Sports Degrees by Degree Program Level

Sports management degree programs prepare students to enter the athletic industry by teaching them injury prevention, sports leadership, physiology and marketing skills.

Essential Information

People who are pursuing careers in sports can earn associate's or bachelor's degrees in sports management. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in a sports field might find employment as athletic directors, sports managers or head coaches. Advanced students can pursue master's degrees in sports management or in sports science and rehabilitation. Master's degree programs include clinical rotations and a practical experience. Master's degree programs are often necessary for advancement.

  • Program Levels: Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree programs look for candidates with a background in athletics; master's programs require a bachelor's degree, satisfactory transcripts and high GRE test scores

Associate's Degrees in Sports Management

An associate's degree program in sports management prepares a graduate for transfer to a bachelor's degree program. Students learn the basic skills of sports management, recreation, leisure recreation, fitness and wellness. Students also take general education or liberal arts courses. The associate's degree program teaches students the foundational concepts of the sports business, such as sports marketing and public relations. Coursework might also include the following:

  • First aid
  • Injury prevention
  • Health and exercise science
  • Individual sports
  • Group sports
  • Sports management

Bachelor's Degrees in Sports Management

A bachelor's degree in sports management prepares a graduate to work professionally in management, administration and coaching programs. Students are taught ethical and legal aspects of sports management. Colleges offer business writing and computer courses to acquaint a student with the business aspects of sports management. Prospective students should be business-minded. Those who have demonstrated involvement in athletics in either high school or at a community college have an advantage toward admission into the program.

Coursework in a bachelor's degree program in sports management teaches the business aspects of sports management. Students also learn advanced skills in sports health, sports injury, fitness and physical activities. Coursework may include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Exercise and sports science
  • Emergency medicine
  • Sport and exercise legal issues
  • Sports marketing and entertainment
  • Sports financial applications

Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Sports Science

A master's degree in sports science and rehabilitation provides advanced skills and knowledge that is necessary to work with athletes who seek peak performance. Graduates may find work in a therapeutic environment, or they may work as sports science teachers or researchers. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in a related field, with coursework in chemistry, biological sciences, exercise and kinesiology. Colleges require college transcripts, and students must meet a school's grade point average (GPA) requirements. Applicants must also have a satisfactory score on the core elements of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Coursework focuses on body mechanics, nutrition and sports science. Students participate in clinical rotations, working with trained professionals in the industry. Coursework includes:

  • Clinical nutrition
  • Orthopedics
  • Biomechanics
  • Cardiorespiratory and exercise physiology
  • Anatomy of human motion
  • Practicum in sports science and rehabilitation

Master of Science in Sports Management

A master's degree program in sports management teaches a student ethics, leadership skills and diversification from a global viewpoint. Focus of the program is on marketing, business and management strategies. Students learn about sports communications, public relations and sales promotion. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in sports or recreation management to enroll.

Coursework is strong in the business aspects of sports management. Policy making, legal issues and ethics are explored. Coursework may include:

  • Ethical issues in sports
  • Sports marketing and public relations
  • Facility management
  • Sports event planning
  • Sports law
  • Digital media in sports

Popular Career Options

An associate's degree in sports management may lead to job opportunities in various occupations. The following may be career options for a graduate:

  • Sports-related retail salesperson
  • Recreation director
  • Sports broadcaster

Graduates with a bachelor's degree in sports management may have more career options than do graduates with only an associate's degree, since bachelor's grads may have acquired advanced business skills and further knowledge of sports management principles. Graduates may even find work in large organizations, such as the NFL or NCAA. Other options might include:

  • Event manager
  • Golf course manager
  • Cruise ship recreation director
  • Athletic director
  • Team apparel merchandiser

Sports teams and community athletic centers need individuals who are trained in sports science and rehabilitation. Those who earn a master's degree in rehabilitation can find work as one of the following:

  • Cardiac rehabilitation specialists
  • Fitness coordinators
  • Exercise testing specialists

A career in sports management is much like any management career. Graduates of a master's degree program in sports management often find work with professional teams, sports organizations and recreational centers. Skills learned from a master's degree program in sports management apply to these professions:

  • Athletic director
  • Sports marketing specialist
  • Facility manager
  • Health club owner
  • Event coordinator
  • Camp director
  • Fitness center manager

Employment Outlook and Earnings Information

The following table shows the career outlook and annual average salaries for some careers available with a sports degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). By comparison, the average job growth for all occupations from 2012-2022 is expected to be 10%.

Occupation Job Outlook* Average Salary**
Athletes and Sports Competitors 7% $78,260
Coaches 15% $39,150
Umpires, Referees and Sports Officials 8% $33,400
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers and Athletes Not available $97,220
Meeting, Convention and Event Planners 33% $50,910

Source: *BLS projection, 2012-2022, **BLS, May 2014 data

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