Education Requirements for Sports Management and Marketing

What to Look for in a Degree Program

Sports manager and coach on football field
••• Cameron Spencer/Staff/Getty Images Sport

Preparation for a career in sports marketing or management is similar to preparation for any professional career. Typically, the more education, the better.

MBA Preferred

According to a Turnkey Sports Poll that surveyed 400 sports industry executives, a traditional Master of Business Administration is the favored degree by executives in pro and college sports when hiring a senior executive. But, a variety of degrees received votes:

Of those executives polled, just 19.8% had a sports-specific college degree while 78.4% did not. (1.9% did not respond.)

The Right Fit

Reading the survey results suggests that if you have some interest in sports but have not yet decided to make it a career, you will not necessarily fall far behind by pursuing a more traditional undergraduate program and standard MBA or law degree. On the other hand, if you know you're interested in a sports-related career and find a sports business/management MBA that is a good fit, that certainly can provide a leg up.

Advantages of a sports undergraduate degree, master's degree in sports management, or MBA with a focus on sports management include specific training, internship programs in the field, and job placement. Also, just because an MBA program includes a focus on sports does not mean that graduates of those programs cannot branch out into other fields.​

Higher Education

According to Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal, more than 150 colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in sports management, sports administration, and sports marketing. More than 50 of those schools also offer master’s degrees in those areas. Only about a dozen schools offer MBA programs with a focus on sports.

MBA Jobs

Because college and pro sports are big business, it's no surprise teams, athletic departments, and leagues want leaders with an MBA. A business background is useful in marketing, public relations, advertising, ticket sales, and managing a team, sports program, or league. A sports-specific MBA can help graduates more readily handle the growing complexity of sports management.

Positions for Lawyers

There is a variety of work for lawyers who choose to work in professional and college sports. Lawyers work to protect the intellectual property of sports teams (or leagues), which is vital to an organization. Lawyers also focus on contract and facility issues, insurance, sponsorship agreements, tax regulations, and employment law.

What Does It All Mean for You?

There are many paths for pursuing a career in sports. And considering an undergraduate or graduate degree is certainly a great alternative. Start by visiting the North American Society for Sport Management site that lists all U.S. degree programs related to sport business in one convenient site, organized by state, with links directly to the programs' websites. There is also an international listing by country.

When exploring the programs keep cost and geography in mind. Also, as sports is such a broad field, carefully research what each program's "specialty" is. Other important factors to consider are the number of full-time faculty members that are in the department, types of internships recent and current students have completed, and the strength and reach of the alumni network.