Last Updated on September 26, 2023
Esports Degree – Guide to Careers in Esports
Esports…The Evolution of Sports
Sports are always evolving. Whether rules change, various sports will rise and fall in popularity, and technology is constantly being introduced and impacting the game.
While the pandemic may have given Esports a boost (as competitions can occur remotely), it has been quite popular for some time. In 2012, Riot, the creator of League of Legends sold out a 10,000 seat arena at University of Southern California, prompting them to move to the Staples Center the following year [source].
According to Business Insider, “Total esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023.” It is a booming, innovative, and interesting section of the sports industry.
So should we think of esports in the same way that we think of traditional sports, and does a degree or some experience in sport management prepare a job applicant for success in esports?
We recently interviewed Professor Natalie Smith, who teaches a class about esports at East Tennessee University. Professor Smith explains:
“I think the key to all of it – to those who are interested in sport business and management and how it relates to esports – it’s really about cross pollination. It’s not sports coming in and knowing all the answers. It’s not colonizing. Esports are doing just fine on their own.”
Smith, who spends much of her research studying innovation and creativity within the sports industry, continues:
“However, if both sectors wanted to get together and do something cool together, they could. It’s the same thing with music. When you think about it, you look at Atlanta FC or what Fortnite is doing…” “When you transcend your sector, that’s when exciting things happen.”Read Dr. Smith’s full interview
Without question, there are exciting future opportunities for those brave enough to think outside of the box on ways to collaborate to bridge these two huge industries. Considering that esports can now be viewed on ESPN and legally gambled on, esports has quickly become a significant part of popular culture.
Traditional sports management degrees provide a foundation in the business principles of the sports industry as a whole. However, completing a degree specifically focusing on esports may open even more doors for aspiring esports professionals. There are an increasing number of degree programs available to students who know they want to pursue careers in esports. Be sure to check out the listings at the bottom of this guide to learn about colleges and universities that offer esports degrees.
What jobs are there in Esports?
Companies in the Esports space are very much like traditional sports organizations in roles that they hire for. These organizations need people with a background in finance, accounting, sales, HR, and the other building blocks of a successful company. However, there are many roles that are less commonly filled in traditional industries.
- Player Manager – A player manager would be working with players and streams and handling day to day operations. A successful player manager has leadership and organizational skills, can establish goals, stick to a schedule, and keep those they are managing motivated and engaged. Every organization varies, but a player manager could be responsible for things like managing social media and marketing content, organizing travel, and effectively communicating and collaborating with relevant stakeholders.
- Content Producer – Much of the reason eSports has taken off is thanks to platforms like twitch where users can stream content. If you are reading this article you no doubt know that there are plenty of gamer turned streamers out there, but more established eSports teams need someone to manage their content production. Making content that is interesting for viewers helps keep engagement and interest high, and in turn increases the value of the team.
- Brand/Product Manager – Like many other businesses, eSports organizations need to manage their brand, craft a message, and convey that to their fans and followers. Marketing strategies change at a breakneck pace, so it takes a lot to keep up with.
- Player – Like any professional sport, players at the elite level are some of the highest paid in the sport. However, also like other sports, there are very few people who make it to that very top tier. The number of paid players is in the hundreds or thousands, but as of 2018, about 66% of the U.S. population plays video games so the competition for a top spot on an elite team is fierce.
Can esports be a career?
Turning a hobby into a career is a dream for a lot of people, and there are plenty of casual gamers who have done just that. Being passionate is one part of the equation, but you will also need to be driven, resilient, and often creative. Similar to the sports industry, those most likely to succeed are individuals who are fans of the business of esports, rather than simply fans of esports themselves.
Here are some strategies to break into this fast-paced and evolving industry.
- Network. We recently spoke to David Kelley from the University of Cincinnati who mentioned that “you hear that old adage, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ To me that’s a little incomplete. It’s a matter of combining what you know and who knows you.”
Think about how you can get people to know you! Being active on LinkedIn, Twitch, and other platforms is hugely beneficial. Attending conferences and tournaments helps you to better understand the organizations and companies that are involved in the space, and allows you to get valuable face time with people already working in the esports industry.
- Follow the Trends and Use Social Media. This industry is changing fast, and it is advantageous to keep on top of trends and shifts. Listening to podcasts like Preediction and the Business of Esports Podcast. Apps like Clubhouse and Twitch also have influential players, managers, and executives active on the platform, and that could be a great way to connect.
- Internships. Like any other sport and almost any other industry, internships can be a great way to gain a mentor, learn practical skills, and come equipped to a full-time job interview with real, on-the-job experience. You will no doubt come away from an internship experience having learned something, and will most likely be in a much better position for a successful career.
Since the esports industry is considerably younger compared to most other sports, it is quite possible that teams and organizations do not have established internship programs. However, you will certainly stand out if you reach out to organizations directly and ask about internship opportunities and who knows…maybe someone will make a spot for you if you sell yourself well! Check out our internships guide for more info.
- Fine-tune your Resume. When applying to jobs, look closely at the job descriptions and really try to understand what sorts of traits and characteristics the hiring manager is looking for in an applicant. Try to highlight those skills on your own resume, or include a cover letter making a case for why you are the one who can help meet their needs.
As much as you want a job in esports, the hiring manager wants to hire someone who is a good cultural fit and will be an asset to the organization. Try your best to figure out what that hire would be, and write down the ways in which you are a good fit. Once you are convinced that you are indeed a good fit, let the company know you are a good fit! While this will not work 100% of the time, job searching for entry level positions can certainly be a numbers game. The more companies you take this approach to, the more interviews and responses you will get.
Can I get an esports degree online?
There are several esports degree programs currently being offered online. Be sure to check out our program listings to learn more.
How do esports teams make money?
By far, the most revenue generated in esports is through advertising, with media rights being the second biggest source of revenue
How much do esports managers make?
The average salary for an esports manager is $97,500.
How much to esports players make?
Once they have established themselves, it is for common professional players to earn anywhere from $48,000 – $76,000. Top-tier players can earn several million dollars a year.
What are the top esports companies and teams?
All over the world, esports companies are on the rise, fielding teams in local, regional, and global leagues and tournaments. Esports organizations make money in a variety of ways, many of which will be familiar to anyone who knows how traditional sports teams and leagues function, as well as in some other ways unique to esports.
Prize money, while exciting and motivating for the players, is generally too inconsistent for companies to rely upon for income. Sponsorships, ticket sales, media rights, and merchandising are some of the key sources of revenue in esports.
While the mechanics of these sources of income is nearly identical to how other professional sports operate, it takes a special type of expert to understand the culture and audience of the esports world. Here are some of the top esports organizations and links to their job boards:
Team SoloMid (TSM)
TSM was ranked by Forbes as the most valuable Esports company. They have had considerable success in the arena as they have won 7 out of 16 splits of Northern America’s League of Legends Championship Series. In 2020 TSM fielded a roster for a Valorant team, and also signed chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. They are industry leaders and show no signs of slowing down their growth and development.
Cloud9 is a major player in the space, fielding teams in Fortnite, Halo, League of Legends, Valorant, World of Warcraft, and more. Cloud9 is innovative and its teams have an official partnership with Microsoft. Its data scientists and engineers use various analytics strategies to gain an edge.
Activision Blizzard is a leader in video game development and interactive content. They make games that can be played on consoles, PC’s, and mobile devices and are most known for popular games like Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft.
According to Activision Blizzard’s website, “Our esports vision is to be the most innovative, scalable, and valuable developer of global competitive entertainment.” They are one of the biggest and most successful companies in the space, and also have a diverse portfolio of products.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Founded in 2000, this Swedish team competes in Counter Strike: Global Offensive Squad. They had had recent success and won the Six Major in Brazil.
Electronic Arts (EA)
EA is one of the biggest game developers making hugely popular games such as FIFA, NBA, NHL, and Madden. They have quite some history making video games, and one of their first mega successes was the Sims which attained a dedicated cult following…so much so that TBS produced a reality TV show, the Sims Spark’d. EA is bringing gaming into mainstream culture in a multitude of ways.
Established in 2000 Team Liquid has grown to have over 60 athletes and participates in 14 of the top games around the world. They won the North American League of Legends title in 2018 and continue to expand and compete in an increasing number of games and tournaments. They not only compete in tournaments, but also have a full blown production company, 1UP Studios.
Founded in France, Team Vitality has players and teams competing throughout Europe as well as a development team in India. Originally focused on League of Legends, they have expanded to about ten other games.
100 Thieves has developed itself into a lifestyle and gaming brand and competes in World of Warcraft, Valorant, Call of Duty, and Fortnite.
Evil Geniuses was founded over 20 years ago and is therefore one of the oldest eSports organizations. They field Teams in League of Legends, Counter Strike, and World of Warcraft
These are several resources that will be helpful for a job seeker or someone looking to learn more about the industry:
- Hitmarker – Job board focusing on the eSports and Gaming Industry
- Esports: The Definitive Guide to Competitive Video Games – a great place to start for those who are serious about a career in esports.