Date Updated: April 6, 2021
Sports management master's programs offer specialized study opportunities for people who aspire to work behind the scenes of the sports industry. This interdisciplinary degree combines finance, marketing, project management, and law.
Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) signal strong job growth for sports management professionals. For instance, the BLS anticipates a robust 12% increase in coach and scout jobs from 2019 to 2029. The bureau also projects more generalized career paths, such as promotions and marketing managers, to grow at faster-than-average rates.
Read on to learn more about doing an online master's in sports management and explore the features of top-ranked programs.
2021's 10 Best Online Sports Management Degrees
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||Texas A&M University||College Station, TX|
|3||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|4||University of Miami||Coral Gables, FL|
|5||Georgia Southern University||Statesboro, GA|
|6||Western Carolina University||Cullowhee, NC|
|7||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA|
|8||Jacksonville State University||Jacksonville, AL|
|9||Baker University||Baldwin City, KS|
|10||SUNY Cortland||Cortland, NY|
What Is Sports Management?
Sports management focuses on the business aspects of the sports industry. At the undergraduate level, sports management programs offer a broad survey of the roles business and management play in the sports world. Students who pursue a master's learn more advanced, specialized concepts in the field.
Many people associate sports management with the lucrative, high-profile world of professional sports. Though the major North American pro leagues offer many exciting employment opportunities, there are also other job options to explore.
Varsity and community-based athletics programs, sports marketing firms, athlete management agencies, and athletic facility owners also employ sports management professionals.
Sports management careers split into two categories: business and operations. On the business end, sports management master's graduates work in marketing, finance, and athlete management. The operations side includes positions in human resources, event planning, and facility management.
The U.S. sports industry is poised for strong growth. Deloitte, a leading international professional services firm, suggests that several trends will propel industry growth in the years ahead. These include increased interest in women's sports, the ongoing rise of esports, and the expansion of legalized sports betting.
In spite of this projected growth, many sports management roles are competitive. An online master's in sports management, then, is a valuable credential that makes applicants stand out during the job hunt.
Why Get a Sports Management Master's?
Sports management master's programs help students understand the sports industry's unique nature. These programs offer a targeted education, preparing students for the realities of a career in sports.
The best sports management degrees deliver other benefits, as well, including:
- – Networking Opportunities: In competitive fields like sports management, job-seekers need to expand and leverage their personal networks. Attending a sports management program offers opportunities to build bonds with peers, faculty members, and recruiters who can assist you in future job searches.
- – Specialized Skills: At the master's level, learners can pursue specializations, which prepare them for careers in niche areas of the sports industry. Popular coursework concentrations include sports media, sports marketing and promotions, and sports law.
- – Experiential Learning: Many online programs include experiential learning opportunities such as internships, field placements, or work-study programs. Graduates with work experiences on their resume may land jobs more easily.
Ranking the Top 10 Online Master's Degrees in Sports Management
An online master's in sports management opens the door to an exciting new career in the sport industry. Our guide ranks the 10 best sports management degrees for 2021. Each sports management school we rank holds regional accreditation; some programs also hold industry-specific accreditation.
Regionally accredited universities undergo evaluation from independent accrediting agencies. This evaluation measures academic strength, reputability, and quality. The programs below hold accreditation from one of the following accrediting bodies:
- – Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASCOC)
- – Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- – Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA)
1. University of Florida
|Public university in Gainesville, FL, accredited by SACSCOC|
A land, sea, and space grant institution in Gainesville, the University of Florida generates more than 130,000 jobs and attracts $900 million in research each year.
UF's online master's in sports management program offers specializations and certificates in areas like athlete development, high performance coaching, sport law, and sport event management. Students who choose the athlete development specialization qualify for certification through the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists.
The 36-credit curriculum includes courses like research methods in health and human performance, sport sociology, sport finance, and sport ethics. Sport management majors complete an advanced capstone project after completing 27 credits. The program also offers professional internship opportunities.
Applying to UF
UF prefers applicants with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate work, and experience in the sport industry. Required materials include three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, and transcripts.
Program at a Glance
2. Texas A&M University
|Public university in College Station, TX, accredited by SACSCOC|
The state's first public institution of higher education, Texas A&M University in College Station serves more than 69,000 students. The school offers 133 undergraduate degrees and 175 master's programs.
Texas A&M's fully online master's in sports management includes thesis and non-thesis tracks. Sports management master's candidates who choose the non-thesis option may need to pass a comprehensive exam. The 36-credit degree features instruction from 13 internationally known faculty members who hold expertise in all areas of sport management.
Required courses include management of sport organizations, diversity ethics in sport organizations, financial management in sport, and sport media and communications. Elective options include internships and practicums that provide real-world experiences with the Department of Health and Kinesiology's community partners.
Applying to Texas A&M
The program admits students based on undergraduate GPA in the last 60 semester hours, relevant professional experience, three letters of reference, and a personal statement. The GRE is not required.
Program at a Glance
3. Liberty University
|Private university in Lynchburg, VA, accredited by SACSCOC and COSMA|
An evangelical Christian liberal arts university founded in 1971, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, boasts more than 700 programs. Liberty began offering distance education in 1985.
The fully online, COSMA-accredited master's in sports management from Liberty's School of Business requires 36 credits and takes one-and-a-half full-time years to complete. The flexible program features asynchronous instruction and eight-week courses. Students can transfer in up to 50% of the degree's required credits. Classes cover topics like social issues in sport management, ethics in sport, and sport marketing and public relations.
The curriculum for Liberty's sports management degree includes thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students choose from specializations in coaching and athletic administration, outdoor adventure sports, sports administration, and tourism. The non-thesis track also offers a general specialization.
Applying to Liberty
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA to receive admission in good standing. Required materials include an application, a deferred application fee, and college transcripts.
Program at a Glance
4. University of Miami
|Private university in Coral Gables, FL, accredited by SACSCOC|
A private research institution in Coral Gables, Florida, the University of Miami welcomes 17,000 students from around the globe. Founded in 1925, UM offers more than 180 academic programs.
UM's 30-credit online master's in sports management program provides connections to the sports industry on and off the field, offering a variety of networking, volunteer, and internship opportunities. Students may get to work with top sporting franchises and teams or UM's athletic department.
Other opportunities for connection happen with UM's Sport Industry Leadership Council, annual Sport Industry Conference, and through the M.Ed. in sport administration's robust alumni network. The 20-month degree features seven-week classes that explore issues like sport sponsorship, sports marketing, fiscal management in sport administration, and globalization in sport.
Applying to UM
Applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE scores, and two letters of recommendation. The program also requires a personal statement and resume.
Program at a Glance
5. Georgia Southern University
|Public university in Statesboro, GA, accredited by SACSCOC|
Founded in 1906 as an agricultural school, Georgia Southern University offers 140 degree programs to nearly 27,000 students.
Housed in the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology, Georgia Southern's sports management school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. The 36-credit sports management master's program focuses on the management of a variety of sporting events.
Full-time students who take summer classes can graduate in two years. The fully online degree does not require an in-person component. The curriculum includes courses like revenue generation in sport, sport facility and event management, research analysis in sport, and financial and strategic management in sport.
Applying to Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern only considers applicants with a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Required application materials include a personal statement, transcripts, a resume, and a short video explaining how this degree impacts students' career paths.
Program at a Glance
6. Western Carolina University
|Public university in Cullowhee, NC, accredited by SACSCOC|
The westernmost campus of the University of North Carolina system, Western Carolina University serves more than 12,000 students. WCU boasts small average class sizes, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17-to-1.
Designed for working professionals, WCU's flexible, fully online master's in sports management program offers full-time and part-time options. Full-time students can graduate in one year.
The 30-credit sports management master's degree from WCU's College of Business includes a certificate in project management. Students take classes like sport administration and governance, critical issues in sport, project planning and estimating, and managing enterprise projects. The program also offers a 200-hour internship opportunity that lets learners develop real-world experience in the sport industry.
Applying to WCU
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university. WCU prefers a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a resume, transcripts, a 500-word essay, and two letters of recommendation.
Program at a Glance
7. Drexel University
|Private university in Philadelphia, PA, accredited by MSCHE|
A global research institution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University stands out for its emphasis on experiential learning opportunities. Drexel graduates earn 22.9% above the national average.
Drexel University's LeBow College of Business offers a two-year sports management degree that covers sport media, event management, economics, and law. Students can pursue a graduate minor or a dual degree like an MBA/MS in sport business or MS in business analytics/MS in sport business.
Drexel's sports management school faculty holds extensive industry experience and provides networking connections. The online program features an optional summer residency with guest speakers, tours, and industry networking opportunities. Courses include social issues in sports, sport media and public relations, and business statistics.
Applying to Drexel
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university and a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program prefers at least two years of work experience. Required materials include one letter of recommendation, transcripts, a resume, and a personal essay.
Program at a Glance
8. Jacksonville State University
|Public university in Jacksonville, AL, accredited by SACSCOC|
Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, boasts 95 academic programs, including over 40 available online. JSU's Gamecocks compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
JSU's School of Health Professions and Wellness offers a 30- to 33-credit, fully online master's in sports management. Classes include law and ethics in wellness and sport studies, human resources management in sport, sport promotion and event planning, and current issues and trends in athletics.
The sports management school lets students with a bachelor's-level teaching certificate or fifth-year teaching certificate pursue a Class A teacher certification. Sports management master's candidates can join JSU's Kinesiology Majors Club or participate in the school's senior adult exercise program.
Applying to JSU
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. The program requires a completed application, application fee, and college transcripts. Unconditional admission requires a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Program at a Glance
9. Baker University
|Private university in Baldwin City, KS, accredited by HLC|
Established in 1858 as the first institution of higher learning in Kansas, Baker University holds close ties with the Methodist Episcopal Church. BU boasts one of the highest returns on investment in the U.S., according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
The School of Professional and Graduate Studies at Baker University offers an online master's in sports management that focuses on sports marketing, event management, sports law, and facility planning. Baker alumni receive a 10% discount on tuition. Students can complete all core courses fully online and graduate in 18 to 20 months.
The 33-credit sports management degree emphasizes experiential learning and features instruction from experienced industry professionals. Ninety percent of recent Baker graduates say they would recommend the university to others.
Applying to BU
Eligibility criteria include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, official transcripts, and a completed application form.
Program at a Glance
10. SUNY Cortland
|Public university in Cortland, NY, accredited by MSCHE|
Part of the State University of New York system, SUNY Cortland offers 68 academic majors, with strong programs in education and health-related disciplines.
SUNY Cortland's online master's in sports management combines basic business management concepts with a nuanced understanding of the sports industry. The sports management school features instructors with terminal degrees and relevant professional experience. Students can complete the degree at their own pace, with part-time learners typically graduating in two years.
The 30-credit MS in sport management offers all core courses online. The curriculum includes classes like the business and finance of sport, management in sport organizations, research methods in sport management, and an internship or master's project.
Applying to SUNY Cortland
Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a preferred minimum GPA of 2.8. Students with a minimum 3.3 GPA or at least five years of industry experience receive a GRE waiver. Required materials include transcripts, a letter of intent, two letters of recommendation, and a resume.
Program at a Glance
What to Expect From Sports Management Master's Programs
Sports management students can pursue MS, MA, and MBA degrees in the field. Each degree type focuses its curriculum on a different aspect of the industry. Many schools offer concentrations to help students specialize their studies to niche job areas.
Most online master's in sport management degrees require 30-45 credit hours, often including a capstone or field experience. Full-time students typically graduate in 1-2 years, while part-time learners usually finish their studies in 2-4 years.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the sports management field, students may have to complete additional prerequisite courses in business, marketing, or management. These classes bridge knowledge gaps for learners with bachelor's degrees in other fields. These courses may extend students' overall program length.
Sports Management Degree Options
The sports management master's takes several forms. Many schools offer an MS or MA in sports management. Each program's curricular emphasis determines which kind of degree the school offers. MS degrees, for instance, are more technical and quantitative in their scope, while MAs focus more on applied, qualitative skills.
Some schools offer an MBA in sports management through their business college. This path appeals to learners seeking a business- or finance-based foundation. However, these programs are less common than the aforementioned MA and MS sports management degrees.
Specialized sports management programs also support several professional concentrations. In some cases, students can design their own concentrations by using their elective coursework strategically. In others, schools allow students to choose from a list of curricular concentrations emphasizing specific areas of professional practice, including coaching, sports law, and promotions.
Students can pursue their degrees in person or online.
Some of the best sports management master's degrees are offered online, often featuring hybrid delivery methods that include short campus residencies or other physical attendance requirements.
In some cases, these in-person elements apply only to experiential learning classes, which are valuable for gaining job experience and developing professional networks.
Popular Sports Management Courses
Students typically encounter three kinds of courses in an online master's in sports management: core courses, electives, and capstone or thesis courses. Core courses are the program's pedagogical backbone, while electives afford students the chance to explore their individual interests. Capstone or thesis courses ask students to apply the sum of their learning to the design and execution of a long-form, advanced research project or case study.
Exact offerings vary by program, but the following list includes common sports management classes:
- – Sports Marketing: This foundational class uses practical examples and case studies to explore techniques for marketing sporting events. Students learn to develop marketing plans, apply marketing knowledge to practical problems, and leverage digital promotional channels.
- – Finance in Sports: This class emphasizes organizational decision-making in financial contexts. Content introduces learners to core aspects of sports finance and teaches them to apply these concepts in real-world situations.
- – Athlete Career Development: This elective typically appears in concentration tracks related to coaching and athlete management. It emphasizes off-field issues athletes encounter during their careers, such as public relations and personal financial management.
- – Applied Ethics in Sports: This class asks students to engage with major ethical issues in amateur and professional sports. Topics may include recruitment, gambling, and performance-enhancing drug use.
- – Thesis/Capstone: Most sports management master's programs culminate in a thesis or capstone course. These classes ask students to do original research about a problem in the sports industry or assemble a reflective project about what they have learned in the program.
What Jobs Can a Sports Management Degree Get You?
Traditional and online master's in sports management programs provide pathways to multiple careers. Job opportunities include positions in organizational management, facility management, sports marketing and advertising, player representation, and event management. Because a master's degree is an advanced credential, students who complete a sports management master's are more likely to command higher wages than those with only high school diplomas or bachelor's degrees.
The careers described below are a selection of the jobs available to graduates of sports management programs:
Sports Marketing Manager
These executives typically work for leagues or teams, where they manage marketing campaigns to drive up live attendance and television viewership of games and events.
- – Required Education: Professionals in top management and executive roles typically hold a specialized master's degree, such as an MBA
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
- – Median Annual Salary: $135,900
Agents represent athletes in negotiations and other legal matters regarding club contracts, sponsorship, and other career monetization channels.
- – Required Education: Master's degree preferred; professional licensure and extensive on-the-job training also required
- – Average Annual Salary: $90,870
These specialized management professionals hold leadership positions in athletic facilities, where they supervise staff, day-to-day operations, and the procurement and maintenance of equipment and other assets.
- – Required Education: Bachelor's degree plus relevant experience; candidates with master's degrees generally enjoy competitive advantages for available openings
- – Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
- – Median Annual Salary: $96,940
Selecting Your Master's in Sports Management Program
Our rankings are a good place to begin your search for an online master's in sports management, but there are other determinations you must make. Apply to programs whose curricular offerings best align with your professional ambitions. Consider other factors, too, including:
- – Extracurricular Learning Opportunities: Internship and field practicums are common even in an online master's in sports management. Look for programs that offer opportunities that align with your long-term career plans.
- – Faculty Credentials: Studying with respected, accomplished professionals ensures the value of your education.
- – Location: Even if you primarily study online, a school's location may influence available field opportunities, as some programs partner with local sports organizations to match students to internship opportunities.
Finally, ensure that every school you consider has been accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency. Accreditation ensures your degree meets standards for academic excellence. Many top programs also hold programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation, which verifies that coursework prepares students for jobs in the sports management field.
Why You Should Get Your Degree Online
As Forbes notes, online learning grew exponentially in the 2010s, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made distance learning even more common. Online learning platforms have innovative features that can enrich subject matter in ways traditional classrooms cannot. These distance methods can drive higher levels of student engagement by creating new kinds of interactive learning experiences.
Many online classes feature asynchronous schedules, so learners can engage with coursework when convenient. This flexibility makes it possible to earn a degree without interfering with existing family or job commitments. Online learning offers considerable financial benefits, as students save money on travel or relocation costs while continuing to work.
Even so, keep this caveat in mind: Networking can make a major difference in your sports management career prospects, given the fierce competition for limited job openings. Thus, many learners prefer mostly online programs that require in-person experiential learning components.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a master's in sports management worth it?
Professionals with advanced degrees tend to have more earning power and higher levels of career growth potential. In the sports industry, many upper management and executive roles strongly prefer or require a master's degree.
What can you do with a sports management degree?
Sports management master's degrees typically combine a required academic core with specialization opportunities. Specializations lead to roles in marketing and promotions, organizational management, facilities management, player representation, and the business of sports, among others.
What kind of sports management degrees are there?
Students can earn MA, MS, and MBA degrees in sports management. Learners can also earn dual master's degrees in sports management and business administration, law, and other professional practice areas.
What does a sports manager do?
Sports management professionals work behind the scenes of games, teams, and leagues. They deal with the operational and business-related aspects of the sports and recreation industry.
How much money does a sports manager make?
Average earnings vary considerably, depending on the job title, amount of responsibility, and experience level. Particularly lucrative career paths include marketing and promotions, finance, and the executive-level management of sports businesses.