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Master of Athletic Administration | Context - Context
Online Master of Athletic Administration
Master of Athletic Administration In Context

Athletics has become about more than just sports. Nowadays, participants can expect to see their activities treated more like a business than a hobby. With an increased interest in health and wellness, participation in sports is being encouraged by governments, nonprofit organizations, and schools in a bid to get people moving more.

With this increased focus on athletics from the top down, there’s a need for well-educated athletic administrators at all levels.

Who might pursue an MAA degree?

If you are passionate about athletics, developing successful sports programs, and leading high-profile activities or athletics programs, then an online MAA degree could be the right choice for you.

The Master of Athletic Administration can teach you everything you need to pursue a career as a sports administrator, corporate sponsorship director, or athletic director, just to name a few avenues to explore.

It can give you a full overview of the sports administration experience and equip you with the insight, skills, and knowledge necessary to enter this growing field and progress quickly in your career.

How long does it take to earn this degree?

Your time to completion will depend largely on the pace at which you choose to study. Generally speaking, a Master of Athletic Administration degree can take up to two years to complete if you study full-time. However, this varies depending on the institution. Some can be completed in one year full-time or two years part-time.

What else should I know about this degree?

The need for competent, qualified, and knowledgeable athletic administrators is growing, with sports-related jobs projected to rise by 6% from 2014 to 2024, many of which will raise the demand for administrative and marketing positions. [1] An MAA can give you acute problem-solving, budgeting and communication competencies to help you stand out from the crowd, increase your earning potential, and boost your employability.

As a marker of how integral advanced education is to sports administration, 90% of athletic directors hired since 2009 had a master’s degree. [2]

What is a Master of Athletic Administration degree?

In an MAA program, you can study a range of topics that can help you in administrative, legal, and corporate athletics jobs.

Core subjects that you might explore include an introduction to sports management and organization, legal and ethical issues, sports marketing, and research methods and analysis. Elective classes, where available, may allow you to hone your research into key areas of athletic administration, such as sports technology, violence, finance, sports and the media, management and leadership, sports trends, and classes relating to specific areas of sport.

Both online and on-campus programs will likely incorporate a capstone project. A capstone is the culmination of your MAA education in one real-world focused project. Whether that involves a portfolio, case study, or presentation is dependent on your program. Capstone projects are designed to demonstrate practical application, critical thinking, and competency in key skills. [3]

Women working in athletics

The enrollment for the Master of Athletic Administration degree is largely male, aligning with the athletics industry at large. In fact, 67% of college or university level athletic directors are male, while 14.5% of athletic administrations lack females at every level. [16] [6] Women hold approximately 20% of all athletic director positions at NCAA Division I, II, and III institutions. [7]

This rate is lowest in the NCAA Division I institutions, which typically are also the ones that incur the highest revenues from television contracts and ticket sales. At this level, the number of women in athletic director roles drops to 11%. [7]

The underrepresentation of women in athletics is something that many sports organizations are seeking to overcome. One solution widely used is the appointment of a Senior Women’s Administrator (SWA) on almost all intercollegiate athletic programs. [15] A master’s degree in athletic administration can enable female students to compete fairly for jobs in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

Many women in the fieldwork in operations and are growing in leadership roles. For example, nearly 62% of academic advising units with the top NCAA divisions of athletics departments are led by women. Additionally, women hold around 54% of compliance coordinator positions and 72% of life skills coordinator roles. [9]

Why earn an MAA degree?
Whether you're looking to get the next job role on the career ladder, improve your employability, increase your projected salary, build your skills and knowledge, or are just interested in going back to school for your own personal development, there is something for everyone with an MAA degree.

New opportunities

Coursework is designed to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed to take on leadership roles and positions within top-performing jobs in various sectors. The concentrations and curriculum taught in an MAA program align to these, helping ensure you are able to get the best and most relevant experiences for your ambitions.

A master’s degree in athletic administration can help you find work within more specialized sports and playing levels of your interest, distinguish you as someone looking to pursue better job prospects including management and director positions, and enable you access to professions that you had not previously considered.

You can also network with like-minded individuals during your master’s journey that can help connect you with open positions once you have graduated, or who can introduce you to their network.

Personal satisfaction of earning a degree

In a study, Master of Athletic Administration graduates reported high satisfaction with their program choice. [10] Earning an MAA can help you in your professional development, whether you wish to go into sports management or school coaching. However, it can also be significantly beneficial in terms of your personal development.

As well as gaining highly transferable, practical skills of organization, research, leadership, and budgetary skills that can be taken straight to the workplace, the completing a demanding postgraduate program can help to improve your communication skills, confidence, self-esteem, and outlook on life.

Return on investment

The salaries that you can expect in leadership roles within athletic administration vary depending on the role and where you end up working. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, athletic directors (who fall into the category of postsecondary education administrators) could expect in 2016 to get an average salary of $90,760. [11]

According to self-reported data compiled by, the average salary, depending on experience, ranges from $35,134 to $97,065. An assistant athletic director can expect a range from $30,593 to $77,482, depending on experience. [12] [13]

Those who have about five to 10 years of experience as college athletic directors can expect, according self-reported data compiled by, an average of $69,000. After working for 10 to 20 years, they can expect a median salary of $81,000. If you have been in the role for more than two decades, it is possible to gain average earnings of over $100,000. [4]


Holding an MAA has the potential to make you an exciting candidate for future employers. Almost 90% of athletics directors hired since 2009 hold an advanced degree, with the most common in sports administration and education. [14]

The degree shows you have managed to reach a certain level of higher education recognized by an accredited institution and have the foundational knowledge required to begin a role in sports administration. It shows a commitment to your desire to reach higher leadership roles and demonstrates you have research-based, analytical, and practical skills that can be useful to an employer.

Master of Athletic Administration Career Advancement
There are several career paths that you can consider pursuing with a MAA degree. Whether you're interested in becoming an athletic administrator, or sports administrative professional, your degree can give you the opportunity to open these doors — and to specialize your focus. One of the reasons students opt to pursue a master's degree is because of the career advancement prospects it can offer. Athletic administration is a growing sector in which many new jobs are being made regularly available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), athletic directors (who are classified along with elementary, secondary or college education administrator) are in rising demand. Their projection is that jobs for postsecondary education administrators will increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024. This rate of employment being projected is faster than the average for all occupations. [15] The growth in jobs is coming about due to an increase in students enrolling at postsecondary level. With a rising demand for higher qualifications from employers and greater access to education available for students across broad demographics, many students are returning to school to accomplish their career goals. As such, education administrators are having to employ additional staff to serve the needs of this rise in students. [15]
Types of careers in athletic administration

There is a wide range of employment opportunity in the field of athletics. Some positions that MAA grads often pursue include:

  • Athletic director/associate athletic director
  • Sports information director
  • General manager
  • Director of marketing/associate director of marketing
  • Director of facilities
  • Director of youth sports
  • Director of operations
  • Operations manager
  • Disciplinary administrator
  • Sales and events staff
  • Business operations manager
  • Media relations director
  • Guest service manager
  • Special events manager
  • Tournament planner
  • Compliance officer

What about pay?

In terms of salary, holding a master’s qualification can substantially help in boosting your income prospects. With it opening the door for you to apply for higher-level jobs, such as college athletic director, director of marketing, PR manager, and operations manager, it also brings the opportunity for you to earn more money for the role that you do.

The median pay for college and university athletic directors in the U.S. is around $73,000 per year, [18] but some athletic directors earn much more than the median salary. National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletic directors can earn well over a $1 million per year, though these salaries are rare. [5]

In 2016, elementary and secondary educators (including high school athletic directors) earned a median annual salary of $92,510, according to the BLS. [20]

An administrative service manager in the spectator sports industry can earn approximately $92,630 annually. [22] The lowest qualification needed for this profession is a bachelor’s degree, although a masters can give you a significant advantage, enabling you to achieve positions such as director of administrative services or joining consulting firms. [23] In 2016, about 500 people were employed as administrative service managers in the spectator sports industry, with a 7.6% rise in jobs. [24]

Where can you expect to work?

There are a number of different places in which you can opt to work with a Master of Athletic Administration degree. These include:

  • Elementary, middle, and high schools (public and private)
  • Colleges and universities (public and private)
  • School districts
  • Professional sports teams (major and minor league)
  • Private athletic clubs
  • Businesses
  • Sports organizations
Master of Athletic Administration Curriculum

Each institution will put together its own program with a variety of courses in athletic administration. When looking at the curriculum, it’s important to think about your career goals and what you hope to achieve and learn through your academic work.

It is also key to consider what you are interested in and what you enjoy studying. Some of the typical core courses that you can expect to take include:

  • Athletic administration
  • Facility management
  • Finance in athletics
  • Human resource management
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Sports leadership
  • Principles in athletic administration
  • Risk management in athletics
  • Sports business and organization
  • Sports marketing
  • Staff development in sport organizations

If you have already worked within athletic administration or you have a very specific career goal in mind, you may be interested in taking a specific electives or a specialization as part of your MS in Athletic Administration.

In terms of electives, you may look at studying topics such as:

  • Marketing and strategy
  • Ethics, corporate culture, and social responsibility
  • Operations management and technology
  • Leading in an organization
  • Accounting and financial analysis
  • Innovations and entrepreneurship

Below are some of the specializations that may be offered, based on an analysis of a range of programs:

  • Coaching and athletic development
  • Digital media in sports
  • Interscholastic athletic administration
  • Sports law
  • Sports media relations
  • Sports medicine
  • Sports nutrition
  • Sports psychology
Capstone requirements

As part of most master’s in athletic administration programs, you will be required to complete a capstone project or course. This will generally involve the development of a final project or professional portfolio, and it requires the student to bring together all the knowledge, skills, and abilities that they have gained throughout the MAA program.

The capstone typically provides a full evaluation and summary of all that the student has learned. Choosing to focus your capstone on an area in which you’d like to work once you graduate can help you begin a professional portfolio and give you something to present in interviews as evidence of your knowledge and interest.

Studying online

If you are unable to attend a campus to study, you may consider studying online. Web-based programs allow you the same excellent level of education and access to a cohort of skilled and highly trained lecturers and faculty, but with greater flexibility.

Often online classes are taught during the evenings or at times that are convenient for you through a virtual learning platform. With the rise in technology and flexible learning, many traditionally campus-based universities and dedicated online universities are starting to offer these programs.

Online learning can provide an interactive and engaging learning experience, and graduates gain the same qualification as they would through a traditional campus-based program.

Master of Athletic Administration Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

How many courses are required?

Based on an analysis of several online programs, the master’s degree in athletic administration typically requires 10-12 courses, or around 36 credit hours.

Master of Athletic Administration Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admissions requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

When researching programs, you might notice that the master’s in athletic administration also goes by similar names such as master’s in sports administration or master’s in sports management, or a combination of the two.

You might also notice a number of programs that cover similar ground, which may have a slightly more specialized focus. If you’re not sure which aligns best with your future career goals or if you don’t have an exact direction in mind, it might be worthwhile to check what these programs have to offer..

Some of the other potential programs to consider applying for include:

MBA in Athletic Administration
Master of Sports Management
Master of Sports Marketing and Management
Master of Arts in Business with a specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

Relevant Industry Associations and Organizations

When conducting your research, you may find the following associations and organizations are particularly useful in finding out more about the athletics field. It is also useful to see whether the university you choose has connections with any professional organizations, as this can help with employment opportunities when you graduate. Some common organizations include:

National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) [28]
National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) [30]
National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) [31]
The North American Society for Sports Management (NASSM) [32]

The NIAAA is one of the leading accrediting bodies to be associated with master’s in athletic administration programs, while the NACDA boasts the biggest membership of administrations working in collegiate athletics. [17] [26] The NACWAA aims to play a positive and active role in promoting the advancement of women in college athletics whereas the NASSM plays a role in supporting all athletics professionals in everything from HR and leadership to sports marketing and law. [27] [14]

Master of Athletic Administration Accreditation Overview
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality. Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning. You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Specialized accrediting bodies

The key accrediting body for athletics degree programs is the Commission on Sports Management Accreditation (COSMA). The role of COSMA is to ensure institutions deliver excellent programs at a recognized and standardized level. COSMA’s guidelines are strict, and their focus is on development, ensuring programs are improved regularly.

COSMA accreditation for your program shows that it focuses on the core elements of athletic administration. It shows that your program meets a recognized standard.

Certification/Licensure Overview

When studying for a master’s degree in athletic administration or sports administration, there are a number of professional certifications that your program might prepare you to earn. These include the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS) and the more well-known National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). [28] [29]

As a member of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), you qualify to take three certification levels for the roles of athletic director and athletic administrator (for interscholastic athletics). The entry requirement to take these is a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution. These certifications are:

Registered Athletic Administrator (RAA)
Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA)
Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA)

You can read more about these certifications on the NIAAA website. [33] Often these qualifications will be available to graduates upon completion of their master’s degree. Additional certifications can be gained through exams.

You may also require teacher licensure. The certifications and licensure needed for all athletic administration roles will vary from state to state, so it is always worth checking for the area that you will be working in. Holding a master’s degree from an accredited institution will help ensure you have the correct requirements to hold any licensure or certification that’s needed.

History of the Degree

Sports management and athletic administration are fairly new concepts to academia, and 50 years ago, they’d barely been conceived. The first sports management degree was offered in 1966, though the North American Society for Sport Management was formed nearly 20 years later. [34] Before the first degree, sports management and athletic administration were fairly limited fields and lacked definition. Often, the people filling the front-office jobs were former coaches or players.

Since then, the role of the college athletics administrator has continued to grow and develop, transforming into an exciting and challenging role. It is an area that has drawn in top executives both from within the sports industry and from external fields. [35]

A master’s degree in an athletic administrative specialization can lead to coveted and well-paid Division I athletic director roles. Nearly 90% of Division I athletic directors hired since 2009 have earned an advanced degree — and about 40% of those directors hold a master’s degree in sports administration. [35]

Specialized sports programs have come a long way since 1966. Today, there are approximately 25 to 35 master’s-levels sports management programs in the U.S. [36] However, the NIAAA, which accredits the master’s in athletic administration, lists only 12 campus degrees and two online degrees on its website. [37]

The MAA can position students for success at a time when the industry is expanding, with a 15% projected rate of job growth. [38] As such, it is hardly surprising that degree programs in athletic administration and sports management have been growing in number over the past three decades. In 1980, there were only 20 sports management higher education programs in the U.S. That number has risen to 300 bachelor’s-level and 25 to 35 master’s-levels programs available today. [36]

Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Master of Athletic Administration degree is intended to prepare coaches and athletic professionals to become athletic directors or administrators. The program provides the tools to become a successful leader in sports administration by developing essential knowledge of business management, coaching, the team, and the athletes.

A Master of Athletic Administration degree is developed for coaches at all levels or athletic department professionals looking to become athletic directors or administrators.

Tuition costs vary by institution. The average program costs range from $15,000 to $26,000. Costs can also change depending on a student’s state of residency and that of the institution.

For the most part, those pursuing a Master of Athletic Administration are looking to advance in their careers as administrators. The main objective is usually to become an athletic director.

The primary focus of a Master of Athletic Administration is to develop the student in areas that will directly enhance business, leadership skills, and overall understanding of an athletic department at an interscholastic level. The goal is to provide the graduate with a lasting and successful career as an athletic administrator.

Accreditation: What accreditations does the program and university hold?
Support Network: What support systems are in place to keep you connected with fellow students and faculty?
Delivery Method: How flexible is the program, and is it fully online, on-campus, or a hybrid?
Learning Experiences: Will the program offer real-world athletic experiences?
Affordability: Can I afford the program?
On-Campus Requirements: Are there any requirements for me to attend on-campus workshops or sessions?
Reputation: Does the school and program have a good reputation and ranking?
Faculty Experience: Are there faculty with a broad array of athletic field and coaching experience?

It is important have a clear understanding of the different programs available in your desired field of study. Below are a couple of degrees that sound similar, but are not the same as a Master of Athletic Administration:
Master of Sport Administration and Leadership: This degree is designed for those interested in a career in the sports field in general, including interscholastic, collegiate, and professional levels. Graduates of this degree usually desire to work in athletic departments or in sports-related events.
Master of Coaching Education: This program is intended to enhance knowledge and understanding of coaching effectiveness, mental preparation in the sport, nutrition and conditioning for athletes, sports ethics, skill analysis, and sports medicine along with other skills. It is geared towards those interested in coaching-related careers at an interscholastic, college, and professional level.
Master of Science in Sports Management: This program equips those pursuing it with knowledge in leadership, ethics, business, communication/public relations, digital media, event planning, and related topics with the objective of having a career in sports. [2]

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Yes, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to apply for a Master of Athletic Administration.

GPA requirements are not standard, as they will vary by institution. Make sure to research and find out if you meet the minimum GPA requirements of the institution you are interested in.

Usually, a Master of Athletic Administration does not require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) entrance exams. Instead, a completed application, a statement, letters of recommendation, and related fieldwork experience will be required. Remember, requirements will vary by institution.

Most programs will require in-field work experience in lieu of testing. The length of work experience and type will vary by institution.

Most Master of Athletic Administration programs will not require a specific bachelor’s degree. However, there might be certain accreditation requirements for the institution where the bachelor’s degree was obtained from.

There are usually no prerequisite course requirements. However, make sure to check on GPA and accreditation requirements for individual institutions.

The core courses of a Master of Athletic Administration usually include subjects such as:
Principals in Athletic Administration
Management and Leadership in Sport
Finance in Athletics
Legal Foundations of Risk Management in Athletics
Facility Design, Management, and Maintenance
Sport Governance and Policy Development
Human Resource Management in Sport Organizations
Ethics in Sports

The typical length of a Master of Athletic Administration is two years. This is an average, as the exact length will vary by the institution.

Most Master of Athletic Administration programs will not require fieldwork or a practicum. They will, however, require current in-field experience upon starting the program.

Yes, many universities offer a Master of Athletic Administration online.

No, your diploma will not indicate whether it was earned online or on-campus. The diploma will disclose the program you completed, the institution, and the date it was completed.

Yes, both an online or campus-based Master of Athletic Administration will have the same value and curriculum.

It is important to research your institution’s accreditation. An institution offering a Master of Athletic Administration should have accreditation from one of the accrediting bodies represented by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC). The accrediting bodies are as follows: [41]
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
The Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commision on Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission

The institution’s regional accreditation ensures that the institution and its programs meet the highest standards for quality education. However, the institution might also have program-specific accreditation. For instance, some Master of Athletic Administration programs will also have program-specific accreditation such as the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). This will vary by university and is not necessary.

Employers are aware that accrediting bodies hold universities to the highest standards for quality education that is recognized nationwide. A degree from an accredited institution can assure an employer that pertinent academic standards were met.

It is important to research the university you are considering to pursue a Master of Athletic Administration. The U.S. Department of Education is the best source to find an institution’s accrediting bodies. Here you will find a database of all universities and their current accrediting body. [42]

Graduates of a Master of Athletic Administration program will typically pursue a career as an athletic administrator with an end goal of becoming an athletic director. If the student is already an athletic director, the goal is to enhance knowledge and increase earning potential.

The most common job title graduates of a Master of Athletic Administration have is athletic director. Salaries will vary from state to state and the place of employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which places athletic directors as postsecondary education administrators, the median wage was $88,580 in May 2015. [43]

Graduates of a Master of Athletic Administration program will typically work in organizations such as schools, universities, or after-school programs/clubs. [40]

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment growth for postsecondary educators is expected to increase 9% from 2014 to 2024. [39]