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How to Start a Career in Sport Management

Jan. 20, 2020

A sports agent reviews a contract with a laptop on his desk.

How to Start a Career in Sport Management

Which sports team member is the most important? In football, some might argue that it’s the quarterback. In basketball, some might say it’s the star point guard. Beyond athletes, though, sport management professionals help keep teams and franchises thriving.

Roles such as head coach, general manager, and athletic director often receive a lot of attention. While many associate a career in sport management with these headline roles, scores of professionals contribute to teams’ success behind the scenes. Their work enables athletes to focus on the game and fans to enjoy the event.

Sport management is an operational function of a college, a professional, or an amateur sports team. It involves planning, organizational management, marketing, data analysis, budgeting, and other activities.

Careers in Sport Management

Responsibilities, titles, seniority levels, and salaries may vary across teams, leagues, and organizations. Aspiring sport management professionals should also consider the education needed for each role.

Coach

Coaches encourage athletes, from schoolchildren to professionals, to perform at their highest levels. Coaches put in place a game strategy; make in-game decisions; and oversee the activities of individual athletes, teams, and coaching staffs. In amateur sports, coaches train athletes to compete in a sport. As such, coaching is a form of teaching outside of the classroom.

It’s common for high school coaches to know CPR and first aid. Some states recommend that coaches have teaching certifications. Collegiate coaches usually have a bachelor’s degree in various subjects, including kinesiology. The annual median salary for coaches was $79,800 in 2018, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

General Manager

General managers put the pieces in place to help teams to succeed. They draft players through trades and free agency to assemble team rosters. As the face of the team, general managers represent the organization at public events. A general manager’s main focus is on day-to-day business operations, with duties that vary by franchise and league. General managers develop strategic plans, manage administrative professionals, and engage with owners.

General managers must understand the sports business, including accounting, budgeting, contracts, and laws. They often start in scouting, coaching, director of player personnel, and similar roles. General managers often have earned a degree in business or sport management. The annual median salary for general managers was $118,980 in 2018, according to the BLS.

Athletic Director

Athletic directors oversee programs at schools, colleges, and universities, adhering to NCAA standards. They manage coaches, coordinate competition schedules, and supervise equipment and facilities staff. They recruit athletes from high schools, which sometimes involves administering athletic scholarship programs.

Athletic directors earn experience serving in various athletic administration roles. Most have earned a bachelor’s degree, although some universities prefer candidates with master’s degrees. The annual median salary for athletic directors is about $60,000, according to November 2019 PayScale data.

Statistician

Statisticians track player performance through statistical methods, data collection, and analysis and must have strong math and data analysis skills. Sports teams and broadcasters depend on statisticians for game analysis. The annual median salary for statisticians was $78,900 in 2018, according to the BLS. Many statisticians earn a bachelor’s degree in statistics.

Public Relations/Marketing Professional

Sports teams depend on fan support. Public relations/marketing professionals develop strategies to generate positive publicity for sports organizations. They grow their fan bases and increase revenues through various promotions. The annual median salary for public relations/marketing professionals was $55,350 in 2018, according to the BLS. Public relations/marketing professionals typically earn a bachelor’s degree in areas such as communications and marketing.

Events Manager/Coordinator

Sports teams hire events managers/coordinators to plan events hosted at their venues. They must work well under pressure and collaborate successfully with clients, caterers, DJs, and others. They’re useful planners, organizers, and budgeters. The annual median salary for events managers/coordinators was $49,950 in 2018, according to the BLS. Events managers/coordinators often hold bachelor’s degrees in areas such as communications and marketing.

Operations/Personnel Manager

Operations/personnel managers are big-picture professionals. They ensure that a team’s operations run cost-effectively and that employees work productively. Operations entails all aspects of a business, including finance functions, human resources, supply chain, inventory, and scheduling. The annual median salary for operations/personnel managers was $118,980 in 2018, according to the BLS. The role typically requires a bachelor’s degree in business, although a master’s degree is common among senior professionals.

Equipment/Facilities Manager

Equipment/facilities managers ensure that equipment and the physical plant of a stadium or an arena are ready for games. They inspect and perform maintenance on equipment; maintain storage; and keep records of warranties, licenses, inspections, and contracts. The annual median salary for equipment/facilities managers is about $66,000, according to November 2019 PayScale data. Some employers require licensing in areas such as heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning; electrical work; and plumbing. Senior roles typically require a bachelor's degree.

Sports Agent

Top-tier athletes land lucrative endorsements and sign big deals thanks to their agents. Sports agents specialize in negotiating contracts and taking care of their clients’ needs. The annual median salary for sports agents is about $53,000, according to November 2019 PayScale data. Sports agents often begin their education with a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or sport management, and many further their education by attaining a law degree or Master of Business Administration.

Start Your Sport Management Career

The sports industry is significant, valued at $488.5 billion globally in 2018. The increased diversity of sports is creating demand for capable sport management professionals. With the many career options in sport management, an advanced degree can serve as a critical first step to advancing in this growing field.

For professionals seeking to launch their sport management careers, a Master of Science in Kinesiology and Sport Management at LSU Online can help position them for success. The program offers a flexible format and can be completed in as little as one year. The curriculum is designed to prepare aspiring sports managers to become effective leaders and motivators, with courses such as Organizational Behavior and Development in Sport, Facilities Management, Sport Law, and Financial Issues in Sport.

Working in sports can be a dream job for the right candidate. Take the next step in your career today by learning more about the LSU Online Master of Science in Kinesiology and Sport Management program.

Recommended Readings

Get In the Game: What Is Sport Management and Where Can It Take You?

My LSU Online Experience - Master of Science in Kinesiology

LSU Online Programs See 20% Enrollment Growth

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