Is a Sports Management Degree Worth it?

Athletics is a multibillion-dollar industry, and sports management careers can be exciting, prestigious and lucrative. A sports management degree, along with a lot of hard work, can lead to a fulfilling career as the head of a nonprofit sports league, a lucrative career as representative for an athletic company, or many other rewarding careers in the sports industry. But is a sports management degree worth the investment?

The most practical way to approach this decision is by weighing the costs versus benefits of a sports management degree, and analyzing your personal values and professional goals. How much are you able and willing to invest in the pursuit of your degree, and what rewards could it bring you? What aspects of the sports industry are exciting to you, and would a degree in sports management be the best way to bring your profession in line with your passion? And if a degree in sports management isn’t ultimately worth pursuing for you, what are some alternatives in the field?

Is it worth the money?

Let’s take a look at the costs and benefits of pursuing a degree in sports management. First, there’s the obvious financial cost. According to College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2016-17, the average annual cost of a four-year, public institution runs around $9,650 for in-state tuition and $24,930 for out-of-state. Top private schools, meanwhile, can cost $35,000 or more. That puts the cost of a bachelor’s degree for an out-of-state public school student at $99,720, a hefty price tag. On the other hand, a growing number of highly affordable online sports management degree programs provide a cost-effective alternative, with tuition as low as $5,175 per year. A budget-friendly school is only worth choosing, however, if it translates to real-world sports management careers. Look for a reputable and accredited school, such as one from our 10 Most Affordable Online Bachelors in Sports Management or Master’s in Sports Management.

The financial benefits of a degree in sports management can be great, especially for those ambitious few who score a leadership role in a large organization. But the competition for top positions can be as intense as the competition on the field- you’ll need to prove your value to employers with a strong professional track record, industry connections, an advanced degree and perhaps even graduate professional development certification. What kind of salaries do sports management careers command? The median annual earnings for a person with an advanced degree in sport management is about $50,000, but varies widely based on job title, experience, credentials and work setting. The starting salary in the field is closer to $35,000, and those with an advanced degree earn over $5,000, on average, more than those with a bachelor’s. A university athletic director typically earns about $100,000 annually, with the directors of larger universities earning several times that amount. Not everyone can- or wishes- to take on this role, however. An advanced degree in sports management is also usually required for positions such as the director of a community recreation center or university event ticket manager. Such positions typically command less lucrative salaries, closer to the $50,000 median, but bring considerable benefits in terms of job security and satisfaction.

Is it worth the time?

How long can you commit to your studies? An associate’s degree (typically a step on the path towards a bachelor’s degree) traditionally takes two years of full-time study to achieve, while a bachelor’s takes four, and master’s degree takes an additional two. In addition, professional development certificates at the bachelor’s and graduate level, which typically take about a year, are widely available. An online degree in sports management may be the right path for those with limited time, challenging schedules or family commitments, who need to work within a flexible time frame. Some sports management schools offer accelerated degree tracks for those willing to commit to a more intensive course of study. Many online schools, particularly those geared towards working adults, allow students to complete courses one-at-a-time in order to slowly work their way towards a degree while maintaining a full-time job. In some cases, a school may award academic credit to those already working in the field for professional training or experience. For those with limited time to invest, it pays to thoroughly research the academic credit policy of any prospective sports management school.

Is it worth the effort?

A quality sports management school should be challenging. However, some are more rigorous- and more selective- than others. Is the outcome for your future sports management career worth the effort? Be realistic in determining just how much labor you’re willing to put into pursuing your degree. The cost of keeping up with intense studies goes beyond the simple difficulty of mental exertion; you’ll be under more pressure, susceptible to burnout and may have less energy for your family or personal pursuits. Don’t be surprised if you’re spending such long hours doing sports management school work that you don’t have time for your own sports activities.

On the other hand, if you’re able to get into a more selective sports management school and complete a more rigorous program, you’ll emerge ahead in terms of professional knowledge and marketability. Your advanced training will make you more skilled than your professional peers, giving you a workplace advantage. You’ll also have the prestige that accompanies a degree from a top-tier sports management school, and access to an elite network of alumni and professors.

Does it fit your values?

Are you passionate about athletics? Are you looking for a position that’s lucrative and fulfilling? Sports management careers sound attractive, but may not necessarily be the best fit for your strengths or reflect your particular interests. Whether you’re working as an event manager, team representative or athletic director, as a sports management professional, you’ll need to be passionate and skilled in the business and administration side of the game. A sports management degree program can prepare you with strong foundations in business, public relations, communications and finance.

If you’re not driven by business, there are a number of sports degrees that may be a better fit for your future and worth your investment. If you’re interested in coaching, competition and team building, a degree in physical education or coaching education could be your best match. Those with a love of pure athletics and physical activity should consider a degree in kinesiology. Finally, those sports lovers who are passionate about performance fitness and wellness might be interested in a degree in health education or nutrition.

The bottom line

While the field of sports management is rich with diverse, lucrative and high-status positions, it takes considerable investment of time, money and effort. Even the most affordable, accessible and flexible sports management degree programs require a major investment on the part of students. Moreover, sports management careers, with their emphasis on business, branding, finance and leadership, are not the best fit for every sports lover. You’ll find sports management degree worth your investment only if you’re equal parts sports fan and business person and if you’re willing to put in the dollars, hours and hard work to score your credentials. If this describes you, a sports management degree could be the first step on the path to your dream career.

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