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There's a lot more to the sports industry than what we see on the field. Managers, planners, promoters, and financial professionals coordinate business operations as they relate to sport, all of which is covered in a sports management degree.
With an online college degree in sports management, you have the leadership and business knowledge to take on managerial roles in athletics, fitness, and recreation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in entertainment and sports occupations are projected to add more than 160,000 new positions by 2030.
We've ranked our top picks for online sports management degrees to help you find the program that works for you.
The best online bachelor's in sports management degrees
ZDnet's ranking methodology takes numerous factors into consideration for assessing sports management programs. We've looked at cost, convenience, and curricula to identify the best online sports management degrees.
About the program: A Christ-centered institution, Shorter's 120-credit hour online sports management bachelor's degree holds specialized accreditation through the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA).
About the program: Troy's online bachelor's degree in hospitality, sport, and tourism management within an emphasis in sport management includes practicum and multiple internship requirements.
Acceptance rate: 88%
Graduation rate: 33%
Annual net price: $14,285
Years to completion: Four
SAT range: 930-1090
Minimum GPA: 2.5
Enrollment periods per year: Five
Course delivery method: Asynchronous
10. Colorado Mesa University
Grand Junction, Colorado
About the program: CMU's online sports management degree focuses on planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating events and projects within sports and fitness organizations.
Acceptance rate: 78%
Graduation rate: 35%
Annual net price: $15,569
Years to completion: Four
SAT range: 910-1170
Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
Course delivery method: Asynchronous
11. Missouri Baptist University
About the program: MBU's comprehensive online sports management degree integrates Chriistian faith into its 120-credit-hour curriculum to equip students to lead within sports-related organizations and businesses.
Maggie Vlasaty attended the University of Minnesota, during which she held internships and jobs with the Gophers marketing department, Minnesota United FC, Minnesota Twins, Timberwolves, and Wild. She gained experience in leadership and event planning by aiding major events like the Men's Basketball Final Four in 2019 and the Super Bowl in 2018.
As president of the Sport Management Association, she grew relationships between sports industry professionals and aspiring sport management students while building partnerships for the club with major brands. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Maggie was furloughed and shifted her sights to a high-experience role with a boutique agency called One Simple Plan.
As a marketing associate, she is a contract social media specialist for Uncommon Sports Group and Authentic Athletic Apparel.
ZDNet: Was there anything about your sports management degree program that you didn't expect or anticipate?
Maggie Vlasaty: I did not expect to gain so much experience in the sports industry while still in school. That's one thing that you don't see often with other degrees is the amount of actual, tangible, hands-on experience that sports management students leave school with. Combined, I gained about 6.5 years of experience through multiple internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer work before graduating. I compare that to other business-related degrees and students I know who took that route, and there is a huge difference.
ZDNet: What were the greatest takeaways from your sports management degree that helped you to be successful in your career?
MV: The greatest takeaway for me was to continue to be, or strive to be, humble. Many times I struggled to keep a sound mind when it came to my school work, especially when I started to do more hours with internships and work. I would think to myself, "Do I really need to be taking this test seriously? I already have a part-time job in the industry; how much can school really matter?"
A lot of times, that kind of thinking caused me to develop a negative attitude towards school, which reflected onto my classmates and my grades. The reality is, your experience at work and pursuing your degree work hand in hand. Without one, there is no reality of the other in the long run.
ZDNet: What misconceptions do people have about this degree, and what would you tell them?
MV: When I became president of the Sport Management Association at my university and would greet incoming members to the group, we would always ask "Why do you want to pursue this career path and what do you hope to do?" The answers, many times, revolved around being close with the coaches and athletes in some capacity, or that the student had a love for sports.
While I appreciate the honesty with this answer, many times it frightened me for the reality that these students would eventually face. The sports industry is not an easy one to get into and stay in. The amount of interaction with coaches and athletes is actually quite low, depending on your role, and as a professional many times that interaction does not turn into a relationship that is substantial to what I would assume these students are hoping for. What I would tell these students is that there is a drive that many sports industry professionals have, and that drive is powered by hard work, hustle, competition, and true passion.
I'm not talking about passion for basketball or for your favorite quarterback. The passion I'm referring to is something that wakes you up to go to work seven days a week at times and miss holidays, birthdays, parties, etc. It's a passion that keeps you with your organization, even if they are the worst in their division. It's something that should never be described with "sports fan," it's much bigger and much more complicated than that.
What to expect in an online bachelor's in sports management degree program
Online sports management bachelor's degrees integrate lecture coursework with collaborative, project-based activities. They require dedication, proactivity, and initiative.
Students complete general education classes alongside courses in finance, marketing, and management as they relate to the world of sport. Courses in communications and technology, sports law, and administration and organization often accompany an internship or practicum.
Like any online bachelor's degree, a sports management program requires learners to actively take part in assignments and activities. The exciting and energetic world of sports and recreation provides opportunities for students to work with classmates, teams and clubs, and members of their communities alike.
Sports management courses
Sports management coursework varies by program, but core classes remain consistent across the curriculum. To provide learners with foundational knowledge and fundamental skills, sports management students study topics like sports history, advertising and promotions, event planning, and facility management.
Sports history looks at the role sports have played from the ancient world through modernity. Learners look at cultural and social aspects of physical activity, sport, and recreation, how they have shaped and influenced identities, and the emergence of sports organizations.
Advertising and promotions
Coursework in advertising and promotions teaches students to apply marketing and communication principles and practices to real-world situations. Learners also explore regulation and ethics of advertising, budgeting for advertising and promotions, and creative development.
A class in event planning walks learners through the stages of putting on an event, game, or comparable activity. Students explore topics such as site selection, funding, event staffing, and security. By systematically working through the planning process, learners often oversee an actual event from start to finish.
Sports and recreation facility management
Sports and recreation facility management coursework introduces students to managerial principles and practices as they relate to arenas, fitness centers, outdoor venues, and similar locations. Topics include crowd management, budgeting, building maintenance, and concessions and ticketing.
Sports management degree levels
Students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports management that meet their educational experience and professional goals. Associate and bachelor's sports management degrees prepare learners for entry-level positions in the sports and recreation industry. Graduate programs lead to leadership and managerial roles in sports and recreation environments.
Associate in sports management
Length: Two years
Cost: $3,000 to $40,000
Post-grad careers: Sports event planner, facility manager, sports team manager
An associate degree in sports management introduces students to topics like sport sociology, administration, and public relations. Students gain essential understanding of the sports industry while honing the communication, analytical, and crucial-thinking skills to work in sports and recreation.
Many of the courses in an associate degree in sports management integrate experiential activities. With an associate degree, learners can continue onto a bachelor's program in the discipline.
Bachelor's in sports management
Length: Two years
Cost: $12,000 to $100,000
Post-grad careers: Public relations manager, athletic director, sports marketing specialist
Bachelor's degrees in sports management teach learners about finance, management, marketing, and event management as they relate to the world of sports, physical activity, and recreation.
Over the course of four years, learners gain insight into the working parts of the sports industry. This culminates in an internship where students apply theoretical knowledge to real-world settings.
With a bachelor's in sports management, individuals possess abilities to work as marketing and managerial professionals in sports business. The comprehensive curriculum also prepares students to earn a master's degree in sports management or a related subject.
Master's in sports management
Length: Two years
Cost: $16,000 to $60,000
Post-grad careers: Media relations director, facilities director, general manager
Depending on the type of sports a student wants to explore, degree options include a master of business administration in sports management, a master of education in sports administration, and a master of science in sports management. Across the board, these programs emphasize leadership in the sports settings.
Master's degrees integrate classroom content with research and practical requirements. Coursework includes sports analytics, leadership theory and application in sports organizations, and technology in sport. Students take part in an internship, a comprehensive project, or a research project as part of a culminating exercise.
Doctorate in sports management
Length: Three to seven years
Cost: $20,000 to $100,000
Post-grad careers: Sports management professor, marketing director, entrepreneur
A doctorate in sports management typically emphasizes research and theory in the sports industry. Courses in contemporary sport, sports economics, and sociology of sport provide students with a foundation to undertake a research project about an issue in the world of sport. Qualitative and quantitative research coursework builds analytical, statistical, and critical -thinking skills.
Doctoral degrees in sports management often lead to a position teaching at a college or university. With a doctorate in sports management, individuals can also pursue executive roles with sports businesses and organizations.
A degree in sports management builds comprehensive skills to work across the sports industry. Whether you're interested in athletic administration, sports marketing and promotions, or sports-related research, a sports management degree can help.
The information above introduces you to our top picks for sports management degrees. Check them out and find out which one is right for you.