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Complete Guide to a Sports Management Degree Online

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: There is no programmatic accreditation for this degree.
Available Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate, Certificate
Avg Tuition: $20,838
Certification: Available, but not required
Avg Salary: $68,109
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A degree in sports management is a great option for students who are passionate about sports and also have an aptitude for business. Graduates from online sports management programs can pursue careers as program directors at the community level, such as business managers, fitness managers, or coaches, or they may work for major league or college-level sports organizations.

When considering a sports management degree online, it's important to verify that it's being offered by a reputable college or university. The US Department of Education maintains a database of schools that have received accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency. This designation is required if you are planning to apply for federal financial aid and ensures  quality education. Sports Management degrees are available at the Undergraduate and Graduate level. The curriculum for this degree will also include courses in sports event planning, sports law, and sports event marketing. Read More

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Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Sports Management Degree

Overview of Available Online Sports Management Degrees

Online sports management degrees are offered at the certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degree levels. Students enrolled in an associate or bachelor's sports management program will take a certain number of general education courses, as well as accounting, statistics, and general marketing.

The master's degree curriculum focuses on the business of sports. Students take courses in subjects focusing on sports event management, globalization of sport, and labor relations pertaining to the industry. Sport and society, sport marketing, and research methods are other topics that may be covered at this level of study.

Doctorate courses include such topics as the Olympics, collegiate sports, statistics, and research methods. Courses in sports marketing, ethics, and entrepreneurship may also be offered. The program will also include formal instruction in researching, writing, and defending a dissertation. Sports management certificate programs often focus on event marketing and sports business. Other course offerings may include media relations in sports, law and sports management, or other business and sports-related topics.

Online Associate Degrees in Sports Management

An associate degree in sports management can help you become an effective leader who is influential in promoting the well-being of others. This program is offered at many community colleges, as well as distance learning schools. Students are expected to commit to 18 months to 2 years of full-time study and fulfill 60 to 64 credit hours. Those with a high school diploma or equivalent are typically eligible for enrollment, although many schools prefer applicants with high standardized test scores and grade point averages.

Students in sports management associate degree programs learn leadership skills, problem-solving methods, and essential business knowledge in sports-related fields. They explore a wealth of subjects, such as advertising, public relations, computer technology, product promotion, and business law. Additional core topics include psychology, sociology, physical education leadership, accounting, marketing, introduction to sports management, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. Some schools include an internship requirement to give students hands-on experience.

Graduates of associate degree programs in this field usually enter the workforce as facilities managers, purchasing agents, community recreation leaders, account sales representatives, advertisers, and public relations specialists.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Sports Management

Sports management bachelor's degree programs equip students with business skills and sports management strategies for working in the sports industry. Areas of emphasis during training include budgeting, controlling, directing, evaluating, organizing, and planning of sport or physical activity. Admission requirements usually include a high school diploma or GED, along with acceptable college entrance exam scores. Students are required to earn 120 to 130 credits, which takes approximately four years.

Programs generally comprise of general education courses, core courses, and electives. Core coursework covers areas such as economics, facility and event management, finance, leadership in sports, legal and ethical issues, marketing principles, media and sport, sociology of sport, sport and exercise science, sport governance, sport information management, sport psychology, and strategic sport management. Electives may include athletic coaching, broadcasting, business administration, and facility and event management. Bachelor's programs usually require students to complete an internship in order to gain firsthand experience of the field.

Career opportunities for program graduates include broadcasting and media relations, collegiate athletics, retail sales, sport facility and event management, sports marketing and sales, and sport tourism. Students are prepared for careers in various sports-related settings such as college and university athletic departments, community recreation agencies, country clubs, golf courses, health and fitness centers, media houses, resorts, sport broadcasting venues, sport marketing agencies, and theme parks.

Job titles for professionals with a bachelor's degree include athletic coach, director of athletics, director of stadium operations, fitness club manager, media relations specialist, sports agent, sportscaster, sports event coordinator, sports information director, sports league director, and sports sales representative.

Online Master's Degrees in Sports Management

The average applicant to a sports management master's degree program has a bachelor's degree (often in business, sports medicine, communications, or a related field), and a strong background in athletics. Applicants will often be asked to submit a resume detailing their experience in the sports management field or a personal statement explaining why they are drawn to the field.

Completing a sports management master's degree can take from one to three years, depending on the structure of the program and the commitment of the student. Most schools offer sports management as a concentration within their MBA program.

Sports management students will learn about the general structure of collegiate and professional sports. They will study recruiting, rules and regulations, marketing sports teams, team contracts, player contracts, and athletics finance. Many students complete either a thesis on a topic of their choosing or a related cumulative project that showcases what they have learned and trains them to apply it in the real sports management world. Those who are studying sports management in a school of business will probably be required to satisfy general business course requirements in addition to their specialized courses.

Sports management is a very competitive arena, but having a master's degree in sports management can make a candidate stand out. Often, people start out in entry-level management positions in collegiate sports and work their way up over the years, leveraging their connections to find new opportunities. Having a sports background and either volunteer or professional experience is key. Managers sometimes work in high schools maintaining and ordering equipment, creating schedules, keeping tabs on players, securing funding, processing legal paperwork, and marketing their sporting events.

Online Doctorate Degrees in Sports Management

Doctoral programs in sports management allow students to build a solid knowledge base in sport theory and management practices. Programs also allow students to build competencies in statistics and research methods. Prerequisites may include management theory and marketing principles, which students are expected to have taken at the graduate level. Doctoral students are required to earn 65 to 75 credits, which takes approximately three years.

Sports management doctoral programs comprise of a high level of theory and research. The coursework allows students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the historical aspects of sport and exercise. Students also engage in analyses of the physiological and psychological aspects of sport. Areas covered by core coursework include ethics in sports, facility management, human resources in sport, legal issues, marketing research, organizational behavior in sport, public relations and sales, special event management, sport and globalization, sport consumer behavior, sport development, sport economics, sport finance, sport marketing, and sport policy.

Doctorate programs offer students various cognate areas for career specialization. This may include consumer behavior, educational administration, management, marketing, and public policy. Doctoral programs usually require students to take a comprehensive exam after the completion of coursework. Passing the exam qualifies students to work on a dissertation, which is based on independent research. Students are also required to engage in a public defense of the dissertation.

Doctorates in sports management prepare students for careers in various areas of sports such as consulting, management, marketing, and research. Graduates can also pursue careers in education, physical fitness, and wellness. Work settings for doctoral graduates include colleges, research institutions, sports agencies, sports facilities, and universities.

Online Certificate Programs in Sports Management

The certificate in sports management is a graduate-level program covering the economic, management, and business aspects of organized and commercial sports. These programs are typically offered through business schools and university extension programs and consist of 6 to 10 courses. Most programs require an accredited undergraduate degree. Some programs cover a broad variety of topics related to sports management, while others specialize in a particular sports area, such as sports in higher education or recreation management.

The curriculum in the sports management certificate helps students understand the roles and requirements of leadership positions in the sports and recreation industry. The particular aspects of sports management discussed will vary by program. One common required course, the principles of sports governance, looks at the management systems used within different types of sport. A course in intercollegiate athletics discusses legal issues of sports equity and management issues in collegiate athletics. Other common courses include sports law, sports marketing, and fiscal management. Most programs include a set core of classes and allow students to choose electives to tailor the certificate for their professional interests.

The sports management certificate is great preparation for business roles in sport. Graduates may go on to become marketing or public relations specialists in sport and recreation settings; other options include program director positions in high school sports departments or local government parks and recreation offices.

Accreditation

Accreditation is an official designation given to either a school or a specific program within a school after it has been evaluated and reviewed by an independent accrediting agency. It may be granted either in the form of institutional accreditation, where an entire school and all of its programs are considered to be accredited, or in the form of programmatic accreditation, where one specific discipline or program receives accreditation.

At this time, the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) do not officially recognize any agencies that provide programmatic accreditation to any sports management degree programs. Instead, students are advised to choose a sports management degree program that is offered by a school that has received institutional accreditation. You can verify a school's accreditation by checking one of the databases offered by either USDE or CHEA.

While attending an accredited school isn't mandatory, doing so will enable you to transfer credits to other accredited schools, utilize any federal financial aid that might be available to you, and have the best possible chances of having a potential employer recognize your academic qualifications.

Common Courses in Sports Management

Through the study of sports management, students learn the intricacies, psychology, and business dynamics of sports. Sports management is about analyzing the business aspects of sports and the ways to make it an enjoyable, profitable, and beneficial to its stakeholders. Becoming acquainted with all those involved in the sporting business, and then bringing them together to work as one cohesive unit, will be the at the core of a sports manager's goals. Courses that will be essential for sports management students include the following:

Business Courses

  • Accounting: Here one will learn the nuances of accounting as they relate to the sports management professional, such as ticket sales and facility expenses.
  • Economics: Sports economics will focus on the bigger picture and how one theorizes the business aspect of sports management.
  • Marketing: This course will educate on how to promote your product in sports management, whether that is yourself as a sports agent, your team or athlete, or your program.
  • Sports Finance: This course will teach one how to fund certain sporting projects.

Interdisciplinary Courses

  • Communications: As sports management involves talking to and working with people in a variety of positions and with a variety of backgrounds, a foundation in communications will prove helpful.
  • Computer Applications: As we are in the age of information technology, one will be required to be well-versed in computer applications, regardless of the discipline.
  • Psychology: This is a general course that will help a sports management professional consider different psychological perspectives when analyzing sports-related matters.
  • Sports Law: There are laws and codes of ethics specific to athletics.

Sport-Focused Courses

  • Inscholastic, Intercollegiate, and Professional Sports: This is a more detailed course for those looking into a specific field within sports.
  • Sports in Culture: This course pertains to the history of sports and its impact on society; there are both social and psychological elements to this course.
  • Sports Ethics: Here one will also deal with psychology and philosophy in sports; this may vary depending on which region one is looking to study and work in.
  • Sports Information: This is a general course on the basics of sports and how it works, which is essential to any sports management professional.

Career Opportunities for Sports Management Graduates

There are myriad jobs in the sports management field; directing and management positions are two of the most prevalent. Sports agenting is perhaps the most popular subprofession in the sports management field, but there are plenty of other jobs to choose from.

Director Positions

  • Athletic Director: This position calls for a general understanding of athletics and logistics. Depending on the program one is working with, different levels of familiarity with college, high school, and other programs will be required.
  • Compliance Director: This director will ensure that their program or organization is up to standards on working conditions, safety, business practices, etc.
  • Corporate Sales Director: This position requires a higher degree of knowledge in the business field and familiarity with corporations, especially those that deal with sporting aspects.
  • Director of Ticketing and Finance: This is strictly the business side of sports, like dealing with ticket sales and accounting for them.
  • Intramural Director of Campus Recreation: This job will require one to work at a university with students playing intramural sports. Management will be key to this job, as there are thousands of students that play intramural sports every term.
  • Marketing and Promotion Director: A synthesis of business savvy and communications skills are vital to this position, which involves bringing good publicity to your athlete, team, or organization.
  • Program Directors in Community Sport Programs: A nuanced knowledge of youth sporting dynamics, propensity for community advocacy, and a passion for public service will be important in this position.

Management Positions

  • Event Management: You will coordinate various sporting and promotional events.
  • Athletic Business Manager: This is essentially a business management position; it deals with athletics in general, from high school boosters to the economics of college sports.
  • Fitness Manager: This deals with aspects of managing recreation centers and other fitness venues.
  • Promotions Management: A professional in this position will be in charge of coordinating the promotional campaign of a sporting program.

Sports Agent

Sports agenting is a field that stands out in sports management, both because of how well many sports agents are known in professional sports and how competitive the field is. Sports agent are responsible for building their reputation through honest yet persuasive business practices and a good work ethic. Being in constant contact with sporting organizations, corporations, and other institutions is a given in this position. Expect to work many hours, but receive generous compensation.

Other Positions

  • Academic service representative for student athletics
  • Athletic director
  • Facilities coordinator
  • Talent scout
  • PR and community relations specialist
  • Publicist
  • Salary cap analyst
  • Sporting goods sales representative
  • Sports marketer

References

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