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Best PhDs in Sports Management

Jun 15, 2021

Sports Management Doctorate Overview

Sports management is a field that allows students to combine their passion for sports and business. Students in doctoral programs in sports management can further develop their leadership, athletic administration, and research skills. Many programs include unique research opportunities, such as lab rotations and projects. These programs are usually research-focused and allow students to explore various areas of interest within the field. Graduates of these degree programs can pursue a wide range of careers, including those in research, education, marketing, and more. Although there are some online doctorate degrees in sports management, we will focus on on-campus programs here.

What Doctoral Degrees in Sports Management Are Available?

Most commonly, doctoral programs in sports management are offered as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in the field. However, there are also PhD programs in related areas, such as kinesiology and education, that offer sports management as a concentration or emphasis area. These PhD programs in kinesiology may tend to include more kinesiology-based courses, while those in education could also include courses with more education principles. There is also at least one Doctor of Education (EdD) specifically in sports management available. Although graduates of any of these degree programs can pursue many of the same and similar careers, PhD programs are usually more research-focused and can prepare students for careers in academia, while EdD programs are designed more for practitioners of sports management who want to work in the industry of sports business. Either type of program typically requires coursework and a dissertation for graduation. These programs also usually take the same amount of time to finish.

Admissions Requirements for Sports Management Doctoral Programs

The admissions process and requirements for doctoral degree programs in sports management vary by school. In general, applicants to these programs are required to submit their test scores on the GRE. Some schools may also accept other standardized test scores, such as the GMAT or MAT. Depending on the institution, students may need to meet a minimum score on these exams for entrance. For example, some schools require students to score a 300 or higher on the quantitative and verbal sections of the GRE and a 4.5 or higher on the writing portion. Students typically need to include their transcripts with their application and various application materials, such as letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, and/or a writing sample. Some programs may also require students to establish a faculty advisor prior to admission.

Educational & Professional Prerequisites for Sports Management Doctorate Students

Most doctoral programs in sports management require applicants to hold at least a master's degree. Some programs require that this degree is in sports management, an area of kinesiology, or a closely related field. There are also some programs that might make exceptions for stand-out undergraduate students wishing to pursue their PhD, but these students must have an outstanding academic background or extensive experience in a faculty mentor's lab. Depending on the program, students may also need to meet a specific minimum GPA requirement, such as a 3.3 or higher on prior graduate coursework. Professional work experience is not commonly required for these degree programs.

Accreditation for Sports Management Doctorate Programs

Doctoral programs in sports management do not typically have common program-level accreditation, but most of these programs come from regionally accredited institutions. This means that the college or university has met general academic guidelines set for quality across all of their degree levels in all of the different subject areas. Schools could be accredited by organizations such as the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) or the Higher Learning Commission. Although most sports management doctoral programs do not hold program-level accreditation, students may be able to find at least one program that is offered by an institution that is a member of the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE). This means that the sports coaching emphasis of the program has met high qualifications for coaching education programs.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Doctorate in Sports Management?

Typically, it will take students 4 to 5 years to finish their doctoral degree in sports management. Schools may give students up to 7 years to finish, however, and some programs may be designed to allow students to finish in as little as 37 months (just over 3 years). Usually, students complete most of their coursework in the first 3 years of the program and pass their comprehensive exams before working on their dissertation and research the last year or two.

Sports Management Doctoral Coursework

Doctoral programs in sports management usually require between 60 and 66 credits of coursework. Depending on the type of degree, students may take some required courses and/or courses in the sports management concentration or electives. Required courses typically include some research methods courses, such as topics in statistical methods, writing for research, and qualitative methods and design. Other required courses may be designed to help prepare students for their comprehensive exams and dissertation. Students in sports management programs offered through kinesiology may also be required to take additional kinesiology courses. Students in sports management programs or programs where sports management is offered as an emphasis area or concentration will then take focused courses in the field. These courses may cover topics in areas such as sport compliance, facility management, financial administration, ethics in sports, issues in sports, and more. Depending on the setup of the doctoral program, students may also participate in lab rotations throughout the program to gain exposure to various areas within the field. Other programs may offer emphasis areas or areas of study (discussed more below).

Preparing Your Sports Management Dissertation

Most programs help students prepare for their dissertation in different steps so that it is not a giant project at the end of the program. Students will likely take graduate seminars or courses in sports readings to gain an introduction to areas of the field and possible research ideas. Some programs also have a course specifically designed to prepare students for their doctoral comprehensive assessment, which they must pass before meeting candidacy requirements and working on their dissertation. Other programs may break up the dissertation process into a few different steps, such as a dissertation proposal course, an institutional review board and data collection course, and then a dissertation writing and defense course. Although these are not traditional courses, students register for these credits as they work towards finishing their dissertation. The final oral defense is usually conducted in-person to the student's dissertation committee, which typically consists of at least a committee head and two additional members.

Sports Management Doctorate Concentrations

It is fairly common for doctoral programs in the fields of kinesiology and education to offer sports management as a concentration. However, these programs still include mostly sports management-related courses. There are a few programs in sports management that may also offer additional areas of study or emphasis. These areas allow students to explore different subfields under the larger umbrella of sports management, but these offered areas are usually unique to the school. Some examples of possible focus areas include:

  • Sport marketing
  • Sport finance
  • Sport leadership
  • Sport sociology
  • Sports coaching
  • Sports theory
  • Sports governance and combating corruption

What Other Types of Sports Management Degrees Are There?

While there is a wide range of related doctoral degrees that could be beneficial to those wishing to work in sports management, such as doctorate degree programs in project management or business, sports management is a great field that combines business and the sports industry. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in the field and help prepare students for a wide range of careers. Some of these programs can even help shorten the amount of time that it takes to complete the next degree level, such as an associate degree cutting the time to earning a bachelor's degree in the field. Explore some of the available degree levels below.

Sports Management Associate Degrees

There are several associate degree programs that offer a pathway in sports management. These programs can usually be completed in 2 years when taken full-time and provide students with an overview of the field. Students are most commonly awarded an Associate of Arts (AA) degree, and some programs are available in an online format. Depending on the program, students could take courses in areas such as sports administration, sport public relations, sport facilities, and sports financing.

Sports Management Bachelor's Degrees

Sports management bachelor's degree programs are commonly offered as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Several of these programs are available in online formats, and students may be required to complete a hands-on internship and/or other final project, such as a portfolio. Students in these programs may take courses in topics such as sport policy, sport marketing, event management, and psychology of sport. These programs usually require around 120 credits of coursework, but many accept transfer credit.

Sports Management Master's Degrees

At the master's level, students can pursue a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Sports Management program. Some programs are available online and can usually be completed in 2 years or less. Students could be required to complete around 30 to 33 credits of coursework. Those in an MBA program may attend a program that has additional business-related accreditation from organizations such as the International Accreditation Council of Business Education (IACBE).

Sports Management Graduate Certificates

Students interested in earning a graduate certificate can choose from a range of sports management and other business graduate certificate programs related to the field. Certificate programs specifically in sports management are typically short in nature, only requiring around 9 to 12 credits of coursework. Students can usually finish these programs in less than 1 year and could take courses in topics such as sport law, sport media, and sport marketing. Many times, the credits from these certificates can be counted towards a master's degree in the field.

Career Options & Salary Outlook for Sports Management Doctoral Graduates

There are many different jobs involving sports and sports business for graduates with their doctorate in sports management. Students interested in other areas can even apply their knowledge from these programs, such as jobs involving sports statistics. Students who wish to remain in the sports business industry may work as sports managers or sports agents. While there are some differences between sports agents and sports managers, in general, these positions help perform the various administrative duties involved in sports organizations. Those who are more interested in research may pursue careers in academia or consulting. Below, we examine a few available positions for graduates with a PhD in Sports Management.

Become an Administrative Services or Facilities Manager

Those interested in sports management may become administrative services or facilities managers for various sports teams or organizations. These managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree, but education requirements vary. Most of these managers also have so many years of prior work experience, which can come from a range of areas, including project management, business operations, and other leadership. Professional certification is available in the field to help professionals stand out amongst the competition.

Administrative services and facilities managers usually perform a wide range of tasks that vary by the organization and position. In general, these managers work to keep the organization running smoothly. Administrative services managers may maintain records and oversee staff, while facilities managers oversee the maintenance and repair of facilities. Facilities managers also ensure the safety and security of these facilities.

Become a Marketing Manager

Students particularly interested in marking may become marketing managers for sports organizations or teams. Marketing managers most commonly need at least a bachelor's degree, usually in marketing, communications, or another related field. It is also helpful for these managers to complete an internship or other hands-on learning opportunity that provides real-world experience. Some marketing managers may work their way up from entry-level positions as public relations specialists or purchasing agents.

Marketing managers are responsible for finding new markets for their organization and trying to predict the consumer demand for the product. These managers usually work closely with public relations, sales, and product development professionals and make recommendations concerning pricing strategies. Marketing managers likely oversee the work of other marketing professionals and conduct market research as necessary. They will also typically provide upper-level management with important marketing advice.

Become a Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators include a wide range of positions, including those related to sports, such as a collegiate athletic director. Most of these administrators need to have at least a master's degree, but there are positions available that may only require a bachelor's degree, as well as those that may require a doctoral degree. It is common for postsecondary education administrators to have prior work experience in a college administrative setting.

Postsecondary education administrators' job duties vary greatly by position and institution. In general, these administrators perform a wide range of administrative tasks. Those working as college athletic directors may be responsible for hiring coaching staff, maintaining the department's budget, and raising funds for the department. These professionals are also responsible for providing the department with leadership and casting vision, and setting goals for the future.

Sports Management Professional Organizations

Professional organizations aim to support professionals in a given field, as well as promote the field. These organizations provide professionals with a wide range of resources, such as learning materials and job postings. In the case of sports management, there are organizations available in the field, as well as organizations available for specific jobs in the field. A couple of examples of professional sports management groups include:

  • The North American Society for Sport Management- The NASSM is focused on supporting professionals in the sports industry, as well as those in leisure and recreation. The group offers membership and hosts an annual NASSM conference where professionals can submit abstracts for research papers and presentations. The organization also provides academic programs, an industry job board, access to journals in the field, and various professional awards.
  • National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics- The NACDA is an organization specifically for collegiate athletic directors. The group provides membership, awards, and a range of events, such as conventions and conferences. Professionals can also browse the job board, and students can explore internship opportunities.

How Much Does a Doctorate in Sports Management Cost?

The cost of a doctoral degree in sports management differs from school to school, but in general, students will be required to pay tuition and fees, as well as other living expenses, books, and materials. Tuition for these programs is usually charged at a specific rate per credit hour. However, this rate could vary based on a student's residency status. Although it varies greatly, students could pay in the range of $800 to $3,500 per credit hour. Some programs may include various items in the cost of tuition, such as the price of textbooks. Students also need to consider additional fees or costs of candidacy. Fees may be charged for factors like registration, legal services, and university unions, and recreational sports.

Scholarships & Funding Opportunities for a Sports Management Doctorate

To help students fund their doctoral degree in sports management, most institutions offer and accept a range of financial aid options. Students should always begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if they qualify for federal or state loans. From the FAFSA, students may qualify for the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Some schools may also offer work-study programs where students can cover some costs through working on campus. There are also some schools that provide emergency funds for students who run into an unusual or unforeseen, one-time, emergency situation.

Many students will also take advantage of scholarship opportunities. Scholarships do not have to be repaid and are often offered by schools and outside organizations. For instance, some schools offer general scholarships for new, incoming graduate students. Amounts for these awards vary, and students will need to check their qualifications before applying.

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