Best Master’s Degrees in Sports Management 2021

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Collegiate and professional sports support growing, multi-billion dollar industries in the U.S. These industries need skilled management professionals to ensure smooth operations in marketing, finance, event coordination, and public relations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, agents and managers representing athletes earn a median of $75,420 annually as of May 2020. The top 10% of earners bring home more than $190,000 each year. Whether you foster a passion for football, baseball, basketball, or hockey, earning a master’s in sports management can open the door to an exciting leadership career.

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Concentrations | Tuition | FAQs | Top Sports Management Programs

What Is Sports Management?

Humans enjoyed competitive sports even in ancient times, but professional sports management came about much later. Sports management first began developing in the 18th and 19th centuries with the creation of sports clubs for the English aristocracy. These clubs created membership policies, standardized rules, and event organization that paved the way for modern sports management.

Today, sports management is a major industry in the U.S. and around the world. Common sectors of the sports management profession include individual athlete and team management, sports marketing and fan engagement, sporting event coordination and planning, and sports finance.

Love for the sport typically draws aspiring sports managers to the discipline — whether they carry experience as an athlete themselves or usually participate as a spectator. They typically possess keen interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills. A master’s in sports management provides the most competitive education for job seekers.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Sports Management?

A master’s in sports management can be a worthwhile investment. Increasing digitization and globalization drives the growing demand for professionals able to solve problems, embrace technology trends, and shape the future of the sports industry.

Sports management professionals who earn a graduate degree possess sought-after skills and knowledge that can enhance their career prospects. Key benefits of earning a master’s in sports management include:

Flexible Prerequisites
Unlike many graduate programs that require an undergraduate background in a closely related discipline, a sports management master’s accommodates learners with bachelor’s degrees in any field, making it a highly accessible academic option.
Advanced Job Opportunities
Although students can secure entry-level sports management jobs with a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s opens the doors to advanced careers in areas like finance, event coordination, and marketing.
Salary Potential
Along with increased job opportunities, graduate degree-holders typically earn higher salaries than those with only a bachelor’s. Some employers require public relations managers to hold a master’s degree, for example. According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median salary of $118,430 as of 2020.

What to Expect From Sports Management Master’s Programs

To earn a master’s in sports management, degree-seekers need to complete between 30 and 45 credits. Exact credit requirements vary by school, but it typically takes two years of full-time study to graduate with a sports management master’s. Some programs may offer accelerated or part-time formats to accommodate other scheduling preferences.

Sports management master’s degree-seekers participate in a combination of core courses, electives, and culminating experiences like capstone projects or internships. Some schools also offer concentrations which provide career-specific knowledge and skills in areas like sports communication or sports law.

Depending on the school you attend, the total cost of a sports management master’s degree ranges from $8,000-$45,000.

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Admission Requirements

The top sports management programs tend to maintain similar admission requirements. Candidates need to hold a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, typically with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Work experience in the sports industry is not usually required, but applicants should demonstrate a strong interest in the industry and possess clear short- and long-term career goals.

Common application materials include academic letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, resume or CV, and official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions previously attended. Schools rarely require GRE scores for sports management master’s programs.

Most graduate programs readily accept online applications and require a $40-$100 nonrefundable application fee.

How do I apply to graduate school?

Concentration Options

Sports management graduate programs prepare graduates for a variety of career paths after graduation. Some schools offer concentration options to better accommodate the diverse goals of sports management students. Whether you pursue a master of arts or master of science in sports management, you may find the following concentration tracks available:

  • Sports Communications: Provides skills in market research, branding, media relationships, and marketing strategy development.
  • Sports Business and Sales: Offers foundational business management knowledge and sales to help maximize profitability and productivity.
  • College Sports Administration: Focuses on collegiate athletics event management, social media strategies, and partnership activities.
  • Sport Law: Informs students about the laws, regulations, and judicial decisions that govern the sports industry.
  • Sport Event Management: Prepares students to coordinate and run both small- and large-scale sporting events.

Not all sports management programs offer concentrations. Students who opt to complete a general track can customize their degree plan with various elective options instead. In some cases, sports management may be a concentration itself — typically within a master’s of business administration program. Compared to sports management master’s degrees, MBAs offer a broader curriculum that graduates can apply to many different fields and industries.

Popular Sports Management Courses

While undergraduate programs provide a broad liberal arts education, master’s degrees offer a narrow scope of study focused on the student’s discipline. For sports management degree-seekers, this means completing a variety of core and elective courses that build skills and knowledge critical to success in the sport industry. Many programs also require an internship or practicum, which provides hands-on training in the student’s field of interest.

Common course requirements for sports management degree-seekers include:

Sports Marketing


In this core class, students learn to apply marketing principles and concepts to the sports management industry. Topics commonly include marketing research and strategy, branding, sponsorships, licensing, and venue and event marketing. This course provides a vital foundation for professionals interested in marketing, consumer behavior, and related fields.

Ethics in the Sports Industry


This common core course invites aspiring sports managers to consider the moral and ethical dilemmas found in the industry. Common topics include sportsmanship, violence, performance enhancing drugs, and media. Students learn to respond to challenging situations and use moral reasoning for decision-making in sport settings.

Social Issues in Sport


This elective introduces students to key social issues in the sports industry. Students examine various theoretical perspectives to better understand matters of conflict, control, power, and the relationship between sports and society. Topics of discussion include gender and representation, commercialization of college sports, and the significance of race and ethnicity in sports.

Internship


Some sports management master’s programs require students to complete a part-time internship prior to graduation. Under the supervision of faculty and a site manager, degree-seekers gain real-world experience in a sports management setting. Internships commonly require students to complete written summaries and participate in work evaluations.

Capstone


In addition to or instead of an internship, some sports management master’s programs require a culminating capstone experience. Capstones provide an opportunity for learners to apply what they learned through a substantial written work or project. Students receive faculty guidance and support throughout the capstone process.

How Much Will a Master’s Degree in Sports Management Cost?

Top sports management programs typically require 30-45 credits. Tuition and fees commonly range from $270/credit on the low end to $1,500/credit on the high end. This means your sports management degree may cost anywhere from $8,000-$45,000, depending on the school you select.

Factors that affect attendance cost include school prestige, program format, school type, and student residency status. Prestigious private schools typically charge the highest per-credit cost, while the cheapest rates apply to in-state students who enroll at a public university. While online and on-campus programs typically charge the same tuition, remote learners often save hundreds on campus-based fees and commuting costs.

To help reduce the cost of your degree, take advantage of any scholarships, grants, or fellowships available to you. Unlike loans, these types of financial aid do not require repayment after graduation.


Choosing the Right Sports Management Graduate Program

A rankings list offers a great starting point for your degree search, but choosing the right program requires carefully considering other factors, too.

Accreditation perhaps carries the most weight. Regional or national accreditation ensures that the university and its academic programs meet certain third-party standards. Sports management master’s degrees may hold additional programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation.

Other important factors to consider include faculty credentials, available concentrations, and program cost. Consider selecting a program that offers a concentration in the area of sports management that most interests you.

The best college professors hold advanced degrees and significant real-world experience in the field they teach. Before committing to a program, take a look at the school’s faculty page to review credentials.

Sports management master’s degrees involve a significant financial investment, making it important to consider your current budget and future salary expectations when choosing your preferred school.

What is accreditation and why does it matter?

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

In recent years, online education flourished in popularity and prevalence. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 30% of post-baccalaureate college students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses in fall 2018. An additional 9% enrolled in at least some distance education that same semester.

While components such as internships require in-person participation, the majority of a master’s in sports management lends itself to remote learning. To determine whether an online sports management degree is right for you, first consider your learning style and home environment.

The majority of a master’s in sports management lends itself to remote learning.

Learning remotely without set class times requires a great deal of independent study, time management skill, and written communication between professors and peers. This approach works best for responsible and self-motivated learners.

Similarly, online learning requires that you supply your own “classroom.” Before choosing an online degree, make sure you have reliable access to a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can study.


Frequently Asked Questions

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

    Some schools offer sports management bachelor’s degrees. If you plan to earn a master’s in sports management, however, you may want to consider a complementary discipline for your undergraduate major such as business, marketing, or media studies.

  • Is a sports management master's worth it?

    Although sports management professionals do not necessarily need a graduate degree in order to find work, completing a sports management master’s may enable you to pursue positions with greater responsibility and higher salaries.

  • How long does it take to finish a sports management graduate program?

    Like most master’s degrees, completing a sports management graduate program typically takes two years of full-time study. Some schools offer part-time and accelerated scheduling options.

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

    Professionals with a sports management master’s degree hold advanced skills in marketing, business management, and finance. They can pursue administrative careers in professional, nonprofit, collegiate, and high school athletics.

  • What careers are in sports management?

    Sports management careers support the operations of athletes, teams, events, and sports agencies. Examples include event coordinator, personnel and team manager, financial manager, and public relations manager.


2021’s Best Sports Management Master’s Programs

  1. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university in Gainesville, UF's College of Health and Human Performance offers a master of science in sport management. Students can choose between a thesis track or a non-thesis track with a comprehensive examination. The school offers the coursework either on campus or online.

    Students begin with two research courses: evaluation procedures in health and human performance and research procedures in health and human performance. From there, participants complete core requirements, including sport psychology, sport marketing, management and leadership in sports, and issues in sports law. Non-thesis track students must also take 15 credits of electives, working with their advisor to decide the best courses to take.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. The school does not require students to submit standardized test scores.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Orlando, UCF offers a master of sport business management. Students may also opt to pursue a master of business administration to receive both degrees in less time.

    Students begin with professional core coursework, including organizational behavior and development, strategic supply chain and operations management, managerial accounting analysis, and applied business research tools. Sport management required courses include moral and ethical issues in sports, diversity and social issues in sports management, and strategic sports marketing. Students must also complete an internship — a full-time, semester-long partnership with an approved sports organization.

    UCF accepts admissions on a rolling basis with four yearly start dates. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to qualify for admission. The school also requires students to possess competitive GMAT or GRE scores.

    UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Texas A&M University
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in College Station, Texas A&M offers a master of science in sport management. Students can complete the coursework either online or on campus and choose between a thesis or non-thesis track.

    The program starts with research core courses, including research methods for sports organizations and theory and research sport management statistics. Sport management requirements include management of sport organizations, financial management in sports, ethics in sports organizations, and sport media and communications. Students must also participate in an internship at an approved location and a practicum to prepare for the internship.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a competitive GPA to qualify for admission. The school does not require students to submit GRE scores.

    Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    Location

    Minneapolis, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Minneapolis, UMN offers a master of arts in sport management with either a thesis or capstone project option. Students complete 36 credits and finish with an oral comprehensive exam.

    Participants take sports management requirements such as programming and promotion in sports, sports management ethics and policy, organization and management of physical education and sports, and legal aspects of sports recreation. Students also complete research prep courses in preparation for the capstone or thesis requirement. Notable courses include introductory statistics methods and research methodology in kinesiology and sports management. Students must take ten credits of electives, including sports and gender and strategic marketing.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and possess competitive GMAT (33 math, 44 quantitative, 5.0 writing) or GRE (153 both sections, 4.5 writing) scores to qualify for admission.

    UMN is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Amherst, UMass Amherst offers a master of science in sport management. Students can also choose to pursue a dual degree combining the master of science with a master of business administration (MBA).

    Students begin the 35-credit program with sport management required courses, including sports marketing, sports finance and business, socio-historical foundations of modern sports, and organizational behavior and development. Learners complete 12 credits in electives. A summer internship allows students to gain real-world experience and mentorship from those working in the field. Participants may also opt into an independent study with a proposal and director approval.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 to qualify for admission. The school prefers GMAT scores, but students can submit GRE scores as well (waived through 2021). UMass Amherst is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

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