Sports Management Graduate Degrees by Degree Program Level

May 03, 2018

Individuals looking for a graduate degree in sports management can earn a master's or doctoral degree. Learn about each degree option, courses, career opportunities, and salary information.

Essential Information

Students pursuing master's or doctoral degrees in sports management learn how to combine business-savvy with a love of sports. Master's-level programs prepare students for jobs such as coach, athletic director, agent and sports marketer. The coursework has a strong focus on raising and managing money.

Doctoral programs are primarily designed for students seeking university-level teaching or research careers. Ph.D. students take some traditional coursework, but the focus is typically on researching and writing a dissertation. Some courses and programs are available online. Read more about these programs below.

Master's Degree in Sports Management

Students in a graduate program learn how to manage the day-to-day operations that take place before a team ever hits the field. Regardless of whether they are studying the responsibilities involved in running an amateur or professional sports team, financing plays a key part in operations, such as providing teams with facilities, equipment and personnel.

Students in a master's degree program spend the majority of their class time discussing topics such as fundraising, budgeting and accounting. Degree candidates learn how to market their team's merchandise to fans and drum up support to increase ticket sales. Other topics may include how to select the appropriate facility and hire staff for concessions, security and cleanup when staging a sporting event or promotional outing.

Applicants to a master's degree program need a bachelor's degree with coursework in a related field. Most applicants to sports management programs have degrees in business or kinesiology, or they have taken courses in finance or marketing. Programs also require applicants to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Depending on the program, a resume listing relevant work experience may also be requested.

After completing coursework, degree candidates are required to complete an internship with a local sports organization and a master's thesis. In addition to the following coursework, some programs may offer students the opportunity to take electives in public relations or sports media:

  • Sports marketing
  • Athletic operations management
  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Sports law
  • Event management

Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management

The doctoral degree in sports management typically takes three years to complete and is for students who wish to pursue academic careers teaching or researching sports management at the collegiate level. Core coursework consists of qualitative and quantitative research methods that students will use to complete research for their doctoral dissertation. Topics can include the changing involvement of women in sports or effective measures for bringing about change in a sports organization. Some programs also allow students to specialize their studies through interdisciplinary elective courses in topics such as business, psychology or sociology.

Students interested in a sports management Ph.D. need a master's degree with coursework in management or business. Some programs also require that program entrants take courses in sports law or sports management before taking core course requirements. Students must also submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and, in many cases, a resume listing work experience in the sports industry.

Coursework is research-intensive and can include up to 18 credit hours of research-related topics, such as statistical methods and experimental design. The remaining degree requirements include the following courses:

  • Organizational theory
  • Event management
  • Marketing
  • Sports law
  • Sports media
  • Public relations

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a master's degree in sports management are prepared for jobs at every level of competition. Job opportunities can be found with recreational centers, high school sports departments, collegiate teams, professional sports organizations or sports equipment merchandizing companies. Possible career options include the following:

  • Coach
  • Athletic director
  • Player agent
  • Event coordinator
  • Sports marketer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Most graduates of a doctoral sports management program pursue teaching or research careers at the collegiate level, often as part of a school of education's kinesiology department. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary recreation and fitness studies professors earned a median annual salary of $59,280 in May of 2015 ( Graduates choosing to enter the sports industry, however, have several career options, and potential earnings vary widely. In May of 2015, for example, the Bureau stated that coaches and scouts earned a median annual wage of $31,000, while sports agents and business managers earned a median annual wage of $62,940 during the same period.

As you have read, sports management graduate degrees are can be earned at both the master's and doctoral levels. Students pursuing a master's primarily complete coursework learning the day-to-day operations in sports, while those earning a doctoral degree are focused on a teaching career or research in the field.

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