Earning Potential and Career Outlook for Sports Managers

Professionals in the sports management industry can hold any number of jobs with a wide variety of responsibilities. For example, a sports event manager will make significantly less than an athletic director at a Division I university. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers salary information for many sports management careers and lumps them into one big category of “Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, and Related Workers.” The following is a list of sports management careers, and their median salaries or job prospects according to The BLS.

  • Coaches and Scouts earned a median salary of $28,340 as of May, 2008.

  • Umpires and related workers earned a median salary of $23,730 as of May, 2008.
  • Agents and Managers for Artists and Athletes are their own separate category whose income data is presented as a mean annual wage of $89,840. More specific data for this group, including wage and job prospect info by location within the U.S. can be found at The BLS website.

What is it Like to Work in Sports Management?

A degree in sports management will prepare you to do the duties of many of these careers, but factors such as personal experience, location, and who you know are likely to affect what type of organization you work for. Many sports managers started out as high school and college athletes at schools that are regularly visited by big league scouts. Finding a way to meet someone at reputable organization, or starting at an entry level job and working your way up, will make it more likely for you to work for the NFL or NBA than if you start out coaching little league. Networking is crucial for people who want to excel in the field of sports management, coaching, or agency. There are a few other issues that make sports management a non-traditional career that can really influence your lifestyle:

  • Play Time: A lot of sports management jobs, such as recruiting, scouting, coaching, and refereeing, require you to be at actual games: a lot of actual games. Since sports teams typically travel for a lot of their games, and play games in the evening and on the weekends, there’s a good chance you’ll have weird working hours and lots of time away from home in any of these career paths.
  • Injury Prone? Anyone involved in the physical aspects of sport is at risk of injuring themselves. This is mostly applicable to athletes, but coaches, trainers, umpires, and referees are all putting themselves in the way of bodily harm every time they walk out onto the field. While a sports manager’s career probably won’t be ended by an injury the way an athlete’s could be, this is still a very real risk for managers that get close to or on the field.
  • What Job Security? Keen competition and high turnover are standard for athletic competitors, but the sports management field can be just as fickle, especially as you ascend into the higher ranks of professional sports. A high school football coach could keep a job for years, but professional careers are made and broken on the success of a team in a season or even a few games.
  • Going Pro: For many workers in the sporting world, going pro is the goal that is always on the horizon. The reality is that there are very few jobs at the top of the sporting food chain, and the likelihood of hitting the big-time for any given individual is almost nil. That means you shouldn’t do it for the money! If you love sports, and you want to work in the industry and be around other sports fanatics all day, a sports management degree could be great for you, but the love has to come first!

Job Opportunities for People with Sports Management Degrees

The BLS keeps detailed statistics on job outlooks all over the country for various sports management related careers, and they’ve got a good breakdown of where the best places in the U.S. are for people in non-player roles in the sports industry.

The states with the highest concentration of jobs for agents and business managers of athletes, artists, and performers are:

  1. California (Mean annual wage: $116,280)
  2. New York (mean annual wage:$98,740)
  3. Tennessee (mean annual wage:$86,420)
  4. Florida (mean annual wage:$ 44,880)
  5. Massachusetts (mean annual wage: $86,030)

Below is a chart of mean wages for agents and business managers of athletes and other performers from The BLS.

How a Degree in Sports Management can Give You a Leg Up

A lot of sports managers slide directly from their careers as amateur athletes into managerial positions, but going to college for sports management can give you sharper business skills and a better eye for the economics of sport than you’ll get from just playing the game. Classes in sports management degree programs teach you not only the business side of things, but how to integrate business and sport on an industrial level. This knowledge will make you a more compelling job candidate all around.

Some examples of classes you can take in sports management school are:

  • Principles of Sports Finance and Accounting: This class will teach you how to manage a team’s budget by balancing out income and expenditures. You’ll deal with payroll for players, asset acquisition, and making sure the appropriate taxes get paid. These are skills you need in sports management that you won’t learn on the field.
  • Sports Labor Relations and Negotiation: This class deals with contracts. Some athletes are unionized, and the contracting process for professional athletes is so complicated you could build an entire career based on it. If athletic contracts are what you’re interested in, law school might be a better fit for you, but this class will still help you navigate the complexities of athlete employment negotiations.
  • Sports Sponsorships, Promotions, and Licensing:You know all those Bulls jerseys you have from when Michael Jordan was still dunking from the free throw line? Somebody had to negotiate the licensing deal between the jersey maker and the team! Learning how to merchandise sports and how to squeeze bucks out of a team brand without diluting it too much is a major asset for anyone in the marketing side of sports management.
  • Sports Media and Broadcast Relations: This is more of a public relations job, but for a sports lover, what could be better than managing how their favorite team looks on TV. From organizing interviews to covering up PR messes, this class will teach you how to keep a handle on the extremely public side of a professional sports team.
  • Non-traditional Revenue Strategies: Sports inspires passion, extreme loyalty, and a crazy amount of chips and dip consumption, but ultimately, sports teams exist to make money, and learning how to leverage a sports team in unique ways to pull in money is a skill that will make you desirable in any sports management job setting.

Getting Started on Your Sports Management Degree

Since you found this website, you’ve probably already got some experience and strong interest in sports, and specifically sports management. If you’ve looked at the salary and job prospect numbers and you’re still interested in getting a sports management degree, here are some steps to follow to start you down the path towards professional sports management:

  • Make a timeline for yourself that answers the following questions. When do you want to start school, and when do you want to finish? Will you work during that time? Will your schedule for that time allow you to devote adequate time to both work and school?
  • Look into some sports management degree programs. Click around this site and you’ll find links to a variety of schools with programs in this area. More information is available directly from the schools, once you’ve found a few you’re interested in.
  • Apply to schools! The application process can be time consuming, but many online schools have rolling admissions, so you could be taking classes just weeks from when your application is approved.
  • Apply for financial aid. Unless you have significant savings or a trust fund you’ll probably need some help paying for college. There are governmental and private sources of funds just waiting to be tapped, so look around and talk to the financial aid counselors at the schools you’ve applied to for more information on how to have someone else pay for your education.

Statistics show that people with more education earn more money and have lower overall unemployment rates. While a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job, it can certainly provide professional connections and in-depth knowledge that will make you a strong candidate for the jobs you want to get. Check out the lists of high quality, accredited sports management schools on this site to get started!

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