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Master of Science in Sports Management | Context - Context
Online Master of Science in Sports Management
Master of Science in Sports Management In Context

The Master of Sports Management is the degree of choice for students who wish to pursue a career in the senior echelons of sports management.

Regardless of your undergraduate degree, this program can prepare you for a management role in sports, sports-related business, or academia. A master’s in sports management can provide you with the knowledge, theory, and practical skills required to manage sports teams, clubs, franchises, venues, individuals, and organizations.

What can you learn in a Master of Sports Management online program?

The online master’s degree in sports management combines practical and theoretical practices while covering core and niche elements of the profession, [1] including:

  • Operations management
  • Social perspectives in sport
  • Health and fitness management
  • Sports marketing
  • Managing sports development
  • Personal and professional development within sports
  • Management performance coaching
  • Professionalism and leadership
  • Corporate communications
Who might pursue a sports management master’s degree?

Students who enroll in an online master’s in sports management generally intend to pursue management roles, ranging from established professional sporting franchises in the private sector to nonprofit community sports projects.

Why consider a master’s degree in sports management?

Earning a sports management degree can help you develop the skills needed to make the transition to a career in management regardless of your background. This curriculum is suitable for those with minimal work experience at the senior level, as it prepares you for your first role in sports management without requiring prior experience.

Some programs are geared toward theoretical sports management topics such as organizational operations, marketing, and social perspectives, whereas others focus more on practical expertise in areas like performance coaching, fitness management, and personal development — so be certain to choose a program that aligns with your career goals.

If you intend to pursue a career as a sports agent, broadcaster, talent scout, marketing manager, new media analyst, sports data compiler, information technology specialist, sports retail representative, sports club manager, or development coach, a master’s degree in sports management may be beneficial. [2]

Many programs can be completed online without the need for an internship. Online master’s degrees in sports management generally offer much more flexible options in terms of scheduling and enrollment.

A sports management master’s degree does not require you to have any specific educational history or background to apply.

Master of Science in Sports Management Career Advancement

Students who earn a master’s degree in sports management can be found working in organizations all over the world in roles that involve general sports management, operational management, sports marketing, business development, and events management. Some take consultancy positions or work on a self-employed/freelance basis, while others pursue more specialist niches such as analysis of consumer culture in sport, financial appraisal for professional athletes, and personal performance coaching. [2]

Other possible roles include:

  • Venue management: Overseeing all management aspects of a sports venue, encompassing marketing, financial projection, promotion, and administration.
  • Nutrition/fitness coach: Motivating individual clients or teams to achieve fitness goals via exercise regimes and diet plans, and providing feedback and accountability.
  • Coach/scout: Evaluating the talent of athletes at the high school, college, and professional levels.
  • Sports agent: Advising professional athletes on personal image and business, encompassing mentoring the individual and negotiating contracts.
  • Sports marketing manager: Taking responsibility for developing and executing marketing plans for a sporting organization to attract new prospects, retain existing customers, and promote the sports brand.
  • Events manager: Being responsible for project budgets, ensuring events run smoothly from start to finish, and delivering an efficient project with leadership, direction, and motivation.
The sports management job market

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS) predicts that as a whole, employment within management occupations is likely to rise by approximately 6% from 2014 through 2024. This growth is expected to be driven by new business creation and overall organizational growth. [3]

Consulting is an attractive career choice for sports management professionals looking to attain high salaries, an intellectually demanding position, and the opportunity to work on a contract or self-employed basis with overseas placements available. The BLS also reports that management roles within business consulting agencies are expected to grow by 14% from 2014 to 2024. [3]

Common employers for graduates with a Master of Sports Management

The biggest employers of Master of Sports Management graduates include sports retail, coaching and scouting consultancies, marketing agencies, personnel management agencies, and media/entertainment companies. Sports management graduates have a great reputation with training firms as well as talent scouting organizations that require new analysts to uncover fresh talent. The ability to be flexible and mobile, and work hard, learn on the job, and take risks are all preferred traits for recent graduates.

Master of Sports Management potential career benefits

Earning a sports management master’s can help you to achieve more professionally, including the following:

  • An improved salary: Management graduates typically earn more, attain more advanced job titles, are more likely to get promoted, and have increased responsibility at work, thereby commanding better pay.
  • Wider opportunities for employment: Sports management graduates have transferable skills that can be used for multiple job functions across a variety of marketplaces due to the degree’s generalist nature.
  • Personal development: Achieving a master’s degree in sports management can increase self-esteem and personal satisfaction, improving confidence in the workplace.
  • Higher employability rates: With projected employment rates increasing for coaches and scouts, [4] sports agents, [5] and marketing managers, an online master’s degree in sports management can help you increase your professional network and find more challenging work.
What sports management skills do employers look for?

Employers will typically expect sports management graduates to demonstrate a broad skill set encompassing both practical and theoretical understanding and implementation of successful sports management tactics, including:

  • Data analysis skills: The ability to process and transform raw data into usable, meaningful information.
  • Communication skills: The ability to share and convey ideas among your peers, with a desire to work well in a team context.
  • Demonstration of good leadership qualities: Having an honest, conscientious outlook with the ability to delegate, communicate, and commit with confidence, as well as a creative, positive mental attitude.
  • Broad business knowledge: Understanding the needs of customers and the experience and limitations of staff and the wider business to develop a brand.

Graduates of sports management degree programs will typically develop skills in several areas dependent on their ideal career path. These can include skills related to general business, decision-making, sports management strategies, innovative thinking, and motivating a team or client. Each of these helps to position the individual for senior sports management roles.

Does a master’s in sports management offer a good return on investment?

Many of the careers you can pursue with a Master of Sports Management offer rewarding salary and growth potential, making the degree a great choice in terms of return on investment. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a mean wage for agents and managers of $89,590 [5], while marketing managers earn a median pay of $127,560 and are projected to see 9% growth from 2014 to 2024. [6] On top of this, master’s graduates have an improved chance of fast-track career progression, meaning they can gain salary increases in less time.

Master of Science in Sports Management Curriculum
The Master of Sports Management degree helps prepare graduates to serve in management roles within a sports framework. Learning and teaching methods encompass online seminars, lectures, field studies, guided learning, mentoring, and research projects. Most programs give students the opportunity to learn from practicing sports managers, marketing experts, agents, entrepreneurs, and other industry leaders. These experiences are vital in terms of adding to your understanding of subject matter. Courses can be delivered via face-to-face learning or online delivery. The majority of sports management programs begin with core courses, with more specialized electives introduced during the latter half of the program.
Typical core courses

The curriculum you experience will likely vary depending on your program, but some subjects you can expect to study while earning your Master of Sports Management degree include:

  • Financial reporting for sport: Generating external financial statements including balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements, and stockholder equity notes where applicable.
  • Operations management: Controlling the processes of production, event creation, and overseeing general business operations.
  • Health and fitness management: Developing programs to apply coaching, business, and physical education principles to an organization to improve overall health, well-being, and morale.
  • Sports marketing: Understanding the promotion of sports events, teams, franchises, and brands, and the methods to successfully generate revenue in a sports framework.
  • Research methods: Understanding the processes used to collect data and information to make decisions in a business capacity. Methodology includes interviews, publication research, surveys, and other techniques.
Sports management electives

Additional courses studied in a sports management master’s degree can include the following:

  • Critical notational analysis in sports: The study of patterns, tactics, and strategy in team sports, so that critical events can be quantified in a reliable, consistent manner.
  • Performance coaching: Facilitating the development of an individual or team, developing action plans, and making recommendations to improve performance.
  • Small enterprise management: Managing all aspects of a small company such as a community sports venue, using management skills to accomplish the objectives of the organization.
  • Professionalism and leadership: Implementing knowledge, ethics, autonomy, and service to others for the benefit of colleagues, employees, and the organization as a whole.
  • Sports tourism: Undertaking case studies of a growing sector of the sports industry, which involves observing or participating in sporting events outside of the standard environment.
  • Digital marketing: Understanding online marketing and how to leverage digital channels to attract and retain customers in a sports framework.
  • Sport and the law: Understanding the legalities in the world of sports and how they apply to athletes and businesses.
Will I be required to complete a thesis, dissertation, or capstone project?

The capstone project is a requirement in most programs, typically taking place in the final semester. A capstone project may allow you to apply the knowledge you have gained in the program to tackle a problem for a real client via an internship or collaboration. Often you will be able to choose from a selection of commercial sporting enterprises, nonprofit organizations, sports governing bodies, or management agencies. Formats are generally flexible, with students sometimes able to come up with a topic of their choice. Faculty members are usually available to help you choose and develop your project.

In certain circumstances, students are permitted to take a comprehensive examination instead of a capstone project, but this is generally the exception rather than the rule.

Does a master’s degree in sports management require an internship?

Some sports management master’s degrees require an internship, and many graduates claim there is added value in them. Some of the biggest sporting brands in the world offer sports management internships, [7] which can be a stepping stone in your career progression.

Larger companies are more likely to offer internships than small or medium enterprises, which is great for students wanting to experience day-to-day life at the world’s largest sporting brands.

Are there any ways to specialize a Master of Sports Management degree?

Not all sports management programs offer concentrations or specializations, and options will vary in the institutions that do offer them. Examples of sports management areas of focus include:

  • Leadership: Develop the ability to lead a company to set and achieve realistic goals, take decisive action, and outperform the competition.
  • Management: Learn to coordinate the efforts of personnel in a variety of different departments to work together for the benefit of the organization.
  • Ethics in sports: Understand the philosophy of sports, and how to implement integrity, fairness, respect, and responsibility in a competitive setting.
  • Sports and health care: Learn to deal with physical fitness and how to treat and prevent sports-related injuries.
  • International business: Undertaking commercial transactions which occur across international borders, and how to partake in effective business management in an ever-changing global landscape.

Consider your career interests before choosing any specializations or electives. Bear in mind that certain specialist areas of sports management may require additional external certifications or qualifications.

Do different fields of study or degree types affect career options?

Specializations at the master’s level in subjects like public or athletic administration, information, systems and technology, or marketing can help students gain a deeper understanding of the field in niche areas. But this can sometimes inhibit a graduate’s ability to cross into other areas of an organization.

The right program choice ultimately depends on your career plan. Sports management offers insights and skill sets that can be practically applied across the workplace spectrum.

How to choose a master’s in sports management program

The most common factors students look at when considering programs include program length, cost, the reputation of the institution, and potential employment outcomes, with other factors taking precedence dependent on the student’s personal situation.

Before committing, you should consider the following:

Find out about curriculum options to tailor your degree to your requirements. Choose the program that most aligns with your potential career goals.


Compare accreditation of differing schools, institutions, and programs. Employers generally favor regional accreditation, as do schools where you might want to transfer credits or pursue another degree.


Research faculty members of any prospective school choices to determine their reputation and experience as indicators of whether the program is likely to help you achieve your career goals.

Reputation and rankings

Do some research to ascertain how your prospective school and program rank within your chosen industry and in comparison to similar institutions.

Online options

Find out whether an online master’s degree in sports management could provide you with the flexibility to tailor your studies to suit your busy schedule. If you intend to work full-time or have other responsibilities such as raising children, an online program might best suit your needs. Others may favor a combination of online and on-campus learning.

Length of program

Consider how long a program will take to complete. The majority of sports management master’s degrees take a minimum of two years to complete. However, accelerated programs are also available.

Program cost

Working within your budget is the best way to ensure you have the resources to succeed in your chosen program. Costs can vary, so pay attention to tuition rates and any additional fees.

Notable alumni

Seek out any prestigious graduates to find out how the program has helped them to achieve. Many schools will also post testimonials from recent graduates as part of their marketing, so be certain to peruse these before making a decision.


Inquire about partnerships with businesses or mentoring programs provided to sports management students. Mentoring can offer benefits when preparing yourself for a career in management.

Master of Science in Sports Management 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 credits are required?

This can vary from program to program, but on average 36 credit hours are required. For further information on credit hours, you should research schools you may potentially enroll in for clarification.

Master of Science in Sports Management Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission 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.

Why do certain master’s degrees require relevant work experience?

Not all institutions offering a master’s degree in sports management will require work experience. However, internships and paid work experience stand prospective candidates in good stead when the demand for a program exceeds the number of spaces available. For the sports management master’s degree, prior work experience demonstrates suitability for the coursework.

Master of Science in Sports Management Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

Certain other master’s degrees overlap with the Master of Sports Management in terms of content and program structure. Similar degrees include:

  • Sports Science: The study of how the human body functions during exercise.
  • Sports and Exercise: How physical activity in sports framework helps to promote health and improved cognitive performance.
  • Sport, Physical Education, and Development: An exploration of how physical education can be used to improve morale and promote community cohesion.
  • Sports Psychology: An interdisciplinary science that combines physiology, biomechanics, and psychology to help you understand how sports participation affects the mind.
  • Physiology, Sports Science, and Nutrition: Focusing on how the consumption of vitamins, minerals, and supplements affects physical capability in sports.
  • Business: The discipline of management and economics, combining practical skills like bookkeeping with entrepreneurial skills like how to spot a gap in the market.
  • Human Resources Management: Defining and designing working roles, understanding formal systems devised for people management, and dealing with staffing, employee benefits, and working rights.
  • Finance: The practice of money management in a business context, encompassing accounting, investment, assets, liabilities, and credit.
  • Entrepreneurship: A study of the capacity and willingness to organize and develop a potential business venture while identifying any potential risks.
Master of Science in Sports Management Relevant Industry Associations

There are a number of relevant professional industry bodies with which you should familiarize yourself if you plan to pursue a master’s degree in sports management. These include:

  • National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) [10]
  • Sport Marketing Association (SMA) [11]
  • College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) [12]
  • North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) [13]
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) [14]
  • National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) [15]
Master of Science in Sports Management Accreditation

There are numerous national and international accreditation bodies which exist to promote excellence, create standards, and promote the study of sports management.

In the United States, the two primary accreditation bodies focused on the subject are:

  • The Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA) [8]
  • North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) [9]

Is regional accreditation important in sports management?

As the most prestigious form of accreditation that any college or university can receive, regional accreditation matters. It is only granted after meticulous consideration from private, nonprofit organizations responsible for evaluating education quality.

Regional accreditation is of particular importance should you anticipate transferring credits from one online program to another, or if you intend to use the same credits to pursue a degree in a different field, as most regionally accredited institutions will only accept credits from other regionally accredited schools of higher learning. The majority of nonprofit institutions are regionally accredited.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

History of the Master of Sports Management degree

The North American Society for Sport Management was formed in 1985 with the intention of convening a number of leading sporting academics to identify and address common needs and concerns within the world of professional, amateur, and community-based sports.

From here, a framework was established leading to the development of sports management degrees currently available in hundreds of schools across the U.S.

Sports management academia serves to stimulate and promote the study and development of sports management, and encompasses finance, ethics, behavior, economics, governance, legalities, and professionalism in the context of sport and athletics. [13]

As of 2017, there are a number of independent accreditation bodies that monitor program development.

Master of Science in Sports Management 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)

The Master of Science in Sport Management is an advanced degree that takes a high-level approach to management in the sports industry at the academic, collegiate, and professional level. This robust degree is designed to provide you with broad knowledge into the strategies, theory, application, and skill sets required for the management of sports teams of any size, franchises, sporting venues, individuals, and key stakeholding organizations.

The MS in Sport Management is for former athletes, students from non-business backgrounds, and individuals with a background or interest in business who seek an executive level, leadership-focused career in sports management. The master’s degree typically attracts professionals who have an interest in high-level management roles, or those who wish to work in nonprofits, public, and private sector sports organizations.

Sports is a thriving, multibillion dollar industry with a vast array of careers and professional opportunities across a wide range of focus areas — all of which require senior-level managers. [16] An MS in Sports Management can provide in-depth knowledge of the business behind athletics, plus a deep understanding of the inner workings of the sports world. Whether you desire to work with sports leagues and agencies at the local, professional, or international levels, the expertise from a MS in Sports Management can help you strengthen your organization’s business strategy and boost its earning potential.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [17]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

To be admitted into a Master of Science in Sport Management program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Additional admissions requirements may vary, but common requirements include a 3.0 GPA (minimum), letters of reference, a written personal statement, interview, and academic transcripts.

Some Master of Sport Management programs require relevant work experience as an admissions requirement, while others do not.

You do not need an undergraduate degree in sport management to pursue an MS in Sport Management.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. 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 the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

According to the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA) and the
North American Society of Sport Management (NASSM), the common body of knowledge provided by a sports management degree program includes:

  • Sport management and administration
  • Leadership and professional preparation
  • Ethics
  • Event management
  • Sport marketing and communication
  • Sport commerce, economics, and finance
  • The social context of sport business
  • Sport law and governance [18][19]

Completion time may vary by program, but an MS in Sport Management can be earned in as little as 10 to 12 months as a full-time student. Most colleges and universities will offer the degree over the standard two academic years, but fast-track or accelerated programs are available online as well.

No. But most Master of Science in Sport Management programs require the completion of a capstone project during the final semester. This capstone allows you to apply everything you have learned from the MS in Sport Management by undertaking a complex problem from a client through an internship or collaboration with a sports agency, nonprofit organization, or private enterprise. Students can often choose their own topics to research, with faculty on standby to assist the development of the capstone. If you do not wish to pursue a capstone, you also have the option to take a comprehensive exam instead of the capstone.

Yes, many schools offer the opportunity to complete this degree entirely online.

MS in Sport Management programs offer various specialized concentrations for students to focus their education, such as:

  • Athletic Management
  • Sport Leadership
  • Sports Marketing
  • Recreation
  • Tourism and Entertainment
  • Exercise Science
  • Sports and Health Care

A specialization that has high industry demand can significantly broaden your career options.

No. However, if you choose to a career as a sports agent or sport manager, you may have to pay licensing fees for your state of operation. Additionally, if you represent players from one or more professional leagues, you will need a separate license for each organization. [19]

Many institutions offer Master of Science in Sport Management degrees online.

Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, typically schools use the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

A Master of Science in Sport Management graduate can pursue specialized careers at within the sports industry, such as business development, talent acquisition, sales, marketing, and general management or administration.

Common professions and median salaries for Master of Sport Management graduates include: [20]

  • Sales Managers: $117,960
  • General and Operations Managers: $99,310
  • Adapted Physical Education Specialists: $53,860
  • Dietitians and Nutritionists: $58,920
  • Fitness and Wellness Coordinators: $78,210
  • Coaches and Scouts: $31,460
  • Agent (sports): $62,080
  • Sports Marketing Managers: $131,180
  • Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners: $47,350

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management occupations are expected to increase by about 6% between 2014 and 2024. This vast growth will largely be driven by the formation and expansion of organizations. [21]

In addition to those new management careers, public relations and sports consulting also represent significant avenues of career opportunity for an MS in Sport Management graduate.

Public relations specialists will maintain steady growth from 2014 to 2024 due to the necessity of organizations to develop and maintain their public image, which is paramount to the sports industry.

Sports management graduates who desire to apply their master’s degree toward a high-earning, knowledge-based career will find attractive career growth in consulting roles. BLS research indicates that top management roles at consulting agencies are thriving — and projected to grow by 14% from 2014 to 2024.

MS in Sports Management graduates can find high-level employment in multi-level sporting organizations across the world, marketing agencies, consulting firms, academic institutions, or in self-employment. [16]

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [45]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.