Curious about exploring the world of sports as a profession? Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a player or former athlete to rise through the ranks and build a successful career in the sports industry. Whether you’re interested in sports data, public relations, marketing, management, sales, coaching, or coordinating, read on to learn how the right academic background and experience can help you start—and secure—a role in sports management.

Types of Sports Management Careers

While athletic directors or sports agents may come to mind first, there are a plethora of job opportunities to choose from under the umbrella of sports management. Remember, sports teams are multifaceted businesses, meaning there are career options both on and off the field—focus on a path that speaks to your skills and strengths. Roles include, but are not limited to:

General Manager: Responsible for the entire athletic organization—hire coaches, sign, or trade players, speak with the media, work with scouts, handle contracts, and more

Accounting: Manage budgets, payroll, cash flow, sponsorships, taxes, and the finances of the merchandise being sold to fans

Public Relations: Promote your team and liaison between the players, coach, staff, and the media

Facility Manager: Oversee the daily upkeep and safety of the venue, and ensure games go off without a hitch

Data Analyst: Use specialized software to collect and analyze data for marketing, sales, and/or player performance

Marketing Manager: Develop a marketing strategy to advertise games and events, boost ticket and merchandise sales, and interact with the community, fans, and media

Steps to Getting Started in Sports Management

When it comes to sports management, there’s no singular path to building a home-run career. However, these are the building blocks for getting your foot in the door:

Have a Passion for Sports: First and foremost, a strong passion for sports beyond occasionally watching games as a pastime will act as a strong foundation to set you up for success. Hiring managers will look for candidates willing to dedicate themselves and their time to the franchise—especially since working irregular hours and traveling will likely be required.

Secure a Bachelor’s Degree: While a degree in sports management isn’t a must-have, a bachelor’s degree or background in communications, marketing, public relations, business, finance, accounting, or law will look good on your resume and make you more competitive.

Consider an Advanced Degree: Many people choose to expand their academic achievements with advanced degrees or certifications when considering a specialized or niche role in sports management. For example, most sports accountants have earned an MBA with a concentration in accounting. If you plan on teaching or pursuing a career in research, earning a Ph.D. in sports management is another great way to stand out in such a competitive field. Current doctorate programs in the country include:

  • Sport and Exercise Science: Sport Administration
  • Kinesiology
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport, and Exercise Science
  • Doctor of Business Administration in Sports Management
  • Sport and Entertainment Management
  • Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, Sports Administration Specialization

Gain Real-Life Experience: While an advanced degree can lead to the stronger potential for professional success, experience and gained knowledge through internships, volunteer opportunities, and entry-level jobs will best prepare you for a position in the field. From playing a sport in school or coaching Little League to coordinating team schedules and working ticket sales at games, employers will look for skills that can be applied to the current role you’re interviewing for, so be sure to promote and play up your experience as it relates to the job.

With these steps in mind, you’re ready to channel your education, experience, and deep understanding of sports into a dream career.