Is a Sports Management Degree Worth It?

sports management

Key Takeaways 

  • Sports management degrees can open doors to varied career paths in a dynamic and growing industry for sports enthusiasts.
  • The level of degree pursued should match individual career goals, financial capacity, and commitment to the sports industry.
  • Networking and practical experience are often just as crucial as formal education in building a successful sports management career.

Introduction to Sports Management Degrees

Sports management is a field of business concerned with sports and recreation. Professionals apply business management principles and practices in these functions: 

  • Planning 
  • Organizing 
  • Directing
  • Controlling 
  • Leading 
  • Budgeting 
  • Marketing 
  • Operating 

Sports management professionals oversee athletes, sports teams, events, and facilities. Nowadays, these professionals manage popular sports and esports. The Big Three are football (NFL), basketball (NBA), and baseball (MLV).

Business management knowledge and skills are a must for sports management professionals. Their formal education and training involve a comprehensive understanding of: 

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  • Strategic planning to set SMART goals and objectives 
  • Human resources management that spans the recruitment-to-retrenchment cycle
  • Financial management, including budgeting, accounting and auditing, and tax compliance 
  • Leadership and governance over people, events, and facilities 
  • Marketing and sponsorship that increase revenue streams, fan engagement, and sponsorships 
  • Media engagement to bring sports to their target customers 
  • Sports policy and compliance that ensure transparency and accountability 
  • Sports law that covers legal rules and regulations governing the sports industry 

Why choose a sports management degree instead of a business management degree? The former provides more industry-specific knowledge and skills. The latter provides broader knowledge and skills with applications outside of sports. 

If you want to make use of your passion for sports with business skills, go for a sports management degree. With it, your passion becomes your profession – and it pays well, too.

You can make direct contributions to your preferred sport. Depending on your career goal, you can work in team, event, or facility management. Your choices in workplaces are plenty, too, from sports franchises to media organizations.

Indeed, a sports management degree opens opportunities to a wide range of occupations.   

The exponential growth of the sports industry also means a high demand for skilled professionals. Sports management degree holders with the right work experience and work ethic have an advantage. 

The bottom line: Now is the best time to consider pursuing a sports management degree. You can blend your passion for sports and business. There’s a wide range of sports industry careers, workplaces, and people to choose from. Earn high salaries, too, and be part of an exciting industry that’s part of the fabric of American culture. 

Levels of Sports Management Education

Colleges and universities offer sports management programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Every degree level has its risks and rewards. Be sure to consider the costs, curriculum, and career paths associated with each level. 

Associate’s Degree

The two-year associate degree is an introductory undergraduate degree with a two-year time-to-degree. Students gain foundational knowledge and skills in sports management. Courses include sports finance, sports marketing, and event management.

Note that not all associate’s degree programs offer internship opportunities. However, the shorter time-to-degree means faster entry into the workforce. Graduates qualify for junior or support positions depending on their work experience. 

Bachelor’s Degree

The bachelor’s degree provides students with a comprehensive understanding of sports management. Depending on your transfer credits and course load, you can earn it in 3-4 years. An associate degree with transfer credits shortens the time-to-degree and, thus, the costs. 

Students complete a comprehensive 120-credit curriculum, including sports management-specific courses. Internships are common in bachelor’s degree programs. Students gain practical skills and real-world exposure to the sports industry. 

Graduates have more career advancement opportunities, too. Employers prefer applicants with bachelor’s degrees for entry-level to mid-level positions. 

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in sports management can open opportunities for leadership positions. But it demands significant commitments in time, energy, and money. 

Be sure to weigh the estimated increase in salary with the monetary costs. Note that not all leadership positions in sports management need a master’s degree.  

But if your career goals align with a master’s degree, go for it. You must prepare for the advanced coursework, rigorous research, and demanding capstone project. 

There may or may not be an internship component. Your current employment can take the place of an internship if approved. 

Doctoral Degree

The doctoral degree in sports management is a terminal degree. As the highest degree, it signifies advanced knowledge and skills in the field. 

Interested individuals can choose between: 

  • A Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management with a focus on research and scholarship
  • A Doctor of Business Administration in Sports Management with real-world applications emphasis 

Earning a doctoral degree demands significant investments in time, energy, and money, too. Candidates spend 5-7 years, depending on their dissertation or capstone project progress. Many candidates also focus full-time on their dissertation or capstone project.

You should only pursue a doctoral degree for specific reasons. If your career plans are in academia or research, then go for a PhD. If you’re gunning for C-suite positions, go for a DBA degree. Your choice of a sports management degree must match your career goals. 

Furthermore, you must consider whether you have the financial capacity or not. You must also assess your passion for bringing sports and business together. 

On another note, many are asking, “Is an online sports management degree worth it?” Yes, it is. Choose a degree program offered by a college or university with regional accreditation. Otherwise, the sports industry and prospective employers won’t recognize the degree.  

Career Paths in Sports Management

As in any industry, the sports industry places a premium on higher education. In general, the higher the degree level, the more career advancement opportunities. Earning a bachelor’s degree opens opportunities for higher-paying jobs, for example. 

Even when you’re in a leadership position, continuous learning is vital for success. The sports industry is in constant flux so keeping up on the daily is a must. Professional development through courses, workshops, and conventions should be part of life. 

We must emphasize that success in sports management isn’t all about formal education. Building an expansive and supportive network matters, too. People move people, and, as the adage says, people can move mountains. Successful sports management professionals cultivate and care for people. 

Practical experience through work experience and the school of hard knocks matters, too. Knowledge establishes a strong foundation for understanding sports management. But knowledge must transform into practical skills – practical experience does the job.

Being an intern and volunteer is part of practical experience. If possible, become a mentee and learn from a mentor. The more industry-specific experience you gain, the better for your success. 

A sports management degree leads to these occupations: 

  • Sports facilities managers oversee the effective operations of stadiums and other facilities 
  • Entertainment and recreation managers oversee the operations of fitness and leisure companies 
  • Sports agents have high-risk yet high-reward jobs in athlete career management 
  • Sports analysts analyze team and individual sports performances 
  • Sports content writers specialize in sports coverage for media 

Sports marketing, which involves promotions and advertising, is also an excellent career path. Check out the sports event management path, too, if you’re an organized person.

Evaluating the Market and Economic Viability

As we previously said, the growth of the sports industry fuels the high demand for skilled sports management professionals. The increased use of streaming services, generative AI, and league expansions drive said growth. The rise of women’s sports and immersive experiences in the stadiums’ entertainment districts fuel its growth, too. 

Then, there’s a good return on investment for sports management degree holders. Sports facilities managers, for example, can earn $104,900 in median annual wage. Let’s assume the following figures: 

  • The average cost of a college education is $36,500 per year or $146,000 for four years 
  • Average increase in earnings of $20,000 per year (From a job with an associate degree only) 
  • Net gain $104,900 + $20,000 = $124,900
  • ROI ($20,000/$146,000) * 100 = 13.69% 

With the fierce competition for jobs, however, being a standout is vital for success. You can keep these tips in mind: 

  • Choose a specialization, such as sports marketing or sports journalism
  • But be adaptable, too, and grab opportunities for continuous learning as they come
  • Highlight your soft skills
  • Build your brand 
  • Create your opportunities 

Being a nice guy has its merits. But being a smarter guy can matter more in competition. 

Making the Decision: Assessing Personal and Professional Alignment

With significant investment involved, pursuing a sports management degree demands careful thought. You must engage in self-assessment to determine your commitment and fit.

Self-assessment involves understanding your goals, interests, and motivations. Does your passion for sports and business run deep? Do you have the temperament to thrive in a competitive environment? 

Once you’ve decided that it’s for you, your next step is choosing the right degree program for you. Consider these factors: 

  • Regional accreditation and, if possible, programmatic accreditation 
  • Coursework matching your goals and interests 
  • Internships and other hands-on learning experiences 
  • Effective student support and career development services 
  • Robust industry connections, including an alumni network 

What if you’re not yet ready for the full plunge? You can consider earning a certificate or enrolling in standalone courses first.