strong demand and increasing popularity of sports will likely contribute to job growth for sports occupations. Employment of agents, managers, and overall management occupations is also expected to increase.
With a favorable job outlook, competition will also increase. This means that acquiring adequate education will help set you above your competition. Earning a PhD means you are an expert in the field. Employers value doctoral degrees. By earning an online PhD in sports management, you will offer a potential employer assurance that they are hiring an expert.
Also, jobs such as scouts, sports agents, and visible business roles in the sporting industry are highly competitive. Competition is fierce for leadership roles in professional sports team organizations. Education and experience are valued, so earning an online PhD in sports management improves job prospects.
Postsecondary teachers, or professors of sports management, are required to hold a PhD in sports management or closely related discipline. BLS reports a favorable job outlook for postsecondary instructors. In fact, a 15 percent growth rate is anticipated through the year 2026.
How long does it take to earn an online PhD in sports management?
Completion time varies by program. However, most online PhD in sports management programs take 36-48 months to complete. On rare occasions, the length of time may be shortened.
There are several factors that impact the length of time it takes to complete an online PhD in sports management. Enrollment, whether full-time or part-time, is the greatest factor. Full-time programs take less time to complete but require more study and research than part-time programs. Part-time programs offer flexibility and require fewer courses be taken at one time. In fact, most part-time programs only require that one class be taken at a time. If you want to earn your PhD in less than four years, full-time enrollment is a must.
Research-intensive programs often take longer to complete due to thesis or dissertation requirements. If you do not plan to go into academia and prefer a less research-intensive program, look for non-thesis programs. By completing a non-thesis degree, you may shave off months, even years, spent in school. It is critical to do much of your research upfront as you decide which program best fits your needs.
What are the admission requirements for an online PhD in sports management program?
The admission requirements for online PHD in sports management programs vary. Some requirements are more stringent at top-ranked institutions. However, most programs require an earned bachelor’s degree in any discipline from a regionally accredited college or university. In some cases, nationally accredited bachelor’s degrees are accepted.
Admission committees look for individuals with academic promise. If the PhD program is research heavy, applicants should showcase a clear picture of their research experience. Also, be able to provide a research focus in the required statement of purpose.
GRE or GMAT scores are not always required, though top programs will ask for graduate exams taken within the last five years. In rare cases, GRE or GMAT scores may be waived if an applicant offers a stellar undergraduate performance. In these cases, applicants must have at least a 3.5 or 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
Additional admission requirements vary. However, most of the online PhD in sports management programs on our list ask for letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a statement of purpose or goals. Research, publication, and work experience may also be required. Also, some admission boards require a face-to-face interview or Skype interview prior to acceptance.
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