Hot Career Spotlight – Sports Event Management

Managing a sporting event is a huge, complicated undertaking, and the training you can get in sports management degree programs can prepare you to manage everything from college soccer games to the Superbowl.

The key to being a good sports event manager isn’t knowing the game incredibly well, or being an ace bookkeeper, it is being able to keep all the little pieces in your head at once, and knowing how to delegate tasks and motivate your workers to keep with a tight schedule while planning an event with tons of moving parts that could malfunction at any moment. Below are the top skills you’ll need as a sports event manager.

Sports Events and Venue Management: The Big Picture

  1. Time Management: Sports event managers need an extremely strong grasp of scheduling and time management to do their jobs well. Events, especially large ones, can sink or fly depending on whether all of the necessary components fall into place on time. Everything from ticket sales to concessions, to getting the teams to the stadium on time rides on someone’s shoulders, and the event manager has to make sure everyone knows what to do, and when.
  2. Communication: Event managers work with people. Their primary duty is to coordinate teams of varying sizes so that every aspect of an event is under control. Being able to handle a large volume of communication, dozens or hundreds of emails, constant phone calls, and regular meetings is a must.
  3. Organization: In a large system like that in place at major sporting venues, it is important that systems are efficient. The smallest loss of profit, whether through wasted man-hours or improperly priced merchandise scales up to huge losses at an event with 50,000 attendees. Fitting the pieces together to minimize waste is a crucial skill for event managers.
  4. Energy: As a sports event manager, you are on call all the time when you’re planning an event. Dealing with people constantly and remaining civil and calm are interpersonal skills that will go a long way. This job is not for the introverted, because whenever you’re working, you’ll be interacting with people 100% of the time.

Degrees for Sports Event Managers

If sports event management is the job of your dreams, a business degree in sports management or athletic administration is the best educational path for you. There are several types of degree that will prepare you for this career, although you’ll still have to get years of experience before you’re put in charge of a major professional event. Below is a list of widely available classes you should definitely take during your sports management program if you plan to pursue an event management career.

  • Principles of Microeconomics: This class will give you a specific knowledge of how closed economic systems work, which will benefit you when you’re trying to plan a big sports event so it satisfies the customer and makes money too. This will give you the knowledge base you need to understand other necessary finance classes you’ll take later on.
  • Sports Marketing, Promotion, and Public Relations: Even if you don’t work on a marketing team yourself, you’ll definitely have to work with marketers as a sports event manager, and knowing how they do business will smooth the process of developing marketing campaigns for the events you manage.
  • Sports Ticket Sales and Operations: Knowing how to price and sell tickets is a linchpin of the sports industry. Event planners need to know how to make a budget, and stick to it so that the money that comes in is more than the money that goes out.
  • Leadership in Sports and Society: Leadership skills might be your most important quality as a sports event manager. Most of the nuts and bolts work will be done by others, and your job is to keep those people excited and keep them working smoothly together so that the whole event goes off without a hitch. Keeping the respect of your colleagues and subordinates is a skill that can’t be taught in class, but this class will try, and taking the principles you learn here to heart will benefit you in the long run.
  • Business Law: Your day to day activities probably won’t require you to have detailed legal knowledge, but knowing how to read and interpret a contract and other legal documents are indispensable skills. Any sizeable event will involve legal agreements between vendors, service providers, and other participants, and as a sports business manager you need to know enough that you can at least ask your lawyers the right questions.

Earnings for Convention and Event Planners

Event management skills can be put to use in a broad variety of fields. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not gather salary data pertaining only to sports event managers, but they do collect this data for a broad category of meeting and convention planners. According to The BLS:

  • Meeting and convention planners held about 56,000 jobs in the U.S., as of 2008.
  • Employment of meeting and convention planners is expected to grow about 16 percent between 2008-2018, which is faster than the growth rate for employment in most fields.
  • As of May, 2008, the median annual wage of meeting and convention planners was $44,260, which is higher than the overall national median wage in the U.S.
  • Due to increased complexity of an event planner’s responsibilities, employers are seeking more candidates with a bachelor’s degree or other higher education credential.

Below is a chart of mean wages for meeting, convention, and event planners from The Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Licensure and Certification for Sports Event Managers

While there is no legal requirement for sports event managers to have a license or certificate to practice their trade, there are credentials that can make applicants more appealing to employers.

The Convention Industry Council offers a credential called the Certified Meeting Professional, which is considered the industry standard certification for convention planners. While not directly related to the sporting industry, a CMP shows a level of competence in the skills it takes to plan large events that will serve any sports event manager well in his or her career.

Though certifications and credentials may look good on a resume, workers who are willing to grow their responsibility, take on greater challenges, and throw themselves into their work as sports event managers are the ones who will really shine in the occupation. No certification is more valuable than a strong willingness to work hard and make big decisions and sacrifices for the benefit of your career.

Other Ways to Advance Your Sports Management Career

Other than getting your degree and pursuing ever more challenging positions in the professional realm, there are a few ways you can open up new opportunities for yourself and make new connections in the sports event management industry


Going to conventions is a great way to network and get your name in the right peoples’ ears. There is an annual event called the International Sports Event Management Conference where you can meet professionals in the field and make connections that could lead directly to a better job in the future. Panels of speakers speak on the latest innovations and best practices in the industry, but the new knowledge you gain is just an added bonus to the social and professional connections you can make.

Ask your professors or even fellow students about sports management related seminars and online social networks, because networking is one of the best ways to find your way in this industry. A combination of professionalism and great interpersonal skills will be your greatest asset as you seek to rise in the ranks of sports event managers.

Stuff to Know for Aspiring Sports Event Managers

Sports event management is an extremely demanding and competitive field. Even if you have great skills and experience, expect keen competition for top tier jobs. You will likely have to work more than 40 hours per week, though there may be an off-season where you have much less work to do for a period of weeks or months.

A degree in athletic administration does not guarantee you a job at all, and definitely doesn’t guarantee you a job in event planning or management. You’ll have to work incredibly hard throughout college, and for years afterward, before you get to a position with enough power that you can delegate tasks and give yourself a little more breathing room. This career path is not for the faint of heart, and should only be considered by those who are seriously passionate about the intersection of business, sports, and event planning.

If you’re still dedicated to pursuing a career in sports event management, check out the schools listed below, which offer some of the top accredited degrees in sports management and athletic administration.

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