What Can You Do with a Sports Management Degree? Five Jobs

You can create a rewarding career in sports without any athletic ability, especially if you have a degree in sports management.

Careers for sports lovers go beyond the pro positions seen on game day. Athletes and coaches may enjoy the pre- and post-game spotlight, but there’s a vibrant ecosystem of sports management professionals keeping the industry running behind the scenes. Sports marketing and public relations professionals attract crowds and engage fans. Game-day anchors and radio show hosts broadcast live play-by-play updates and keep us entertained during breaks. Finance professionals negotiate vendor contracts, sports data analysts collect and study team statistics, and operations managers oversee venue maintenance.

There are many well-paying jobs in sports management for professionals with a wide range of skills. You can create fruitful careers in education and communications with a sports management degree too. For example, athletic directors in higher education earn an average salary of $119,592 according to salary.com. Advertising and marketing managers in the spectator sports industry earn an average salary of $125,650 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sports advertising, marketing and public relations managers can earn over $125K per year.

With your knowledge of sports and the right degrees, you can launch or catalyze your career. Let’s explore these five popular jobs in sports management: 

  • Marketing Manager
  • Athletic Director
  • Sports Agent
  • Sports Lawyer
  • Sports Accountant

Marketing Manager

Average salary in spectator sports: $125,650

A sports marketing manager’s overall goals are to help drive profit and protect and promote their employer’s brand. To achieve this, sports marketing managers develop and execute multifaceted marketing campaigns and manage marketing staff.

These marketing campaigns vary in purpose. Some campaigns promote sports teams, sporting events, sports leagues and sports organizations to increase attendance, viewership or membership. Other campaigns engage fans on social media to increase brand awareness and improve brand recognition.

Successful sports marketing managers combine general marketing knowledge with industry-specific sports acumen. Achieving this level of sports specialization is not always possible with a bachelor’s degree in communications or marketing alone. Consequently, many sports marketing managers pursue an MBA in sports management to fill industry knowledge gaps.

Athletic Director

Average salary in higher education: $119,592

Athletic directors at the university level manage sports programs and departments. Typical responsibilities can include (but are not limited to):

  • Hiring and managing coaches and staff
  • Budgeting for the season
  • Overseeing legal matters
  • Promoting the school’s teams and events
  • Coordinating with academic departments
  • Managing team and transportation schedules
  • Securing equipment
  • Fund-raising for sports programs and departments
  • Enforcing ethical guidelines from sports conferences and from the university

Most athletic directors don’t directly interact with student athletes as part of their job, but they can interact with athletes at games or events.

High-school athletic directors may not need a graduate degree, but most university level athletic directors carry a master’s since they work in an administrative role. A master’s degree in sports administration or an MBA in sports management are both suitable graduate degrees for aspiring athletic directors.

Sports Agent

Median salary: $102,070

Officially, sports agents represent and advance their clients’ careers. They help clients negotiate sports business deals. Agents also intervene in public relations conflicts and assist with the organization and execution of promotional campaigns and activities to further clients’ brand recognition.

Agents are largely responsible for their clients’ career progression and success. A decent percentage of a sports agent’s salary comes from a commission cut of each deal closed, so a good agent will be just as invested in their clients’ success as the clients themselves. For this reason, agents also act unofficially as clients’ mentors and advisors. They want to see their clients win on and off the field. 

In terms of education, the highest earning sports agents typically possess a combination of a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a specialized graduate degree. 

Sports Lawyer

Median salary: $98,303

Sports lawyers represent clients legally and assist with the execution of deals and contracts. Sports lawyers have the necessary education and skillset to negotiate, decline or terminate contracts and help clients understand legal jargon and contractual “fine print.” Sports lawyers are also equipped to protect clients legally in any instances of personal injury, breach of contract or potential lawsuits.

Law firms and athletic associations often employ sports lawyers, but self-employment is also a popular option among these attorneys. Regardless of place of employment, sports lawyers’ responsibilities can include (but are not limited to):

  • Giving legal guidance to clients
  • Representing clients in civil and criminal court matters
  • Negotiating and executing contracts and deals
  • Addressing the media on clients’ behalf

Sports lawyers must have a Juris Doctorate degree – preferably a sports law degree – and the proper state and federal licensure to practice. 

Sports Accountant

Median salary: $75,040

A sports accountant’s primary responsibility is to minimize loss by maintaining and managing financial records and creating accurate financial forecasts for sports teams, organizations and associations. They also engage in typical accounting duties such as filing taxes and overseeing payroll. Depending on a sports accountant’s specialty, they may work with other departments to analyze and improve sponsorship and endorsement deals, merchandising, advertising and marketing.

Any accounting job requires a deep understanding of mathematics and computation, and a sports accounting position is no different. Specialized graduate degrees like a Master of Accounting degree provide the proper training to ensure career success.

Final Thoughts

If you’re an avid sports fan but not quite an Olympian, you can still create a career in sports management and potentially earn a six-figure salary. With the right degree and the perseverance of an athlete, you can put your communications, accounting, leadership or legal skills to work and revolutionize your career.

About the Author:

Marisa McGrady is a writer and content specialist. Her passion for higher education brought her to FIU, where she works as the junior content strategist within the Chapman Graduate School of Business. When she’s not working, she’s reading, writing, or otherwise engaging in or creating worlds of her own.

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