How To Choose The Right Sport Management Degree

Since sport management is relevant to so many different career paths, schools that offer sport management degrees generally offer two or three types of degrees, such as Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Master of Business Administration. Each program offers various specialties that students can choose, depending on their preferred career path. For example, a student who wants to be a coach might pursue a Bachelor of Science in Coaching Education, whereas a student interested in public relations might enroll in an MBA in athletics administration.

Types of Sport Management Degrees

Below is a list of various degrees and concentrations that students can pursue towards a career in sport management:

  • Master of Business Administration – Athletic Administration: Most universities that offer an MBA in athletic administration place heavy emphasis on finance and the monetization aspect of athletic organizations. Classes like “Nontraditional Revenue Streams” and advanced accounting are common in these programs. Students learn skills from basic bookkeeping to long term financial strategy in the context of major sporting organizations in these degree programs.
  • Master of Education (Med) – Coaching: Coaching skills and teaching skills merge in this type of degree program, which teaches students not only how to coach athletic teams, but how to teach the art of coaching to the next generation. This degree can work for students who want to work as a coach, or just want to be teachers in an athletic department or organization.
  • Bachelor of Science – Sport Management: The organizational, analytic, and quantitative elements of sport management are emphasized in most BS in sport management degrees. Learning how to manage the budget of a sporting organization as well as the other people who work there are the crucial skills students learn in BS – Sport Management courses.
  • Bachelor of Science – Athletic Administration: This is similar to a BS in sport management. Courses focus on high level administrative skills, budgeting and finance, and learning to generate revenue for a sports organization. The difference between a BS – Athletic Administration and a BS – Sport Management is negligible at most universities.

How to Choose the Best Sport Management Degree

Different sport management degrees are tailored to fit different career paths, so a student choosing a course of study should consider what their long term career goals are. Below are several important questions that students should consider when choosing a degree program and career trajectory.

Q:“Why are you interested in a sport management career?”

A: If you said “I like to work with athletes,” or anything about actually playing your favorite sport, coaching is probably your best bet. You can work closely with a team, develop plays and other in-game strategies, and even stay active by doing training, workouts, and practice scrimmages with the players. For someone who loves the sport, a Master of Science or Master of Education in coaching can help you get a career that will keep you close to the game or even on the field.

Q: “What sport management skills do you already have?”

A: Maybe you already have a job as a little league coach, or an administrator at a university athletic program. If you already have the skills to manage a sports team’s budget, and you want to expand your role in the business side of the organization, an MBA in sport management or athletic administration could help round out your skills.

Q: “What type of organization do you want to work for?”

A: Working with professional athletes at the top of their game can be a thrill, but coaching a high school football team can be just as fun if you’re passionate about it. Knowing whether you want to work with kids, high school students, or pros, and whether you want to work for a huge, national organization or a small community, can help you decide which sport management degree is right for you.

Accreditation and University Rankings for Sport Management Programs

Ranking systems for university programs in all disciplines use various factors to determine which universities and courses of study are the “best” or most effective. When you are exploring sport management schools that you might like to attend, it is worth checking out the rank of your potential colleges in several popular lists. If your college ranks well in some lists, but poorly in others, it is worth examining why certain lists gave your school a bad score.

No ranking system is completely objective though, so you shouldn’t make your decision based entirely on a college’s score from a particular ranking body. Just use the information as one element of the complete picture you develop of all your potential schools before deciding which one is right for you. Below is a list of other factors worth looking into when deciding which university and degree program is right for you.

  • Pricing: How much does the school you want to attend charge for their sport management programs? Most schools charge per course or per credit hour, but some have a flat fee for an entire degree. Check out the average salary of the job you hope to get upon graduation. Will that salary allow you to pay off any debt you take on to get yourself through school? The chart below indicates the approximate price of a two year Master of Science in Sport Administration.
  • Time Use: How long will this degree take you to get? Is it worth the two, or even four years, of your time, to get a degree and the job that might come with it? Statistics show that people with higher levels of education earn more and have lower rates of unemployment, but individual circumstances still matter. Knowing that this degree is worth it, for you, will help you stay focused and work hard in school.
  • Networking: Who are the professors at your school? Do they have good connections in the field of sport management? Will they be able to provide good, trusted recommendations when it comes time for you to apply for jobs?
  • Experience Opportunities: Does the school you’re looking at have an athletic department you could work in, or at least volunteer at? Will you be able to simultaneously get education and real world experience in your chosen field? The richer you can make your experience while you’re in school, the more desirable you’ll be as an employee immediately after you graduate.

Considerations for Sport Management Degree Seekers

Students should choose a sport management degree that fits their current circumstances, while keeping in mind that they can always pursue a more advanced degree later when the time is right. If you need an associate’s degree just to get a job, get one, and worry about the bachelor’s or master’s degree later!

Careers and Salary

The type of job you get, and the salary you are paid, when first entering the field of sport management will influence your later job options and salaries. If you want to work on the business side of a sports organization, try to get some sports business experience while you’re in school. Whether that means volunteering at a local sporting agency or asking around at your college to find entry level work at a community sports center, getting some experience will go a long way toward getting you the job you want, eventually.

Additionally, negotiating your starting salary can pay off both now and in the long run. Subsequent employers will probably ask what you were paid at your last job. If you can negotiate even a small pay bump when you first begin working, it may increase your lifetime income by a significant percentage.

Licensing and Certification

Requirements for licenses or certificates vary widely by profession and location in the world of sport management, so you need to research the requirements for the specific field and organization you plan to work in. Most sport related careers require intimate knowledge of how the game is played, which many workers gain by playing the sport in high school or amateur leagues.

Those wanting to coach elementary or high school teams may need state educational certificates and licensure. Usually, team coaches at the secondary education level are also teachers at the school, often in health or physical education classes.

Ultimately, the sport management degree you choose can take years of your life and alter the trajectory of your career, so picking a good one is important, but shouldn’t be a huge cause of stress if you are passionate about sports, and about the field you choose to study. Check out the list below for some of the top accredited schools that offer online sport management programs for students who want to further their education without sacrificing free time or quitting their jobs.

Online Sports Management Degrees

Ohio University — Ohio University has two online degrees in Sports Management: MS in Athletic Administration and MS in Coaching Education. OHU has over 35,000 current students enrolled with sports and student organizations available and almost 5,000 total employees. OHU is located in Athens, Ohio, just southwest of the capital, Columbus.
Southern New Hampshire University — While an undergraduate degree is required, the MBA and MS of Sports Management from South New Hampshire University can be completed in less than two years, making it a quick way to propel your career forward. Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, the main campus has WiFi, an Olympic pool, and even an art gallery.
St. Leo University — The MBA degree in sports business from St. Leo University will give its students a thorough understanding of teamwork, ethics, communication, and management within a sport and recreation environment. Students often go on to pursue jobs in professional sports, fitness facilities, retailers, franchises, and athletic departments. Curriculum is designed to reflect the current best practices and standards with in the industry.
Ashford University — Your BA in Sports and Recreation Management or Marketing degree can be completed entirely online, and you can transfer up to 90 credits, accelerating the process further. Ashford University was founded almost 100 years ago and its online division includes over 30 degrees at the associate, bachelor, and master level.
Northcentral University — Northcentral University offers online programs for an EdD or PhD in Sports Management which prepares students for high profile and leadership positions. Founded in 1978 in Prescott Valley, Arizona, NCU is now the school of choice for over 10,000 students who are active in school events and organizations.
Liberty University — The focus of Liberty University's MS in Sports Management is how organizational skills and leadership plays a role in sports organizations and athletic programs. The program can be completed in less than two years and up to six credit hours can be transferred. However, you will need an undergrad degree in order to enroll.
Salem International University — For a practical approach to your education with hands-on training and career-oriented curriculum, Salem International University provides an online degree for the BSBA in Sports and Recreation Management program. SIU's 100 acre campus is located in Salem, West Virginia and was originally established as Salem College in 1888, creating a long list of traditions and a rich student experience.
Tiffin University — TIffin University's MBA program in sports management prepares its students for management positions in recreational, collegiate, and professional sports. The main focus of the program is on developing skills in communication, leadership, IT, and problem solving.
Capella University — Students enrolled in Capella University's online MS in psychology with a specialization in sport psychology – offered through the Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences – learn how psychological principles affect amateur and professional athletes, as well as team motivation, stress management and injury recovery.

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