Last Updated on September 26, 2021
Sports Management Bachelor’s Degree Guide
For many young people, sports are simultaneously an identity and a passion. Many of us have grown up playing sports with our friends and rooting for our heroes on our favorite teams – just think of how amazing it would be to work in the industry that you have been passionate about for your whole life.
While “competition for professional athlete jobs will continue to be extremely intense” for the foreseeable future, the good news is that there are plenty of other careers in sports that are lucrative, and a degree in sports management might well be the foundation for a bright future.
A degree in sports management allows former high school and collegiate athletes to apply their experience in sport to their career path, and it is the bridge that connects a lifelong passion in sports to the multi-billion dollar sports industry. In an industry this large there are many careers which are essential to the sports economy, and the best way to prepare yourself for the best of these careers is with a degree in Sports Management.
Why study sport management?
A degree in sport management is designed to be an introduction into every aspect of the wide-ranging sports industry. Since there are so many disciplines involved in sports, the sports management degree covers a variety of subjects to ensure that graduates have a general understanding of the various parts of the business.
A bachelor’s degree in sport management provides graduates with a solid foundation to pursue a variety of attractive career paths, or it can serve as a stepping stone toward more specialized parts of the industry that will require a master’s degree in sport management or a degree in sports law, for example.
Once upon a time, students pursuing a career in sports had to study business administration to best prepare themselves. However, in recognition of the huge gap in educational opportunities, many universities now offer sports management degrees which are specifically tailored to meet the growing job needs and skills throughout the industry.
How to choose the right sports management program?
There are many factors to consider when choosing an undergraduate sport management degree program. Professor Dan Matheson, who recently spoke with SportsDegreesOnline.org, is the Director of Sport & Recreation Management at the University of Iowa, gives his advice for how to evaluate programs that you are considering. He explains,
“I encourage prospective students to evaluate sports management programs on three criteria. One is the industry experience of the faculty that they would have the chance to work with….you should want to learn from faculty that have experienced the sports industry in their career. [Next, prospective students] should consider the accessibility of the faculty for them as an undergraduate student. […]
Make sure you learn about what courses [the well known or well respected] faculty teach [to determine if you will have the chance to study with them. [Finally, students need to] evaluate a program on [the] experiential learning opportunities that [the] program will provide. […] Because you need to be able to apply what you learn in the classroom to realistic projects you [can expect to] face in the industry.”
Professor Matheson’s point is very clear – regardless of how prestigious a program is, that will do you no good if you don’t have access to the best faculty. Likewise, the more opportunities for learning outside of the classroom you can expect, the better.
What courses comprise a sport management bachelor’s degree?
Many sport management programs consist of a combination of business administration core classes which are complemented by carefully selected to introduce students to the varying aspects of the industry. Below are just a few of the many courses that would be included in a sport management degree program:
- Business and Sports – Sports touch nearly every aspect of our lives, and the business side of sports makes up a multi-billion dollar industry. Advertising, sponsorships and partnerships, media contracts, and retail are some of the massive areas of opportunity within Business and Sports.
- Sports Promotion – Promotion and partnerships are a huge part of sports. Sports promotion examines how teams and organizations will relate to local and national businesses, corporations, and foundations.
- Statistics and Data Analytics – One of the fastest growing parts of the business, data science is an important part of every business–but this is especially true in sports. Some of the most successful franchises in recent years attribute their edge to their investment in analytics, and this field of study promises to become only more important to every aspect of sport in the years to come.
- Ethics and Society – Sports has been said to serve as a mirror to society at large–as society becomes more complex, so do the issues that arise in sports and athletics. Learning how sports and athletes relate and interact with society at large–and how changing values of a culture can affect the industry–is a fascinating field of study, and these things weigh heavily into branding, advertising.
- Legal Issues in Sports – Issues in sports can be as complex as any other industry, and litigation in sports has become a massive business all its own. Contracts–between athletes, teams, arenas, and products–are a major part of the industry.
SportsDegrees.org recently spoke with Professor Darin White of Samford University, who advised students to always make the most of each project, regardless of which class it is for:
“[Always] be creative in your class projects. If you are in a class and need to write a research project and have the ability to pick your own topic, pick a sports business topic. Look at trends in ticketing. How are teams using apps? The thing everyone’s talking about is legalized gambling so you could do a whole paper on that. Find projects and turn them into something that is sports industry related and then put that on your resume, that you did a research study on this.”[Source]
This advice is particularly important for those without heaps of other real-world experience in the sports industry. Every little bit of applicable experience helps to build out your resume.
Most importantly, a degree in sport management is the key to linking your lifetime of passion in sport with a lucrative and exciting career in the world of sports. Regardless of which path you choose to pursue in the world of sports, a bachelor’s degree in sport management is sure to provide you with a foundation for success.
Five Steps for Choosing the Best Sport Management Bachelor’s Degree Program For You
1) Admissions Requirements — In order to make the process a bit less daunting, a wise place to start is to construct a list of constraints such as entrance requirements, pre-requisite courses, and budget. Using these parameters, you will still have a considerable number of programs to choose from that will help you discover other differentiating factors.
Like most any standard degree program, admissions requirements for online kinesiology programs have similar general guidelines. Students will need to submit standardized test scores (like the SAT or ACT), high school or community college transcripts, entrance essays, and relevant letters of recommendation.
Understanding these requirements and paying close attention to key deadlines during the application process is one of the most basic yet important things that you can do early in the process. Staying ahead in this area will help limit stress throughout the process, and it will ensure that you don’t find yourself ineligible for programs due to a missed deadline that would otherwise have been a great fit.
Standardized Tests — Any tests which are required for college admission should be planned and taken well prior to the application season. Equally important is dedicating time and resources to test practice and preparation to ensure that you are prepared for the exam. Since test scores are often used for both admissions decisions AND awarding merit scholarships, there can be some serious incentive for those who put work into these tests. Both the SAT and the ACT can be taken multiple times, and it should be noted that scores often improve with practice.
2) Networking Resources –– Another key factor to consider when researching programs is their internship/career and networking services–institutions that specialize in these areas place a strong emphasis on career preparation, and they take pride in linking their academic programs with real-world opportunities.
3) Financial Aid and Budget Considerations — Always a key factor for students when considering which college program to attend are the financial issues. Understanding which financial aid and scholarships options might be available to students majoring in kinesiology will go a long way toward helping you make the most informed decisions.
4) Credit Transfer Policies –– One key factor to understand about each program is the transfer credit requirements. Transferring credits to complete an online degree is very common, but the transfer process will vary from program to program. Take time to investigate how credits reciprocate with other academic institutions to make sure you will have some flexibility farther down the road should you need it.
5) Reputation of the School –– If all other considerations are equal, you will want to determine which school of your final choices has the best reputation. The more rigorous the program, the better the faculty, the more resources they have to leverage while delivering your education – all of these factors help determine the reputation of a school. The better the institution, the more respected your degree will be once you are out in the workforce competing for the most desirable positions.
To Study Online or On-Campus – A Few Notes about Delivery Method
Before the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the world, online learning and online degrees were widely considered to be inferior in basically every way. However, since distance learning has become embraced by virtually every educational institution in the country, remote learning and online degree outcomes are now widely accepted as equal to on campus degrees.
So in a world where you really can choose which delivery method is right for you – without having to sacrifice quality – what type of degree should you choose?
For most of you out there, the answer comes down to how you learn best, what your goals are, and what else you have going on in your life.
One of the biggest advantages of attending a campus-based degree program is that developing in-person relationships with both peers and professors fosters many things that are very hard to replicate without being phycially present.
The first of those things is the dynamic learning environment that can happen in the lecture hall or in a group discussion. Although Zoom meetings are a huge improvement upon the conference calls of the past, they are still no substitute for an impassioned group discussion on campus.
Another advantage of studying on campus is the ability to start developing a professional network. Having a professional network is an invaluable resource in the sports industry – not only in the years right after college while looking for that first position within the sports management industry, but also many years down the road. As colleagues move through their own careers, they become good resources for job leads and opportunities — and they might someday become hiring managers too.
Another advantage of studying on campus is the ability to get involved in sports related activities and clubs on campus while studying your degree. Whether through volunteering, internships, or work-study, getting involved in activities related to sports on campus–even if they are peripheral activities–provides students with real-world experience that could serve them well farther down the line.
Should I Pursue My Sport Management Degree Online?
With all of this said, there is still a strong case to be made – which will resonate with many prospective students – for studying a sport management degree online. Online sport management degree programs give students a great deal of flexibility, which is extremely valuable for many prospective students. Whether trying to learn remotely or juggle undergraduate studies with other family or work commitments, online learning requires a different level of commitment than what is required to be physically present somewhere.
Depending on living and work situations, earning a sport management bachelor’s degree online might be more cost-effective than attending a traditional campus-based degree program.
One of the biggest advantages is that most institutions which offer both online and on campus degree programs grant the same exact degree to both types of degree offerings. In other words, there is no difference in the final diploma that students receive!
Further, some students prefer learning online because it suits their learning style better — often lectures are delivered via video, and exercises and assignments are modified for online learning. The ability to speed-up or slow-down lectures, or review material multiple times works better for some learners.
Of course, those who choose to pursue a online degree program could still get involved in similar activities near home, it would just take more time to seek these opportunities out without a native campus infrastructure to plug into.
This is not to say that in-person relationships are the only way to develop a professional network – in fact, there are more and more ways to create a robust network outside of traditional activities.
As remote work becomes more common across a number of industries in the post-COVID world, digital and social networking in a professional context is becoming more acceptable. So there are plenty of opportunities to make up for the lack of personal connection or face-to-face time with sports management peers and professionals.
Careers in Sport Management
In an industry as large as sports, The number of careers within the field of Sports Management is almost endless. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Sports and Entertainment industry is expected to grow 5% over the next decade.
While some positions work directly with athletes, many other positions support various parts of the industry which are peripheral to teams or athletes yet equally as important to the industry. Many jobs in sports are highly sought after because they either allow people to do what they love or because they come with the prestige of associating with successful organizations, or both.
For this reason these positions can be quite competitive, and the best way to gain an advantage on the competition is by obtaining your degree in sports management which will provide you with a well-rounded foundation of the different parts of the industry. To gain an even bigger advantage on the field – and set yourself up for an even brighter future in sports – consider pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sport Management.
For more information about careers in Sport Management, Click Here.