Careers in Sports Management: How to Enter a Dynamic Field

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Sport managers negotiating over facility.The global sports market was a $488.5 billion industry in 2018. Furthermore, it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% to $614.1 billion by 2022, according to Business Wire. The sports market in North America alone was valued at $71.06 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $83.1 billion by 2022, according to Statista.

Here are some other staggering figures. Deloitte predicts that by 2020, E-Sports will generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue. In 2019, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took steps to allow collegiate players to profit from their image and likeness, which will allow them to hire agents and sports managers. Clearly, the global and national sports arena is a lucrative industry for professionals who are looking to pursue rewarding careers in sports management.

What Is Sports Management?

Sports management requires professionals with a variety of skills, including implementing budgets, leading athletic departments, managing clients, planning sporting events, and hiring personnel. Professionals in sports management work in a range of environments, including universities, advertising companies, media firms such as Fox Sports, ESPN, etc., and professional sports organizations such as the NBA, NFL, ATP, MLS, WTA, and NHL.

The field of sports management requires professionals to focus on the key business elements of the industry, which include finance, marketing, people and project leadership, and public relations. One of the job responsibilities of a sports manager is to implement financial strategies to ensure the fiscal sustainability of an organization or athlete.

For example, sports managers may manage the salaries of athletes and employees, while also ensuring those salaries do not bankrupt the organization. Responsibilities also entail understanding the financial impact of canceled games or how player injuries affect an organization’s budget. Sports managers who work primarily with athletes are called sports agents. They are tasked with helping negotiate salary, as well as managing contracts, endorsements, and other aspects of their client’s career.

On the marketing front, sport managers are integral in building relationships with corporate sponsors to create successful campaigns. When the Seattle Seahawks made it to Super Bowl XLIX, Starbucks signed a deal with the team to be one of its corporate sponsors and began to produce merchandise celebrating the team’s feat.

Successful sports managers are also able to land lucrative endorsements for their clients from major sports companies. In 2015, Lebron James signed a lifetime deal with Nike that was estimated to be worth $1 billion. The deal makes him the only athlete to have signed a lifetime deal with the company, according to a report by USA Today.

A career in sports management requires skills in public relations. In many cases, a sports manager is the face of an organization and is responsible for interacting with the media, as well as dealing with public relations issues such as player injuries or the firing of coaches. Sports agents who work closely with individual athletes are required to keep negative publicity from impacting a player’s performance on the field and subsequent earning power.

Careers in Sports Management

There are a variety of careers in sports management that can be pursued with an advanced degree in athletic administration. Due to the size and growth of the industry, professionals can choose from many occupations — athletic directors, public relations managers, facilities managers, and sports managers.

Athletic Directors

Athletic directors are responsible for enacting and enforcing policies and regulations of the school district and governing agencies that regulate school sports. The athletic director is also responsible for managing the department’s budget. Athletic directors must exhibit a high level of leadership, management acumen, and analytical skills. The median salary for an athletic director is $60,000, according to the website PayScale.

Public Relations Managers

Public relations managers are responsible for managing an organization’s public image and stewarding its image during a crisis. The job requires an individual with excellent communication skills who can act as the liaison between the public and the organization. The median annual wage for a public relations manager is $114,800 per year. Job growth is projected to be 8% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Facilities Managers/Administrative Service Managers

Facilities managers/administrative service managers are responsible for managing the facilities that make up a sports stadium, university complex, or sports grounds. Their responsibilities are divided into two major categories: hard facilities management — heating and cooling systems, electrical grid and grounds, and soft facilities management — managing groundskeepers, catering, custodians, event support, and security. The median annual pay is $91,180 a year with an expected growth of 7% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS.

Sports Agents

Sports agents are responsible for managing athletes. They help clients negotiate, land, and understand their performance contracts. They are also responsible for ensuring that clients abide by the terms of a contract. A key responsibility is the ability to establish business relationships with companies that are looking to develop a potential endorsement deal with their client. The median annual salary for a sports agent is $67,000, according to PayScale.

The Road to a Sports Management Career

Professionals looking to pursue a career in sports management can consider an advanced degree in business administration or athletic administration. Depending on the size of the organization, employers seek professionals with work experience in the field of sports management. Leadership roles in sports management require professionals to have prior work experience as assistant sports managers, operations assistants, or a related occupation. While pursuing an advanced degree, some professionals also consider seeking internships to gain work experience in the field.

An advanced degree in sports management can provide students with the necessary curriculum in business, finance, and law that can prepare them to meet the demands required in the field. Furthermore, a Master of Athletic Administration can help students develop the necessary skills — communication, analytical thinking, time management, written skills, and resilience — that can provide them with a foundation as an athletic director, public relations manager, facilities manager, or sports agent.

Discover a Rewarding Career in Sports Management

Individuals who are looking to pursue careers in sports management should consider an advanced degree in athletic administration. In 1966, Ohio University developed the first academic sports program in the nation. With over five decades of experience in the field, Ohio University’s sports business programs prepares students to fill leadership roles involving a variety of careers in sports management.

The program offers courses in Sports Marketing, Financial Administration of Sports Facilities and Programs, Facility Management and Programming, as well as Sports Governance and Policy Development. Access to a concentrated curriculum and experienced faculty means that students are positioned to develop skills that are highly valued by the sports management world.

Discover how Ohio University’s Professional Master of Sports Administration program can prepare students for a rewarding career in sports management. Students seeking careers in interscholastic athletics can learn more about Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program.

Recommended Reading:

Challenges of Adding New Sports to Athletic Programs
Legal Protection for Athletic Trainers
Thinking Outside the Box: Revenue Sources for Athletic Departments


Business Wire, Sports – $614 Billion Global Market Opportunities & Strategies to 2022 –
CNN, So You Want To be a Sports Agent? Here’s What You Should Know
Deloitte, 2020 Sports Industry Outlook
Houston Chronicle, An Athletic Directors Duties
Houston Chronicle, 5 Functions of a Sports Manager
Houston Chronicle, Role of a Public Relations Manager In an Organization
IBM, What is Facilities Management?
Inkbot Design, Example of Sports Branding Done Right
Investopedia, Financial Planning on Professional Athletes: An Inside Look
Ohio University, Online Master of Athletic Administration
PayScale, Average Athletic Director Salary
PayScale, Average Sports Manager Salary
PayScale, Average Sport Agents Salary in Los Angeles
Society of Health and Physical Educators, Sport Management
Statista, North American Sports Market Size From 2009 to 2023
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Administrative Services Manager
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Agents and Managers for Artists, Athletes, Entertainers, and Other Public Figures
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
USA Today, LeBron James’ lifetime deal with Nike worth significantly more than $500M