Earning a Master's in Sports Management Online

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The sports industry is constantly growing and changing, as is the industry's demand for qualified professionals. An online master's in sports management can help you enter the field, opening up the door to careers as agents, managers, or even team owners. Read on to find out more about whether this degree is for you, how to earn it, and what you may experience along the way.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Sports Management?

An online master's in sports management works well for students who are working professionals or nearing the end of their bachelor's degree. Whether you are trying to start a new career or advance an existing one, studying online can help you complete your degree faster and with more flexibility than a traditional program. It also allows you to study at your university of choice for a lower cost, without having to account for location.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Sports Management?

Pursuing Specialization

A master's in sports management can help you pursue a specific, specialized career as a talent agent or administrator within a team or other sports program. By combining this degree with your work experience or prior education, you can create a unique career path or prepare yourself to fill a specific role in the future.

Career Advancement Opportunities

An online master's in sports management can give you the skill you need to succeed in more advanced positions. Such a degree might help you rise through the ranks to a higher position with more responsibilities. It might also mark the first step in starting your own company, getting your own clients, or otherwise striking out on your own.

Online Learning Technology

Online education allows students to study from anywhere, thanks to advances in communications technology. Familiarity with such technology can help sports management students navigate the increasingly high-tech sports industry more easily.

Prerequisites for Online Sports Management Programs

This section describes common requirements for applicants to online sports management programs.

    • Work Experience: Online programs require prior work experience more often than traditional master's degrees do. This ensures that applicants have experience outside of academia, since online programs cater more toward working professionals. Programs requiring prior work usually want to see between one and three years of experience.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Most graduate programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores, usually from the GRE or GMAT. The GMAT applies to business schools, while the GRE applies more broadly. Each program details which test you should take, and what scores you need.
    • Coursework: Some programs require students to have taken specific courses during their undergraduate study. If you already have a degree closely related to business or management, you may have fulfilled these requirements already. If not, some programs allow students to take prerequisite coursework before enrolling, or during their first year of the master's program.
    • Recommendations: Most master's programs require 1-3 letters of recommendation, to demonstrate that you take the program seriously. These letters generally come from professors or employers who can speak to your skills and strengths.
    • Essays: Most programs require applicants to submit some sort of essay, letter of introduction, or statement of interest in the program and field of study. You may have to answer a specific question, or address why you applied to that school's program.
    • Interviews: Business schools commonly require interviews, which give applicants the opportunity to interact with faculty or administrators, to see if you fit well with the program.
    • International Students: International students may have to demonstrate English fluency in order to study at American universities, with some exceptions.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Sports Management?

Professionals with their master's in sports management may have a higher earning potential than candidates with only a bachelor's degree. The skills you pick up during your program specifically tailor to the industry which, coupled with work experience, can make a big difference. The career options listed below provide a sample of paths you might pursue.

Traditional Careers in Sports Management

Career Stats Description

School Athletic Director

Median Pay: $92,360

Job Growth: 10.1%

College athletic directors work on administrative staffs, overseeing both student services and athletic event management. They typically work as a part of a team of directors and managers, supervising business-related tasks in-office, and supporting staff at events.

Ideal for: Team players with strong event and people management skills, and interest in student life and enrichment

Fan Experience Manager

Median Pay: $129,380

Job Growth: 10%

A fan experience manager designs and implements special events to increase ticket values by engaging fans beyond spectatorship. These professionals work with various managers, executives, and stadium crew members to bring these ideas to life.

Ideal for: Creative individuals who are able to collaborate

Team or Club Development Director

Median Pay: $108,250

Job Growth: 10%

Development directors help steer the directions in which a team, club, or other sports organization grows. They develop and implement plans to expand the group, increase ticket sales, move to a more lucrative location, or otherwise secure the group's livelihood going forward.

Ideal for: Managers with an interest in promoting and developing an organization

Sports Agent

Median Pay: $64,940

Job Growth: 4.7%

Agents help athletes secure employment, negotiate contracts, and deal with their current employers. They help promote clients while they are employed or in negotiations, and may help clients with investments or other financial matters, as well.

Ideal for: Dedicated people who are willing to put in the effort to help their clients

Non-Traditional Careers in Sports Management

Career Stats Description

Senior Sports Auditor

Median Pay: $69,350

Job Growth: 10%

Auditors keep track of accounts, income, and other financial factors to help ensure the organization stays on budget, pays its taxes, and makes a profit. These professionals work with executives and other managers to make sure finances meet organizational needs.

Ideal for: Financially savvy individuals who enjoy crunching numbers

Sports Medicine Administrator

Median Pay: $98,350

Job Growth: 20%

With a background in healthcare administration, these professionals help plan and direct the medical services for a team, university, or other athletic organization. They help make sure players have access to the care they need in order to stay healthy.

Ideal for: Healthcare administrators with an interest in sports medicine specifically

Sports Business Owner

Median Pay: $100,410

Job Growth: 9.1%

Owners rank as the highest executives in their organization. They set policy, and make the final call on important decisions. They might own a gym franchise, sporting goods store, or team, or any number of other businesses related to sports.

Ideal for: Self-starters who want to be their own boss

Fitness Software Developer

Median Pay: $103,560

Job Growth: 24%

Software developers help concept and design software, from video games to smartphone applications. As technology increasingly integrates into sports and fitness, the industry demands developers to help build software to make this integration possible.

Ideal for: Programmers and others with an interest in sports and technology

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Sports Management

Tuition is the most expensive part of a degree, and tuition rates often increase between academic years. In light of this, finding a school offering fixed tuition rates or accelerated program options can save you money in the long run. Applying for federal student aid and private scholarships can also make a big difference in the overall cost of getting your degree.

Tuition Timelines

See below the mosts common timelines for completing a master's in sports management online, with examples of schools that offer such timelines and their estimated tuition expenses.

Part-Time Path

Some students attend their programs part-time, completing one or two courses per semester. They may take up to three years to complete their degree.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Florida
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: Part-time students can complete the University of Florida's online master's in sports management in 2-3 years, for an estimated cost of $20,500.

Full-Time Path

The standard master's degree takes about two years to complete, depending on the university and its specific requirements.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Georgetown University
Total Credits Required: 33
Summary: Georgetown's program requires 10 courses, each 7.5 weeks in length, plus one 15-week capstone course, at an estimated cost of $44,400.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated programs deliver the same education in a shorter time, with programs lasting between one and 1.5 years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Arkansas State University
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: For an estimated cost of $11,025, students at Arkansas State can complete their entire master's program in as little as 12 months.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

There is a variety of financial aid options out there for a sports management degree, including scholarships, grants, and student loans.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Sports Management Program

An online master's in sports management takes 1.5-3 years to complete, depending on how you schedule courses. You may have to complete a thesis, practicum, or other experiential learning project in your last semester or two, though some students begin their capstone projects earlier.

Major Milestones

  1. Acceptance/Enrollment- 1-3 years before graduation

    Once you gain admission to a school, you can secure funding and begin planning your coursework. You should work with an adviser to determine which classes to take, and in what order.

  2. Internship/Practicum- one or two semesters before graduation

    Internships or practicums provide valuable hands-on learning, but are not always required. They generally last a semester and usually take place toward the end of your program.

  3. Write Thesis- final semester before graduation

    If you choose a thesis option, you must complete it by your final semester, though most students begin work on it earlier.

  4. Defend Thesis- final semester before graduation

    If you do take a thesis option, you must present it to your advisers and answer their questions or critiques. You may have to complete some rewrites before finalizing your thesis.

  5. Submit Thesis and Graduation Paperwork - end of last semester

    Once you finalize your thesis, submit it to the university. You must also submit paperwork to officially declare that you are done and wish to graduate.

Coursework

The five courses below represent common courses sports management master's students might take during their program. Keep in mind that each school has its own unique offerings.

Sport Psychology

These courses explore the psychology behind athletic performance. Students discuss cognitive, social, neurophysiological, and behavioral factors, and their impacts on athletes. Topics might include confidence, motivation, burnout, or career transition.

Performance Enhancement

In these courses, you discuss how to use sport psychology to get the best performance out of athletes. Topics may include consulting skills, emotion control, setting goals, or personal visualization.

Sport Marketing

In a course like this, you learn the basics of marketing for specific demands of the sport industry. You discuss topics such as ticket pricing, media relations, and promotions in the context of college and professional sports.

Sport Law

In these courses, students learn the basics of legal structures, cases, and statutes relating to sports and sport management. They learn enough about sport law to work in management and avoid breaking those laws.

International Sport Management

In a course like this, you discuss how sport management functions outside of the United States, and how international competition impacts management back home. Topics may include marketing trends and differences between sport and fan cultures.

Requirements to Practice

Sports management doesn't require any specific certification or licensure, but several options exist that might advance your career, depending on your specialization. Some of these certifications may require knowledge or even a degree from another field, such as education or psychology.

    • National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Certification Program: This certification caters to athletic directors working in primary or secondary education, but could also benefit those working in the private sector or in government recreation departments. It demonstrates a dedication to self-improvement and professional development.
    • National Football League Players Association Certification: Most sports leagues require unique certifications to work as an agent representing players within that league. The NFL, for example, requires a significant fee, a 60-question exam, and mandatory attendance of a two-day seminar to qualify to represent players.
    • American Board of Pediatrics Sports Medicine Certification: The ABP offers this certificate for doctors interested in working with young athletes or other children who would benefit from sports medicine. Candidates must be licensed medical doctors, and sports management knowledge is preferred.
    • Business Licenses: If you want to start a sports-related business, you likely must obtain one or more licenses from your local government. Specific license requirements vary by state.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations can help you start your career, advance it, or even get through college. The below groups offer job search help, networking, professional development, and financial aid opportunities to help members make the most of their online master's in sports management.

  • North American Society for Sport Management: NASSM promotes sport management research, teaching, and professional development through three journals, conferences, awards, and student resources. The organization has its roots in Windsor, Ontario where it was founded in 1985.
  • National Alliance for Youth Sports: Founded in 1981, NAYS partners with local organizations around the country to help bring the benefits of athletics programs to children. They offer training and education to coaches and volunteers to make this possible.
  • World Association for Sport Management: WASM was founded in Taiwan in 2012 to help facilitate research, teaching, and learning in the sports management field. Today, the group has over 34,000 members around the world.
  • National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics: NACDA began in Louisville, Kentucky in 1965, and now has more than 15,000 members at over 1,700 colleges in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
  • Sport Marketing Association: Since 2002, SMA has worked to expand sports marketing knowledge and promote networking and professional development among workers, academics, and students in the field.
  • Women Leaders in College Sports: Formerly known as The National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, WLCS works to bring together women in college sports to support each other and promote women in the field.
  • College Sports Information Directors of America: For over 60 years, CoSIDA has been working to help its members deal with strategic issues such as public relations, information, and outreach.
  • SHAPE America: The largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals in the country, SHAPE America has been working to educate the nation about health and wellness since 1885.
  • National Sporting Goods Association: NSGA works to help promote member efforts to grow and succeed in their businesses. The group was founded in South Carolina in 1927.
  • Sport Information Resources Centre: SIRC is the largest organization in Canada dedicated to providing sports and fitness information and resources.