The rapidly developing sports industry has grown into a booming $200 billion business. As a result, there’s a high demand for sports business-trained professionals and innovative academic research. For aspiring academics with a passion for sports, opportunities abound.
Earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management can launch your career as a professor or sports management executive. You’ll expand your skills and knowledge, develop your critical thinking skills, and gain hands-on research experience.
To simplify this process, we’ve put together a list of the ten best PhD in Sports Management programs in the nation. Earning a degree from any one of these programs will prepare you to be an efficient, effective leader in the emerging field of sports management.
What kind of PhD in Sports Management should you get?
Depending on your career goals, you may want to choose a PhD in Sports Management that allows you to declare a specialization. Either way, you should have an idea of what type of research you’d like to pursue. Most programs expect you to have an area of interest that drives your research and shapes the elective courses you take. These may include marketing, legal issues, social issues, finance, and so on.
Although the majority of PhD programs are on campus, it’s possible to find programs online too. Online programs offer the advantage of flexibility, allowing you to learn any time from anywhere. Another option, unless your goal is to become a professor, is to earn your master’s degree. If you’re interested in earning a master’s in Sports Management, check out our list of the Best Online Master’s in Sports Management.
How much money do people make with a PhD in Sports Management?
As with any degree, the salary you earn will depend on what career you choose to pursue. Here are potential careers and their median salaries, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Sports Agent $64,940
- Postsecondary Teacher: $76,000
- Marketing Director: $129,380
For each of these jobs, you can earn a much higher salary with years of experience and a track record of success. Some college professors, for instance, earn over $130,000 a year. In addition, each of the careers listed above are growing much faster than average, just like the sports industry itself.
What can you do with a PhD in Sports Management?
With a PhD in Sports Management you can become a professor, manage a team, manage individual athletes, or become a marketing director for an amateur or professional team.
For many of these sports management positions, a master’s degree will suffice. However, earning a PhD can potentially help you secure executive positions and may result in a better salary. If your goal is to be a college professor in the sports management field, a doctorate will be required.
What are the requirements for a PhD in Sports Management?
To earn a PhD in Sports Management, a master’s degree may or may not be required. In many programs, you will earn your master’s en route to the PhD. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree. You will need to submit test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and often a personal statement or letter of interest.
The length of time it will take to complete the programs on this list varies. Expect to spend at least three years earning your doctorate. You will take courses related to sports management, research, and statistics. You will likely also take courses in a chosen area of interest. In addition, you will complete a dissertation. Other potential requirements include a comprehensive examination and a portfolio.
What are the best PhDs in Sports Management?
The ten programs listed below are the best PhDs in Sports Management. To compile this list, we’ve evaluated school reputation, accreditation, tuition costs, and return on investment. Our data comes from trusted sources, including:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. News and World Report
- Princeton Review
- Official college and university websites and course catalogs
Pursuing a doctorate degree is a substantial investment. By choosing one of the ten programs on this list, you’ll invest your time and money wisely.
See our rankings methodology page.
Florida State University
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $16,450
Located in Tallahassee, Florida, Florida State is ranked No. 26 in U.S. News and World Report’s list of the nation’s best public universities. It’s also a “Best Value” university and boasts several highly ranked programs. Dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, creative endeavors, and service, FSU offers a wide range of top-notch programs, including a PhD in Sport Management.
FSU’s doctoral program in Sport Management emphasizes legal and policy issues, sport marketing, sport media and culture studies, and management. Candidates learn about the philosophy of inquiry and develop their own personal philosophy of inquiry. They develop the tools needed to use qualitative and quantitative analysis tools. Courses include:
- Globalization, Development, and Sport
- Advanced Law and Sport
- Political Economy of Play
- Sport Marketing
- Applied Statistics in Sport Management
Applicants must have a master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. GRE scores, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose are also required. Candidates in the doctoral program choose an area of research interest and defend a dissertation. Once admitted to the program, students must be continuously enrolled in dissertation credits, earning a minimum of 24 hours.
University of Michigan
College Choice Score: 97.76
Average Net Price: $16,408
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is one of the world’s top research universities. It’s ranked No. 4 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the nation’s top public universities and has 97 graduate programs in the Top 10. Ann Arbor is consistently named one of the nation’s best college towns. UM enrolls over 46,000 students and offers more than 275 degree programs. One of these world-class programs is a PhD in Sport Management.
The PhD in Sport Management program develops scholarly and research skills and culminates in a doctoral dissertation. All candidates work closely with a faculty advisor from the start of the program. The program is designed for students who plan to work in sport management or allied fields as scholars, teachers, researchers, and professionals. Courses vary according to individual goals, but options include:
- Marketing Management for the Sport Industry
- Theory of Sport and Consumer Behavior
- Managing a Professional Sport Franchise
- Financial Management for the Sport Industry
- Strategic Management in Sport
In addition to internationally recognized faculty advisors, students work with a Guidance Committee, Qualifying Examination Committee, and a Dissertation Committee who provide advice and evaluate progress throughout the program. Funding is available through fellowships, graduate teaching assistantships, and research assistantships.
Indiana University Bloomington
College Choice Score: 95.51
Average Net Price: $12,488
Founded in 1820, Indiana University Bloomington is the flagship of the seven-campus Indiana University System. Over 43,000 students choose from a diverse selection of more than 550 academic programs, many of them highly ranked. Even the town of Bloomington is ranked – as one of the nation’s smartest towns, one of the best college towns, and the best town for work-life balance. IU Bloomington offers a Sport Management doctoral program from the School of Public Health.
IU Bloomington’s Doctor of Philosophy in Human Performance with an emphasis in Sport Management was founded in response to a demand for researchers and professors in the sport management field. Students develop critical thinking, research, and teaching skills needed to succeed in academia. Courses are research intensive and arranged as follows:
- Research Skills (9 credits minimum)
- Major Area of Study (30 credits minimum)
- Minor Area of Study (9 credits minimum)
- Electives (0 to 28 credits)
- Dissertation (20-30 credits)
A minimum of 90 post-bachelor’s degree credits are required, with a 3.0 GPA or higher required for graduation. Students must earn a B or better in all research skills courses and a C or better in all other courses required for the degree. Students explore a wide variety of interests within the sport management field, including business, history, and communication.
University of Connecticut
College Choice Score: 95.50
Average Net Price: $18,699
The University of Connecticut is a public research university in Storrs, Connecticut and was founded in 1881. UConn enrolls more than 32,000 students and is ranked among the top 25 public universities nationwide. A standout in Division I athletics and in research, UConn is driven by a culture of innovation. The university offers a wide variety of academic resources, enrichment opportunities, and degree programs, including a PhD in Sport Management.
UConn’s Sport Management doctoral program is a concentration within the Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy Program. The program blends classroom, research, and field experiences to prepare sport industry leaders in any area. It emphasizes sport as a vehicle for positive social outcomes. Candidates complete courses like:
- Organizational Theory in Sport
- Organizational Behavior in Sport
- Current Research in Sport Management
- Advanced Methods of Qualitative Research
- Construction of Evaluative Instruments
Candidates construct theoretical models and critically examine important questions in sport through rigorous research methodologies. They prepare to work in and with complex institutions of higher education and sport organizations. Students may take cognate courses in finance, management, marketing, psychology, and more. Doctoral dissertation research is required.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
College Choice Score: 94.84
Average Net Price: $21,281
UMass Amherst enrolls 30,593 students and offers 230 degree programs across nine schools and colleges. Founded in 1863, the school is New England’s largest public research university. It is distinguished by the excellence and breadth of its programs in community outreach, research, and academics. One option is a PhD in Sport Management.
The PhD in Sport Management is offered through UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. It’s designed for students interested in the convergence of business and sport who want to work in academia. Students take 48 hours of coursework and typically finish the degree in 4-5 years. Over the course of the program, students find their research niche while becoming leading academics and scholars in the sport management field. Areas of study include:
- Sport Marketing
- Sport Consumer Behavior
- Sport Organizational Theory & Behavior
- Sport Finance
- Sport Sociology
Candidates study research methods and apply advanced business knowledge to sport subject matter. Coursework is customized to suit the individual’s research interests. All candidates complete three years of teaching at Isenberg and research, write, and defend a dissertation. The program boasts renowned faculty, a low student-faculty ratio, and strong ties to sport industry leaders.
University of Arkansas
College Choice Score: 93.11
Average Net Price: $15,966
The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is a top public research university founded in 1871 as the flagship of the University of Arkansas System. With an enrollment of more than 27,000 students, it’s the largest university in the state. Overlooking the Ozark Mountains, U of A is a short drive from some of the nation’s best hiking trails and outdoor amenities. One of U of A’s 200 student-first academic programs is a PhD in Sport Management.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport and Exercise Science with a Recreation and Sport Management concentration prepares teachers, researchers, and leaders in recreation and sport management in university settings. Students complete core courses, concentration courses, and elective and cognate courses. These courses include:
- Statistics in Education and Health Professions
- Directed Reading in Recreation and Sport
- Issues in Recreation, Exercise Science, and Sport Management
- Management in Recreation, Exercise Science, and Sport
Students also complete independent research projects and a dissertation. In total, 96 credits are required for completion of the degree. Doctoral applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a resume, transcripts, and a statement of interest. The applicant should identify an appropriate faculty mentor based on research interests.
The Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 92.46
Average Net Price: $18,042
Ohio’s highest-ranked public university, The Ohio State University in Columbus is also one of the Top 20 public universities nationwide. OSU offers more than 200 academic programs, and 11 of its graduate programs are nationally ranked. The spirited school enrolls more than 67,000 students. OSU boasts excellent entertainment for lovers of history, art, food, and sports. For those with an interest in sports, OSU also offers a PhD in Sport Management.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sport Management has a 40-year reputation for equipping students for successful academic and professional careers. Candidates master their research skills and have the flexibility to customize their studies. The curriculum consists of core requirements, research core, specialization requirements, and a dissertation. Courses include:
- Sport Marketing
- Understanding Sport Consumers: Theoretical Perspectives
- Theoretical Approaches to Sport Organizations
- Colloquium in Sport Management
- Advanced Research Methods
Doctoral candidates receive personalized one-on-one support from internationally renowned faculty members. Students complete a minimum of 57 program hours, including three department core courses, three research core courses, 27 hours of specialization courses, a six-hour dissertation requirement, and a six-hour breadth requirement. These are courses that extend the breadth of disciplinary knowledge and are selected in consultation with an advisor.
College Choice Score: 89.65
Average Net Price: $12,146
A public university based in Troy, Alabama, Troy University was founded in 1887 as a teacher’s college and has grown to serve more than 18,000 students and offer over 260 academic programs. TU has additional campuses in Dothan, Phenix City, and Montgomery. The university offers a PhD in Sport Management.
Troy’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sport Management program hones student’s analytical, statistical, critical thinking, and research-based skills. It prepares candidates to work in higher education or in leadership roles in the sport management industry. The degree program focuses on comprehension and analysis of contemporary, theoretical, and applied concepts in the field through courses like:
- Seminar in Sport Marketing
- Seminar in Organizational Behavior and Leadership
- Seminar in Sport Management Pedagogy
- Seminar in Applied Statistics in Sport Management
- Seminar in Legal Aspects of Sport
Troy’s program is flexible and customizable through areas of specialized coursework and doctoral seminars. Students complete core coursework, research and statistics requirements, and 12 credits in a chosen area of specialization. A comprehensive exam and dissertation are required, and students may finish the program in as little as three years.
Louisiana State University
College Choice Score: 88.27
Average Net Price: $19,224
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge is a public research university founded in 1853. The flagship university of Louisiana, LSU is known for its affordable programs, excellent return on investment, and spirited student body. Nicknamed Death Valley, the football stadium of the LSU Tigers has recorded noise levels as high as 130 decibels. With LSU’s top-notch faculty, noted ROI, and clear passion for sports, the university is a great place to earn your Doctor of Philosophy in Sport Management.
LSU offers a 77-credit Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology with a specialization in Sport Management. The degree prepares students for careers in academia by providing an interdisciplinary approach that centers on the student’s research interests and career goals. The curriculum consists of sport management courses, independent studies, mentoring opportunities, and electives (cognate area). Courses include:
- Organizational Behavior and Development in Sport
- Social Issues in Sport
- Financial Issues in Sport
- Governance and Policy Management in Sport
- Legal Issues in Sport
Applicants must submit GRE and/or GMAT scores, a research statement, letter of interest, resume, and three letters of recommendation. A dissertation is required. Students have the unique opportunity to teach lecture courses in the undergraduate Sport Administration program, gaining real-world experience in academia.
United States Sports Academy
College Choice Score: 77.72
Average Net Price: Not reported
A sport-specific institution in Daphne, Alabama, the United States Sports Academy was founded in 1972 to prepare students for careers in the continuously expanding sports industry. The Academy awards degrees at all levels, and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend the school to others. The first and only of its kind in the United States, the USSA provides sports-focused instruction, research support, and partnerships with professional organizations. One degree option is a Doctor of Education in Sports Management.
The Academy’s Doctor of Education in Sports Management is a 66-semester-hour program. Students select a specialization in Leadership, Marketing, or Human Resource Management. Candidates become effective leaders in the sports management industry by taking courses such as:
- Effective Governance to Combat Corruption in Sports
- Psychology of Elite Performance
- Contemporary Issues in Sports
- Structure and Function of Professional and Amateur Sports Organizations
- Sports Marketing Research
Students also complete directed individualized study, a doctoral degree mentorship, a doctoral portfolio, and a dissertation. Program graduates are professors, private sport entrepreneurs, and athletic directors at the university level.