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Sport management degrees: Finding the right program for your career goals

January 23
Young male sports manager discusses business strategies with male colleagues.

The global sport market is expected to be valued at over $623 billion by 2027.1 It’s a diverse field that includes a wide range of career options, from directing community sporting leagues to managing professional athletes.

A sport management degree can equip you with the combination of practical sports knowledge and business skills you need to land your dream job in the sport industry. However, there are many different sport management degree programs, so finding the best fit can be a challenge.

This article will explore how you can find the right higher education sport management degree program for your career goals.

Assessing your career goals in sport management

Before you can find the right sport management degree program, you need to know what you want to get out of it. If you’re just beginning to explore a career in sport management, start by considering your strengths and interests. If you enjoy event planning and have strong organizational skills, you may want to consider becoming a sport event coordinator. If you have strong financial and analytical skills, you may want to work as a financial analyst for a professional sports team.2

To be effective, your goals should be SMART:2

  • Specific, rather than vague or general
  • Measurable, so you’ll know when you’ve achieved them
  • Achievable, so you won’t lose motivation
  • Relevant, to help you get where you want to go
  • Time-bound, to create a sense of urgency

Types of sport management degree programs

A sport management degree is a college or university credential that provides a broad curriculum in coursework and skills related to law, public relations, business, marketing, finance, and management in the sport industry.3 You can choose from the following types of degree programs in sport management:

Bachelor’s degree in sport management

A bachelor’s degree in sport management is typically a four-year program. It includes general education requirements such as English, math, science, and history, as well as specialized sport management classes. These classes cover topics such as sport policy, marketing, and law. You’ll also learn communication, problem-solving, and project-planning skills.3

Master’s degree in sport management

A master’s degree in sport management is an advanced degree that can usually be completed in two years. All of your coursework will be focused on multidisciplinary skills related to sport management. Some universities offer a Master of Science or Master of Arts in Sport Management, while others offer a concentration in sport management as part of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.3

A master's program may include internship opportunities and can help you stand out in a competitive field.

Doctorate degree in sport management

With a doctorate degree in sport management, you can work in high-level positions with major sport teams or in academia. You’ll conduct research on various aspects of sport management and gain a deep understanding of core issues.3

Curriculum and course offerings

When you’re comparing sport management programs, look carefully at the specific courses each one offers. A good program should offer a broad foundation in many areas of sport management, such as organizational behavior, marketing, finance, and law.

Some programs also offer you opportunities to engage in independent study so that you can customize your education. If you know you’re interested in a particular area of sport management, such as facilities management, make sure that the program you’re considering offers the appropriate coursework.

Internship and practical experience opportunities

Although sport management is a thriving, growing field, it can also be competitive. An internship can give you practical, hands-on experience that can set you apart and provide connections that will benefit your career.4

During your internship, you’ll work with established professionals on their daily work or special projects. You may be able to get an internship in a specialty you’re interested in, such as athlete training or sport law.5

An internship can expose you to a variety of roles and help you develop a relationship with a mentor. Establishing a personal connection with a mentor who can offer career guidance and direction will benefit you even if you end up working for another organization.6

Flexibility of online vs. on-campus programs

Many universities offer degrees both online and in-person. Online degrees provide a high degree of flexibility and convenience that works well if you have work or family obligations while you’re studying. Online programs also offer you the opportunity to earn a degree from a university outside of your geographic region and learn from global experts.7

With online programs, you can usually learn at your own pace. You can schedule your studying when you have free time or when you’re able to concentrate best. Online learning allows you to work ahead when you need to so you won’t fall behind if you have a busy period.8

You’ll almost always save money by choosing an online degree. Online programs eliminate many costs associated with attending classes in person, such as transportation and on-campus housing. Beyond these costs, however, many universities charge lower tuition for online programs.8

However, there are some situations where in-person learning may be the best option for studying sport management. Studying on campus will give you more opportunities for face-to-face interactions and internships. You might also find it easier to stay on track if you have the built-in accountability of attending class at specific times.8

Learn about the professional sport landscape

Joining a comprehensive sport management degree program that offers a profound understanding of the intricacies surrounding professional sport teams can help open career opportunities and insights.

During your sport management educational journey, it is advised to explore the following topics to improve your understanding of the sport management landscape at the professional team level:

Explore professional sport teams dynamics

In the realm of professional sports, understanding the intricacies of team dynamics is paramount to success. It is a good idea to:

  • Delve into the organizational structures of professional sport teams, from executive roles to the coaching staff, within the framework of a comprehensive sport management program.
  • Understand how various departments collaborate, ensuring the smooth operation of a team, and observe how individuals contribute to this synergy, showcasing the vital role of skilled sport managers in fostering success in both sporting events and the broader sport management field.

Understand the impact of sport management on team success

You’ll also want to gain insights into the dynamic relationship between management skills and successful careers in professional sport. It would be beneficial to look for a degree program that helps you:

  • Examine case studies highlighting the indispensable role of sport management in the success of teams.
  • Learn how effective strategies, including initiatives such as sport marketing, and meticulous financial planning contribute to a team's performance on and off the field.
  • Gain insight into the dynamic interplay between management skills and the achievement of a successful career in the context of professional sport teams.

Gain valuable industry insights from sport management veterans

You can tap into the wealth of experience from seasoned professionals in sport management to learn about their experiences and see what lessons they have learned in their own journeys. Certain reputable sport management programs offers alumni connects with those working at the professional sport level and as well and mentorship opportunities with pro sporting professionals, so you can:

  • Explore industry insights from seasoned professionals who navigated intricacies while working with professional sport teams.
  • Gain a better understanding of the skills and experiences propelling their careers in this highly competitive field, whether in sport analytics, sport marketing management, or other specialized roles within the broader spectrum of the sport industry.
  • Delve into the ethical considerations and career opportunities that shape the sport management profession.

Learn team-specific knowledge

Don’t forget to enhance your competitive edge in the field by boosting your team-specific knowledge in sport management via educational opportunities, which can help you:

  • Explore the importance of incorporating team-specific knowledge into educational programs, be it through an accredited sport management degree program or other specialized business courses. Some programs may offer partnerships with pro teams, providing students with a unique understanding of challenges faced by specific organizations.
  • Gain insights into the value of an in-depth knowledge foundation and the development of a professional network in the context of sport management careers.

Start gaining skills for a rewarding career in sport management

The University of Kansas delivers a world-class online master’s in sport management. The Jayhawk advantage goes beyond expert faculty and in-depth curriculum. Alumni of KU’s pioneering program have worked for prestigious organizations such as the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, USA Diving, and others.

As a student, you’ll be able to tap into the global network of Jayhawks for industry insights. Contact an admissions outreach advisor today to learn more.