Best Sports Management Bachelor’s Degree Programs 2021

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A 2021 report published by the Business Research Company projects global sports market revenues to grow from $388.3 to about $600 billion from 2020-2025. This acceleration indicates growing opportunities for individuals planning careers in sports and recreation. Colleges have responded to the industry’s strong growth by offering sports management degrees.

The best sports management programs provide educational opportunities to prepare learners for rewarding careers in the sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average employment growth rate of 6% in facilities management and marketing management careers from 2019-2029.

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Concentration | Tuition | FAQs | Top Sports Management Programs


What Is Sports Management?

Sports management personnel fill behind-the-scenes positions in sports and recreation at the amateur and professional levels. These professionals commonly work in:

  • Athlete and team management
  • Facilities management
  • Sports finance
  • Fan engagement and marketing

Individuals who aspire to careers in sports law and policy can prepare themselves with undergraduate degrees in sports management. Prospective sports researchers and journalists can also benefit from educational backgrounds in the field.

Sports management degrees play an increasingly important role in the sports and recreation field, given the industry’s high economic value and fast growth. However, the appeal of high-level amateur and pro sports attracts more candidates than there are available jobs. While sports management careers are competitive, applicants with relevant degrees may have an advantage over their counterparts.

A sports management bachelor’s degree opens the door to entry-level positions with advancement potential. With the right educational background, resilient job-seekers can pursue opportunities to prove their worth in this exciting industry.

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Why Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management?

Sports management degrees indicate a job candidate’s commitment to the field. These programs also offer many other advantages, including obtaining professional contacts, specialized knowledge, and versatile skills.

Networking Opportunities
In highly competitive job markets like sports management, networking can make a difference. Specialized programs offer field placements and work-study programs to help learners increase their professional connections.
Relevant Learning
Candidates who differentiate themselves through targeted education often outperform individuals with generalized credentials when competing for entry-level sports management jobs. Sports management programs thoroughly prepare enrollees to meet industry-specific challenges.
Career Flexibility
Sports management degrees cover many aspects of the industry. Learners emerge ready to pursue diverse roles and advance in the field as they gain experience.


What to Expect From Sports Management Colleges

Sports management programs usually comprise 120 credits and require four years of full-time enrollment. Learners with previous college coursework can often expedite their completion timelines. Some programs allow students to transfer up to three-quarters of their credit requirements.

The best sports management programs usually offer experiential learning opportunities with excellent networking opportunities.

Tuition rates align with average costs charged by four-year institutions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition fees reached 9,349 for public institutions and $32,769 for private schools in 2019-2020.

The best sports management programs usually offer experiential learning opportunities with excellent networking opportunities. Field placements supplement the core courses and capstone projects that form the backbone of most programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission standards vary among institutions, but many colleges require a minimum GPA of 2.0 (on the 4.0 scale) and SAT or ACT scores. Recommendation letters and personal statements often carry considerable weight for admission.

Some sports management colleges maintain separate admission standards for transfer students. Specific requirements vary, but learners often benefit from previous college-level coursework in statistics, macroeconomics, accounting, marketing, and general psychology.

Learn more about the application process:

Concentration Options

Specializations within sports management programs typically appear at the graduate level. However, bachelor’s programs with concentrations usually focus on foundational general education before switching to specialized topics in junior and senior years.

When available, sports management concentration options may include:

  • Sports law
  • Sports media and communications
  • Event management
  • Sports marketing
  • Sports project management

Learners with specific career objectives can also consider bachelor’s degrees in marketing, finance, or business administration, which may feature specializations in sports management.

Popular Sports Management Courses

Sports management programs may differ considerably in core focus areas. Some programs emphasize business and finance, while others concentrate more on the industry’s human side. Always consider how well a particular program matches your personal interests and career objectives when weighing your options.

Curriculums include core classes, specialized electives, internships and field placements, and culminating experiences through capstone and thesis projects. Common courses include:

  • Introduction to Sports Management

    Students usually complete this required course during their first year. Enrollees receive a broad overview of sports organizational management, including player personnel, marketing, media relations, fan engagement, and finance.

  • Sports Marketing

    Sports marketing courses examine industry-specific promotional techniques that build fan bases, draw in spectators, and generate higher revenues. Coursework incorporates case studies to help students extract insights from real-world examples.

  • Sports Media Relations

    Some schools configure this upper-level elective as a public relations course. Learners evaluate the role and impact of media coverage in the sports industry. Degree-seekers explore interdisciplinary strategies for building positive media relationships and public images.

How Much Will a Sports Management Degree Cost?

Sports management degree costs compare favorably with institutional averages. However, many factors affect tuition rates. For instance, out-of-state learners typically pay more to attend public institutions, while other schools offer reduced costs for their online programs.

Prestige also affects pricing, especially among private institutions. Schools with excellent reputations among employers and programs with high-profile, accomplished faculty members often charge higher tuition rates.

The cost of undergraduate education in the United States continues to trend upward, and many learners need help covering their expenses. Students should first explore sources of aid that do not require repayment, including scholarships, bursaries, grants, and fellowships. After pursuing these options, degree-seekers can consider federal or private loans.


Choosing the Right Sports Management Undergraduate Program

Degree-seekers should only consider institutions with national or regional accreditation. Candidates can also look for optional programmatic endorsements from the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation, which signal strong educational value.

In addition to choosing an accredited school, prospective students should also consider the program’s location along with their future career plans and interests.

Program Location
Students aspiring to careers in professional sports can benefit from programs based in major urban areas that host clubs competing in multiple leagues.
Practical Learning
Sports management degrees build wider appeal by offering desirable internship opportunities, allowing students to gain valuable work experience.
Concentration Options
Learners interested in particular specializations often need to expand their research beyond rankings, as these lists usually concentrate on general programs.

What Is Accreditation and Why Does It Matter?

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Online learning continues to emerge as a practical and advantageous alternative to on-campus instruction. Remote learners benefit from added scheduling flexibility. Many find it easier to balance online education with employment, which can help students manage overall college costs.

Candidates considering online sports management degrees should remember that many programs feature internships, practicums, field placements, and work-study opportunities. These experiences offer strong networking value. Students generally complete these components in person, even if program delivery is entirely remote.

Degree-seekers should also consider their learning styles and educational needs. Online learning offers many advantages but also demands that students maintain self-discipline and high levels of independence. If you do not match this profile or simply prefer the interactive nature of the traditional classroom, campus-based learning might offer a better option.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I major in to become a sports manager?

    Aspiring professionals can pursue sports management degrees. These programs teach essential aspects of athlete management, sports finance and marketing, and many other critical areas. Other relevant program options include marketing or business.

  • Is getting a sports management degree worth it?

    Given the popularity and high profile of sports, the industry attracts many applicants for a limited number of openings. Holding a specialized degree in sports management offers a distinct advantage in the job market.

  • How long are sports management programs?

    Sports management colleges usually structure their bachelor’s degrees to follow standard four-year schedules. A learner with eligible transfer credits can shorten their completion timelines, depending on the program and the number of credits they can apply towards their degree.

  • What can I do with a bachelor's degree in sports management?

    Sports management degrees prepare learners for many behind-the-scenes roles. Some graduates become player agents and managers, while others join sports organizations in business, management, or marketing. Others go on to careers in event and facilities management.

  • Is a sports manager a good career?

    Global sports industry revenues continue to grow and reach about $600 billion by 2025. Passionate and committed learners can build sports management careers with exciting job profiles and high earning potential.

2021’s Best Sports Management Programs

  1. University of North Carolina
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Overview

    Our list gets off to quite a strong start with the University of North Carolina, and more specifically, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the main campus of the 16-school system. There are so many elements that UNC has going for it: affordability ($296 per credit hour), a huge payout when you’re ready to graduate (early grads earn on average $102,000 a year to start off!), and the assurance of a reputable school (UNC has an impressive 97 percent retention rate).

    Features

    All of those features alone are reason enough to attend UNC, but the undergraduate program in Sport Administration is also one of the best in the country. For one, it already has a built-in graduate program in case students want to pursue further schooling in the field. The bachelor’s program incorporates a blend of exercise science courses with business and marketing courses to give you premiere access to a high-level sport management position. Some of these classes include:

    • Finance and Economics of Sport
    • Legal Aspects of Sport
    • Fitness Management
    • Sports Business Venture

    Notables

    UNC Chapel Hill excels at connecting their sport management students to crucial networks of athletes and professionals in the field. The Carolina Sport Business Club is a completely student-run organization that helps undergraduates find internships and other resources in the sport industry. Even more, the North Carolina Tar Heels NCAA I sport teams have collectively won 40 NCAA team championships. You’ll be dealing with the greatest!

  2. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Overview

    One of the top-ten largest universities in the nation, the University of Florida (UF) is a public research institution that is based in Gainesville, Florida. It consistently shows its strength in research and innovation, earning it a top-15 spot in US News & World Report for overall best public university in the United States. UF is home to over 54,000 students, as well as over 150 unique research institutions and centers.

    Features

    At the University of Florida, the academic focus is problem solving and critical thinking, two concepts that students will encounter in the 120-credit-hour Bachelor of Science in Sport Management degree. The program blocks off the entire 8th semester to complete the Internship in Sport Management requirement, in which students get the chance to work in the industry for 13 weeks. However, in previous semesters, you’ll be taking classes like:

    • Sport and Business Finance
    • Administration of Sport and Physical Activity
    • Sport Facility Design and Management
    • Ethical Issues in Sport

    Notables

    The University of Florida has always been known for its research, but students who are enrolled in the BS in Sport Management will get unique access to the Laboratory for Athlete and Athletics Development and Research, which places sports in the lens of research to improve innovation in the field (some current projects are in Youth Sports Program and Physical Literacy Research). Even more, UF has a strong showing in sports with the Florida Gators, who compete at the NCAA Division I level.

  3. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Overview

    One of the more prestigious schools on our list (in both reputation and research), the University of Michigan (UM) is a public university in Ann Arbor, Michigan that holds the honor of being one of the state’s oldest educational institution. Alongside their academic excellence, UM’s football program is one of the best in the country, ranking number 1 in NCAA history for total wins.

    Features

    The Bachelor of Arts in Sport Management program at the University of Michigan is refined, well-connected, and competitive. Early on in the degree, students choose between two tracks: Sport Marketing and Management or Sport Policy and Analytics. Later, you’ll complete an internship experience in one of those areas, too. On top of all that, UM boasts a 98 percent job placement rate for their 2015 graduates of the program immediately out of school. Graduates have gone on to work for the NFL, ESPN, Under Armour, and more. Some of the classes that will get you there include:

    • Sport Marketing Analytics
    • Sport Tourism
    • Historical and Sociological Issues in Sport and Fitness
    • Sport Real Estate

    Notables

    You really can’t go wrong in choosing UM for your Sport Management degree. Despite it’s somewhat spendier price tag for tuition, it has the highest return on investment of any on this list (early grads earn around $110,000 right out of school). Even more, you’re set up for success by the student-run organizations in the major like Michigan Women Empowerment in Sport and Entertainment, Michigan Sports Analytics Society, and more.

  4. Indiana University
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Overview

    Considered one of the nation’s “Public Ivy” schools, Indiana University Bloomington is one of the beacons of public education in the United States. The flagship university of the larger Indiana University System, IU Bloomington has long been recognized for its academics; in fact, US News & World Report ranked 40 of its programs in the top 25 in the nation. A member of the Big Ten Conference, Indiana University’s athletic program is one of the strongest in the country, especially in men’s basketball.

    Features

    Students at IU Bloomington will take a different approach to sport management through the university’s Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a major in Sport Marketing and Management. This gives you the best of both worlds: a deep understanding of the body and movement as well as the tools to run a business. The 120-credit-hour program splits its coursework between the School of Public Health and the renowned Kelley School of Business with classes like:

    • Sport in America: Historical Perspective
    • Financial Principles of Sport
    • Strategic Management in the Sport Industry
    • Legal Issues in Sport Settings

    Notables

    Unique to the program at IU Bloomington, you’ll have the chance to collaborate with other students studying sport management through the Sport Marketing Alliance, which was created to develop connections between students and professionals in the sport industry. You’ll be exposed to dynamic speakers, internship opportunities, resume-building workshops, and more.

  5. University of Texas
    Location

    Austin, TX

    Overview

    Located in its state capitol, the University of Texas at Austin is one of the biggest universities (by enrollment) in the nation, with close to 51,000 students each year. As a hub for research in the area, UT Austin is one of the leading institutions in computer science and engineering studies. Undergraduate students choose from over 100 degree programs, as well as a number of honors programs.

    Features

    Nestled under the Kinesiology & Health Education department, the bachelor’s program in Sport Management at the University of Texas Austin enables students to apply their learnings in a variety of settings, not just in the sports arena. In addition to the 120 required credit hours, students will take either take a semester-long internship or complete fieldwork, whether that’s in sports business, entertainment sports, administrative work, or agenting. Beyond that, students will take some of the following courses:

    • Sport Industry in America
    • Sport Law
    • Media & Public Relations in Sport
    • Sociological Aspects of Sport & Physical Activity

    Notables

    The winners of four NCAA Division I championships for football, UT Austin is ranked 9th in the country among other Division I schools. The Longhorns excel particularly in college football, basketball, and baseball. UT Austin also is considered one of the nation’s best public university; US News & World Report listed it at number 18 in the country this year.

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