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The Best Bachelor’s Degrees in Sports Management

Date Updated: November 3, 2020

Earning a sports management degree opens the door to exciting careers in the sports industry and beyond. Students qualify for entry-level positions with sports organizations and gain general business skills applicable to many other fields. Sports management emphasizes the business aspects of sports and athletics. Sports management programs cover issues like sports law, marketing, communication, and finance.

As the sports industry booms, the demand for professionals with excellent business skills continues to grow. Sports management graduates work as coaches and scouts, sports agents, and sports marketing managers, and these occupations all have positive growth outlooks. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% job growth — much faster than the national average growth across occupations — for coaches and scouts from 2019 to 2029.

This guide includes our rankings list of the best sports management colleges to help you choose the right program. We explain what to expect from sports management programs, how to choose the right school, and job opportunities for graduates.

Top 10 Sports Management Bachelor's Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
2 Rice University Houston, TX
3 Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO
4 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
5 Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX
6 Ohio Northern University Ada, OH
7 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
8 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
9 Samford University Birmingham, AL
10 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC

See Detailed Rankings

What Is Sports Management?

The field of sports management focuses on the business of athletics. Sports managers oversee athletic organizations and athletes. Some sports management professionals engage directly with athletes, while others work mostly behind the scenes to deal with administrative issues.

Though some sports managers start their career as amateur or professional athletes, personal experience playing sports is not necessary to work in sports management. A bachelor's degree in sports management provides the necessary foundation to understand the business fundamentals of the sports industry.

Potential sports management jobs include athletic directors or administrators, sports marketing managers, and sports lawyers. Some of these positions require additional education or experience. Some sports management graduates focus on the fitness aspects of sports and pursue careers in the health and wellness industries.

Major employers of sports management professionals include professional and recreational sports teams and associations, universities and K-12 schools, sports centers, and parks and recreation departments.

With increasing interest in the sport industry at all levels and for all ages, the BLS projects faster-than-average growth for careers in the sports and entertainment industry, which translates to 60,600 new jobs from 2019 to 2029. Sports and entertainment professionals make a median annual salary of $45,250, higher than the $39,810 median annual wage for all occupations. Those who pursue business-focused careers can make considerably more.

Why Get a Bachelor's in Sports Management Degree?

Sports management schools prepare students for entry-level positions with sports organizations and other business opportunities. Many careers open to sports management graduates offer competitive salaries, and bachelor's-holders make higher salaries than their less-educated counterparts. In addition to career and salary opportunities, a sports management degree offers less tangible benefits, including a personal sense of accomplishment. We describe these benefits in more detail below.

  • Better Career Opportunities: Students who earn a sports management degree qualify for a variety of career opportunities in the sports industry and beyond. The business skills sports management majors develop apply to nearly any industry.
  • Potential Salary Increase: Earning a bachelor's degree in sports management helps learners land jobs with higher salaries than they might qualify for otherwise.
  • Personal Enrichment: Many people find immense satisfaction and take great pride in putting in the work and determination it takes to earn a bachelor's degree in sports management.

The 10 Best Sports Management Colleges and Schools

Read on to learn about the 10 best sports management programs. Our rankings include a brief overview of each school, a description of what to expect from the sports management program, and a brief explanation of how to apply. This list is a great place to start when figuring out your priorities for choosing the right sports management degree.

Our Methodology

Check out our methodology page to learn more about how we rank degree programs. Our sports management degrees have been ranked based on the following:

  • – A reputation aggregate score from other rankings
  • – Graduate average salary
  • – Alumni reviews
  • – Percentage of admitted students who graduate
  • – Price
  • – Admitted students' test scores
  • – Acceptance rate

1. University of Michigan

Public university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Founded in 1817, U-M boasts more than 275 degree programs from 19 schools and colleges. The school offers free in-state tuition for students from families making $65,000 and under.

Sport Management BA

U-M's bachelor's degree in sport management from the School of Kinesiology focuses on the business and cultural aspects of sport. The 120-credit, four-year program offers internships, alumni mentorship, world-renowned faculty, and student organizations. Sport management majors get access to a dedicated career coordinator who helps with networking, personalized career assistance, and training.

Learners choose from concentrations in sport marketing and management or sport policy and analytics. Notable classes include sport tourism, sport real estate, historical and sociological issues in sport and fitness, and business communications.

Applying to U-M

  • – Common App or Coalition Application
  • – $75 application fee
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – School report (Common App) or counselor recommendation (Coalition App)
  • – One teacher evaluation
  • – SAT/ACT scores
  • – TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS scores (if applicable)

2. William Marsh Rice University

Private university in Houston, Texas, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Located on a 300-acre campus in Houston, Rice serves more than 7,000 students. Rice emphasizes undergraduate education and offers small classes with a 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

BA in Sport Management

The sports management degree from Rice includes concentrations in sport analytics, sport law, and sport leadership. Graduates qualify for leadership positions in and beyond the sport industry.

The 120-credit interdisciplinary program draws from business, law, management, and communication. The curriculum includes classes like sport management, quantitative analysis for the social sciences, and leading with service. Graduation requirements also include a sport management practicum and internship. Rice offers a variety of financial aid opportunities, including merit scholarships, grants, loans, and student employment.

Applying to Rice

  • – Common App or Coalition Application
  • – $75 application fee
  • – Rice writing supplement
  • – Recommendation letters (one from counselor; two from teachers)
  • – SAT scores
  • – Alumni interview (optional)

3. Saint Louis University

Private university in St. Louis, Missouri, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

A private Jesuit Catholic institution established in 1818, Saint Louis University is the oldest university west of the Mississippi River. SLU enrolls more than 13,000 learners each year.

BS in Sports Business

SLU's Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business offers a 120-credit sports management degree. Students take classes like integrated sports business planning, intercollegiate athletics management, negotiations and conflict resolution, and legal issues in sports and entertainment.

The interdisciplinary program requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for all major courses and draws from fields like management, economics, marketing, and information technology. SLU strongly encourages sports business majors to complete an internship, with opportunities at places like the St. Louis Cardinals, Gateway Grizzlies, and university athletic department.

Applying to SLU

  • – SLU application or Common App
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – SAT/ACT scores (optional)
  • – Secondary school report form (optional)
  • – Professional resume (optional)
  • – Letters of recommendation (optional)
  • – Admission interview (optional)

4. Drexel University

Private university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

A private institution founded in Philadelphia in 1891, Drexel University emphasizes experiential learning and global research. A distance education pioneer, the school offers more than 150 online degrees and certificates.

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Sport Business

Drexel's LeBow College of Business confers a sports management degree designed for students who want to work with professional sports teams, sport marketing firms, college athletic departments, and sport media networks. The program also offers minors in sport management or sport regulation and compliance.

The 180-credit degree offers classes like sports and the law, the business of sport, NCAA compliance, and sports gambling. Sport business majors can join a variety of student clubs, including the Drexel Sport Business Association and Drexel Women in Business.

Applying to Drexel

  • – Common App or Coalition Application
  • – $50 application fee
  • – Written essay
  • – Official high school transcripts showing at least three years of high school math and one year of a laboratory science
  • – Two letters of recommendation
  • – SAT/ACT scores (optional)

5. Southern Methodist University

Private university in University Park, Texas, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

A private research university in Dallas, Southern Methodist University serves more than 12,000 students from all 50 states and 90 countries.

BS in Applied Physiology and Sport Management

The sports management degree from SMU's Simmons School of Education and Human Development explores the legal and ethical aspects of sports industries and the scientific basis of health while developing practical business skills.

The BS in applied physiology and sport management offers concentrations in sport management, applied physiology and health management, and sport performance leadership. Notable classes include communication in sport, health promotion practice, physiology in health and disease, and functional biomechanics. Students complete a 250-hour sport management internship and a mentored final project in their senior year.

Applying to SMU

  • – Common App or Coalition Application
  • – $60 application fee
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – SAT/ACT scores
  • – Counselor recommendation
  • – Teacher recommendation
  • – Extracurricular resume

6. Ohio Northern University

Private university in Ada, Ohio, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Established in 1871, Ohio Northern University is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. ONU serves more than 3,000 students, offering over 60 academic programs from five colleges.

Bachelor's in Sport Management

ONU's Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited Dicke College of Business offers a business-focused sport management degree that provides experiential learning opportunities. Sport management majors must complete a 12-week, 450-hour internship. Students also help with marketing for ONU's 23 NCAA Division III varsity teams and attend conferences.

ONU boasts small class sizes and dedicated faculty members who provide mentorship, networking help, and career assistance to sport management students while in school and after graduation.

Applying to ONU

  • – ONU application or Common App
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – ACT/SAT scores

7. University of Miami

Private university in Coral Gables, Florida, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

Established in 1925, the University of Miami enrolls more than 17,000 students and offers over 180 programs. UMl spends $324 million on research each year.

Bachelor of Science in Education in Sport Administration

UM's School of Education and Human Development offers a four-year, 120-credit sports management degree that develops competencies in marketing, ethics, leadership, and organization. The curriculum emphasizes experiential learning and requires internships and field experiences in sports settings.

Students take classes like finance and budget in sport administration, essential leadership in sports and the professions, elements of sports psychology, and public speaking. The program requires sport administration majors to complete a 12- to 15-credit minor in another field.

Applying to UM

  • – Common App
  • – $70 application fee
  • – Supplemental written essay
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – ACT/SAT scores
  • – Complete the school report on the Common App
  • – Letters of recommendation

8. Xavier University

Private university in Cincinnati, Ohio, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

A private Jesuit Catholic postsecondary school in Cincinnati, Xavier University offers more than 90 undergraduate programs. Xavier focuses on educating the whole person and integrating spirituality with learning.

BS in Sport Management

Sports management bachelor's students at Xavier University benefit from the school's location in Cincinnati, surrounded by a vibrant sports scene. Sports management majors get hands-on experience working with one of the school's 18 Division I sports teams or the Cincinnati Reds. The program also facilitates student research opportunities with sport management faculty.

The four-year degree requires classes like facility and event management, history of American sports, legal and ethical issues in sports, and sociology of sports. Students choose from concentrations like economics, field experience, exercise science, and marketing.

Applying to Xavier

  • – Xavier application or Common App
  • – No application fee
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – Counselor recommendation
  • – SAT/ACT scores (optional)
  • – Apply for honors program and competitive scholarships
  • – File the FAFSA

9. Samford University

Private university in Homewood, Alabama, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

A Christian institution established in 1841, Samford University is one of the oldest postsecondary institutions in the United States. Students choose from more than 177 undergraduate majors, concentrations, and minors.

BS in Sport Administration

Samford University's School of Health Professions offers a faith-focused sports management degree that prepares graduates for leadership positions in the sports industry. The program features small class sizes, internships that give students the chance to network with sports industry professionals, and electives that allow for personalization of the curriculum.

The four-year, 128-credit bachelor's degree requires classes like sport sponsorship and sales, legal and contractual issues of sports, sport facilities and events operations, and Christian leadership and ethics.

Applying to Samford

  • – Samford application or Common App
  • – $40 application fee
  • – 250-word essay
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – Academic letter of recommendation
  • – ACT/SAT scores
  • – Minimum 2.5 GPA

10. North Carolina State University

Public university in Raleigh, North Carolina, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

A land-grant university founded in 1887, North Carolina State University serves more than 36,000 learners. NC State is helping develop a smart grid, stop nuclear proliferation, and assist farmers dealing with climate change.

BS in Sport Management

NC State's 120-credit, four-year sports management degree requires classes like sport finance and economics, sustainable sport facility management, sports programming, and psychological and cultural aspects of sport. The program requires a 10-week, 400-hour internship during the summer between junior and senior year at organizations like the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.

The program's geo-visualization lab gives students experience with facility design and fan base tracking. Sports management majors also get hands-on learning opportunities with NC State Division I teams, which compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Applying to NC State

  • – Common App or Coalition Application
  • – SAT/ACT scores
  • – $85 application fee
  • – Official high school transcripts
  • – File the FAFSA

What to Expect From The Best Sports Management Programs

Bachelor's in sports management programs typically take four years of full-time study and 120 semester credits to complete. Part-time learners take longer to earn their degree, while students who can take extra credits each semester may finish in less time.

Sports management programs may go by different names, including sports business or sports administration. Some schools offer concentrations in sports policy, sports analytics, economics, and sports marketing. Sports management majors take classes like sports programming, the sociology of sports, business communication, and finance of sports administration.

Typical admission requirements include a high school diploma, satisfactory ACT/SAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a written essay. Most schools accept applications through the Common App, which lets students apply to multiple schools at one time by filling out a single application. Applicants may need to fill out or submit school-specific supplemental information.

Sports Management Degree Options

Sports management schools may offer a BA, BS, or bachelor of business administration (BBA). Most sports management programs offer a BS. Different degree names include sport administration, sports business, and applied physiology. Most bachelor's programs in sports management cover the fundamentals of sports and business, regardless of the specific degree type or name. However, degree types and names may indicate small differences.

  • BA in Sports Management: A BA in sports management includes more credits in the arts and humanities and emphasizes the liberal arts philosophy more than a BS or BBA.
  • BS in Sports Management: A BS in sports management usually requires more science and math classes than a BA or BBA. BS programs also tend to focus more on the major than general education requirements.
  • BBA in Sports Management: A BBA in sports emphasizes general business knowledge and skills more than a BA or BS. Students interested in the business side of sports management and those who want to keep their career options open to fields outside of sports may benefit from earning a BBA.

Popular Bachelor's in Sports Management Courses

Specific sports management courses vary by school, but most programs focus on the business aspect of the industry. Most bachelor's in sports management programs require general education, core, and elective courses. Many students complete a sports management internship. Below, we describe some typical classes students may take in a sports management bachelor's program.

  • Sport Marketing: This class provides an introduction to sports marketing and explores issues like endorsements, sports sponsorships, licensing, and naming rights. Students learn about sport communications and media, pricing, promotion, and marketing of sports segmentation.
  • Leadership in Sport: Learners explore management, communication, and problem-solving strategies for directing facilities and programs in sports management. The course focuses on leadership techniques and helps students identify management careers in the sports industry.
  • Legal Aspects of Sports Management: This course introduces legal issues associated with sports management. Students concentrate on sports law, compliance issues, and governance and explore anti-trust legislation, tort law, risk management, and Title IX and disability laws.
  • Facility and Event Management: Students learn the fundamentals of planning events and managing facilities for sports organizations. The class explores creating a marketing plan, branding and licensing, promotion and sales, and sponsorship and endorsement.
  • Sports Economics and Finance: This class looks at economic and financial measurements that the sports industry uses. Topics include sponsorships, public financing, naming rights, and television rights in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Students learn about the impact of sports on the economy.

What Jobs Can Sports Management Degrees Get You?

A sports management degree prepares graduates for careers specific to the sports industry, including working as a coach or agent. Many of the business skills developed in a typical sports management program can also apply broadly to other fields, letting degree-holders pursue careers in promotions or administration. Below, we explore several occupational possibilities:


Coaches and Scouts

Coaches train athletes and teach them to excel at their sport. Scouts find promising new athletes for teams at the college, professional, and amateur levels. Typical job duties for coaches include organizing practices, choosing members for games, analyzing players' strengths and weaknesses, and strategizing during games.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +12%
  • Median Annual Salary: $34,840

Sports Agents

Sports agents represent professional athletes and coaches. They sign new players, negotiate salaries, and manage press relations. Sports agents must keep both their players and management happy, which requires excellent communication skills. Most sports agents work for big companies, but some freelance.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29):
  • Average Annual Salary: $51,400

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers create interest in products or services. They plan promotional and advertising campaigns, negotiate advertising contracts, work with others to discuss budgets, and provide advice to clients. They need communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills and creativity.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $135,900

Administrative Services Managers

Administrative services managers coordinate the administrative activities necessary for organizations to run efficiently. They supervise administrative staff, recommend changes that improve operations, oversee maintenance of machinery and supplies, and ensure facilities meet regulatory and safety standards.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $96,940

Choosing Between Sports Management Programs

Our rankings list provides a great starting point, but choosing the right sports management program requires prospective students to consider additional key factors. Each person's priorities vary, so think about what matters most to you.

  • Accreditation: Is the college regionally accredited? If not, you may not qualify for many financial aid opportunities and may find it difficult to transfer credit to another university.
  • Tuition: How much does the sports management degree cost? What types of financial aid does the school offer?
  • Faculty: Research the program's faculty members. What types of education, professional experience, and research interests do they have? Do they align with your own interests?
  • Program Length: How long should it take to earn the sports management degree? A typical bachelor's takes four years to complete, but some may offer accelerated options. Program length may also impact the cost of the degree.
  • Student Resources: What student services does the university offer? Research career development services, tutoring, library and research help, and mentorship programs.
  • Application: How do you apply to the program? Research required admission materials, test scores, and the cost of admission.
  • Reputation: Does program prestige or reputation matter to you? Look for program awards, well-known faculty members, and outside recognition.

Should I Get My Degree Online?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online education was growing more common and consistent in quality with in-person instruction. Many programs provide the same curriculum, teachers, and school services to both online and in-person students.

The benefits of getting a sports management degree online include flexibility, convenience, and affordability.

Online learning appeals to many, including working professionals who need to fit school around their job and others seeking a flexible schedule to accommodate personal responsibilities. Distance education can provide an easier transition than traditional college for those who have not been in school for a long time.

Many online programs offer more affordable tuition to out-of-state students. Distance learners also save money by eliminating the cost of commuting, parking, on-campus living, and some student fees.

Although distance education provides many benefits, some people prefer traditional in-person classes. Only you can decide if online learning aligns with your learning style and preferences. Prospective sports management majors must weigh a variety of considerations when deciding if the online experience is right for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a degree in sports management worth it?

Yes. A bachelor's degree in sports management can pay off with better career and salary opportunities and the chance to network and make professional connections.

What should I major in to become a sports manager?

Schools call their sports management programs by different names. To become a sports manager, students major in areas like sports management, sports administration, and sport business.

How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in sports management?

Full-time students usually take four years to earn a bachelor's degree in sports management. Part-time learners take longer to graduate. Some sports management programs offer accelerated options that allow students to graduate in less than four years.

What can I do with a degree in sports management?

A sports management degree opens the door to careers like scout, sports agent, and sports marketing manager. Sports management programs also provide preparation for graduate school in sports management or sports law.

Is a sports manager a good career?

For individuals with a passion for sports and an interest in business, becoming a sports manager can be an exciting and rewarding career choice. The BLS reports that entertainment and sports occupations earn a higher median annual wage than occupations as a whole.

Professional Organizations in Sports Management

Professional organizations for sports management provide valuable resources to sports agents, administrators, and other sports colleagues. Sports management organizations and associations build networks through face-to-face and online events. They also provide updates about trends, changes, and issues in the discipline.

Membership in professional organizations can give sports management students access to job boards and career guidance. Through professional organizations, working professionals also enjoy professional development and continuing education opportunities.

  • North American Society for Sport Management
    NASSM promotes research, study, and professional development within the sport management discipline. By incorporating theoretical and applied aspects of sport management, NASSM unites practitioners, researchers, and students. It does so through annual events, publications, and award and grant opportunities. Members receive access to online member services, association publications, and discounts to conferences.
  • National Sports Marketing Network
    A leading trade organization for sports business professionals, NSMN features more than 12,000 individual, corporate, and student members. NSMN helps those employed in the sports business industry through networking, seminars, and job-matching resources. Members benefit from industry discounts, access to private social media groups, and admission to network events.
  • National Association of Sports Officials
    Dedicated to serving sports officials around the country, NASO offers insurance benefits, publications, and discounts to members. The association also provides advocacy opportunities, consultation services, and newsletters to keep sports officials current on officiating techniques, news, and issues.
  • Sports Events and Tourism Association
    Founded in 1992, Sports ETA provides education, networking, and training opportunities to sporting event and tourism professionals. By uniting sports commissions, destinations, event owners, and industry partners, Sports ETA promotes integrity in the field. The association also offers awards and recognitions, even hosting its own hall of fame.
  • National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association
    The NIAAA brings together athletic administrators from middle and high schools to promote and support the profession. The association offers leadership programs, service opportunities, and resources to facilitate athletic participation opportunities for students. Members can access professional development resources, insurance, discounts, association publications, and networking opportunities.

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