Last Updated on July 25, 2021
MBA in Sport Management Degree Program Guide
Sport Management MBA Programs
There are millions of young people who dream about making it big in the sports industry. But in the same way that very few athletes will ever reach the apex of their sport, very few individuals will make their way to the top-tier of the industry. In both cases, this level of success does not happen by accident, instead requiring years of hard work, making the right decisions, and making the most of your talents.
The sports industry is really the business of sport – simply put, the industry as a whole does not exist without related business bringing many worlds together. A master’s in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in sport management is the ultimate way to prepare yourself for success in sports related businesses.
For young aspiring professionals in pursuit of a career that they are passionate about, an MBA with a focus in sport management can provide you with the foundation to compete for jobs that most people only dream about. According to Professor Steve McKelvey, Director of the Sport Management programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who recently spoke with SportsDegreesOnline.org, an MBA in sport management prepares graduates for a wide variety of career paths in the athletic industry and beyond…
“The benefit of having a sports management degree (and particularly if it’s in a school of business), you’re going to have that business foundation and you’re going to learn everything in the context of sports management… If you are in a good sports management program, then you are getting a lot of opportunity to do experiential learning projects that specifically touch the sports industry. You are more likely to get a summer internship that is in the sports field so when you do go to apply for a job you have some sports [experience] on your resume.” [source]
An MBA in sport management is an excellent way to set yourself up for success. For those seeking a successful career related to the sports industry, an MBA in sport management could be an excellent choice.
What is an MBA?
A master’s in business administration (MBA) is a generalist degree which covers a range of fundamental business concepts. An MBA provides knowledge that can be applied to the management and operations of any industry. Graduates can expect to have a solid understanding of how businesses function, the nature of customer service, and the importance of communication and teamwork. An MBA will encompass coursework in finance, human resources, customer relationship management (CRM), and strategy. Since the MBA degree assures that you will be educated in all aspects of business, you can be confident that earning this degree will serve you well even if you decide to pursue a career outside of the sports industry.
What is the benefit for studying an MBA with a concentration in sport management?
There are literally hundreds of MBA options being offered in the U.S. and around the world at present. However, only a limited number of MBA programs feature a concentration in sport management. For aspiring professionals hoping to find a successful career in the business side of the sports industry, there is arguably nothing better that you can do from an educational standpoint to set yourself up for success than complete a degree like an MBA in sport management. For one, you will learn how core business concepts are applied within the context of sports organizations. MBA programs lean heavily on experiential learning, so students who are exposed to real world sport management situations can expect to gain a great deal from this exposure. Graduates who can speak at length about their take-aways from these experiences stand out head and shoulders above others without similar contextual understanding.
Why does an MBA provide a good foundation for success in the sports industry?
While many sport management master’s degrees are housed in departments like kinesiology or education, approaching sport from the business perspective opens graduates to the widest variety of opportunities. Graduates of MBA in sport management programs will be fluent in the core concepts of business, including marketing, customer acquisition and retention, management, accounting, economics, finance and more. Having this foundation prepares one for success in business regardless of what the application is, whether it be in sales, marketing, merchandising, team operations, event management, partnerships and sponsorships, or elsewhere. Further, since so many of these concepts are universal in the business world, graduates would be capable and prepared to excel in management positions in other industries as well should they choose to do so.
Another reason why an MBA with a specialization or concentration in sport management is the ideal education is the networking aspect. There are a number of ways in which sports industry can be a bit different than other industries, and one of these is the importance of networking. Simply put, networking within the sports industry is huge. So many of the experts and professors that have contributed to this website through interviews have stated again and again the importance of networking. More often than not in the sports industry, organizations and companies hire “known commodity” candidates off their short lists rather than combing over piles of resumes from unknown applicants.
Well respected MBA programs with a concentration in sport management deliver networking opportunities for their students in spades. Students can expect to develop a diverse network of professionals throughout the sports industry throughout the course of their MBA program. Cultivating this network can lead to career changing advice, connections, and opportunities in the present and throughout your professional career [source].
Many programs feature extensive involvement from alumni all around the industry who serve as peer mentors. Providing access to alumni throughout the sports industry helps current students learn exactly what specific roles look like on a day-to-day basis. This exposure helps students determine very quickly whether or not a role is a good fit for them or not, which in turn allows them to tailor their experience at an early stage. As Liza Kirkpatrick, Director of the Kellogg Business School, recently told the Harvard Business Review, in addition to “accelerating your career goals”, a big draw of getting an MBA is the networking upside.
“A part of enrolling in business school is becoming part of a community of future leaders and well-connected alumni…most MBA programs offer access to networking events hosted by clubs and employers, [which are] all opportunities that could expand your reach, and therefore, your chances of success.”
What courses make up an MBA?
An MBA will be made up of courses from a number of business related disciplines:
- Finance & Accounting – Finance is the science of money management. MBA graduates are expected to understand the fundamentals of corporate, personal, and public finance. Accounting expertise will ensure that all expenses are accounted for using systems, software, and pest practices.
- Marketing – Marketing is the science of building a brand and spreading the word about your product or service. The goal of marketing is to increase revenue for your business using strategy, market analysis, analytics about your target customers and their behaviors, and how to most effectively get and retain them.
- Business Leadership and Management – Strategies on how to most effectively motivate and organize teams and individuals to maximize performance and results.
- Law and regulation in business – Becoming proficient on the ways that corporations and companies are structured and how local, state, and federal law compliance comes into play.
- Business Analytics
- Ethics in business
What courses comprise an MBA with a sport management concentration?
As part of a MBA in sport management degree program, student should expect to study a diverse set of courses relevant to the sports industry, including topics like:
- Marketing and Sales in the Sports Industry
- Sports Law
- Social Media in Sports
- How Sports Organizations are Managed
- Finance in the Sport Industry
- Business Analytics in Sports
- Sporting Event Planning and Management
How does an MBA in sport management compare with other sport management degrees?
Most schools offer the master’s degree in sport management in one year of full time study, and it is quite common for many schools to offer popular alternative schedules as well. Many schools also have a two year option to study the master’s degree on a part-time basis. Depending on the institution, many programs also include preferred placement for internships or work on capstone projects with local professional sports teams. These opportunities can be a great way to leverage existing networks to pursue attractive positions that could potentially be a good fit for you. While these components often add months to your degree experience, the experience and connections they provide is incredibly valuable and well worth the investment of time.
What are the graduation requirements for a master’s degree in sport management?
The specific business courses combined with sport specific knowledge is what makes an MBA in sport management a versatile degree.. Another popular option for those considering a career in the sports industry is a master’s degree in sport management.
While the MBA option is a combination of business courses and sport specific courses that build on the business knowledge, a sport management master’s degree consists primarily of sport specific courses. In addition, these master’s programs can offer perspectives beyond general business concepts. Depending on the university, sport management master’s degree programs can be offered through kinesiology, or education departments. Programs that are housed in kinesiology departments will have programs related to exercise science, human performance and nutrition. These courses are ideal for those who expect to pursue a career in which working directly with athletes, trainers, and coaches. Professional candidates with a holistic understanding of athletic performance will be well prepared to get the most out of athletes and teams. When combined with analytics and statistics teams, familiarity with these aspects of sport can be a powerful combination at the management and front office level. Programs in education departments may have specific courses related to intercollegiate athletics or even university recreation. They may offer more content specific to non-profits and educational settings, including coaching and programming for youth as well as adults. Other sport management master’s programs are housed in business schools and tend to have sport courses built around general business knowledge.
How to choose which MBA in sport management is the best fit for you?
There are several factors that students should keep in mind while trying to determine which MBA program with a sport concentration suits you best. One major factor is the accessibility of the professors. Some programs might feature a few very high profile, nationally known professors, but that doesn’t mean that those professors will be available to MBA students who are expecting direct or personal access. The best way for prospective students to learn this is to connect with current students or recent graduates who can provide you with an inside perspective since universities aren’t likely to disclose this in detail. Another factor to consider are what kind of experiential learning opportunities exist for learning outside of the classroom. Be sure to ask questions like what are some of the specific partnerships that current students are involved with? What do those experiences look like?
Good programs should have well-established relationships with top-tier organizations and companies throughout the sports industry, including access to specialized positions. If you have a specific interest – whether it be event planning, merchandising, marketing, etc. – be sure to do your diligence about whether learning opportunities in these areas might be possible. The more you can learn about what day-to-day life looks like at a variety of positions, the better you will be able to decide what you don’t want to do. And the quicker you can decide what you don’t want to pursue, the farther down the road you will be to discovering which roles are the best fit.
Finally, it is important to ask yourself some basic questions as you try to choose which MBA program with a concentration in sport is best for you. Professor Maylon Hanold, Director of Seattle University’s Sport Management program, recently explained this aspect in a conversation with SportsDegreesOnline.org.
“One of the things that is maybe not so obvious, is that people need to figure out “who am I?” Do I need to be near home, family and support systems? Do I want to choose a place that is within a five hour drive of where I live or am I willing to move across the country? Do I desire that excitement and am I willing to drop myself into a whole new place with the mentality of “home is where I am?” IWhile we often focus on program features, I think location and geography can be really critical. It’s important because going to graduate school is a big time and financial commitment. You need to consider what works well for you.”Professor Maylon Hanold, Seattle University
For more information and resources on potential careers, check out our Sports Management Careers Guide.