Online Degrees in Sports Management

Mention sports management and sports lovers immediately think about Jerry Maguire and his famous "show me the money!" quote. And that's definitely part of sports management. Sports Agent Directory reports approximately 3,500 certified sports agents in 10 different sports leagues, with about one third of the agents focusing on the NFL.

So what does everyone else in sports management do? Other careers include public relations, marketing, branding, media and promotions; accounting and finance; athletic equipment and sponsorship; sports administration; event management and ticketing; and sports law, to name only a few.

High school, college, intercollegiate, professional and even international sports teams need coaches. Athletic and sports clubs, community sports programs, stadiums and arenas, and sports equipment companies need managers and administrators. These careers all fall under the sports management umbrella.

Campus or online degrees-- specifically with a sports management focus -- is essential, even for entry-level positions, because sports management is a highly competitive field. Although non-degree training programs and two-year associate degrees may be sufficient for entry-level positions, most employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in sports management and, depending on the career objective, a concentration such as marketing or finance.

Other related online business degree programs include an undergraduate degree in accounting or public relations, for example, and a master's degree in sports management or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in sports management. Doctoral degrees in sports management are rare and prepare candidates for teaching or administrative careers in sports management degree programs.

Because sports management is a competitive field, students with internships or other experience may have an edge on the job market. Some schools have ties to a sports team, which can also be advantageous when it's time to look for a job. Sports management degrees are conveniently available online, which allows students to interact and network with a wider variety of faculty and students across the nation and around the world. Many programs use sports or sports management professionals as guest faculty and online programs provide a means to take advantage of these opportunities.

People who enter sports management usually enjoy sports and have other skills specific to their chosen sports management career path. For example, sports agents are good negotiators willing to advocate for their clients, while public relations professionals have excellent analytic and communications skills.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 2010 mean annual wages for the middle 50 percent of agents/managers of artists, performers and athletes ranged from $39,770 to $113,580, although agents at the professional level can earn substantially more. Salaries for sports management careers in spectator sports include:

  • Chief executives: $201,640
  • Financial managers: $114,520
  • Marketing managers: $108,850
  • Coaches/scouts: $60,610

Two popular careers associated with sports management are coaching and scouting, with 2010 mean annual wages across all industries of $35,950. Most coaches are employed at elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities. Employment of coaches and scouts is expected to grow 25 percent between 2008 and 2018, with other careers in sports management also expected to experience faster than average growth.

Jobs at the professional sports level are limited and competition for these coveted positions is fierce, but many sports management professionals aspire to that dream. Education, hard work, experience and a little luck can make it happen.

Sports management at a glance:

  • Professional statistics: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 184,280 coaches/scouts employed in 2010. Furthermore, total employment in spectator sports in 2010 was 131,180
  • Growth: Sports management careers are expected to grow faster than average from 2008 to 2018

Professional sports aren't just a hobby -- they are global businesses. According to a 2011 report from Forbes, the average Major League Baseball franchise is worth $523 million, up seven percent from 2010. Earning a doctorate in sports management is one way future leaders in this field can prepare themselves to handle both the day-to-day and theoretical challenges that come with running these international franchises.

Doctoral degrees in sports management are offered by a wide range of universities and programs. Some schools offer sports management Ph.D. programs through the department of kinesiology, while other institutions offer a business-school based Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with a specialization in sports management. At other schools, you can earn a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) with an emphasis in sports management.

Programs and Specializations

The program of choice depends heavily on career goals. Students who want to focus on the business of professional sports may opt for a DBA in sports management, while students who want to pursue careers in research and academia generally prefer the Ph.D. The Ed.D. is similar to the Ph.D. in sports management, but generally places more emphasis on college athletics.

Curriculum typically covers ethics and legal issues in sports; advanced business topics such as marketing or branding; and other high-level administrative concerns. A combination of core and elective courses offer a broader understanding of the field as well as provide opportunities to research issues relevant to your chosen career path. No matter what degree program you choose, doctoral-level programs are extremely research intensive.

Online doctoral degrees in sports management offer a flexible approach, allowing students to move through coursework and dissertation research at a more controlled pace. Many online doctoral programs require students to attend a set number of on-campus residencies throughout the program, giving peers the chance to personally network with one another in a face-to-face setting.

What Does a Doctoral Degree Program in Sports Management Entail?

Students pursuing the doctoral degree are generally training for professorial or administrative careers in the academic field of sports management. Though many applicants have backgrounds in sports administration or management, it's usually not necessary to hold a degree in the specialty. Some DBA programs prefer students to have a business-related master's degree, but it isn't required for admission into all programs. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores are generally required with admission packets. Check with your school for specific requirements and prerequisites.

At most schools, full-time students spend the first two to three years of their program on required coursework. Students are then expected to pass a comprehensive exam showcasing the lessons learned throughout the initial period. Students then move onto the dissertation phase, where they spend another two or more years researching, composing and defending their selected topic.

Finding the right doctoral program requires careful research. Learn more about some possible program options below, and request additional information from prospective schools.

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