Earning an Online Sports
Management Bachelor's Degree

A degree in sports management can lead to several career paths, each one largely dependent on your strengths and professional interests. You can work directly with athletes as a sports agent, manage a sports or recreational facility, or oversee school and community recreational activities. This guide contains information about what you can expect as you pursue an undergraduate sports management program, such as admission requirements, coursework, and job and salary expectations. Several colleges and universities even offer online sports management degrees to accommodate traditional and nontraditional students alike. Although program and degree requirements for online and on-campus programs are similar, this guide focuses on online sports management programs.

Overview of Sports Management Degrees

Earning a sports management degree online prepares graduates for the business side of the sports industry. Students can explore various business elements related to the sports industry, such as finance, law, management, marketing, promotions. It is important to note, however, that an online bachelor's degree in sports management typically follows the same curriculum as on-campus counterparts. Therefore, online students can expect the same rigorous program as a traditional degree, including topics in marketing and public relations, contract negotiation, facility and event management, leisure planning, and recreational management.

Some online colleges for sports management have no onsite requirements, and students can earn their degree completely online. Other schools may offer hybrid programs that require students to complete a predetermined number of on-campus visits. Sports management is an ideal college and career choice for business-minded individuals with a deep interest in sports.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, agents and managers of artists, performers, and athletes earn a median salary of $62,080. The sports industry is also poised to become a $73.5 billion industry by 2019, presenting sports management degree holders with plenty of professional options. Whether you opt for an on-campus or online sports management bachelor's degree, graduates face a diverse field with ample opportunities for job growth.

Application Process

Like many undergraduate programs, an online bachelor's degree in sports management typically requires applicants to have a high school GPA of at least 2.5. Some colleges accept applicants who do not meet their minimum GPA requirement, but only on a conditional basis. Traditional applicants (i.e., high school seniors) must also submit the results of a standardized college application exam, such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT). The minimum acceptable SAT or ACT scores naturally vary between schools. Some colleges waive the GPA and/or standardized test requirement for nontraditional students, such as applicants with significant work experience in the sports industry or a related field.

Many colleges with an online bachelor's degree in sports management require additional application documents: an academic transcript from every high school the applicant attended, at least one letter of recommendation, and an essay stating their academic and career goals. Four year colleges and universities usually expect applicants with an associate degree to earn their degree from an accredited institution.

What Will I Learn?

Most online bachelor's degrees in sports management require students to take courses in management principles, financial accounting, biological or physical science, and statistics. Additionally, several schools offer combined programs where students concurrently take sports management classes while also enrolled in law, business, health, or finance courses. Throughout the program, students learn to identify, implement, and manage the business dynamics that impact and influence the sports industry. Elective courses within the sports management discipline may include classes in sport facility design and management, ethical and legal issues in sport, or sports marketing.

Most on-campus and online sports management bachelor degrees require students to complete 120 credits. This usually includes 50-60 credits for general education, 30-35 credits in the major, and 25-30 credits for elective courses. Many colleges and universities also require students to complete an internship experience prior to graduating.

Business Operations Management

Students examine a variety of concepts and techniques commonly used in operational management. Topics include process strategy and management, resources planning, and services enhancement. Sports management students looking for a career in sports marketing (such as merchandising, sales, or promotions) can benefit from this fundamental business course.

Foundations of Business Law

This course explores topics like risk and liability management, principles of the law of contracts, business ethics, and cyberlaw. Students learn to analyze and apply existing statutes governing the sports industry, and how to draw up and negotiate contracts for athletes and/or sports organizations. Learners develop a keen awareness of the legal factors that affect business decisions in sports.

Global Sport Business

This course establishes a foundation for students to become effective professional managers in the international sports business. Topics include global political and economic risk factors, human rights, the role of media in the global sports industry, and socio-cultural impact of globalization.

Governance and Management of Sport Organizations

This course introduces topics such as organizational theory and behavior, governance structures used in a variety of sport organizations, and common managerial issues in the sports industry today. Students develop critical thinking and analytical skills, especially as it relates to appropriate management techniques.

Sports and Ethics

This course gives students the chance to explore current and emerging societal, cultural, and ethical issues that impact and shape the modern sports industry. They analyze and study human behavior in the context of sports activity, and develop an understanding of morality and ethics within the sports environment.

Sport Event Management and Marketing

Students learn to plan and mount successful sports events by honing their contract negotiation skills with athletes, sponsors, and suppliers; developing an integrated approach to event marketing; and implementing and managing multi-media marketing campaigns. Students receive hands-on experience by planning a real event.

What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Sports Management?

The field of sports management gives graduates numerous opportunities to turn their love of the game into a lucrative and exciting career. Many establish themselves on the business side of professional or amateur sports and work as agents, team managers, or sports merchandisers. Some sports management professionals manage sports facilities, while others direct recreational activities for specific social groups like out-of-school youth, senior citizens, or the disabled.

Core Skills

Top-rated bachelor's in sports management programs ensure graduates possess the fundamental skills and knowledge to succeed in the sports management field. For example, graduates must demonstrate a keen business knowledge of the sports industry as a whole, as well as to the specific sport in which they practice. Sports managers often apply marketing principles and concepts to the sports industry, so a well-developed business sense is paramount.

Additionally, a bachelor's degree in sports management program provides students with opportunities to polish their oral and written communication skills. Sports management is a people-oriented job; professionals deal with athletes, sponsors, grounds crew, marketing teams, team owners, fans, and the media. Having excellent communication skills allows you to excel as a manager in the workplace.

Sports management professionals must also possess critical and innovative thinking skills. The sports industry is highly competitive, and practitioners can remain a step ahead of the crowd by reading and anticipating trends, and finding new and creative ways to garner interest in their product.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Graduates of an accredited sports management program face a robust job market. With the sports industry expecting faster than average growth, many translate their degree into a lucrative and exciting career in this field. However, you can also leverage your bachelor's degree for positions in other industries and sectors. For example, sports management graduates can work as sports announcers, reporters, or writers. You can also use your degree to find work in the sales arena by selling or promoting sports memorabilia or merchandise.

The fitness industry offers several possibilities for sports management graduates as well, such as careers in personal training or leading structured exercises classes in gyms or leisure centers. Your career in the sports management field depends largely on your interests and objectives. Below are some possible career paths for graduates with a bachelor's degree in sports management.

Career Profiles

Account Executive

Annual Median Salary: $51,350

Account executives serve as the liaison between clients and service providers and/or product manufacturers. They ensure products and services meet client specifications and are delivered on time, track sales and promotional activities, and explore and develop additional revenue streams.

Sports Marketing Manager

Annual Median Salary: $63,443

Marketing managers implement, monitor, and analyze marketing campaigns, review market research findings, and collaborate with product managers to develop fresh marketing campaigns. Depending on the size of their organization, marketing managers may also create marketing initiatives for a product, a brand, or the entire company.

Recreation Supervisor

Annual Median Salary: $44,317

Recreation supervisors oversee sports and other recreational activities and programs for a community or group. They are often in charge of the facilities where these activities take place, which can include managing the staff, monitoring operational expenses, and promoting the activities or the facility itself.

Inside Sales Representative

Annual Median Salary: $42,334

Sales representatives cultivate new accounts, research and penetrate fresh markets, track sales activity, and maintain records. They also work with management, marketing, and production teams to develop new product lines, as well as sell product. Many sales representatives have to reach and exceed sales quotas to advance in the field.

Athletic Director

Annual Median Salary: $59,677

Athletic directors often manage more than just the athletics program of a school. They also ensure the teams and facilities are in compliance with division and government regulations, and may participate in the recruiting process.

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Sports Management?

Earning an advanced degree or postgraduate certificate increases your opportunities for career advancement and salary increases. This is true for virtually every industry, including the sports management field. However, you can land growth-oriented jobs and launch a successful career in the sports industry even with your bachelor's degree. If you prefer to work directly with athletes, you can do so as a high school or college coach, or as an athletic director for a school or community program.

If your interests lie more in the field of advertising and marketing, you can leverage your bachelor's degree in sports management into a career in event promotion. Popular sporting events attract huge crowds and often generate a lot of revenue, making sports event management a lucrative starting point for a sports management career. Whether you work directly with athletes and teams -- or behind the scenes as a promoter for the industry -- a bachelor's degree in sports management provides you some very promising professional options.

Accreditation for Sports Management Bachelor's Programs

The Commission on Sports Management (COSMA) accredits sports education programs in the U.S. and internationally, and at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral levels. It is important to note that the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes COSMA as a credible accrediting body in the sports management field. If the program you are interested in does not have programmatic accreditation, make sure the college or university offering the program is accredited. In addition to CHEA, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognizes several regional and national accrediting organizations throughout the country.

Keep in mind that a school's accreditation status plays an important role in ensuring the quality of your education, as well as the funding of your education. The ED channels federal student aid like scholarships, grants, and work-study programs only through accredited colleges and universities. Additionally, enrolling in an accredited school or program makes transferring credits a much simpler and easier process. Accredited institutions are often hesitant to accept credits earned from a non-accredited school.

Sports Management Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide its members with several benefits, including networking opportunities, regional and national conferences, and exclusive for-members only resources like newsletters and online libraries. There are several sports management associations all over the country. Some maintain a broad membership base (e.g., for athletic directors from any state), while others focus on specific groups (e.g., for African-American sports agents only). Below are three professional organizations that cater specifically to sports management professionals.

National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics
NACDA runs a Senior Administrators Mentoring Institute for senior-level athletics administrators. They also offer a career center with services such as resume writing assistance, reference checking, and career coaching. The organization administers several awards and scholarship programs.

National Sports Marketing Network
NSMN offers free job matching services to all of its members, along with career assistance services such as extensive resume review and job interview preparation. Members can also access discounted rates on several trade publications, and regional and national conferences.

North American Society for Sports Management
As part of its mission to promote sports management education, NASSM administers several awards and grant programs for distinguished sports management practitioners. They also offer various student services and initiatives, along with industry and academic job boards.