Why a Sports Management Degree Will Separate you From the Competition

Even after the pep rallies end, you can have a career in sports if you make the right choices

Even after the pep rallies end, you can have a career in sports if you make the right choices


That is the number of professional athletes in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.


That is the population of the United States, according to the U.S Census.


That is the percentage of US citizens who are professional athletes, according to my calculator.

This is not meant to dash every bit of hope you have to make it in professional sports, by all means pursue the pinnacle of your dreams. But if reality sets in for you, like it has for the 99.995% of us that never got paid to light up the scoreboard, a new truth can emerge:

Even without a 98 mph fastball, working in the sports industry presents the unique opportunity to pursue your dreams, while also achieving a healthy bottom line.

[bctt tweet=”Why a Sports Management Degree Will Separate you from the Competition #sportsbiz”]

According to the latest figures from Plunkett Research a reasonable estimate of the total revenue deriving from the sports industry in the US would be between $440 and $470 billion yearly.how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

Let’s put that in perspective with other US industries:

Just because the sports industry is thriving, doesn’t mean you can show up to an interview in your varsity jacket, professing a real love for sports and get the keys to a corner office.

So how can you differentiate yourself from the rest of the sports loving worker bees? The answer could be an advanced degree in sports management.

“The benefit of a sport management degree is that it provides the student with a basic foundation of the sport business,” says John Wolohan is Professor and Graduate Program Director of the Sport Venue and Event Management program at Syracuse University in The David B. Falk College.

“It takes the student from being a fan, and teaches them that there is more to the sports business than rooting for your team.”

[bctt tweet=”A Sports Management degree takes the student from being just a fan and teaches them the #sportsbiz”]

First Things First:  What do you Expect From a Career in Sports?

sports management degree

These Oklahoma State sports management students hope a stadium like this can eventually be their office.

Before you declare your major, you need to understand what your end goal is. Some of the most popular jobs that sports management graduates pursue are in:

It’s a common misconception that graduating with a sports management degree means you’re on the fast track to a job as General Manager of your favorite Major League baseball team, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“I have two former students who are General Managers and a variety in various stages on that path, but I would say my involvement, and what I taught them, had very little to do with where they are,” says Dr. William Sutton, professor and director of the University of South Florida Sport and Entertainment Management program.

“Understanding Analytics, which we teach, is an important aspect of the job – but the real role of a General Manager is knowing what talent looks like, how to find it and then how to develop it. We don’t teach those skills – those come in the way of internships and experiences.”

It’s important to be realistic about your goals, and understand whether or not a sports management degree can help you get there, but the truth is, you don’t have to have it all figured out the day you complete your application.

“Nearly 100 percent of our students change their mind about their professional goal after being exposed to something new in the industry during the course of the sports M.B.A curriculum,” says Scott Minto, director of San Diego State University’s Sports Business Management M.B.A. program.

Go Where the Sports Jobs are

The success or failure of major professional and collegiate athletic programs isn’t just the product on the field of play; it’s directly correlated to the revenue generated from sponsorship and ticket sales.

sports ticket sales

Working in ticket sales is just one of many opportunities a degree in sports management can drive you toward

Sales make or break all businesses, which explains why of the 5,243 jobs currently active on WorkinSports.com over 22% are in some form of sports sales (data as of August 4th 2013).

“Sales jobs are the most plentiful because they often pose the most challenges.  You have to produce the revenue and your compensation is tied to that production,” concludes Dr. Sutton.

“Fear of failure, portrayal of the sales professional in films like Wall Street and Glengarry Glenross, the ‘no’ factor (hearing no 90-97% of the time), and frankly the demands of the profession are all deterrents. However, the satisfaction, pride and advancement opportunities for those that are successful come quicker and are more plentiful than any other aspect of the sports industry.”

Society projects a negative portrayal of jobs in sales; the lasting impression is of a high pressure world spent cold calling targets during their dinner, but that is not the sales we are talking about.

Just take a look at some of the course offerings from the Drexel University Masters in Sports Management Program:

  • Sports Budgeting & Fiscal Practicum
  • Sports Ticket Sales & Strategies
  • Corporate Sponsorship & Sales Strategies
  • Leadership in Sport Management
  • Sports Information & Public Relations
  • Consumer Behavior in Sport

The focus of courses taught in sports management programs involves statistical analysis, strategic thinking and planning, understanding behavior, marketing, promotions and more.

Sales are just one part of a sports management curriculum, and as you can see, cold calling isn’t mentioned anywhere.

[bctt tweet=”Sales are a big part of Sports Management curriculum, that is where the majority of jobs are”]

The Future of Sports Management

sloan mit conference on sports analytics

The Sloan MIT sports analytics conference is one of the foremost events for the advancement of sports analytics and data driven decision making,

Most sports enterprises are advancing toward a data driven business model, where analytics and advanced statistics play a major role in decision making.

“Analytics is a key element in sport management, I think the Sloan MIT Conference has driven this home and organizations such as the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic are prime examples of organizations that are totally committed to Analytics,” adds Dr.Sutton.

Undergraduate programs can’t possibly dedicate the time necessary to understanding the intricacies of sports analytics, but the proper advanced program can, especially when they work in conjunction with a professional team.

“I am such a believer that the first curriculum change I initiated when I came to University of South Florida was to add a Sports Analytics costs course which was  co-taught with the Analytics team of the Tampa Bay Lightning – this is a great employment area as opportunities continue to develop.”

If you have a love of sports, don’t give up on it just because you’re glory days of pep rallies and buzzer beaters are in the rear view mirror, there is a whole world of opportunities out there and a sports management degree can help you find your new truth.

Why a Sports Management Degree Will Separate you From the Competition
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Why a Sports Management Degree Will Separate you From the Competition
A sports management degree can take you from fan to business person, in an industry that makes you excited to go to work everyday. Learn more.
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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.


  1. A very nice article. Sports Management education is a wonderful place to to learn many practical tools and tactics for a successful career. Frank Cuzzi, Prof Sports Management, Berkeley College,NYC

  2. Alyssa Bosley says

    This is the second article of yours that I’ve read over the last few weeks and both have been on point. As someone who has previously worked in the sport industry (MiLB and intercollegiate athletics), but is now on the academic side, I can certainly appreciate your perspective. I strongly believe every prospective and current sport management student should read your articles.

    Please keep up the great work.

    – Alyssa Bosley, professor in the James Madison University Sport and Recreation Management program

    • Alyssa, I’m humbled. Thanks for your kind words, I work pretty hard to have a point of view that is accurate and informative, I’m glad you found that to be true. Lets talk – I’d love to learn more about the JMU program, maybe we can do a profile article for the site! – brian email me if you are interested: bclapp at workinsports.com

  3. Hey Brian, I have read some of your articles and I am at Florida State as a sports management major. I am having many concerns about this major, and job availability and what I should do so I would appreciate it if we can talk as I am having doubts- Thanks Jordan

    • Jordan – I completely understand, when you approach graduation things start to get real and when they start to feel too real, panic can set in. Don’t let doubters put doubts in your head! So lets break this down a bit… for one, your major is just one piece of the puzzle of getting hired way more important is what skills you have and what experiences you have gained on internships. Just to put it in perspective, I’ve hired a bunch of people in my career I rarely looked at where they went to school or what they majored in… I was more concerned with what they knew. As for job availability, we have 5,554 jobs currently open in our database, all you need is one. Think of it like the NFL draft, you only need one team to love you to become a first rounder. I really want you to read my most recent article http://www.workinsports.com/blog/get-jobs-in-sports-when-internships-networking-arent-working/ and start creating a plan. Also, sports management is a relatively general degree, start to get a little more focused on what you want… do you ant to go into sales, marketing, analytics, financial etc. Start to hone in and it’ll start to seem easier.

      Last thing… I went to the University of Delaware and had a communications degree. That is not impressive. BUt I got a job, got my foot in the door, and worked my tail off. I didn’t let that opportunity slip through my fingers. Make the most of whatever opportunity you get….and you will get one. – stay in touch, Brian

    • Awesome article!! I was just curious if you knew of any masters programs that were sport analytic specific and if not, would you recommend a Masters of science in applied statistics or masters in analytics?? For a degree path in basketball analytics as an assistant coach or GM!

    • Career path!!

    • Daniel – it’s a great question. I don’t want to give you an uninformed answer so let me ask around a bit for you and see what I can dig up – Brian

    • I am Interested in starting a club at my school that focuses the analysis of sports statistics. The goal would be to help students analyze a variety of sports data to make predictions and to gain experience utilizing a variety of data to make real life analyses that a sports statistician might make.

      Do you have any ideas about how I could structure the meetings and what data the students might look at that they make meaningful connections to the data? If you have ideas of resources or materials that might be helpful, I would appreciate it.

      Thank you.

  4. Tim SCitti says

    My son is in a Sports Admin. major. How does that compare in your professional opinion?

    • Tim – very similar, both degrees should focus on the business side of sports and managing operations, events, facilities, organizations etc – what I would suggest is that when he gets to elective part of his curriculum that he makes sure he takes classes in marketing and analytics. There are many many great opportunities in marketing so that is important to have a background in, and analytics is one of the fastest growing fields in sports. More and more jobs are requiring the ability to analyze not just statistics, but revenue models, ratings, performance indicators etc. While of course the goal is to work in sports, you want to have skills that translate to other fields as well and these both will! – Brian

  5. Our son is very interested in a career in sports in some way. We are just beginning the college process. Is it better to go with a marketing and management degree or possibly a communications or media degree and then do a Sports MBA program or should we be looking at schools that offer it at the college level as well?


    • Johanna – this is a great question, the choice of college is a big one and even more important is the major you choose to pursue. I’m actually going to write a blog post on this tonight and publish tomorrow – I’ll use your question as the launching point, so check out the blog tomorrow morning (1/17/14) for a very in-depth answer! – Brian

    • My son is interested in working as a sports analyst/statistician, but we are having a problem finding a college that offers this degree. We are finding a lot of schools that offer sports management, but no statistics. Any suggestions?

  6. Philip Barofsky says

    I am about to begin my college education at the University of Florida and would really like to talk to you about your ideas on a few different majors. I have had multiple ideas about a major in the business field but wanted to double major with a degree in the field of sports. My email address is philipbarofsky123@gmail.com. A few moments of your time would be greatly appreciated.

  7. kaitlyn pham says

    Hi Bryan,
    I am just getting started on my masters program in sports management. I am thrilled yet also nervous due to the fact that I don’t know where I can start my career. I hope this degree will help me choose a career path in the sports industry. You are so knowledgable and have worked in so many different aspects of the industry. I would love to talk to you more so you can help me understand the different paths I can go. Thanks

    • Kaitlyn- thanks for writing in, ask away with any questions you have – always glad to help. You can also join our LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=125140 which is a great way to talk with all kinds of people in the industry, not just me 😉

      The biggest piece of advcie I can give you is to do as many practical internships as you can, volunteer at events that come to your area (any PGA tour events? Basketball tourney’s, College showcases? find opportunities and be aggressive) and do things that can show up on your resume. Learns skills, gain experience – the classroom is great – but the real work gets done on the outside.

      Congrats on your masters program, I think it’s a great step for you! – Brian

  8. I’m currently an undergraduate student looking for some advice. My goal career is to do something in the area of sports marketing/promotion. I am at Texas A&M in which I will be able to go into the business school and get a marketing degree, but I do not really enjoy the school itself. I want to transfer to the University of Texas, but it would be virtually impossible to get into the business school, in which case I would go the college of education route with a sports management degree. When applying for jobs do you think that the difference in majors will make a significant different as far as opportunities go?

  9. Brandon Floyd says

    Hi, my name is Brandon Floyd I am a rising sophomore and attending Catawba college. I am starting to get serious about my major and declaring it ,which is sports management and I like the information on this site but was just wondering is there any internships or anything that help you with your success that you can relay to me?

  10. Hi, Thanks for the article. It was real helpful. My son played golf for a major d1 university and the counselors convinced him to move from Business Marketing to Sports Administration. He is fixing to graduate with his BS. He still wants to pursue playing professional golf but I worry that if he has to fall back on the sports admin degree that it will be tough. He is going to try a couple more years at golf but I want to convince him to continue his education while making the attempt.

    What is the best advice I can give him on improving his future employ ability while giving the golf a try? Should he get a Masters Degree? Should he focus on Sports Golf related? Should he get an MBA in sports admin? Thanks for the advice up front.


  11. Brian,

    Thank you for the article. It was a great read and gave great insight.

    I just graduated this past May with a degree (BA) in Mathematics & Computer Science from SUNY Purchase in Westchester, NY. I was fortunate to not only play three years of college soccer, but two years at the semi-professional level as well. Like a lot of athletes, I focused on sports 99% of the time, and did not really think much about my career path until 3 months prior to graduation.

    I absolutely excelled at mathematics, but I didn’t get much out of the computer science aspect, which is what all my current interviewers are looking for. After graduation, I’ve been looking at accounting and data jobs… yet nothing is motivating me. There’s nothing out there that screams I WANT TO DO THIS THE REST OF MY LIFE.

    I just went away to coach a summer sports camp in Maine. While I was there, I had quite some time to break away from the job search and really focus on what I wanted to do with my life when I got out. I’ve always been a diehard fan of sports, not just typical American sports, but I am fascinated with everything… including a HUGE soccer fan, rugby, snooker, darts, hurling, etc… I know that I can focus and retain information when it has to do with sports, and I’m actually motivated. After being inspired by watching Coach Carter, I decided I wanted to continue my education, and work in sports.

    I have a unique goal of working in European soccer in some capacity. I’m a huge numbers nerd, I even did my senior thesis on number theory and statistical analysis. I have experience in many capacities… coaching for a few different organizations, marketing with Nike Soccer and Gatorade through an agency, financial work with JP Morgan when I was in high school, even an internship in sports journalism.

    I don’t really have an exact question, but as a big mathematical/quantitative and strategic mind, how do I go about myself making the best use of those qualities in the sports industry? Also, how would I perk the interest of teams abroad with my resume, besides obvious necessary team experience (which I plan on attaining at my graduate school)? Do you have a school recommendation that’s more advanced in analytics?

    Sorry for the essay.
    Blaise Bourgeois

  12. Daniel Ulise Draghici says

    Very good analysis. Thank you for sharing the first steps in sports careers . Of course, it’s easier after playing competitively and getting some notoriety, but with a Sports Management Degree, you see the big picture in sports business, and it’s much easier to find your path afterwards. Keep up the good work, Brian.

  13. Sports is one of the best career which we need to venture in and exploit our potential. To be effective,it is good to join an institution of high learn and learn more concerning sports

  14. Really cool article title! Thanks for the share

  15. brenda orozco says

    Hey Brian,
    I want to go into sport’s management but my school only offers a management degree, what is the difference between a sports management degree and a management degree? Would I be at a disadvantage if I got a degree in just management? Should I just get the management degree or should I try to transfer to a different school that has a sports management degree program? Also, I was planning to double major in management and in sports administration and marketing, would that be a good idea? Thanks.

    • Brenda – I think you’ll be just fine with a business management degree vs. Sports management. The only thing you will miss out on is the sports specific angles regarding sponsorship, facility management, media relations, sports law etc. You’ll still get these classes, they just won’t be taught with a sports angle. I would not transfer or get too worked up about this shortcoming of your current school. Make sure to do sports specific internships and you’ll be good to go! – Brian

    • brenda orozco says

      Thank you very much! Appreciate the advice.

    • You got it! Good Luck – Brian

  16. Gregory Brooks says

    I have a question… Do you think it necessary to get a degree in sports management I what I really want to do is to coach ? Would a degree in sports management help me in any way?

    • Gregory – It’ll help you understand the underlying business of sports and how sponsorship and maketing affect team results and composition. I don’t think it would hurt, but you aren’t going to get X’s and O’s. I’d think about some psycology courses though, so you can really understand the athlete at work. – Brian

  17. Brian – Great article. I graduated from LSU with a Sports Admin major (and swam for 4 years) and moved right to NYC to work in the sports industry. Last year, I was with ESPN working as a Digital Account Manager and this year I’m with the MLB. I start working on my Masters in Sports Management online with Southern New Hampshire University in October. I’m super excited as I also hope to move into event management, Labor Operations, or Fan Operations.

  18. Hi,

    Thank you for the article About Sports Management. i am interested in sports Management Program. i belong to India. i search many institutes in India. can you suggest any good institutes in India. I found iismworld.com is located in mumbai (India) i found it good can you plz suggest me some best institute.. about sports management.

  19. You have brought up a very wonderful points , thankyou for the post.

  20. I am currently pursuing my undergraduation in electronics engineering in Mumbai,in India ,how do I get admission in your institute ,what’s the procedure,?Also what is the duration of course,the football post graduation one plz reply

  21. Thanks for sharing this valuable information


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